To channel the flood of data generated by the Internet of Things, companies need to move away from standard software platforms and move over to flexible, multifunctional versions. In so doing, they are already taking the first step to a secure future in the volatile era of digitization, writes DR. WOLFRAM JOST, CTO Software AG.
Smartphones, apps, wearables—IT moved into the everyday lives of consumers long ago. As the Internet of Things (IoT) segment grows, smart refrigerators, self-driving cars and other networked smart items will also become part of daily life. The main thing that makes these devices unique is that they communicate with each other. This generates one thing above all else: data. IT experts predict that by the year 2020, around 50 billion networked machines and devices will generate a data volume of about 40,000 exabytes (1 exabyte is equal to circa 1 million terabytes)—more than five times the level in 2015. To channel this flood of data productively, companies need to strip off their stiff corset of standard software and use flexible, multifunctional platforms instead. In so doing, they are already taking the first step to a secure future in the volatile era of digitization.
Traditional ERP systems cannot provide the speed of process restructuring and innovation needed these days. Cloud computing and mobile applications have been highlighting the limits of the monolithic approach with intertwined software packages for some time now. Static, inflexible legacy programs make updates time-consuming and costly. Even the concept of service-oriented architecture (SOA), which accelerates processes with flexible middleware without completely replacing the old systems, proved to be a temporary solution. As data volumes continue to grow along with the number of (mobile) devices, agile jacks-of-all-trades such as enterprise apps are taking the place of standard applications. These programs allow companies to combine analytical functions and transactional capabilities to design flexible business process. At the same time, apps support smart decision-making and offer a link to social networks.
Entrepreneurial spirit in the digital transition
Social media and custom apps enable businesses to speak the customer’s language since their everyday lives were appified long ago. Uber, Amazon, Facebook, Zalando—behind all of these apps and business models stand companies that have left behind traditional processes in favor of being a digital business. In so doing, they have blurred the lines between the spheres of the digital and physical worlds.
Agility, scalability, speed and responsiveness are the attributes of the “digital business.” They generate dynamic business processes that serve the customer’s needs faster and better with the greater differentiation and customization. Only personalized offers that are available 24/7 will keep customers loyal in today’s excess supply of options. The competition isn’t snoozing through digitization, and competitors who handle it better are already heading to the starting blocks.
Achieving success through co-innovation
There are a few paths into the digital business world. For example, the change can start with designing business processes or analyzing customer data that a company has collected. Generally speaking, there is no clear sequence here: Companies provide the starting point with their IT and business activities—and the IT service provider stands by their side as a software expert.
First they collaborate to develop a digitization roadmap. This includes the company’s digital strategy, business objectives and models, as well as the appropriate strategy for apps, IoT and cloud computing. The digital capability map is based on this roadmap and provides an overview of the company’s future digital capabilities and its new IT structure. Based on experience, up to two months should be allotted for this discovery phase. Then the IT service provider trains the IT organization and different departments on how to use the new systems. Users learn in real-world examples how to integrate cloud systems and link them with the backend, among other things. The goal for users is to work as independently as possible under initial supervision on implementation, execution and controlling within the new business processes, learn from them and improve them through further innovation. Experienced service providers allocate around six months for such an innovation cycle.
User companies should concentrate on planning, realizing and later autonomously developing the minimum of innovation needed. However, neither side should lose sight of the roadmap and both need to ensure that they communicate the necessary knowledge in small steps so users are not overwhelmed, which could place the entire digitization process at risk. Moreover, these agile methods give the team a certain leeway to familiarize themselves with the digitization processes on their own. Shaping IT projects themselves will require some companies to rethink their approach.
A secure future thanks to digital business platforms
Digital business requires open, fast IT. Aside from the technology being used, whether and how quickly companies develop, implement and improve promising business ideas also plays a key role. Companies that unite all these factors are successful—whether as a digital player in the business world or in public administration. That and the opportunity to integrate all process controls in the backend are the advantages of the platform strategy.
A platform pursues a generic approach, so it gets by without business logic and offers functions for designing, controlling, managing and developing software. It is not about software packages, but rather about flexible, changeable, individual applications that are customized for specific needs. These include cloud-capable services, in-memory databases, and CEP, integration and process engines.
Digital business platforms unite these and other functions in modular core components that can be implemented and expanded individually, but can also be built on each other and interlock like teeth on gears. These building blocks can be assigned different levels, such as data management and analysis, integration, modeling or process and program logic. This offers a structure that allows companies to remain competitive while focusing immediately on known weak points and expanding the platform incrementally over the medium term. The situation in the digital market is constantly in flux and innovations that will revolutionize processes are increasingly difficult to predict. Monolithic ERP systems are obsolete. Only digital platforms allow the greatest possible flexibility and reaction time to be prepared for all eventualities of the race of digitization speeding ahead.
Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?
It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK
One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.
Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.
When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.
That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.
In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.
The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.
Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.
“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.
“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”
Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.
In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.
* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee
Robots coming to IFA
Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.
The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.
The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:
Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.
Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.
Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.
Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.
Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.
And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.
IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com