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Tech future demands ‘leadering’

One of the world’s leading futurists argues for a new kind of leadership, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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It is somewhat reassuring to learn that Nancy Giordano has 43,000 unopened emails on her computer. As a global “brand futurist”, she is in demand to lead transformation strategies at major corporations, and present her framework for visionary leadership at conferences and events. She is also a mother of three and a part-time lecturer at Singularity University in Silicon Valley.

If someone operating at the cutting edge of technology has such a cluttered inbox, the rest of us can be forgiven for not keeping up. However, she reassures us, she is on top of the important correspondence. Speaking at VeeamOn, a conference hosted by data backup and management company Veeam in Miami, Florida, she makes the case for “audacious leadering” as the key to being on top of the rapid technological change that the coming years will bring.

Nancy Giordano

The main challenge, she says, is that we have three lenses into the future: through our work lives, our personal lives and as members of society. In each of these, the questions arise: What problem are we trying to solve; what is our role; how can we compete?

“This leads us to a permanent state of ambiguity,” she says. “So many things are happening at once in the world of business and technology, we’re not sure if we’re making the right decisions  anymore. How do we now when is the right time to act? How do we operate in a time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity?”

The reality for business, she says, is that we live in an F-I-O world”. That stands for “Figure-It-Out”.

“Nobody knows how to do it: you’ve got to figure it out. Part of it is an agile mindset. It’s not about spending a ton of money on research and development and hope to get it right, but starting with the most basic components and make sure you get them right.

“The iPhone didn’t start the way it is now; they caught up. So in human resources, for instance, it can be getting the hiring or onboarding process right, and build from there. On an individual level, it is teaching people that they have agency, that they are able to create something and it can start small.”

Giordano appears, at first, to be a strange fit for a Veeam event focused on cloud storage. But her message resonates powerfully.

Anthony Spiteri, a global technologist working in the product strategy group at Veeam, tells us in an interview that the trend in information technology (IT) is to make it more efficient and have tools to make the jobs of IT practitioners easier but functional, and to do more with less.

“Have a look at how software has evolved in the  last five to ten years: it’s, all about simplifying systems,” he says. “Ten years ago you had a lot more bells and whistles, and a lot more people needed to know how to make it work. Today it is all in a black box, and people expect to plug it in and work. Younger people want more of that black box plug-and-play experience.”

How does one combine the black box idea with an F-I-O world? Giordano says that one way large businesses are addressing the challenge is with “the idea of uncommon partnerships”.

“You have disparate companies coming together, like Pizza Hut and Toyota co-developing the e-Palette self-driving delivery vans,” she says. “Competitors on the retail stage become collaborators on the high tech stage. Executives are asking, with whom can we collaborate?”

The answer can appear unthinkable at first. In Houston 11 years ago, for example, petroleum engineers and cardiologists got together on the basis that they were both looking for better ways to pump fluid. The fact that one as dealing with oil and the other with blood did not prevent them from seeing the massive potential of cross-disciplinary collaboration.

The result was Pumps & Pipes, an association of medical, energy, aerospace, academic and community professionals and leaders. It has moved far beyond oil and blood, and now emphasises inclusivity across nations and disciplines, with the guiding principle to problem-solving being “exploring your neighbour’s toolkit”.

Says Giordano: “This is where value of diverse thinking comes into the picture. California was the first state to require women on corporate boards, not because it is politically correct, but because corporations with women on the board are on average 15% more profitable. It’s about having different backgrounds, different thinking, different education.

“This will be most crucial in artificial intelligence. Right now it is dominated by a homogenous group of people. The biggest thing to watch out for in AI is bias, how it was trained and what we ask it to do. Not because they are bad, but because they have a different perspective.

“It’s part of the development of our AQ, our adaptability quotient. The great news is you can continuously develop it. Curiosity, agile thinking, diverse teams, collaboration, are all part of it. You have to ask, What does the future need and expect of you? What are you in a unique position to contribute to the future?”

For executives, says Giordano, the answer lies in what she calls “leadering”. The difference between this and leadership is that the new concept is about being passionate.

“If we focus less on how to make humans more effective than how to make machines more effective it will be to our detriment. But this isn’t really about machines at all – it is about community. The single most important social technology is the importance of being human.”

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IoT sensors are anything from doctor to canary in mines

Industrial IoT is changing the shape of the mining industry and the intelligence of the devices that drive it

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has become many things in the mining industry. A canary that uses sensors to monitor underground air quality, a medic that monitors healthcare, a security guard that’s constantly on guard, and underground mobile vehicle control. It has evolved from the simple connectivity of essential sensors to devices into an ecosystem of indispensable tools and solutions that redefine how mining manages people, productivity and compliance. According to Karien Bornheim, CEO of Footprint Africa Business Solutions (FABS), IoT offers an integrated business solution that can deliver long-term, strategic benefits to the mining industry.

“To fully harness the business potential of IoT, the mining sector has to understand precisely how it can add value,” she adds. “IoT needs to be implemented across the entire value chain in order to deliver fully optimised, relevant and turnkey operational solutions. It doesn’t matter how large the project is, or how complex, what matters is that it is done in line with business strategy and with a clear focus.”

Over the past few years, mining organisations have deployed emerging technologies to help bolster flagging profits, manage increasingly weighty compliance requirements, and reduce overheads. These technologies are finding a foothold in an industry that faces far more complexities around employee wellbeing and safety than many others, and that juggles numerous moving parts to achieve output and performance on a par with competitive standards. Already, these technologies have allowed mines to fundamentally change worker safety protocols and improve working conditions. They have also provided mining companies with the ability to embed solutions into legacy platforms, allowing for sensors and IoT to pull them into a connected net that delivers results.

“The key to achieving results with any IoT or technology project is to partner with service providers, not just shove solutions into identified gaps,” says Bornheim. “You need to start in the conceptual stage and move through the pre-feasibility and bankable feasibility stages before you start the implementation. Work with trained and qualified chemical, metallurgical, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and structural engineers that form a team led by a qualified engineering lead with experience in project management. This is the only way to ensure that every aspect of the project is aligned with the industry and its highly demanding specifications.”

Mining not only has complexities in compliance and health and safety, but the market has become saturated, difficult and mercurial. For organisations to thrive, they must find new revenue streams and innovate the ways in which they do business. This is where the data delivered by IoT sensors and devices can really transform the bottom line. If translated, analysed and used correctly, the data can provide insights that allow for the executive to make informed decisions about sites, investment and potential.


“The cross-pollination of different data sets from across different sites can help shift dynamics in plant operation and maintenance, in the execution of specific tasks, and so much more,” says Bornheim. “In addition, with sensors and connected devices and systems, mining operations can be managed intelligently to ensure the best results from equipment and people.”

The connection of the physical world to the digital is not new. Many of the applications currently being used or presented to the mining industry are not new either. What’s new is how these solutions are being implemented and the ways in which they are defined. It’s more than sticking on sensors. It’s using these sensors to streamline business across buildings, roads, vehicles, equipment, and sites. These sensors and the ways in which they are used or where they are installed can be customised to suit specific business requirements.

“With qualified electronic engineers and software experts, you can design a vast array of solutions to meet the real needs of your business,” says Bornheim. “Our engineers can programme, create, migrate and integrate embedded IoT solutions for microcontrollers, sensors, and processors. They can also develop intuitive dashboards and human-machine interfaces for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) devices to manage the input and output of a wide range of functionalities.”

The benefits of IoT lie in its ubiquity. It can be used in tandem with artificial intelligence or machine learning systems to enhance analytics, improve the automation of basic processes and monitor systems and equipment for faults. It can be used alongside M2M applications to enhance the results and the outcomes of the systems and their roles. And it can be used to improve collaboration and communication between man, machine and mine.

“You can use IoT platforms to visualise mission-critical data for device monitoring, remote control, alerts, security management, health and safety and healthcare,” concludes Bornheim. “The sky is genuinely the limit, especially now that the cost of sensors has come down and the intelligence of solutions and applications has gone up. From real-time insights to hands-on security and safety alerts to data that changes business direction and focus, IoT brings a myriad of benefits to the table.”

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Oracle leads in clash of
e-commerce titans

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Three e-commerce platforms have been awarded “gold medals” for leading the way in customer experience. SoftwareReviews, a division of Info-Tech Research Group, named Oracle Commerce Cloud the leader in its 2020 eCommerce Data Quadrant Awards, followed by Shopify Plus and IBM Digital Commerce. The awards are based on user reviews. 
The three vendors received the following citations:

  • Oracle Commerce Cloud ranked highest among software users, earning the number-one spot in many of the product feature section areas, shining brightest in reporting and analytics, predictive recommendations, order management, and integrated search. 
  • Shopify Plus performed consistently well according to users, taking the number-one spot for catalogue management, shopping cart management and ease of customisation.
  • IBM Digital Commerce did exceptionally well in business value created, quality of features, and vendor support.

The SoftwareReviews Data Quadrant differentiates itself with insightful survey questions, backed by 22 years of research in IT. The study involves gathering intelligence on user satisfaction with both product features and experience with the vendor. When distilled, the customer’s experience is shaped by both the software interface and relationship with the vendor. Evaluating enterprise software along these two dimensions provides a comprehensive understanding of the product in its entirety and helps identify vendors that can deliver on both for the complete software experience.

“Our recent Data Quadrant in e-commerce solutions provides a compelling snapshot of the most popular enterprise-ready players, and can help you make an informed, data-driven selection of an e-commerce platform that will exceed your expectations,” says Ben Dickie, research director at Info-Tech Research Group. 

“Having a dedicated e-commerce platform is where the rubber hits the road in transacting with your customers through digital channels. These platforms provide an indispensable array of features, from product catalog and cart management to payment processing to detailed transaction analytics.”

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