IT Trends That Matter For 2016

Hu Yoshida

Each year, analysts predict some of the upcoming trends in the technology industry. Here is a look at some of the IT trends that matter for 2016, according to Hu Yoshida, chief technology officer at Hitachi Data Systems (HDS).

A greater focus on application and analytics

1. IT skills undergo transformation

To meet the challenges of IT transformation, IT must offload the grunt work that ties its staff to infrastructure management and operations and start to develop specialist skills in areas such as cloud enablement, analytics, DevOps, mobile, and business solutions. This transformation of IT skills will involve a change in culture and will require the commitment of both business and IT leaders.

2. DevOps adoption accelerates application delivery

DevOps is a software development methodology where operations and development engineers work together throughout the application cycle, resulting in high IT performance. Companies with high IT performance are twice as likely to exceed their profitability, market share, and productivity goals.

3. Data warehouses transition into data lakes

Big Data analytics involves the processing of large amounts of heterogeneous data derived from multiple sources and across multiple knowledge domains. Data lakes enable this by bringing together data sources in their original state which can then be analyzed by applications that are brought to the data. They must also be able to incorporate existing data warehouses to leverage the investments that have already been made.

4. IT takes control of provisioning analytics platforms

Business leaders will look to IT to make investments in analytics platforms, acknowledging the fact that IT has a better understanding of security, data privacy, integration, and the service level requirements of the business. This will reverse the shadow IT trend of business units acquiring their own analytics platforms and tools and creating their own data silos.

Infrastructure technologies drive efficiencies

5. Converged solutions replace reference architectures

Instead of providing reference architectures detailing best practices for application enablement, vendors will begin to deliver these best practices as templates implemented through converged solutions. The converged infrastructure offers a more evolved platform for deriving greater cost efficiencies and time savings by allowing IT resources to be managed more cohesively.

6. In-memory databases gain traction

The move to in-memory databases will gather momentum as faster reporting and analysis deliver a clear competitive advantage in today’s real-time business environment. Developments such as the consolidation of SAP’s business suite onto the HANA in-memory database with S/4 HANA, and the emergence of converged solutions and cloud service providers, will help simplify IT and facilitate this migration.

7. Flash devices begin to replace high-performance disks

The availability of multi-terabyte flash devices will enable flash to compete with high-performance 15K RPM disk drives on a capacity-cost basis. As a result, the majority of storage systems delivered in 2016 will contain a percentage of flash to boost response times and reduce the cost of managing storage performance.

IT leadership drives innovation

8. Businesses prepare for next-gen cloud

According to a study by The Economist, some of the best practices that will help business leaders make the most of their cloud opportunities include improving supplier selection; choosing the right cloud service for the right task; making better use of integrators to connect cloud services to existing IT infrastructure; and considering factors such as cloud’s potential to improve business operations and boost employee efficiency.

9. IT infrastructure companies will be disrupted

As IT begins to focus more on application delivery, analytics, and the Internet of Things, pure-play infrastructure companies will try to cope with declining revenues by splitting off some parts of their business, acquiring new infrastructure companies, or merging with other infrastructure companies to drive economies of scale. However, in the longer term, they will have to be able to integrate IT with operational technology to deliver solutions around the Internet of Things that matter, in areas such as public safety, transportation, health, and life sciences.

10. IT plays leadership role in the 3rd Platform

IT will play a more proactive role in leading businesses through the transformation driven by social, mobile, analytics, and cloud, collectively known as the 3rd Platform. Contrary to the view that IT no longer plays a dominant role in driving enterprise technology spending, we believe that the compelling value of IT lies in its ability to implement 3rd Platform technologies in accordance with corporate requirements for security, data protection, availability, and collaboration. If IT does not step up to this leadership role, the result will be silos of information and duplication of processes that will inhibit business growth.

Please view the webinar discussing the top 10 IT trends that I see for 2016. This piece features insights from Greg Knieriemen, our technical evangelist, and Adrian Deluca, our Asia Pacific CTO. Greg and Adrian added their own perspectives on these trends. I would also like to hear your views. As you will see, I am expecting a major transformation to happen in IT and in the vendor community.

For an in-depth look at the multiple factors driving digital transformation, download the SAP eBook, Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.

For more information on how the digital age is affecting business, download the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.

The article originally appeared on Hitachi Data Systems Community and is republished with the author’s permission.

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Hu Yoshida

About Hu Yoshida

Hu Yoshida is responsible for defining the technical direction of Hitachi Data Systems. Currently, he leads the company’s effort to help customers address data life cycle requirements and resolve compliance, governance and operational risk issues. He was instrumental in evangelizing the unique Hitachi approach to storage virtualization, which leveraged existing storage services within Hitachi Universal Storage Platform® and extended it to externally-attached, heterogeneous storage systems.

Yoshida is well-known within the storage industry, and his blog has ranked among the “top 10 most influential” within the storage industry as evaluated by Network World. In October of 2006, Byte and Switch named him one of Storage Networking’s Heaviest Hitters and in 2013 he was named one of the “Ten Most Impactful Tech Leaders” by Information Week.

What Tech Can Empower Today's Agribusiness? A Connected Fleet

Cedrik Kern

Today’s agribusiness operations are growing, and modern farms are much larger than farms were a decade ago. With that growth comes an increase in the number of tractors and other movable assets that are necessary to keep agriculture businesses running well. This creates a logistics nightmare for the modern farmer. To meet this challenge, connected fleet technology has evolved to offer services that agribusinesses of all sizes can benefit from.

Here are some proven ways that agribusinesses can get the most help from their connected fleets. Whether you are the owner of an agribusiness or a fleet manager who oversees a farming fleet, this technology will streamline your logistics and improve your overall effectiveness.

Optimize the use of assets with real-time data

When your tractors and trucks are in the field, you need to know what they’re doing so you can best use your people and your moveable assets. This requires real-time information about what is happening in the field, but it is not always easy to reach a tractor’s operator in the moment.

This real-time data makes it simple for operators to make changes in the field when needed. For instance, Farm Industry News notes, a target planting speed can be set in the technology. If a driver exceeds this speed, the manager would receive a notification. The manager could then contact the driver and request a slower rate of planting. Alerts for everything from engine temperature and fuel levels to driver behavior and maintenance schedules help ensure the operation is meeting its goals.

Use historic data for better planning

Connected fleets provide fleet managers with historic data that can help predict maintenance needs and optimize harvest logistics throughout the property and the fleet. This allows operators to better plan for maintenance around typically slow periods.

In addition, data from a fleet-management system allows farming managers to make informed decisions about vehicle replacement schedules, according to Big Ag. Data about vehicles’ fuel use, effectiveness, and maintenance needs helps ensure your fleet management team can plan effectively for upcoming vehicle purchases before your existing equipment fails.

Improve harvest by monitoring field activities

Real-time monitoring of field activities will help fleet managers make changes to improve yields in the moment. Consider a fleet that has four combines harvesting in the same field at the same time. With real-time data about how much those combines are harvesting, an operator will know if one combine is bringing in less than the other four. The fleet management technology allows remote viewing of the combine’s settings. After spotting the problem, the manager can alert the combine’s operator to make changes to limit the losses. This helps ensure the entire fleet of combines is operating at peak levels. These types of in-the-moment changes bring huge benefit to your farming operation, significantly improving yields and reducing losses.

Ensure proper documentation of activities

Documentation is necessary for hours-of-duty compliance in commercial vehicles, clocking employee hours, and insurance purposes. The more you can document, the better for your farming operation; a fleet management system makes this automatic. Modern fleet management systems for agribusinesses also contain electronic logs that meet specific compliance requirements, like the pending FMCSA Electronic Logging Device mandate for livestock hauling, which will impact certain ag businesses, says the Iowa Farm Bureau. Whether for compliance purposes or simply for your own business needs, a fleet management system will streamline these important documentation tasks.

Simplify oversight of multiple locations

Specialized farming equipment is costly. To save money, many farms are sharing high-value vehicles and other movable assets. Rental agreements and equipment sharing programs allow one piece of equipment to service many farms. Connected fleets make this type of sharing easier, allowing you to know where your assets are and how operators are using them at all times. Because these actions generate records within the fleet management system, clocking hours of use is simpler, and this streamlines billing.

Use geofencing to keep vehicles where they should be

Vehicle theft and unauthorized vehicle use are risks for mobile assets, and high-value farming equipment is a target for both. Geofencing alerts will tell you when a vehicle leaves a predetermined area. This means vehicles can be sent to remote locations with confidence that they’ll be secure.

If you own a farm or are a farming operation fleet manager, managing your many movable assets can be a logistics nightmare. With the right system, you can easily track the location of your assets, know how well they are performing, and plan for maintenance.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Consumer Industries. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?

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Cedrik Kern

About Cedrik Kern

Cedrik Kern is Solution Owner of Digital Farming at SAP. He drives the development of the SAP platform for digital farming as a key innovation for agribusiness. Cedrik is part of the SAP solution management team for Agribusiness and Commodity Management. This team is responsible for defining our global strategy for agribusiness and commodity management. As an expert for agribusiness and commodity markets, he influences the SAP solution portfolio and has architected co-innovation solutions with global leaders in the commodity trading and consumer products industry. He is a regular speaker at events and conferences presenting SAP’s solution portfolio and innovations for this space.

Asset Management: Position Your Business For Success With AIN

Srikanth Gopalakrishnan

Managing an asset is a lot like raising a child: It’s a job best suited for multiple people.

Parents, grandparents, and other family members pitch in to show children the way, while manufacturers, operators, and third-party service providers collaborate to ensure the short- and long-term success of assets.

For effective asset management to take place, all relevant stakeholders need access to essential asset data. In the past, organizations shared information with one another through paperwork – mailing physical documents or e-mailing digital files.

Today, your enterprise can modernize and streamline this process with an asset intelligence network (AIN), which provides you and your stakeholders with real-time, around-the-clock access to vital asset insight.

Making sure manufacturers, operators, and service providers stay on the same page

Imagine you operate a regional rail line. You’re responsible for ensuring your trains remain in tip-top shape so they can safely transport passengers to and from work, school, and home.

One evening during the rush-hour commute, a train stalls on its way to a major metropolitan area. Hundreds of passengers are stranded in crowded, hot railcars. Hordes of people, exhausted after a long day’s work, grow more and more agitated by the minute – and with good reason. They’re desperate to get home to their families, and you’ve let them down.

Using AIN to share real-time asset information with a third-party service provider could have prevented this nightmare scenario. The service provider could have analyzed data gathered from an Internet of Things-enabled sensor attached to your train and detected the potential issue before it turned the evening commute into a catastrophe.

Now, say you discover the cause of the breakdown was a prematurely overheated engine. With AIN, the engine manufacturer could have could have sent you a new engine long before yours failed – without so much as asking for a model number, since it already had visibility into that information. The manufacturer could also use this insight to make improvements to future models, so other engines won’t be built with the same flaws.

4 ways a more collaborative network can benefit your business

With a complete view of real-time asset data through AIN, your company can:

  1. Save time: You no longer need to send service providers or manufacturers paperwork through the mail or get on the phone to explain asset problems you’re encountering. They can see everything that happens – as it happens – for themselves.
  1. Increase asset uptime: Service providers can continuously monitor the condition of an asset. If they detect even the slightest anomaly, they can address it before the asset has to be pulled offline and fixed.
  1. Reduce maintenance costs: AIN gives you the opportunity to be predictive rather than reactive. And by tending to issues before they become major problems, you can avoid expensive equipment repairs.
  1. Create new business models: The constant connectivity provided by AIN enables companies to reimagine their businesses. An organization that periodically inspects and certifies elevator safety, for instance, could morph into a company that provides maintenance as a service.

Connecting businesses and assets with a single master data store

Today, most companies in asset management work in silos. But there needs to be a paradigm shift, one that involves organizations embracing a more collaborative, networked approach.

AIN empowers your business and all key stakeholders to access the same collection of asset data at the same time – be it maintenance history, equipment model numbers, or spare parts information – so you and your partners are better equipped to more collaboratively manage your assets.

Explore how you can take your organization into the world of Asset Management 4.0, where every business and machine is connected. Download Revolutionize Asset Management with Global Collaboration now.

Want to learn more about AIN networks?  Check out SAP Asset Intelligence Network – The global registry for industrial assets, a short video that describes the global registry of industrial equipment to be shared between manufacturers, operators and service providers of these SAP provides.

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Srikanth Gopalakrishnan

About Srikanth Gopalakrishnan

Srikanth Gopalakrishnan is Vice President of the Internet of Things and Digital Connected Assets at SAP Labs India Private Ltd.

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.