IT Roadmap For The Future

Daniel Newman

As new IT technology is introduced in the workplace, it’s likely that what worked last year won’t work in the next five years. It might sound like a cliché, but the only constant in the world of IT is change. While this continuous evolution isn’t always predictable, there are certain ways for CIOs to plan to help IT professionals achieve their goals for the organization. Here are a few suggestions to help CIOs create a roadmap for the future:

1. Consider the big picture

IT departments must no longer be merely concerned with their departmental goals. CIOs and the department in general need to realign with larger organizational goals to stay relevant in times of constant change.

According to Simon Chapleau, CEO of Green Elephant, measuring things like calls to the help desk, closed tickets, and so on are a thing of the past, catering only to the interest and investment of IT teams. “However, if you are including user satisfaction and happiness in there, if you’re giving IT a little more time and space to resolve issues to users’ satisfaction, then you’ll see improvement across the board,” Chapleau says. In this way, IT departments and CIOs need to consider the bigger picture, focusing not only on measurement and accountability, but on how to improve the overall customer experience to boost business. Gone are the times of an isolated IT department led by a CIO with limited capacities. The future demands that CIOs are versatile and refocus their strategy in a way suitable for the entire business.

2. Collaborate with other departments

CIOs will increasingly need to collaborate with other departments to meet organizational goals, as outlined above. Rather than the IT department being a place filled with tech professionals that other departments tend to avoid, more engagement and interaction will become the norm. The shift toward collaboration is partially driven by the younger generation in the workforce. Millennial workers are driving a shift that focuses on engaging and communicating across departments. What this means for IT teams is more engagement with each department and its staff, paired with a willingness to explain and provide strategies that are based in reason and logic. Business analysts will make up a growing percentage of IT staff, and it is the CIO’s job to integrate these members into the department while also facilitating inter-departmental collaboration to reach important decisions affecting both technology and the overall business.

3. Focus on innovation

Historically, the role of the CIO has been characterized by caution and predictability. With the new dynamism in the IT industry, CIOs will have to be more innovation-oriented and willing to take risks. “This new kind of CIO, who will move from chief information officer to chief innovation officer, will focus much more on being agile and adaptive,” states Alastair Behenna, principal analyst serving CIO at Forrester. The ability to continually adapt is integral and demands that CIOs be able to quickly rise above and learn from failure. Rather than organizations slowing innovation down, the next few years will see an explosion in creativity that can be met only with a focus on innovation and its implementation.

4. Continuous employee training

It’s no surprise that the transformation of the role of the CIO will require a transformation at the employee level, as well. CIOs will have to build a workforce that can focus on innovation and adaptability, provide excellent customer experience, and foster business development. It will no longer be sufficient to excel at one side of IT operations only. Rather, CIOs will need to train employees to consider the bigger picture in terms of technology. As I wrote in a previous article on Forbes, “Reskilling existing teams will be necessary to maintain agility, so it’s important to construct a team of employees who can handle the peaks and valleys of business.” Current employees need to get on par with the changing face of IT and learn to adapt to avoid failure. CIOs will play a key in role in facilitating these processes by reskilling legacy processes and seeking out adaptable talent.

Even with unpredictable and ever-changing technologies, the CIO’s role is far from redundant. In fact, as the workplace continues to evolve, CIOs will play an integral part in the leadership of any business and should appropriately be prepared for the same.

Don’t let your digital transformation break what’s working. See 4 Ways to Digitally Disrupt Your Business Without Destroying It.

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About Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of EC3, a quickly growing hosted IT and Communication service provider. Prior to this role Daniel has held several prominent leadership roles including serving as CEO of United Visual. Parent company to United Visual Systems, United Visual Productions, and United GlobalComm; a family of companies focused on Visual Communications and Audio Visual Technologies.
Daniel is also widely published and active in the Social Media Community. He is the Author of Amazon Best Selling Business Book “The Millennial CEO.” Daniel also Co-Founded the Global online Community 12 Most and was recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the 100 Business and Leadership Accounts to Follow on Twitter.
Newman is an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College. He attained his undergraduate degree in Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from North Central College in Naperville, IL. Newman currently resides in Aurora, Illinois with his wife (Lisa) and his two daughters (Hailey 9, Avery 5).
A Chicago native all of his life, Newman is an avid golfer, a fitness fan, and a classically trained pianist

Five Ignored Practices That Can Disarm Your Cybersecurity Time Bomb

Paul Kurchina

Year after year, data breaches become messier, bigger, and more dangerous – and no business or person is immune from cybersecurity attacks. In fact, any form of cyber crime can impact over half of the world’s population. That’s roughly 3.8 billion people, up from 2 billion in 2015 – and that attack population will grow to 75% as another 2.2 billion people gain access to the Internet by 2022.

Considering the risk, consumers are always shocked to hear that the companies they love exposed their information by missing much-needed patches, ignoring back-door vulnerabilities in their IT architecture, and choosing weak passwords. Furthermore, a good portion of these incidents are preventable. For example, delaying one patch update by as little as six weeks could lead to data theft that impacts hundreds of millions of people in a matter of minutes.

“News headlines warn companies of all sizes that they are putting themselves at risk literally every day,” observed Virtual Forge CEO Markus Schumacher during the Webcast “Achieving Baseline Security Within the SAP Environment,” hosted by Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG). “If executives fail to implement good controls and ensure that safeguards are in place and effectively used, they are not doing their jobs.”

Tick, tick, tick: It’s time to take control of cybersecurity

Businesses often overlook system configuration, custom code, and transports even though most CEOs are aware of the guidelines to keep their systems secure. Unfortunately, failure in any of these areas introduces security risks

To address these preventable cybersecurity risks, executives should reconsider five fundamental practices for maintaining the security integrity of IT landscapes.

1. Governance, risk, compliance (GRC) of authorizations

Functional and technical users need to be managed in a manner that ensures proper and secure access to the right information, when and where they need it. GRC considerations include restriction of standard users and profiles, segregation of duties, remote function call (RFC) interfaces, user provisioning and decommissioning, data encryption, and the secure use of cryptography. Businesses can also address their password policies by implementing best practices and single sign-on capabilities.

2. Setup security

The organization and maintenance of the IT landscape – as routine as it may sound – can significantly impact the security of your systems, data, and brand reputation. In this case, the IT organization should prioritize the installation of all security patches, monitor security settings continuously on all systems, secure RFC and all other interfaces, and implement end-to-end encryption.

3. Security of custom code

Since companies are unique in how they operate, serve customers, and approach the industry, every IT landscape will always have one or more applications with custom code. The rule for ensuring a secure software development lifecycle is to scan all custom and third-party code early and often. After identifying an exposure, the IT department should perform risk-based assessments and resolutions immediately.

4. Infrastructure security

When hacking a system, most cybercriminals attack the operational system (OS) and database (DB) first because they are the easiest to infiltrate. For this reason, it is important to patch and update the OS and the DB without undue delay and enforce practices around strong passwords for this layer. Additionally, profile parameters should be continuously monitored and controlled, as well as routers, Web dispatchers, gateways, and Java systems.

5. Change management

During development, testing, and production, companies must securely transport code without the risk of intrusion and corruption. Whether received from an internal or external source, all transported content should be inspected before the next stage in the release process. Otherwise, preventable risks may be introduced to the target system. Additionally, it is critical to remain vigilant by encrypting communication and controlling transport paths to meet business needs.

Attention to the fundamentals of IT integrity defuses preventable exposure

The vulnerability of systems to cyberattacks is nothing more than a ticking time bomb. Missing any aspect of cybersecurity puts everyone at risk. For the good of the business, their employees, their customers, and the economy, executives need to rethink their cybersecurity strategies now to protect the company from preventable breaches and the consequences that will follow an attack.

For more insights into securing your SAP software investments and strategy, watch the replay of the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG) Webcast “Achieving Baseline Security Within the SAP Environment,” featuring Virtual Forge CEO Markus Schumacher.

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Paul Kurchina

About Paul Kurchina

Paul Kurchina is a community builder and evangelist with the Americas’ SAP Users Group (ASUG), responsible for developing a change management program for ASUG members.

CIO Leadership: 3 Lessons Learned At Harvard Business School

Orlando Cintra

When you’re surrounded by technology, it’s easy to forget the power of the personal touch. In my role at SAP, I work with CIOs in Latin America and the Caribbean who influence technology decisions for the long-term benefit of the company. The foundation of my relationship with each CIO is not how much better our technology is than others. The strength of these relationships is based on human elements.

Over the past 20 years of my career with technology companies, I’ve sustained a strong belief that there’s a place for machines and there’s a place for people. As basic as it sounds, I never forget the people element in my business interactions. A leadership program I completed through Harvard Business School really emphasized the power of personal connections. When I look back on the program and think about how I’ve applied lessons learned, I see three fundamental truths as most impactful on my point of view.

1. Remember that people are people

Regardless of a person’s position within their company, no matter where they started or where they are in the world – people are people. Empathy goes a long way to building relationships. Whether I’m dealing with CIOs, peers, direct reports, or supervisors, I focus on traits like honesty and sincerity, being open and aligned no matter what. No one likes to deal with someone who acts like a machine.

Once, during a complicated and tough negotiation with a CIO of a global multinational company, we were unable to resolve service-level agreements. After many days of discussion, we were stuck on three final points in the contract. At that point we started to talk about what the future would look like, the trust shared by members of both companies, and who would lead the project from both sides. By shifting the focus away from contract negotiations to talk about people, I could appreciate the CIO’s point of view and vice versa. We agreed to show a united front to the members of both teams and state our vision for the future and our commitment to the success of both companies. After that we were able to resolve the contract in a matter of hours. Why? Because we focused on trust, good faith, and empathy. This shift opened our minds and inspired our teams in ways we did not imagine.

2. To capture the mind, you need to touch the heart

Before making an investment in technology, companies need to vet the decision. It requires a solid business case, one that is well thought out and calculated, which is all good. You need these things. But to advance any cause, making a change usually requires more than a solid business case. It requires touching the heart. When you touch the heart, you get a flavor of the soul. Then you can capture the mind of those you’re trying to influence, whether it’s your customers or your management team.

Every company needs to innovate to stay ahead of the competition – and in some cases, to survive. How can you innovate when you have day-to-day cost pressures, ongoing market demands, and leadership asking for bigger and better results? Think about how you can change the behavior of your customer to identify possible ways to innovate your services or products. Buying is both an emotional process and a rational one. How can you tap into both? Touch the heart of your customers with your innovation.

3. Never underestimate the need for fun

When you think of an executive or a business person, you typically think of someone who is very serious. Even so, having fun is as important as working hard. It has the same value. It’s therefore important to celebrate milestones and achievements with your teams, your boss, your peers, and your clients. Whether the celebration is a large event or a small personal exchange, inject some fun into the business equation. It helps build a bond and often sparks inspiration.

If you want to know what mark you left on a team, on a customer, or on the market, ask how much fun you helped them have. It serves as a good measure of impact and one area where machines are at a disadvantage. You can’t set up an algorithm to automate fun. Fun is typically a shared emotion that involves other people.

The future of leadership

I’ve said there’s a place for machines and there’s a place for people. Today, technologies like machine learning and the Internet of Things enable the melding of both. But at the end of the day, it’s people who drive innovation. Therefore, throughout the technology lifecycle, from the business case through implementation and training – it’s important to remember the power of personal connections as a key enabler of success.

In future posts I’ll explore the technology side of business more directly. Look for stories about companies in Latin America and the Caribbean that are achieving success by embracing people and technology. 

For more leadership strategies for the digital era, see How To Become An Authentic Leader In The Digital Era.

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Orlando Cintra

About Orlando Cintra

Orlando Cintra is senior vice president of Innovation and SAP Cloud Platform for the Latin America & Caribbean region, supporting companies in their digital transformation roadmap. He helps companies take the right journey for the future, where digital transformation is the main – and current – focus in many markets and industries, using innovation as a key element of disruption and business value creation.

An author and speaker, Orlando has more than 20 years of experience in IT and business in leadership positions with SAP, HP, and Informatica Corporation. He holds an Information Technology degree and specialization in Leadership from Harvard Business School, and lives in São Paulo, Brazil.

More Than Noise: Digital Trends That Are Bigger Than You Think

By Maurizio Cattaneo, David Delaney, Volker Hildebrand, and Neal Ungerleider

In the tech world in 2017, several trends emerged as signals amid the noise, signifying much larger changes to come.

As we noted in last year’s More Than Noise list, things are changing—and the changes are occurring in ways that don’t necessarily fit into the prevailing narrative.

While many of 2017’s signals have a dark tint to them, perhaps reflecting the times we live in, we have sought out some rays of light to illuminate the way forward. The following signals differ considerably, but understanding them can help guide businesses in the right direction for 2018 and beyond.

When a team of psychologists, linguists, and software engineers created Woebot, an AI chatbot that helps people learn cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for managing mental health issues like anxiety and depression, they did something unusual, at least when it comes to chatbots: they submitted it for peer review.

Stanford University researchers recruited a sample group of 70 college-age participants on social media to take part in a randomized control study of Woebot. The researchers found that their creation was useful for improving anxiety and depression symptoms. A study of the user interaction with the bot was submitted for peer review and published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health in June 2017.

While Woebot may not revolutionize the field of psychology, it could change the way we view AI development. Well-known figures such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates have expressed concerns that artificial intelligence is essentially ungovernable. Peer review, such as with the Stanford study, is one way to approach this challenge and figure out how to properly evaluate and find a place for these software programs.

The healthcare community could be onto something. We’ve already seen instances where AI chatbots have spun out of control, such as when internet trolls trained Microsoft’s Tay to become a hate-spewing misanthrope. Bots are only as good as their design; making sure they stay on message and don’t act in unexpected ways is crucial.

This is especially true in healthcare. When chatbots are offering therapeutic services, they must be properly designed, vetted, and tested to maintain patient safety.

It may be prudent to apply the same level of caution to a business setting. By treating chatbots as if they’re akin to medicine or drugs, we have a model for thorough vetting that, while not perfect, is generally effective and time tested.

It may seem like overkill to think of chatbots that manage pizza orders or help resolve parking tickets as potential health threats. But it’s already clear that AI can have unintended side effects that could extend far beyond Tay’s loathsome behavior.

For example, in July, Facebook shut down an experiment where it challenged two AIs to negotiate with each other over a trade. When the experiment began, the two chatbots quickly went rogue, developing linguistic shortcuts to reduce negotiating time and leaving their creators unable to understand what they were saying.

Do we want AIs interacting in a secret language because designers didn’t fully understand what they were designing?

The implications are chilling. Do we want AIs interacting in a secret language because designers didn’t fully understand what they were designing?

In this context, the healthcare community’s conservative approach doesn’t seem so farfetched. Woebot could ultimately become an example of the kind of oversight that’s needed for all AIs.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that chatbots have great potential in healthcare—not just for treating mental health issues but for helping patients understand symptoms, build treatment regimens, and more. They could also help unclog barriers to healthcare, which is plagued worldwide by high prices, long wait times, and other challenges. While they are not a substitute for actual humans, chatbots can be used by anyone with a computer or smartphone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of financial status.

Finding the right governance for AI development won’t happen overnight. But peer review, extensive internal quality analysis, and other processes will go a long way to ensuring bots function as expected. Otherwise, companies and their customers could pay a big price.

Elon Musk is an expert at dominating the news cycle with his sci-fi premonitions about space travel and high-speed hyperloops. However, he captured media attention in Australia in April 2017 for something much more down to earth: how to deal with blackouts and power outages.

In 2016, a massive blackout hit the state of South Australia following a storm. Although power was restored quickly in Adelaide, the capital, people in the wide stretches of arid desert that surround it spent days waiting for the power to return. That hit South Australia’s wine and livestock industries especially hard.

South Australia’s electrical grid currently gets more than half of its energy from wind and solar, with coal and gas plants acting as backups for when the sun hides or the wind doesn’t blow, according to ABC News Australia. But this network is vulnerable to sudden loss of generation—which is exactly what happened in the storm that caused the 2016 blackout, when tornadoes ripped through some key transmission lines. Getting the system back on stable footing has been an issue ever since.

Displaying his usual talent for showmanship, Musk stepped in and promised to build the world’s largest battery to store backup energy for the network—and he pledged to complete it within 100 days of signing the contract or the battery would be free. Pen met paper with South Australia and French utility Neoen in September. As of press time in November, construction was underway.

For South Australia, the Tesla deal offers an easy and secure way to store renewable energy. Tesla’s 129 MWh battery will be the most powerful battery system in the world by 60% once completed, according to Gizmodo. The battery, which is stationed at a wind farm, will cover temporary drops in wind power and kick in to help conventional gas and coal plants balance generation with demand across the network. South Australian citizens and politicians largely support the project, which Tesla claims will be able to power 30,000 homes.

Until Musk made his bold promise, batteries did not figure much in renewable energy networks, mostly because they just aren’t that good. They have limited charges, are difficult to build, and are difficult to manage. Utilities also worry about relying on the same lithium-ion battery technology as cellphone makers like Samsung, whose Galaxy Note 7 had to be recalled in 2016 after some defective batteries burst into flames, according to CNET.

However, when made right, the batteries are safe. It’s just that they’ve traditionally been too expensive for large-scale uses such as renewable power storage. But battery innovations such as Tesla’s could radically change how we power the economy. According to a study that appeared this year in Nature, the continued drop in the cost of battery storage has made renewable energy price-competitive with traditional fossil fuels.

This is a massive shift. Or, as David Roberts of news site Vox puts it, “Batteries are soon going to disrupt power markets at all scales.” Furthermore, if the cost of batteries continues to drop, supply chains could experience radical energy cost savings. This could disrupt energy utilities, manufacturing, transportation, and construction, to name just a few, and create many opportunities while changing established business models. (For more on how renewable energy will affect business, read the feature “Tick Tock” in this issue.)

Battery research and development has become big business. Thanks to electric cars and powerful smartphones, there has been incredible pressure to make more powerful batteries that last longer between charges.

The proof of this is in the R&D funding pudding. A Brookings Institution report notes that both the Chinese and U.S. governments offer generous subsidies for lithium-ion battery advancement. Automakers such as Daimler and BMW have established divisions marketing residential and commercial energy storage products. Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and General Electric are all experimenting with various electric propulsion systems for aircraft—which means that hybrid airplanes are also a possibility.

Meanwhile, governments around the world are accelerating battery research investment by banning internal combustion vehicles. Britain, France, India, and Norway are seeking to go all electric as early as 2025 and by 2040 at the latest.

In the meantime, expect huge investment and new battery innovation from interested parties across industries that all share a stake in the outcome. This past September, for example, Volkswagen announced a €50 billion research investment in batteries to help bring 300 electric vehicle models to market by 2030.

At first, it sounds like a narrative device from a science fiction novel or a particularly bad urban legend.

Powerful cameras in several Chinese cities capture photographs of jaywalkers as they cross the street and, several minutes later, display their photograph, name, and home address on a large screen posted at the intersection. Several days later, a summons appears in the offender’s mailbox demanding payment of a fine or fulfillment of community service.

As Orwellian as it seems, this technology is very real for residents of Jinan and several other Chinese cities. According to a Xinhua interview with Li Yong of the Jinan traffic police, “Since the new technology has been adopted, the cases of jaywalking have been reduced from 200 to 20 each day at the major intersection of Jingshi and Shungeng roads.”

The sophisticated cameras and facial recognition systems already used in China—and their near–real-time public shaming—are an example of how machine learning, mobile phone surveillance, and internet activity tracking are being used to censor and control populations. Most worryingly, the prospect of real-time surveillance makes running surveillance states such as the former East Germany and current North Korea much more financially efficient.

According to a 2015 discussion paper by the Institute for the Study of Labor, a German research center, by the 1980s almost 0.5% of the East German population was directly employed by the Stasi, the country’s state security service and secret police—1 for every 166 citizens. An additional 1.1% of the population (1 for every 66 citizens) were working as unofficial informers, which represented a massive economic drain. Automated, real-time, algorithm-driven monitoring could potentially drive the cost of controlling the population down substantially in police states—and elsewhere.

We could see a radical new era of censorship that is much more manipulative than anything that has come before. Previously, dissidents were identified when investigators manually combed through photos, read writings, or listened in on phone calls. Real-time algorithmic monitoring means that acts of perceived defiance can be identified and deleted in the moment and their perpetrators marked for swift judgment before they can make an impression on others.

Businesses need to be aware of the wider trend toward real-time, automated censorship and how it might be used in both commercial and governmental settings. These tools can easily be used in countries with unstable political dynamics and could become a real concern for businesses that operate across borders. Businesses must learn to educate and protect employees when technology can censor and punish in real time.

Indeed, the technologies used for this kind of repression could be easily adapted from those that have already been developed for businesses. For instance, both Facebook and Google use near–real-time facial identification algorithms that automatically identify people in images uploaded by users—which helps the companies build out their social graphs and target users with profitable advertisements. Automated algorithms also flag Facebook posts that potentially violate the company’s terms of service.

China is already using these technologies to control its own people in ways that are largely hidden to outsiders.

According to a report by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, the popular Chinese social network WeChat operates under a policy its authors call “One App, Two Systems.” Users with Chinese phone numbers are subjected to dynamic keyword censorship that changes depending on current events and whether a user is in a private chat or in a group. Depending on the political winds, users are blocked from accessing a range of websites that report critically on China through WeChat’s internal browser. Non-Chinese users, however, are not subject to any of these restrictions.

The censorship is also designed to be invisible. Messages are blocked without any user notification, and China has intermittently blocked WhatsApp and other foreign social networks. As a result, Chinese users are steered toward national social networks, which are more compliant with government pressure.

China’s policies play into a larger global trend: the nationalization of the internet. China, Russia, the European Union, and the United States have all adopted different approaches to censorship, user privacy, and surveillance. Although there are social networks such as WeChat or Russia’s VKontakte that are popular in primarily one country, nationalizing the internet challenges users of multinational services such as Facebook and YouTube. These different approaches, which impact everything from data safe harbor laws to legal consequences for posting inflammatory material, have implications for businesses working in multiple countries, as well.

For instance, Twitter is legally obligated to hide Nazi and neo-fascist imagery and some tweets in Germany and France—but not elsewhere. YouTube was officially banned in Turkey for two years because of videos a Turkish court deemed “insulting to the memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” father of modern Turkey. In Russia, Google must keep Russian users’ personal data on servers located inside Russia to comply with government policy.

While China is a pioneer in the field of instant censorship, tech companies in the United States are matching China’s progress, which could potentially have a chilling effect on democracy. In 2016, Apple applied for a patent on technology that censors audio streams in real time—automating the previously manual process of censoring curse words in streaming audio.

In March, after U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News, “I think maybe I wouldn’t be [president] if it wasn’t for Twitter,” Twitter founder Evan “Ev” Williams did something highly unusual for the creator of a massive social network.

He apologized.

Speaking with David Streitfeld of The New York Times, Williams said, “It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that. If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”

Entrepreneurs tend to be very proud of their innovations. Williams, however, offers a far more ambivalent response to his creation’s success. Much of the 2016 presidential election’s rancor was fueled by Twitter, and the instant gratification of Twitter attracts trolls, bullies, and bigots just as easily as it attracts politicians, celebrities, comedians, and sports fans.

Services such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are designed through a mix of look and feel, algorithmic wizardry, and psychological techniques to hang on to users for as long as possible—which helps the services sell more advertisements and make more money. Toxic political discourse and online harassment are unintended side effects of the economic-driven urge to keep users engaged no matter what.

Keeping users’ eyeballs on their screens requires endless hours of multivariate testing, user research, and algorithm refinement. For instance, Casey Newton of tech publication The Verge notes that Google Brain, Google’s AI division, plays a key part in generating YouTube’s video recommendations.

According to Jim McFadden, the technical lead for YouTube recommendations, “Before, if I watch this video from a comedian, our recommendations were pretty good at saying, here’s another one just like it,” he told Newton. “But the Google Brain model figures out other comedians who are similar but not exactly the same—even more adjacent relationships. It’s able to see patterns that are less obvious.”

A never-ending flow of content that is interesting without being repetitive is harder to resist. With users glued to online services, addiction and other behavioral problems occur to an unhealthy degree. According to a 2016 poll by nonprofit research company Common Sense Media, 50% of American teenagers believe they are addicted to their smartphones.

This pattern is extending into the workplace. Seventy-five percent of companies told research company Harris Poll in 2016 that two or more hours a day are lost in productivity because employees are distracted. The number one reason? Cellphones and texting, according to 55% of those companies surveyed. Another 41% pointed to the internet.

Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, argues that many product designers for online services try to exploit psychological vulnerabilities in a bid to keep users engaged for longer periods. Harris refers to an iPhone as “a slot machine in my pocket” and argues that user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers need to adopt something akin to a Hippocratic Oath to stop exploiting users’ psychological vulnerabilities.

In fact, there is an entire school of study devoted to “dark UX”—small design tweaks to increase profits. These can be as innocuous as a “Buy Now” button in a visually pleasing color or as controversial as when Facebook tweaked its algorithm in 2012 to show a randomly selected group of almost 700,000 users (who had not given their permission) newsfeeds that skewed more positive to some users and more negative to others to gauge the impact on their respective emotional states, according to an article in Wired.

As computers, smartphones, and televisions come ever closer to convergence, these issues matter increasingly to businesses. Some of the universal side effects of addiction are lost productivity at work and poor health. Businesses should offer training and help for employees who can’t stop checking their smartphones.

Mindfulness-centered mobile apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Forest offer one way to break the habit. Users can also choose to break internet addiction by going for a walk, turning their computers off, or using tools like StayFocusd or Freedom to block addictive websites or apps.

Most importantly, companies in the business of creating tech products need to design software and hardware that discourages addictive behavior. This means avoiding bad designs that emphasize engagement metrics over human health. A world of advertising preroll showing up on smart refrigerator touchscreens at 2 a.m. benefits no one.

According to a 2014 study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, approximately 6% of the world’s population suffers from internet addiction to one degree or another. As more users in emerging economies gain access to cheap data, smartphones, and laptops, that percentage will only increase. For businesses, getting a head start on stopping internet addiction will make employees happier and more productive. D!


About the Authors

Maurizio Cattaneo is Director, Delivery Execution, Energy, and Natural Resources, at SAP.

David Delaney is Global Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, SAP Health.

Volker Hildebrand is Global Vice President for SAP Hybris solutions.

Neal Ungerleider is a Los Angeles-based technology journalist and consultant.


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

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Death Of An IT Salesman

Jesper Schleimann

As software shifts from supporting the strategy to becoming the strategy of most companies, the relationship and even the sales process between the vendor side and the customer side in the IT industry is subsequently also undergoing some remarkable changes. The traditional IT salesman is an endangered species.

I recently had the pleasure of participating in a workshop with one of Scandinavia’s largest companies to create new business models in the company’s operations business area. As an IT vendor, we worked with the customer in an open process using the design thinking methodology—a creative process in which we jointly visualized, defined, and solidified how new flows of data can change business processes and their business models.

By working with “personas” relevant to their business, we could better understand how technology can help different roles in the involved departments deliver their contributions faster and more efficiently. The scope was completely open. We put our knowledge and experience with technological opportunities in parallel with the company’s own knowledge of the market, processes, and business.

The results may trigger a sale of software from our side at a point, but we do not know exactly which solution—or even if it will happen. What we did do was innovate together and better understand our customer’s future and viable routes to success. Such is the reality of the strategic work of digitizing here on the verge of year 2018.

Solution selling is not enough

In my view, the transgressive nature of technology is radically changing the way businesses and the sales process works. The IT industry—at least parts of it—must focus on completely different types of collaboration with the customer.

Historically, the sales process has already realized major changes. In the past, you’d find a product-fixated “used-car-sales” approach, which identified the characteristics of the box or solution and left it to the customer to find the hole in the cheese. Since then, a generation of IT key account managers learned “solution selling,” with a sharp focus on finding and defining a “pain point” at the customer and then position the solution against this. But today, even that approach falls short.

Endangered species

The challenge is that software solutions now support the formation of new, yet unknown business models. They transverse processes and do not respect silo borders within organizations. Consequently, businesses struggle to define a clear operational road. Top management faces a much broader search of potential for innovation. The creation of a compelling vision itself requires a continuous and comprehensive study of what digitization can do for the value chain and for the company’s ecosystem.

Vendors abandon their customers if they are too busy selling different tools and platforms without entering into a committed partnership to create the new business model. Therefore, the traditional IT salesperson, preoccupied with their own goals, is becoming an endangered species. The customer-driven process requires even key account managers to dig deep and endeavor to understand the customer’s business. The best in the IT industry will move closer to the role of trusted adviser, mastering the required capabilities and accepting the risks and rewards that follow.

Leaving the comfort zone

This obviously has major consequences for the sales culture in the IT industry. Reward mechanisms and incentive structures need to be reconsidered toward a more behavioral incentive. And the individual IT salesperson is going on a personal journey, as the end goal is no longer to close an order, but to create visions and deliver value in partnership with the customer and to do so in an ever-changing context, where the future is volatile and unpredictable.

A key account manager is the customer’s traveling companion. Do not expect to be able to reduce complexity and stay in your comfort zone and not be affected by this change. Vendors should think bigger, and as an IT salesperson, you need to show your ability for transformational thinking. Everyone must be prepared to take the first baby steps, but there will definitely also be some who cannot handle the change. Disruption is not just something you, as a vendor, deliver to a customer. The noble art of being a digital vendor is facing some serious earthquakes.

For more on how tech innovation is disrupting traditional business models, see Why You Should Consider Disrupting Your Own Business.

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Jesper Schleimann

About Jesper Schleimann

Chief Technology Officer, Nordic & Baltic region

In his role as Nordic CTO, Jesper’s mission is to help customers unlock their business potential by simplifying their digital transformation. Jesper has a Cand.polit. from the University of Copenhagen as well as an Executive MBA from Copenhagen Business School.