Cybersecurity: Is it Time To Change Our Mindset?

Mark Testoni

For years, the standard approach to cybersecurity has been to build bigger and bigger walls to “keep the bad guys out.” But as the threat of cybercrime has evolved over time, this approach alone is not enough. Here, we look at the growing cybersecurity challenge and key imperatives facing CIOs.

As the Internet has pervaded all aspects of business and personal life, so has the list of cyber threats that could impact your enterprise. It’s not just rival companies looking to steal ideas. Currently an attack on your network could come from a wide range of sources. Your company could find itself under siege from organized crime, terrorist groups, and even foreign governments.

State and commercial interests are merging, with the networks of private companies now seen as key targets when countries are in conflict. For this reason, many corporations are adopting the same cybersecurity strategies as our national security organizations.

The enemy within

A data breach event could potentially cost millions of dollars, leaving your corporate reputation in ruins. With so much at stake, how do you protect your organization and its intellectual property from all attacks?

This is the challenge. Technological developments have moved so fast in recent years that few networks could ever claim to be 100% impenetrable. And as fast as IT security experts establish barriers to their systems, technologically advanced hackers find ways around them.

Rapid detection, agile response

So, how can commercial companies respond to the evolving cyber threat?

What we need is an entirely new mindset when it comes to cybersecurity. We should assume that hackers can and will access our networks. To complement the evolution of perimeter defenses, we need to shift our focus to detecting and acting on attacks as quickly as possible.

If this approach is to be successful, speed is essential. It is not enough to look in the rear-view mirror to understand what happened yesterday. We need a “front windshield view” to analyze, understand, and respond to threats as they occur.

Revolutionary new approach

With traditional computing approaches, companies simply cannot react fast enough to respond effectively to cyber attacks as they take place. These companies are often only able to determine that a cyber attack has already occurred and attempt to limit the damage to their operations and customers. The prevalence of this can be seen in the number of companies issuing reports about data breaches and offering credit monitoring to their compromised customers. Companies need a way to detect attacks as they are happening, and before the attacker has an opportunity to cause damage.

Sophisticated in-memory computing solutions are enabling this revolution in the way we approach cybersecurity. In an environment where there will never be one, single cyber-product answer, we need to bring the best of all worlds together in an integrated, high-performance manner. For example, with our strategic partners SS8, ThreatConnect, and Babel Street, we are leveraging SAP HANA as a high-performance hub to integrate real-time cyber-situational awareness and threat context. This enables the enterprise to understand the threat, find it, and act on it in real time.

This high-performance computing platform can achieve speeds many thousands of times faster than traditional data architectures. This enables the processing of huge data sets in seconds rather than days and allows analysis at true cyber speed. Companies using this capability can detect and stop cyber attacks while they are underway and before their data can be compromised.

Setting priorities

From the outset, we need to understand that breaches are possible and not all targets can be protected equally. Instead we must identify the high-value targets that are most likely to be attacked and prioritize the areas where a security breach would be most damaging.

For example, finance operations and critical infrastructure are key for most organizations. In addition, personal information is a high-value commodity that cyber criminals are increasingly targeting.

Managing security risk

The Internet has given us the greatest opportunity for economic expansion since the Industrial Revolution. And when you consider the fact that e-commerce accounts for trillions of dollars each year, losses due to security breaches seem minimal.

However, cyber crime is evolving and the threat is growing.

There is no absolute solution or quick fix. The imperative for CIOs is to deploy their available resources effectively to close the aperture of risk as much as possible, and re-evaluate their strategy on an ongoing basis. They need solutions with speed to detect and stop attacks while they are underway. And they must use the latest in-memory technology innovations to stay one step ahead of the cyber criminals.

Threats to your organization can come in many forms, including Supply Chain Fraud: Theft That’s Hidden in Plain Sight.


Mark Testoni

About Mark Testoni

Mark Testoni is president and chief executive of SAP NS2. He is one of the nation’s leading experts in the application of information technology to solve problems in government and industry, especially in the U.S. national security space. With more than 15 years of IT industry experience, 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, and 30 years of public sector management experience, Testoni is a sought-after business strategist and thought leader, with a proven record of rebuilding under-performing organizations and converting visionary ideas into reality. record of rebuilding under-performing organizations and converting visionary ideas into reality.


CIO , cybersecurity

Integrating Data Labs And Factories To Operationalize Advanced Analytics

Carsten Bange

Although explorative business intelligence requires different processes and approaches compared to traditional BI, it still has to be integrated with existing IT and BI structures to ensure analytics solutions are operationalized. Data labs design new analytics solutions and factories operationalize these solutions, and while they differ in terms of goals and methods, they can also share resources and approaches to foster integration.

Challenges for advanced and predictive analytics projects

According to the BARC Survey “Advanced & Predictive Analytics,” the most common problems that obstruct advanced analytics projects are:

  • a lack of resources in business and IT;
  • difficulty quantifying the business value of advanced analytics; and
  • poor understanding of a data-driven business culture.
factors inhibit your Advanced & Predictive Analytics

Figure 1: Which factors inhibit your Advanced & Predictive Analytics projects? (n=89) Source: BARC Survey “Advanced & Predictive Analytics” (n=200)

All of these factors create challenges when applying advanced analytics and putting analytics solutions into practice by turning them into reliable products and services. To understand why this is a challenge, we will look at how advanced analytics projects are conducted and how data labs and factories operate.

Conducting analytics projects

The “analytical cycle” (Figure 2) is a standard procedure for managing advanced analytics projects. It can be broken down into the following steps:

  • A problem definition provides clearly documented goals and serves as reference for the entire project.
  • Data understanding, data selection, and data preparation create a solid database for the task at hand.
  • Modeling & model validation aim to identify a suitable modeling approach. This may require various iterations with regard to data preparation.
  • Results evaluation is important for quality management. All prior steps are reviewed and checked to determine whether the project meets the business objectives, then a decision about utilization of the results is made. The choices are no utilization (i.e., cancellation or start over), onetime utilization, or operationalization.
  • Operationalization means deploying the model and integrating it into relevant IT systems to improve decisions, products, or services.
  • In the continuous model evaluation, the impact of advanced analytics solutions is measured. Model adaptations are carried out in response to changing conditions. Since this also implies checking the business assumptions and data sources, the cycle starts from the beginning.

Data labs and factories

Traditional BI tasks have been standardized and streamlined for many years in many organizations. A defined output of reports, dashboards, or data for analysis is provided to users in a defined quality and a defined output format for the least possible cost. This approach resembles a factory. Factories focus on high quality and often on high volume throughput, which is achieved by standardization, automation, and stable processes. Traditional BI systems correspond to systems of record that are best run in a factory approach that, organizationally, is often part of the IT department or organized in a cross-departmental BI competency center (BICCs).

The new demand for exploring data with advanced and predictive analytics does not usually suit this approach. Therefore, data labs are created that, like a laboratory in a research and development organization, provide for agile experimentation and discovery. Trial and error, as a typical approach to finding innovative solutions, is key. Explorative BI with advanced and predictive analytics in data labs or analytics labs corresponds to systems of innovation. The labs use agile methods for developing prototypes. Analytical solutions are often quickly discarded when they are used for discovery purposes, do not show promising results, or only provide a benchmark for further solutions. This often makes the value-add or return-on-investment hard to quantify, especially if it has to be defined upfront. Funding for these initiatives comes from innovation budgets.

While often operating in isolation, the factory and the lab approaches must work together when it comes to integrating analytics solutions into operational systems in a stable and sustainable way. The analytical cycle shows which tasks are assigned to which approach (see Figure 2).

Labs focus on the stages of problem definition, data understanding and preparation, modeling, and results evaluation, which may feed back to problem definition. Usually this cycle is repeated until a viable solution is found.

But the goal of advanced analytics initiatives is to operationalize analytical discoveries. Model deployment and integration in productive IT environments are tasks for factories. Here, the factory approach for implementing and running a solution with a focus on data governance, reliability, maintenance, scalability, and reusability is important.

The handover from evaluating the results of a prototype in a lab to the factory for operationalization is the key aspect to consider when setting up advanced analytics initiatives. Whether this is working or not will make or break any analytics strategy.

different tasks for labs and factories
Figure 2: The analytical cycle, with different tasks for labs and factories

Common needs and resources

Despite their differing focus, labs and factories have commonalities. Labs require data engineers, often found in BICCs or in IT departments. They are important in the data understanding, data selection, and data preparation phases, which are the most time-consuming steps in analytics projects. On the other hand, do IT departments need data scientists for processes such as continuously checking model quality, model retraining, model adaptations, and support for users? Data scientists can also be useful when checking data quality. “Data artists” that are familiar with the visual representation of results are part of many BI teams but are also necessary for data labs that need to communicate complicated results to lines of business. Sometimes BI managers become BI and analytics managers, overlooking both processes and ensuring that labs and factories are integrated. Technology-wise, labs and factories are integrated when models or model results generated by explorative BI are displayed in BI systems or used in operational systems when processes are automated.


Labs and factories focus on different tasks in the analytical cycle, but both share a common goal – to turn insights from data into products and services. To do this, good communication between labs and factories is crucial, and this can be enhanced by sharing human resources between labs and factories.

Learn more: read other blogs in the “Enabling the Data-Driven Enterprise” series or review the BARC Survey “Advanced & Predictive Analytics.”

This blog was co-authored by Dr. Sebastian Derwisch, data scientist at the Business Application Research Center (BARC). Sebastian holds a PhD in economics and has extensive experience advising companies in the areas of use-case identification for data analytics, tool selection for advanced analytics, and the organization of data science teams.


Carsten Bange

About Carsten Bange

Dr. Carsten Bange is founder and managing director of the Business Application Research Center (BARC), an IT market analysis and consulting group he founded in 1999 and later merged with Le CXP and PAC to form CXP Group, the largest European IT analyst group. Carsten holds a PhD in management information systems, is a frequent speaker at IT conferences and seminars and has served as an analyst and management consultant on business intelligence, data management and digitalization strategy, organization, architecture and technology selection for over 20 years. He can be reached at

Moving To The Cloud For Compliance: No Magic Without Integration And Automation (Part 2)

Jerome Pugnet

We’re witnessing a strong trend towards cloud-based technology offerings in governance, risk and compliance (GRC) right now, particularly in the area of compliance and internal control systems. In last week’s blog,  I talked about how the resulting hype makes it sounds as if—by a sort of magic—moving to the cloud would solve the pains of managing compliance and controls that too many companies today still  experience. However, outdated ways of managing compliance and controls with traditional niche GRC solutions have simply been transposed to many of the new cloud-based offerings. So how can companies ensure they are achieving the promised benefits with their chosen solution?

So it’s time to move to the cloud

Provided certain conditions are met (see last week’s blog), choosing a cloud-based architecture can actually boost the advantages that a truly integrated, automated GRC system already delivers.

Naturally, it will depend on the overall cloud strategy that each company has defined, but for those who are looking to move to a another level for their compliance and internal control systems, away from manual processes (“spreadsheet hell”) or fragmented systems involving various niche solutions, opting for a world-class GRC solution in the cloud can be a great opportunity to reap the whole range of benefits.

After all, while you are about to make that move, why not go for the architecture that is seen to be the way forward for the longer term?

What are the benefits of a cloud-based solution for your compliance and controls?

There are, of course, the more generic benefits that the cloud architecture can bring for GRC just like for other areas of the business. These include a more accessible price for a world-class solution, maintenance cost savings, and better collaboration, the latter being very relevant for GRC where companies need a robust “three lines of defense” approach to bring together operations, risk, and compliance specialists and auditors.

There are other important advantages to consider:

  • Implementing their new integrated, automated GRC in the cloud can also make it easier for companies to deploy their compliance and internal control processes at their own pace, and progressively take advantage of shared best practices and content to automate their controls; for example, adding new workflows, implementing standardized forms to streamline assessments, responding to regulatory changes more easily, and so on.
  • They can benefit from product enhancements faster, bringing in more automation for greater efficiency. This also allows them to move to a much more real-time compliance and control management, preventing problems and anticipating better. The technology supports this further by enabling them to manage their GRC on any device—fixed, portable, or mobile.
  • Last but not least, as a number of tasks are being taken care of for them through the cloud solution, companies can better focus their critical resources on the core GRC business and decisions, making sure that important issues are solved quickly and effectively, and areas of higher risk are more closely monitored and properly mitigated.

What about security?

Security is a universal and key concern as companies look to move into the cloud, and this is sometimes a factor that slows down the process.

Security is particularly important in the GRC space, because it involves particularly sensitive data and processes, and breaches could create serious disruptions and expose a company’s reputation.

However, cloud-based solutions have made tremendous progress in providing high levels of security, so it’s absolutely a good time to consider the move.

But as you do so, the importance of security is another reason for to choose carefully the partner with whom you will manage your compliance and controls in the cloud. Make sure you’re going for one who is financially strong, experienced, and delivers the best practices and features, both in terms of security and functionality.

Find out more (whether on-premise or in the cloud)


From E-Business to V-Business

Josh Waddell, Pascal Lessard, Lori Mitchell-Keller, and Fawn Fitter

Some moments are so instantly, indelibly etched into pop culture that they shape the way we think for years to come. For virtual reality (VR), that moment may have been the scene in the 1999 blockbuster The Matrix when the Keanu Reeves character Neo learns that his entire life has been a computer-generated simulation so fully realized that he could have lived it out never knowing that he was actually an inert body in an isolation tank. Ever since, that has set the benchmark for VR: as a digital experience that seems completely, convincingly real.

Today, no one is going to be unaware, Matrix-like, that they’re wearing an Oculus Rift or a Google Cardboard headset, but the virtual worlds already available to us are catching up to what we’ve imagined they could be at a startling rate. It’s been hard to miss all the Pokémon Go players bumping into one another on the street as they chased animated characters rendered in augmented reality (AR), which overlays and even blends digital artifacts seamlessly with the actual environment around us.

Believe the Hype

For all the justifiable hype about the exploding consumer market for VR and, to a lesser extent, AR, there’s surprisingly little discussion of their latent business value—and that’s a blind spot that companies and CIOs can’t afford to have. It hasn’t been that long since consumer demand for the iPhone and iPad forced companies, grumbling all the way, into finding business cases for them.

sap_Q316_digital_double_feature1_images1If digitally enhanced reality generates even half as much consumer enthusiasm as smartphones and tablets, you can expect to see a new wave of consumerization of IT as employees who have embraced VR and AR at home insist on bringing it to the workplace. This wave of consumerization could have an even greater impact than the last one. Rather than risk being blindsided for a second time, organizations would be well advised to take a proactive approach and be ready with potential business uses for VR and AR technologies by the time they invade the enterprise.

They don’t have much time to get started.

The two technologies are already making inroads in fields as diverse as medicine, warehouse operations, and retail. And make no mistake: the possibilities are breathtaking. VR can bring human eyes to locations that are difficult, dangerous, or physically impossible for the human body, while AR can deliver vast amounts of contextual information and guidance at the precise time and place they’re needed.

As consumer adoption and acceptance drives down costs, enterprise use cases for VR and AR will blossom. In fact, these technologies could potentially revolutionize the way companies communicate, manage employees, and digitize and automate operations. Yet revolution is rarely bloodless. The impact will probably alter many aspects of the workplace that we currently take for granted, and we need to think through the implications of those changes.

sap_Q316_digital_double_feature1_images2Digital Realities, Defined

VR and AR are related, but they’re not so much siblings as cousins. VR is immersive. It creates a fully realized digital environment that users experience through goggles or screens (and sometimes additional equipment that provides physical feedback) that make them feel like they’re surrounded by and interacting entirely within this created world.

AR, by contrast, is additive. It displays text or images in glasses, on a window or windshield, or inside a mirror, but the user is still aware of and interacting with reality. There is also an emerging hybrid called “mixed reality,” which is essentially AR with VR-quality digital elements, that superimposes holographic images on reality so convincingly that trying to touch them is the only way to be sure they aren’t actually there.

Although VR is a hot topic, especially in the consumer gaming world, AR has far more enterprise use cases, and several enterprise apps are already in production. In fact, industry analyst Digi-Capital forecasts that while VR companies will generate US$30 billion in revenue by 2020, AR companies will generate $120 billion, or four times as much.

Both numbers are enormous, especially given how new the VR/AR market is. As recently as 2014, it barely existed, and almost nothing available was appropriate for enterprise users. What’s more, the market is evolving so quickly that standards and industry leaders have yet to emerge. There’s no guarantee that early market entrants like Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR, and HTC’s Vive will continue to exist, never mind set enduring benchmarks.

Nonetheless, it’s already clear that these technologies will have a major impact on both internal and customer-facing business. They will make customer service more accurate, personalized, and relevant. They will reduce human risk and enhance public safety. They will streamline operations and smash physical boundaries. And that’s just the beginning.

Cleveland Clinic: Healing from the Next Room

Medicine is already testing the limits of learning with VR and AR.

sap_q316_digital_double_feature1_imageseightThe most potentially disruptive operational use of VR and AR could be in education and training. With VR, students can be immersed in any environment, from medieval architecture to molecular biology, in classroom groups or on demand, to better understand what they’re studying. And no industry is pursuing this with more enthusiasm than medicine. Even though Google Glass hasn’t been widely adopted elsewhere, for example, it’s been a big success story in the medical world.

Pamela Davis, MD, senior vice president for medical affairs at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of the leading proponents of medical education using VR and AR. She’s the dean of the university’s medical school, which is working with Cleveland Clinic to develop the Microsoft HoloLens “mixed reality” device for medical education and training, turning MRIs and other conventional 2D medical images into 3D images that can be projected at the site of a procedure for training and guidance during surgery. “As you push a catheter into the heart or place a deep brain stimulation electrode, you can see where you want to be and guide your actions by watching the hologram,” Davis explains.

The HoloLens can also be programmed as a “lead” device that transmits those images and live video to other “learner” devices, allowing the person wearing the lead device to provide oversight and input. This will enable a single doctor to demonstrate a delicate procedure up-close to multiple students at once, or do patient examinations remotely in an emergency or epidemic.

Davis herself was convinced of the technology’s broader potential during a demonstration in which she put on a learner HoloLens and rewired a light switch, something decidedly outside her expertise, under the guidance of an engineer wearing a lead HoloLens in the next room. In the near future, she predicts, it will help people perform surgery and other sensitive, detailed tasks not just from the next room, but from the next state or country.

Customer Experience: From E-Commerce to V-Commerce

Consumers are already getting used to sap_Q316_digital_double_feature1_images3thinking of VR and AR in the context of entertainment. Companies interested in the technologies should be thinking about how they might engage consumers as part of the buying experience.

Because the technologies deliver more information and a better shopping experience with less effort, e-commerce is going to give rise to v-commerce, where people research, interact with, and share products in VR and AR before they order them online or go to a store to make a purchase.

Online eyewear retailers already allow people to “try on” glasses virtually and share the images with friends to get their feedback, but that’s rudimentary compared to what’s emerging.

Mirrors as Personal Shoppers

Clothing stores from high-end boutiques to low-end fashion chains are experimenting with AR mirrors that take the shopper’s measurements and recommend outfits, showing what items look like without requiring the customer to undress.

Instant Designer Shows

Luxury design house Dior uses Oculus Rift VR goggles to let its well-heeled customers experience a runway show without flying to Paris.

Custom Shopping Malls

British designer Allison Crank has created an experimental VR shopping mall. As people walk through it, they encounter virtual people (and the occasional zoo animal) and shop in stores stocked only with items that users are most likely to buy, based on past purchase information and demographic data.

A New Perspective

IKEA’s AR application lets shoppers envisage a piece of furniture in the room they plan to use it in. They can look at products from the point of view of a specific height—useful for especially tall or short customers looking for comfortable furniture or for parents trying to design rooms that are safe for a toddler or a young child.

Painless Do-it-Yourself Instructions

Instead of forcing customers to puzzle over a diagram or watch an online video, companies will be able to offer customers detailed VR or AR demonstrations that show how to assemble and disassemble products for use, cleaning, and storage.

sap_Q316_digital_double_feature1_images4Operations and Management: Revealing the Details

The customer-facing benefits of VR and AR are inarguably flashy, but it’s in internal business use that these technologies promise to shine brightest: boosting efficiency and productivity, eliminating previously unavoidable risks, and literally giving employers and managers new ways to look at information and operations. The following examples aren’t blue-sky cases; experts say they’re promising, realistic, and just around the corner.

Real-Time Guidance

A combination of AR glasses and audio essentially creates a user-specific, contextually relevant guidance system that confirms that wearers are in the right place, looking at the right thing, and taking the right action. This technology could benefit almost any employee who is not working at a desk: walking field service reps through repair procedures, guiding miners to the best escape route in an emergency, or optimizing home health aides’ driving routes and giving them up-to-date instructions and health data when they arrive at each patient’s home.

Linking to the Hidden

AR technology will be able to display any type of information the wearer needs to know. Linked to facial identification software, it could help police officers identify suspects or missing persons in real time. Used to visualize thermal gradients, chemical signatures, radioactivity, and other things that are invisible to the naked eye, it could help researchers refine their experiments or let insurance claims assessors spot arson. Similarly, VR will allow users to create and manipulate detailed three-dimensional models of everything from molecules to large machinery so that they can examine, explore, and change them.

Reducing the Human Risk

VR will allow users to perform high-risk jobs while reducing their need to be in harm’s way. The users will be able to operate equipment remotely while seeing exactly what they would if they were there, a use case that is ideal for industries like mining, firefighting, search and rescue, and toxic site cleanup. While VR won’t necessarily eliminate the need for humans to perform these high-risk jobs, it will improve their safety, and it will allow companies to pursue new opportunities in situations that remain too dangerous for humans.

Reducing the Commercial Risk

sap_Q316_digital_double_feature1_images5VR can also reduce an entirely different type of operational risk: that of introducing new products and services. Manufacturers can let designers or even customers “test” a product, gather their feedback, and tweak the design accordingly before the product ever goes into production. Indeed, auto manufacturer Ford has already created a VR Immersion Lab for its engineers, which, among other things, helped them redesign the interior of the 2015 Ford Mustang to make the dashboard and windshield wipers more user-friendly, according to Fortune. In addition to improving customer experience, this application of VR is likely to accelerate product development and shorten time to market.

Similarly, retailers can use VR to create and test branch or franchise location designs on the fly to optimize traffic flow, product display, the accessibility of products, and even decor. Instead of building models or concept stores, a designer will be able to create the store design with VR, do a virtual walkthrough with executives, and adjust it in real time until it achieves the desired effect.

Seeing in Tongues

At some point, we will see an AR app that can translate written language in near-real time, which will dramatically streamline global business communications. Mobile apps already exist to do this in certain languages, so it’s just a matter of time before we can slip on glasses that let us read menus, signs, agendas, and documents in our native tongue.

Decide with the Eye

More dramatically, AR project management software will be able to deliver real-time data at a literal glance. On a construction site, for example, simply scanning the area could trigger data about real-time costs, supply inventories, planned versus actual spending, employee and equipment scheduling, and more. By linking to construction workers’ own AR glasses that provide information about what to know and do at any given location and time, managers could also evaluate and adjust workloads.

Squeeze Distance

Farther in the future, VR and AR will create true telepresence, enhancing collaboration and potentially replacing in-person meetings. Users could transmit AR holograms of themselves to someone else’s office, allowing them to be seen as if they were in the room. We could have VR workspaces with high-fidelity avatars that transmit characteristic facial expressions and gestures. Companies could show off a virtual product in a virtual room with virtual coworkers, on demand.

Reduce Carbon Footprint

If nothing else, true telepresence could practically eliminate business travel costs. More critically, though, in an era of rising temperatures and shrinking resources, the ability to create and view virtual people and objects rather than manufacturing and transporting physical artifacts also conserves materials and reduces the use of fossil fuel.

Employees: Under Observation

The strength of digitally enhanced reality—and AR in particular—is its ability to determine a user’s context and deliver relevant information accordingly. This makes it valuable for monitoring and managing employee behavior and performance. Employees could, for example, use the location and time data recorded by AR glasses to prove that they were (or weren’t) in a particular place at a particular time. The same glasses could provide them with heads-up guided navigation, alert employers that they’re due for a legally mandated break, verify that they completed an assigned task, and confirm hours worked without requiring them to fill out a timesheet.

However, even as these capabilities improve data governance and help manage productivity, they also raise critical issues of privacy and autonomy (see The Norms of Virtual Behavior). If you’re an employee using VR or AR technology, and if your company is leveraging it to monitor your performance, who owns that information? Who’s allowed to use it, and for what purposes? These are still open legal questions for these technologies.

Another unsettled—and unsettling—question is how far employers can use these technologies to direct employees’ work. While employers have the right to tell employees how to do their jobs, autonomy is a key component of workplace satisfaction. The extent to which employees are required to let a pair of AR glasses govern their actions could have a direct impact on hiring and retention.

Finally, these technologies could be one more step toward greater automation. A warehouse-picking AR application that guides pickers to the appropriate product faster makes them more productive and saves them from having to memorize hundreds or even thousands of SKUs. But the same technology that can guide a person will also be able to guide a semiautonomous robot.

The Norms of Virtual Behavior

VR and AR could disrupt our social norms and take identity hacking to a new level.

The future of AR and VR isn’t without its hazards. We’ve all witnessed how distracting and even dangerous smartphones can be, but at least people have to pull a phone out of a pocket before getting lost in the screen. What happens when the distraction is sitting on their faces?

This technology is going to affect how we interact, both in the workplace and out of it. The annoyance verging on rage that met the first people wearing Google Glass devices in public proves that we’re going to need to evolve new social norms. We’ll need to signal how engaged we are with what’s right in front of us when we’re wearing AR glasses, what we’re doing with the glasses while we interact, or whether we’re paying attention at all.

More sinister possibilities will present themselves down the line. How do you protect sensitive data from being accessed by unauthorized or “shadow” VR/AR devices? How do you prove you’re the one operating your avatar in a virtual meeting? How do you know that the person across from you is who they say they are and not a competitor or industrial spy who’s stolen a trusted avatar? How do you keep someone from hacking your VR or AR equipment to send you faulty data, flood your field of vision with disturbing images, or even direct you into physical danger?

As the technology gets more sophisticated, VR and AR vendors will have to start addressing these issues.

Technical Challenges

To realize the full business value of VR and AR, companies will need to tackle certain technical challenges. To be precise, they’ll have to wait for the vendors to take them on, because the market is still so new that standards and practices are far from mature.

sap_Q316_digital_double_feature1_images6For one thing, successful implementation requires devices (smartphones, tablets, and glasses, for now) that are capable of delivering, augmenting, and overlaying information in a meaningful way. Only in the last year or so has the available hardware progressed beyond problems like overheating with demand, too-small screens, low-resolution cameras, insufficient memory, and underpowered batteries. While hardware is improving, so many vendors have emerged that companies have a hard time choosing among their many options.
The proliferation of devices has also increased software complexity. For enterprise VR and AR to take off, vendors need to create software that can run on the maximum number of devices with minimal modifications. Otherwise, companies are limited to software based on what it’s capable of doing on their hardware of choice, rather than software that meets their company’s needs.

The lack of standards only adds to the confusion. Porting data to VR or AR systems is different from mobilizing front-end or even back-end systems, because it requires users to enter, display, and interact with data in new ways. For devices like AR glasses that don’t use a keyboard or touch screen, vendors must determine how to enter data (voice recognition? eye tracking? image recognition?), how to display it legibly in any given environment, and whether to develop their own user interface tools or work with a third party.

Finally, delivering convincing digital enhancements to reality demands such vast amounts of data that many networks simply can’t accommodate it. Much as videoconferencing didn’t truly take off until high-speed broadband became widely available, VR and AR adoption will lag until a zero-latency infrastructure exists to
support them.

sap_Q316_digital_double_feature1_images7Coming Soon to a Face Near You

For all that VR and AR solutions have improved dramatically in a short time, they’re still primarily supplemental to existing systems, and not just because the software is still evolving. Wearables still have such limited processing power, memory, and battery life that they can handle only a small amount of information. That said, hardware is catching up quickly (see The Supporting Cast).

The Supporting Cast

VR and AR would still be science fiction if it weren’t for these supporting technologies.

The latest developments in VR and AR technologies wouldn’t be possible without other breakthroughs that bring things once considered science fiction squarely into the realm of science fact:

  • Advanced semiconductor designs pack more processing power into less space.
  • Microdisplays fit more information onto smaller screens.
  • New power storage technologies extend battery life while shrinking battery size.
  • Development tools for low-latency, high-resolution image rendering and improved 3D-graphics displays make digital artifacts more realistic and detailed.
  • Omnidirectional cameras that can record in 360 degrees simultaneously create fully immersive environments.
  • Plummeting prices for accelerometers lower the cost of VR devices.

Companies in the emerging VR/AR industry are encouraging the makers of smartglasses and safety glasses to work together to create ergonomic smartglasses that deliver information in a nondistracting way and that are also comfortable to wear for an eight-hour shift.

The argument in favor of VR and AR for business is so powerful that once vendors solve the obvious hardware problems, experts predict that existing enterprise mobile apps will quickly start to include VR or AR components, while new apps will emerge to satisfy as yet unmet needs.

In other words, it’s time to start thinking about how your company might put these technologies to use—and how to do so in a way that minimizes concerns about data privacy, corporate security, and employee comfort. Because digitally enhanced reality is coming tomorrow, so business needs to start planning for it today. D!

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.



Leveraging Digital Twins To Breathe New Life Into Your Products And Services

Thomas Kaiser

Are you familiar with the concept of the twin paradox? In physics, the twin paradox is a thought experiment in which one twin stays on Earth while the other travels in a spaceship at a high speed for a period of time. According to the special theory of relativity, the second twin will return home measurably younger than the first.

In a similar way, the concept of the digital twin can accelerate your business and breathe new life into your products and services.

But the digital twin isn’t just a thought experiment. Gartner lists digital twins as a Top 10 strategic trend for 2017. It’s part of a broader digital transformation on which IDC says companies will invest $2.1 trillion a year by 2019.

Already, smart companies are using digital twins to better understand operations, get closer to customers, and transform their business.

Connecting real and virtual

A digital twin is a virtual representation of a real-world product or service. That could be anything from a toaster to industrial machinery to complex processes. The virtual representation combines three types of information: business data, contextual data, and sensor data.

Business data covers information such as customer name, location, and service-level agreements. Contextual data includes details such as ambient temperature, humidity, and weather events. Sensor data involves things like machine speed, operating temperature, and vibration.

Sensor data is key because, while companies have been using digital twins for years, it’s only with the Internet of Things (IoT) that they’ve become cost-effective. Gartner predicts that 6.4 billion things will be connected this year, a 30% jump over 2015. By 2020, at least half of all new business processes will incorporate IoT – transforming live data into new value.

Drilling down on digital twins

How does a digital twin work? Let’s say you manufacture industrial drills. A digital twin can help you understand how customers use your drill. The goal is to continuously improve the product to increase customer satisfaction and identify opportunities for new products and services.

For example, you might discover that your drill malfunctions in certain situations. That can enable you to improve product design. Or it can let you help customers modify the way they use the drill to avoid problems.

Or, you might discover that customers use your drill not only to make holes but also to cut materials. That might lead you to develop a new product that’s purpose-built for cutting.

Or, maybe you discover that while customers want holes made, they don’t necessarily want to purchase and operate a drill. So rather than sell drills, you might offer a hole-drilling service. In other words, instead of charging customers for machinery they operate, you charge them for holes drilled by machinery you operate for them. Some SAP customers have been quite successful in making this kind of leap from products to services.

Digital twins across industries

Digital twins aren’t just for manufacturers. Insurers can apply digital twins in offerings like usage-based car insurance. Retailers can track how customers navigate the store and interact with products on the shelves. Cities can model areas for things like smart lighting. Ports can monitor weather, shipping traffic, containers, and trains and trucks entering and leaving.

Digital twins cover the entire lifecycle of an asset or process. In fact, they can form a foundation for an end-to-end, closed-loop value chain for smart, connected products and services, from design to production, from deployment to continuous improvement.

The promise of continuous improvement is why it’s increasingly important to integrate digital technologies into all products. As you leverage your digital twin to identify opportunities for new or better features, you can implement those improvements quickly and cost-effectively through firmware updates.

Implementing digital twins involves four steps:

  1. Integrate smart components such as sensors, software, computing power, or data storage into new or existing products.
  1. Connect the product to a central location where you can capture sensor data and enrich that sensor data with business and contextual data.
  1. Analyze that data on an ongoing basis to identify opportunities for product improvements, new products, or even new business models.
  1. Leverage these digital insights to transform your company — for example, by reducing costs through proactive avoidance of business interruptions, or by creating new business opportunities.

Of course, while those steps are easy to list, they can require significant effort to achieve. But digital twins are becoming a business imperative. Companies that fail to respond will be left behind. Those that embrace digital twins have the opportunity to better understand customer needs, continuously improve their products and services, and even identify new business models that give them competitive advantage.

Consumer demand for virtual reality is changing how businesses manage and operate. Learn how to transition From E-Business to V-Business.