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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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Epic Games brings a Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

An example on how one can get infected by downloading the Fortnite app from Google Play.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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