The majority of IT projects fail. According to research published by The Standish Group, of more than 50,000 IT projects between 1992 and 2004, only 29 percent were deemed successful. This problem has not lessened – consultancies such as Forrester and McKinsey regularly note a 70% failure rate among transformation projects. So even though technology procurement and delivery is changing, why hasn’t the failure rate lessened?
It’s all about complexity. Complex projects generally have a poor success rate. ICT projects are almost always complex because they typically are a System of Systems: a combination of many different parts, the sum of which is invariably larger. A system of systems can describe any transformational environment: solutions require integration and collaboration between many technology components, business processes, and workforces.
No wonder CIOs have a headache and easily one of the hardest jobs in the business world today. Compounding matters are the loud voices in the rest of the enterprise, demanding services that match their expectations. Organisations have seen, heard and tasted the potential of digital technology, and they look toward the CIO to deliver at very short timelines. It’s no longer 3 years – it’s 3 months! They like the sound of micro-services, proofs of concepts and scalable deployments. Such terms even make digital sound easy. These are steep expectations to overcome in the face of complexity.
Complexity doesn’t go away, but its risks can be mitigated through good design, automation, and experience. This is primarily why the choice of Systems Integrator (SI) has become an overruling factor for successful ICT projects in the medium and large enterprise worlds. Small businesses can usually find all they need in standard services, but the more complex an organisation, the more it needs customisation and integration of its systems. Complexity begets complexity.
Normally one would look to vendors for guidance and clarity. Yet the vendor market also has a complexity issue. The nature of modern services means that there are many combinations to create a solution. It’s not a new situation and has defined the space of SI’s for many years. Yet the rise of choice and variability among vendor products has increased this tenfold.
Hence the importance of partnerships and alliances between vendors and systems integrators. The more familiar an SI is with vendor solutions, including those still be tested by R&D, the better they can simplify things. If the SI can draw from a deep and wide pool of experience, usually gained from staging multiple technology projects across the world, that is also an important factor. The right SI must be able to communicate with every part of the client organisation, from the highest levels down to the coalface. Finally, the SI often invests in the training and costly certification of skills – it should be able to tend to those with an international mindset, yet strive to localise those skills within its customer companies and customers.
Such criteria have long counted towards identifying a good SI and solution provider. But they are more important than ever before. Projects today are driven by customer/user experiences. They often involve platform strategies and are orientated towards services and components. And they are unique: the beauty of digital is that every organisation can have its own journey. But how to do that without reinventing the wheel depends on the right solutions partner.
In an integrated world, the successful SIs are close to vendors, customers and trends. These require more than big marketing claims. They require depth and experience beyond being a solutions middleman. The CIO who chases that requirement when selecting transformation partners can avoid the 70 percent of ICT project failures.
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
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.”
Oracle leads in clash of
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.”