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How technology makes project management more agile

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As traditional ways of doing business are constantly changing due to new technologies, businesses that embrace these changes stand to benefit significantly, while those that fail to respond could be left at a disadvantage, writes ALASTAIR SORBIE, CEO of IFS.

As traditional ways of doing business are turned on their head, a tidal wave of change is sweeping the field of project management.

Disruptive technologies, which encompass everything from artificial intelligence and robotics to machine-learning and the internet of things, are having a profound impact on business operations and processes.

While no industry can consider itself immune to the technology revolution, some sectors – manufacturing, construction and energy, for example – are being affected more than others.

And as the pace of disruption looks set to accelerate, organisations within these sectors need to embrace technological advancement, understand the implications for project management, and respond in a flexible and agile manner. By doing so, they stand to benefit significantly, while those that fail to respond could be left at a competitive disadvantage.

Beyond the impact of change on the project management function, in an increasingly tech-driven age, a chief executive needs to know how these changes will impact the boardroom. They need to be aware of the challenges, recognise the opportunities and understand the commercial realities.

Global enterprise applications firm IFS, a pioneer of agile business technology solutions, is seeing how the business world is responding, first hand.

Project management is becoming much more dynamic and multi-faceted, as a myriad of new devices and data streams continue to emerge, with companies increasingly implementing internet of things or IoT solutions. Rather than expecting project managers to simply tune into

this, businesses must communicate what is happening, clearly, from the top down, and weave innovation into their company culture and DNA.

Working with clients from a range of industries, IFS provides them with a range of tools designed to deliver visual insight, understand enterprise performance and enable better decision-making in an integrated way.

It is industries such as manufacturing and oil and gas, arguably the sectors most exposed to economic challenges and fluctuations, where an integrated project management solution can potentially deliver the biggest benefits.

However, organisations in these sectors need to adopt a management ethos that is both forward looking and efficiency driven, because for all the advantages that disruptive technologies such as IoT can bring to project management, as it becomes more widely adopted, it can create challenges.

A mismatch exists between the flexibility of these new disruptive technologies and the inflexibility of fixed mindsets that many companies bring to project management.

For example, project lifecycles tend to be complex in nature, and managers will often use different software products to manage various stages of the project from tendering through to commissioning and servicing. This fragmented approach is problematic as disparate

project areas are unable to ‘talk’ to each other. This leads to managers spending more time and energy mapping and monitoring their relationships and connections, which in turn leads to a lack of efficiency.

The IFS Enterprise Operational Intelligence solution enables an enterprise-wide, top-down perspective of processes and performance aligned with the business strategy.

There is also the issue of a technology mismatch, with many organisations relying on outdated, cumbersome legacy business systems that are unable to support modern IoT platforms. In a changing technology landscape, companies must ensure they have the right tools to adjust and take stock.

Resolving this type of challenge requires a change of mindset and culture. Sectors with ageing workforces will have to engage the more conservative project managers by educating them about these new technologies and how project management tools should evolve accordingly.

The benefits of an integrated project management solution, one that offers enhanced control and visibility, and real-time control over cost, cash, time, resources and risk, are being realised by a growing number of global companies.

The IFS Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI) solution enables an enterprise-wide, top-down perspective of processes and performance aligned with the business strategy, and was recently adopted by a well-known North American service provider.

Project success rates could be further increased if companies avoided off-the-shelf solutions and opted instead for solutions that can be configured to the needs of their industry and scopes of their budgets.

Organisations cannot afford to ignore the technological changes that are already taking place and will undoubtedly increase over time. It is imperative that they abandon traditional, fixed, process-driven approaches to project management in favour of one built around principles, and based on flexibility and agility.

Companies should now be focusing on an integrated project management suite, one that captures the true spirit of IoT, and enables them to adapt to constant change and disruption, and most importantly, to maintain their competitive edge for today – and for what’s next.

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How to rob a bank in the 21st century

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In the early 1980s, South Africans were gripped by tales of the most infamous bank robbery gangs the country had ever known: The Stander Gang. The gang would boldly walk into banks, brandishing weapons, demand cash and simply disappear. These days, a criminal doesn’t even have to be in the same country as the bank he or she intends to rob. Cyber criminals are quite capable of emptying bank accounts without even stepping out of their own homes.

As we become more and more aware of cybersecurity and the breaches that can occur, we’ve become more vigilant. Criminals, however, are still going to follow the money and even though security may be beefed up in many organisations, hackers are going to go for the weakest links. This makes it quintessential for consumers and enterprises to stay one step ahead of the game.

“Not only do these cyber bank criminals get away with the cash, they also end up damaging an organisation’s reputation and the integrity of its infrastructure,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa. “And sometimes, these breaches mean they get away with more than just cash – they can make off with data and personal information as well.”

Because the cyber criminals operate outside bricks and mortar, going for the cash register or robbing the customers is not where their misdeeds end. Bank employees – from the tellers to the CEO – are all fair game.

But how do they do it? Taking money out of an account is not the only way to steal money. Cyber criminals can zero in on the bank’s infrastructure, or hack into payment systems and even payment documents. Part of a successful operation for them may also include hacking into telecommunications to gain access to one-time pins or mobile networks.

“It’s not just about hacking,” says Siriniwasa.. “It’s also about the hackers trying to get an ‘inside man’ in the bank who could help them or even using a person’s personal details to get a new SIM so that they can have access to OTPs. Of course, they also use the tried and tested method of phishing which continues to be exceptionally effective – despite the education in the market to thwart it.”

The amounts of malware and available attacks to gain access to bank funds is strikingly vast and varies from using web injection script, social engineering and even targeting internal networks as well as points of sale systems. If there is an internet connection and a system you can be assured that there is a cybercriminal trying to crack it. The impact on the bank itself is also massive, with reputations left in tatters and customers moving their business elsewhere.

“We see that cyber criminals use multi-faceted attacks,” says Siriniwasa. “This means that we need to come at security from multiple angles as well. Every single layer of an organisation’s online perimeter need to be secured. Threat isolation is exceptionally important and having security with intrusion protection is vital. Again, vigilance on the part of staff and customers also goes a long way to preventing attacks. These criminals might not carry guns like Andre Stander and his gang, but they are just as dangerous – in fact – probably more so.”

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Beaten by big data? AI is the answer

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by ZAKES SOCIKWA, cloud big data and analytics lead at Oracle

In 2019, it’sestimated we’ll generate more data than we did in the previous 5,000 years. Data is fast becoming the most valuable asset of any modern organisation, and while most have access to their internal data, they continue to experience challenges in deriving maximum value through being able to effectively monetise the information that they hold.

The foundation of any analytics or Business Intelligence (BI) reporting capability is an efficient data collection system that ensures events/transactions are properly recorded, captured, processed and stored. Some of this information on its own might not provide any valuable insights, but if it is analysed together with other sources might yield interesting patterns.

Big data opens up possibilities of enhancing internal sources with unstructured data and information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Furthermore, as we move to a digital age, more businesses are implementing customer experience solutions and there is a growing need for them to improve their service and personalise customer engagements.

The digital behaviour of customers, such as social media postings and the networks or platforms they engage with, further provides valuable information for data collection. Information gathering methods are being expanded to accommodate all types and formats of data, including images, videos, and more.

In the past, BI and Data Mining were left to highly technical and analytical individuals, but the introduction of data visualisation tools is democratising the analytics world. However, business users and report consumers often do not have a clear understanding of what they need or what is possible.

AI now embedded into day to day applications

To this end, artificial intelligence (AI) is finishing what business intelligence started. By gathering, contextualising, understanding, and acting on huge quantities of data, AI has given rise to a new breed of applications – one that’s continuously improving and adapting to the conditions around it. The more data that is available for the analysis, the better is the quality of the outcomes or predictions.

In addition, AI changes the productivity equation for many jobs by automating activities and adapting current jobs to solve more complex and time-consuming problems, from recruiters being able to source better candidates faster to financial analysts eliminating manual error-prone reporting.

This type of automation will not replace all jobs but will invent new ones. This enables businesses to reduce the time to complete tasks and the costs of maintenance, and will lead to the creation of higher-value jobs and new engagement models. Oracle predicts that by 2025, the productivity gains delivered by AI, emerging technologies, and augmented experiences could double compared to today’s operations.

According to the IDC, worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics (BDA) solutions was expected to total $166 billion in 2018, and forecast to reach $260 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% over the 2017-2022 forecast period. It adds that two of the fastest growing BDA technology categories will be Cognitive/AI Software Platforms (36.5% CAGR) and Non-relational Analytic Data Stores (30.3% CAGR)¹.

Informed decisions, now and in the future

As new layers of technology are introduced and more complex data sources are added to the ecosystem, the need for a tightly integrated technology stack becomes a challenge. It is advisable to choose your technology components very carefully and always have the end state in mind.

More development on emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT, virtual reality and others will probably be available on cloud first before coming on premise. For those organisations that are adopting public cloud, there are opportunities to consume the benefits of public cloud and drive down costs of doing business.

While the introduction of public cloud is posing a challenge on data sovereignty and other regulations, technology providers such as Oracle have developed a ‘Cloud at Customer’ model that provides the full benefits of public cloud – but located on premise, within an organisation’s own data centre.

The best organisations will innovate and optimise faster than the rest. Best decisions must be made around choice of technology, business processes, integration and architectures that are fit for business. In the information marketplace, speed and informed decision making will be key differentiators amongst competitors.

¹ IDC Press Release, Revenues for Big Data and Business Analytics Solutions Forecast to Reach $260 Billion in 2022, Led by the Banking and Manufacturing Industries, According to IDC, 15 August 2018

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