Heroes, History, And Marketing: A Game Plan For A Winning Hockey Fan Experience

Fred Isbell

SAP NiemiAs I recently wrote in Episode II: The Hockey Fan Experience Reawakens, the hockey fan experience is more than just a fan’s in-person experience at a game. Take my recent trip to the 2016 NHL Winter Classic, for example. During the matchup between my hometown Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadians (the Habs), I saw many dimensions of the fan experience first-hand – from the actual game to sponsorships, branding, in-arena multimedia visuals, coverage, and broadcasting.

As a marketer, this made think: What defines a hockey fan and how is it changing and evolving?

Fan loyalty and the hockey experience

Without a doubt, knowing how to play hockey improves the fan experience. Although I had a non-traditional introduction to the game, I have learned so much about hockey that I can now teach and explain the sport with second-nature ease. After nearly 45 years, I appreciate the game a hundred-fold more having watched, learned, coached, and played it. I also am far more aware of the nuances of the sport as well as the business, its marketing aspects, and more.

From my perspective, a hockey team is very similar to a services organization. Teams draft, acquire, and develop players based on their roles and team needs and engage in a season schedule that consists of individual projects and engagements. As our services practices and teams deliver projects with clients, their ultimate win is customer satisfaction and the impact of a truly collaborative group effort. So it’s not surprising that sports and hockey teams – like service engagement teams – have invested so much in analytics to measure and optimize their talent investments.

Fans follow their favorite players, purchase and wear their favorite players’ and teams’ jerseys, and track their favorite players’ success with statistics across a truly digital experience. Fans are loyal based on location and geography; the overall brand, history, and imagery; and specific players that comprise a team’s lineup.

At the same time, there are interesting variations that are fueled by technology and digital disruption.

The fan experience goes beyond borders…

Ask any sports fan what the most iconic trophy in all of sports is. Europeans would likely name the World Cup for soccer, but many sports fans in North America cite the Stanley Cup. In its own right, the Stanley Cup is a rock star and has its very own brand persona. Phil Pritchard and his colleagues from the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto accompany the cup wherever it travels, and it even gets its own airplane seat.

I had the chance to meet Phil when the Stanley Cup and a collection of the NHL trophies were displayed in Boston for the 2016 NHL Winter Classic and came north to FMI Cup Trophiesthe Manchester Monarchs Trophy Night. The Mark Messier Leadership, Conn Smyth playoff MVP, the Calder AHL trophy the Monarchs had just won, and many others were also there – along with three Boston Red Sox MLB championship trophies to round out this incredible fan experience. When it was time to post the photos of the Monarchs fans with the cup, it was done through the cloud. No trees were killed to print anything, and smartphone pictures made it onto social media far quicker.

This experience is confirmation that we are living in an era of real-time everything for sports. Approximately 70% of fan communication with key sources of information and commerce is done with a mobile device, which is absolutely amazing.

…and it’s going digital

I was reminded of this magic not too long ago when our SAP New York office did a “fantasy skate” event at Madison Square Garden with the New York Rangers. As a sponsor of the first-level SAP Concourse, we were given a tour FMI NYR MSG January 2016of the renovated facility – from the main concourse to the suites and ultra-modern press area high above the ice. As proof that sports and entertainment are becoming digital, the experience at Madison Square Gardens featured a video kiosk powered by SAP HANA and a press box with multimedia networking hookups and more.

What does this have to do with marketing? Everything. The NHL fields a product: hockey games with teams comprised of hockey players. They play under a team brand as well as the NHL master brand while chasing after an iconic award with a brand of its own. Each player has their own personal brand, and all of them are inextricably tied to the overall brand of both the team and the NHL.

But there’s much more here. Maintaining team historical information, the NHL statistics Web site powered by SAP HANA is expanding to include all information dating back to the inception of the league – available on demand anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

Bonus: See how the NHL uses SAP Customer Engagement and Commerce (CEC) solutions for marketing, including SAP hybris and SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud.  

Digitalization and digital transformation are sweeping through all sports and hockey, and the NHL is but one example. We are in the midst of a revolution that will make everything more fun and our memories even more vivid. What an exciting time to be a hockey fan!

Learn more about NHL.com statistics powered by SAP and SAP HANA. Read Phasing into Analytics: The NHL and SAP Innovate their Statistical Database.

Explore exciting new developments in sports marketing. check out the Center of Business Insight brief The Future of Sports Marketing: Play Locally, Think Globally, Drive Loyalty.

FMI MSG SAPFred Isbell is the senior marketing director and head of thought leadership Service & Support Marketing at SAP.

Join Fred online: TwitterFacebookLinkedInsap.com, and SAP Services Hub

 

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About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell is the Senior Director of SAP Digital Business Services Marketing at SAP. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.

Digital Transformation Making Steady Inroads In Healthcare

Andrea Kaufmann

Breakthrough technologies and digitization that have impacted almost every industry in the last few years are now also starting to bring about sweeping digital transformation in healthcare. Feeling the pressures of accelerated change, healthcare organizations are recognizing the importance of digital transformation and slowly—but surely and methodically—piloting new programs. They are realizing that current organizational capabilities to integrate and leverage data to drive better decisions are not sufficient to stay competitive and drive continuously improving quality care; they need to implement new technology systems and platforms that can deliver value, solve business challenges, and transform their traditional business models.

According to a recent study by SAP Center for Business Insight, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics, healthcare organizations agree on the fact that digital transformation will bring positive changes, such as driving down costs and improving patient outcomes. The survey, based on a study of 400 global C-level healthcare executives, identified the impact—and progress to date—of digitalization efforts. In addition, healthcare organizations offered insights into the key technology investments in use today as well as their anticipated investments in the next two years.

The findings from the study reveal interesting trends about the state of digital transformation in healthcare. While some results were predictable to insiders and providers in the healthcare industry, others were a bit more surprising. Here’s a look at five key findings from the data.

1. Digital transformation is critical to survival

Anyone in healthcare will admit that the industry has been slow to adopt new practice models, business processes, and technologies to adapt to rapidly evolving regulations and shifts in payment models, making digitization a slow grind. Patient records jumpstarted the first wave of transformation in the industry, as most have moved from their paper-based origins to electronic health records (EHRs).

Now, other pieces in the healthcare value chain are following suit. “Digital transformation in healthcare is making forward progress but it is a long journey,” says Martin Kopp, global general manager, healthcare providers, SAP Health. “Healthcare organizations are increasingly open to pulling in the best practices found in other sectors and realizing that they have to run operations in a more data-driven fashion. Doing so will help them manage value and improve the quality of care.”

The survey showed that healthcare executives know that digital transformation is necessary and will have a great impact on the success of their organizations. Digital transformation is seen by the greater percentage of companies to be important or even critically important (61 percent) to their survival today. In two years, that importance climbs to 76 percent. In five years, it rises to 86 percent.

“Healthcare organizations are looking for new care delivery models and cost-effective services they can provide to patients in hospitals and beyond their borders,” says Dr. Anette Grossmeuller, expert precision medicine, SAP Health. “These models require the reimagination of existing business processes and depend on new types of digital technologies driving the access to many new data sources”

Regarding long-term growth, most healthcare organizations (58 percent) believe that digital transformation has helped to increase their profitability and allows them to readily enter new markets. Digital transformation is also believed to help them attract and retain talent.

2. Technology investments are increasing

The survey showed that technology is clearly viewed as essential to healthcare organizations’ growth, retaining competitive advantage, and improving customer experience. The organizations believe that their greatest competitive advantage in the digital economy will come from using the latest technology (82 percent). The organizations also expect to see more value coming from their existing investments.

Technology spending will be shifting somewhat over the next two years, with organizations investing in Big Data and advanced analytics, cloud, and mobile. The shift to connected digital health networks is also elevating the need for improved security investments. Several emerging technologies will get a booster shot, as healthcare organizations plan to invest in Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning/AI, robotics, and virtual reality (Learn more about this survey finding).

These technologies are part of the digital transformation prescription aimed at improving patient care. “The major health organizations are collecting and sharing all types of digital patient data, including imaging and genomic information,” explains Enakshi Singh, senior product Specialist, SAP Health. “Healthcare organizations are starting to get insights from these data sets that they didn’t have before. New technologies can cleanse, harmonize, and analyze data.” She notes that the next step in digitization is to integrate applications that provide the analytics needed for real-time clinical decision support.

3. Healthcare organizations are in the early stages of the digital transformation journey

Despite progress, healthcare organizations are still in the preliminary phase of increasing investments in technology. Many are only planning or piloting digital transformation initiatives at the departmental level to bring about the changes they perceive to be critical to their ability to compete and thrive. Very few healthcare organizations in the survey (2 percent) responded that their digital transformation was mature across the enterprise.

Some of the early successes in digital transformation have come from centers focused on treatment of a particular disease, such as cancer. “Cancer care is a unique trailblazer, as it has genetic components and is a molecular disease,” says Singh. “By using analytics platforms, healthcare providers can better evaluate the role of genetics and drug interactions on particular types of cancer. As we get more and more data, we can start to better understand cancer and its causes and treatments.”

4. Digital transformation is a core business goal

While healthcare lags behind other industries in digital transformation, it is starting to catch up. “Healthcare organizations are actively considering how to compete in the new world. They are moving to digitalization to help measure and improve the quality and value of services delivered across the continuum of care,” says Kopp.

The survey showed that the percentage of total budgets dedicated to digital business initiatives will rise during the next two years, and several factors are fueling this increase.  In the survey, 63 percent of companies said their digital transformation efforts allow them to compete more effectively with large companies. And 60 percent said that digital transformation is a core business goal.

5. Digital transformation is necessary for the shift to value-based care

Digital transformation is helping healthcare organizations raise their reputation and visibility in their communities. In the next two years, healthcare organizations expect technology investments to provide value in customer satisfaction and engagement and innovation.

“Digital innovation will fuel the next wave of breakthroughs in healthcare and accelerate the broader shift toward data-driven care for health organizations,” says Kopp. “Unlocking actionable data insights in real time is critical for the future success for value-based care.”

Delivering value with digital transformation

Healthcare organizations recognize the potential cures brought about by digital transformation. With increased cost pressures, healthcare organizations are striving to standardize and streamline administrative processes for greater efficiency and improved operations. They also have an increased focus on providing value, which can be achieved with new technology platforms.

With aging demographics and the rise of chronic diseases, healthcare organizations are investing more in digital transformation technologies that can support improved decision-making by providing data-driven insights for personalized clinical treatments and optimized patient outcomes.

Want to learn about how SAP Health is helping healthcare providers on their digital transformation journey? Download the “The Future of Digital Health” white paper.

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Andrea Kaufmann

About Andrea Kaufmann

Andrea Kaufmann is the global head of marketing and communications for SAP Health. She is responsible for the development, planning and execution of the marketing and communications intiatives for the SAP Health division.

Like it Or Not, The Advancement Of Diversity And Equality Depends On Men

Jenn Vande Zande

To truly advance women, equality, and diversity in the workforce, we need to have difficult conversations and be accountable for the outcomes of those conversations. Since we still live in a world where men are disproportionately placed in leadership positions over women, whether we like to admit it or not, men play a crucial role in leveling the playing field.

Diversity and equality are at the forefront of conversations, panels, marketing campaigns, and op-eds. This isn’t enough. We can’t let the conversation be all that is accomplished.

The time for talking is over.

The time for action is now.

Hold the applause: Words are not enough

You’ve likely noticed an increase in articles written about equality and diversity. I’ve watched with great interest to find that posts by men usually garner the most positive responses, with comments lauding them for speaking up with their “brave words.” We need to go further. We need to demand more.

Is that same man actively working to promote equality? Is he using the privilege and power of his position to advance the cause, or is he merely writing or speaking about a topic to be perceived as an ally of diversity and equality? There is a terrific difference between these two things, and we must recognize that if we truly want to see change.

As women, we are often much harder on other women than our male counterparts are. There isn’t enough space here to delve into the reasons for this, but it’s time for women to also be accountable to one another, and I do think that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was correct when she said:

“We raise girls to see each other as competitors. Not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men.”

Since men are so disproportionately given leadership positions, it’s only natural that this frame of mind would carry over into the workplace. Many other women recognize that, too. “More often than not, what holds women back is other women. You see examples and you start to understand… if you’ve ever been handed an opportunity, really focus on giving someone else that opportunity. We as women, we’ve got to support each other,” said Alicia Tillman, SAP CMO.

Like it or not, as Amy Chozick points out, for too long, women have had to lose in order to win. “Her career brings to light the truth that there is no perfect vessel, that sooner or later, the harder we strive, the higher we climb, we all become that woman.”

We’ve had to temper progress with extreme patience, being told that progress takes time. But the truth is, it has taken lifetimes, and equality still hasn’t arrived. And that isn’t good enough anymore.

The difficult conversations: Defeating bias

The panel Women Warriors in Technology featured many truths, but one in particular stuck with me. “We need role models to kill that unconscious bias that we all have,” said Pooja Bhalla, “Women don’t imagine themselves going beyond a level because they don’t see women there.

How do we make our daughters believe that they can achieve anything when they don’t witness that themselves?

We need to examine our daily habits, and the things that we can change, and begin there. Bhalla’s comment hit home when I thought of the site that I manage. How could we start eliminating bias?

We tasked our agency with creating images that were more diverse and, though it was uncomfortable, I would send back first drafts and ask that the images be made more inclusive. Our (female) account manager replied to one request saying, “I love your commitment to ridding the site of cognitive bias and the great reminder it is to us as creatives.”

They don’t have an easy task on their hands: Even in the land of staged images where equality could easily reign (it is pretend, after all), the majority of images and illustrations available feature white men. If you’re looking for images with people of color, good luck. If you’re looking for images of professional women that aren’t sexualized in some way, be prepared to spend plenty of time searching.

Making good: Men who lead

In October, Marc Sondermann, CEO and editor-in-chief at Fashion Magazinepublished a post on LinkedIn promoting a roundtable on fashion innovation, where “global industry leaders discuss how to empower the enterprise for change.” Notably absent from the panel: women. To comment, or not to comment, that is the eternal question. I typed, “Disappointed to see an all-male panel.”

Sondermann replied and asked to continue the conversation. When we talked the following week, there weren’t buzzwords thrown about, but rather a dialogue on how truly difficult it is to advance equality.

He said, “I thought, ‘oh no, I’m going to have a negative conversation about my event the day before, with someone I don’t know, but then I thought, it’s a legitimate point, it really is a legitimate point.'”

Sondermann noted that Italy is a digital laggard and a laggard in women leaders, and that these two issues are probably correlated. “We won’t get a proper digital revolution going unless we include women.”

“Women are the way forward; digital is life or death for companies. If you’re digitally fit, you have a higher evaluation, if you have female leaders, you are probably very effective. Women tend to be collaborative; they bridge gaps, rather than form divides,” he added.

Two months after our first conversation, Sondermann let me know that he’d tapped into women business networks in Milan in an effort to identify and reach out to female speakers. The magazine is also expanding its Digital Fashion Day into a Digital Lifestyle Day “with a sharply heightened incidence of women in tech.”

“You have to watch for political backlash – if you have an all-female panel, people say they have their jobs because they are women; nobody says this if it’s all men,” Marc continued, “I’m going to work to change that.”

Ask me about my feminist agenda

For me, and most of the women I know, the 2016 U.S. election undid something within. I recalled when in college being a bit put off by some of my Women’s Studies professors; weren’t they just a little too feminist? Did they need to rage against the machine so often?

Little did I know that indeed they did: We are not seen as equal, and no matter what we do or say, the standards don’t remain the same. And it’s enraging. You either take that rage and turn it into something or else it eats you alive.

I’ve personally decided to dedicate myself to the cause of equality and diversity until it’s not a cause, but a reality. That means holding my peers and friends, male and female, accountable for this. It means raising the bar. Going further. Not accepting the status quo. Having the uncomfortable conversations.

Go ahead, just ask me about my feminist agenda.

Learn more from a panel discussion on Elevating Women To Build A Workforce Of Equal Opportunity.

This article originally appeared on Forbes SAPVoice.

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Jenn Vande Zande

About Jenn Vande Zande

Jennifer is an experienced writer, editor and content strategist, and is the Managing Editor of The Future of Customer Engagement & Commerce. For over 16 years, she has worked with brands to provide copy writing, marketing content, technical writing, corporate communications, and grant writing.

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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The “Purpose” Of Data

Timo Elliott

I’ve always been passionate about the ability of data and analytics to transform the world.

It has always seemed to me to be the closest thing we have to modern-day magic, with its ability to conjure up benefits from thin air. Over the last quarter century, I’ve had the honor of working with thousands of “wizards” in organizations around the world, turning information into value in every aspect of our daily lives.

The projects have been as simple as Disney using real-time analytics to move staff from one store to another to keep lines to a minimum: shorter lines led to bigger profits (you’re more likely to buy that Winnie-the-Pooh bear if there’s only one person ahead of you), but also higher customer satisfaction and happier children.

Or they’ve been as complex as the Port of Hamburg: constrained by its urban location, it couldn’t expand to meet the growing volume of traffic. But better use of information meant it was able to dramatically increase throughput – while improving the life of city residents with reduced pollution (less truck idling) and fewer traffic jams (smart lighting that automatically adapts to bridge closures).

I’ve seen analytics used to figure out why cheese was curdling in Wisconsin; count the number of bubbles in Champagne; keep track of excessive fouls in Swiss soccer, track bear sightings in Canada; avoid flooding in Argentina; detect chewing-gum-blocked metro machines in Brussels; uncover networks of tax fraud in Australia; stop trains from being stranded in the middle of the Tuscan countryside; find air travelers exposed to radioactive substances; help abused pets find new homes; find the best people to respond to hurricanes and other disasters; and much, much more.

The reality is that there’s a lot of inefficiency in the world. Most of the time it’s invisible, or we take it for granted. But analytics can help us shine a light on what’s going on, expose the problems, and show us what we can do better – in almost every area of human endeavor.

Data is a powerful weapon. Analytics isn’t just an opportunity to reduce costs and increase profits – it’s an opportunity to make the world a better place.

So to paraphrase a famous world leader, next time you embark on a new project:

“Ask not what you can do with your data, ask what your data can do for the world.”

What are your favorite “magical” examples, where analytics helped create win/win/win situations?

Download our free eBook for more insight on How the Port of Hamburg Doubled Capacity with Digitization.

This article originally appeared on Digital Business & Business Analytics.

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Timo Elliott

About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist for SAP and a passionate advocate of innovation, digital business, analytics, and artificial intelligence. He was the eighth employee of BusinessObjects and for the last 25 years he has worked closely with SAP customers around the world on new technology directions and their impact on real-world organizations. His articles have appeared in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes, ZDNet, The Guardian, and Digitalist Magazine. He has worked in the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Silicon Valley, and currently lives in Paris, France. He has a degree in Econometrics and a patent in mobile analytics.