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COO of the future faces dilemma of intelligence

The rise of exponential technologies is pushing organisations into a self-running future where machine learning, AI, predictive analytics, IoT and robotic process automation increasingly substitute or augment human capabilities, creating new challenges for COOs, writes MEHMOOD KHAN, Chief Operating Officer at SAP Africa.

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In the evolution from a traditional manual enterprise to a self-running enterprise, business leaders need to self-assess to first understand what phase they are in before developing digital change initiatives to bring them closer to their internal objectives.

At the lower end of the scale, the Manual Enterprise sees humans execute all tasks with no technology support. Transactional enterprises have systems that provide business information and guide processes, with humans defining what those processes should be, while a Digital Enterprise sees humans control systems that provide live data and rich analytics. All these enterprise models can be classified as non-learning enterprise systems.

Where organisations need to start moving toward is to the self-learning enterprise systems. The Intelligent Enterprise is driven by systems that assist in all core business activities, with humans directing activities and ensuring all the components of the Intelligent Enterprise are running optimally. Thanks to the immense power of modern AI and machine learning algorithms, enterprises may soon become entirely self-running, with systems that run certain functions autonomously while humans merely supervise.

The core of the Intelligent Enterprise

Sitting at the core of the Intelligent Enterprise is next-generation enterprise resource planning systems that integrate various traditional and exponential technologies into a single system built on powerful cloud platforms. SAP S/4HANA Cloud sits at the centre of a range of industry and line-of-business -specific solutions including procurement, human capital management, travel and expense management, transactional, business planning and financial reporting systems.

What makes the Intelligent ERP different is how hands-free, intuitive user experiences with digital assistance and instant insights deliver value-adding experiences to workers, while AI and predictive analytics automate for greater efficiencies in a range of tasks. These next-generation processes are also forcing a reinvention of business processes, with best practices built on the latest innovations enabling business leaders to reimagine entire business models.

This is posing distinct challenges to how people are sourced, managed, motivated and retained.

Human capital management in the Intelligent Enterprise

By 2025, millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce. This generation of workers is markedly different than any before and will have immense influence over the way we think about work and employment. Attracting, engaging and retaining talent is already a top C-level priority, especially where scarce digital skills are involved.

Contingent workers – part of the so-called Gig Economy – are already disrupting human capital management in the digital age. At the end of 2017, nearly half of the global workforce were contingent workers. Effective management of a diverse and geographically dispersed employee base is one of the defining challenges for exponential organisations.

Enabling effective human-machine collaboration

The disruption posed by the entry of the millennial workforce pales in comparison to the seismic shift that AI and automation will bring to the world of work. Nearly every occupation in every industry will feel the effects of automation, as routine physical and cognitive tasks are automated. While this does offer workers an opportunity to elevate the work they do by freeing them up from mundane, repetitive tasks, a period of uncertainty and change is inevitable.

Workers of the near future will need to learn how to interface with technology at every step of the work day. Robots are sure to replace some jobs, but for the most part job roles will evolve to prioritise human-machine collaboration.

Here, the Intelligent Enterprise plays an anchoring role: by combining Intelligent Cloud ERP with a digital workforce, businesses enable a Digital Enterprise where human workers interface with robotic process automation, AI and machine learning, and predictive analytics to conduct higher-value tasks.

Digital change checklist for COOs

Managing the transition to a digital workforce enabled by an Intelligent Enterprise will challenge organisational leaders’ change management abilities. Successful digital change management is built on four cornerstones, namely:

  1. Ensuring digital leadership – By developing a compelling digital vision, business leaders create a sense of urgency for digitalisation and ensure top management act as role models for the rest of the organisation.
  2. Fostering a digital mindset – Business leaders need to identify digital champions internal to the organisation and empower them to promote digitalisation initiatives. However, they do also need to ensure they track and assess the impact of digitalisation.
  3. Establishing digital governance – By aligning KPIs to digital adoption and tracking progress, business leaders are better placed to adapt the formal organisation to the new digital vision.
  4. Building digital skills – The time of the learn-work-retire career model of old is over. The new approach to learning and work is one of constant upskilling and regular change. Business leaders need to provide skills development opportunities that enhance internal digital skills and competencies. Integration with AI, machine learning and robotics is critical for the future of work, which is strongly favoured toward human-machine collaboration.

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AppDate: Prepare for space

In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Space Nation Navigator, Hitman Sniper, Snake Mask, Memrise, WhatsApp Web, and Carrot Weather.

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Space Nation Navigator

Space Nation Navigator is a bit of a strange app. It is part game, part exercise and part educational. On the game side, users have to navigate the Mars Rover, put the International Space Station back into orbit or move their Martians to safety before a sand storm hits Mars. When it comes to exercise, Space Nation Navigator provides users with a range of exercises and Yoga videos to prepare them for space travel and working in an anti-gravity environment. The education aspect teaches users about the planets, and star constellations, and then offers quizzes on what has been taught.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Memrise

Memrise takes a new approach to help people learn new languages. Instead of providing a user with random phrases and words to memorise, the app connects you with a person already fluent in the language you want to learn. In turn, the person you are speaking to wants to learn the language in which you are fluent. Once your profile is filled out and languages selected, it connects you with people around the world who are interested in your language, and then allows you to chat with them in real-time. Memrise also lets one learn new languages through games, chatbots and grammarbots that help with spelling, tenses and pronunciations.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Hitman Sniper

Hitman Sniper is loosely based on the Agent 47 movie released a few years ago. The game offers players the ability to hone their shooting skills through a range of training courses and, once they think they are ready, they can start taking out the bad guys. Things start off easy enough, but they get more and more difficult as one progresses through the 150 missions on offer. One will also have to upgrade various gun components, like scopes, magazine capacities and silencers, to make the missions a little easier. Hitman Sniper lets users buy 16 to tackle each of the missions – either with real money or via the points accumulated by completing missions. Money and points can also be used to upgrade firearms.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: R7 – with a range of in-app purchases.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Snake Mask

The iconic Snake game that was preinstalled on most older Nokia phones has had a complete make-over. It now uses Facebook’s AR technology, meaning that you have to navigate the snake around obstacles in your home or office, all the while collecting coins and stars that change the snake’s speed and length. Unfortunately, Snake Mask is only available on Nokia’s new range of smartphones. However, it should not take long before it slithers onto other devices.

 

Platform: New Nokia smartphones running Android.

Cost: Free to use through the Facebook app installed on the device.

Stockists: Available through the Facebook app.

 

WhatsApp Web

Although this is by no means a new app, it is an extremely useful one, and one that not many people know about. Tapping out WhatsApps on your phone is easy enough, but thanks to WhatsApp Web it can be even easier. Open the WhatApp Web page under WhatsApp and you will see a QR code. Scan this code through WhatsApp on your mobile and you will be shown a replica of what you would normally see on your phone. You can then type and reply to messages using your computer instead of having to stop everything and unlock your phone every time a message comes through. WhatsApp Web is great if you share your computer with other people as it automatically disconnects when the browser is closed. However WhatsApp also offers an app that when installed will stay connected to your phone unless you manually remove it.

 

Platform: Any up-to-date Internet browser

Cost: Free to use and install

Stockists: Visit www.WhatsApp.com

 

Carrot Weather

There are thousands of weather apps on the Internet these days and all of them do the same thing – inform you of the weather in your area. However, Carrot Weather has taken what is just another app and turned it into something fun. By fun, I mean sarcastic, rude and completely politically incorrect. A user starts off by selecting religious and political views. It then asks about personality, ranging from friendly to homicidal to overkill – which includes profanity. So, for instance, instead of waking up to to the standard partly cloudy forecast, Carrot Weather will display something like: “It’s only partly sunny, the sun is a total effing failure.” It also has a range of insults that it throws at you whenever you open the app – some of them downright insulting, so it is definitely not for those who are easily offended. The app’s user interface is very simple, displaying a week’s daily forecast and hourly forecasts for the day selected.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download but with adverts. The premium, advert free version costs R12 per month.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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SA Start-up reinvents PABX

For any South African business, the idea of setting up or changing a telephonic switchboard system is the stuff of nightmares. Dealing with expensive hardware and hearing things like QSIG and VOIP is not what you’d call exciting.But now there is an app.

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Enter BuzzBox (www.buzzboxcloud.co.za), a web-based telephone switchboard that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses wanting to take the hassle and cost out of the company switchboard. Whether you are a small one-man operation or a larger organisation with staff working remotely, BuzzBox is the best switchboard solution.

What sets BuzzBox apart from anything else on the market is its easy-to-use dashboard. It puts you in control of everything from picking your phone number to setting up voice prompts and managing your business-hours schedule.

BuzzBox was developed when the startup behind it, Jini-Guru, needed such a service for its own use across multiple continents. “When we started Jini-Guru we could not find a seamless online process that would allow us to set up a full web-based switchboard, so we decided to build one for ourselves,” says Mike Smits, Director at Jini-Guru.

He says a lot of startups today are tech savvy and know how to use apps and the services that go with it. “It’s the uberisation of services and its driving demand for instant service activation.”

BuzzBox works as an app on both iOS and Android but users wanting a desk phone option can choose from a variety of devices on offer or use their existing VOIP phones.

Setting up a BuzzBox account takes 5 minutes. During registration your FICA documents are uploaded [ID and proof or residence] and you get to pick your phone number before the account is created. Companies that want to keep an existing number can do so too.

The real magic happens when you log on to the BuzzBox Dashboard. The main screen displays a summary of statistics for your account while the left-hand menu provides you quick access to various configuration settings and reports.

Setting up new extensions or external numbers is done with a few clicks and you can even set up various departments which is a great way to route a call to various people in a department, like sales or support.

The intuitive user interface also makes it easy to set up hold-music and voice prompts. You can add voice prompts by recording them straight to your phone, just make sure you use a clear voice with quiet surroundings for the best customer experience.

One of the main features of BuzzBox is its call recording feature that allows an organisation to record calls for legislative purposes, such as a lawyer, or for customer service purposes such as support. Recordings are stored securely online, and you have the ability to download recordings for playback. Companies can opt-in for this service and it’s free to use. Recordings are stored online and are fully encrypted so only you can listen to, or download them. Storage costs R1 for every 1000 minutes of stored recordings.

Other features include call forwarding and scheduling. The latter allows you to set office hours for your organisation which will divert calls to an after-hours messaging service. You also have the option to enable routing to an employee who is on call after hours.

BuzzBox also has a reseller program for companies wanting to offer this as a switchboard solution to their existing customers.

The costs for this service is R89 p/m for the first phone number which includes your first extension for free. Thereafter you’ll pay R89p/m per extension. Calls between extensions are free but you pay per second for all outgoing phone calls. More info on pricing can be found here: https://buzzboxcloud.co.za/pricing/

BuzzBox is offering a Launch promotion where they are offering the first line and extension free for 12 months. Only pay for calls. Use promo code “feoifyaa” during sign-up to apply your discount.

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