Governments on both sides of the Atlantic are investing in big data research.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are being made available to scholars and researchers to explore the potential of big data to, in the words of the U.S. National Science Foundation, “enable breakthrough discoveries and innovation in science, engineering, medicine, commerce, education, and national security — laying the foundations for US competitiveness for many decades to come.”
Every year the NSF reviews more than 50,000 research grant proposals and funds close to 11,000 annually. Big data researchers, then, are standing in a long line to get their projects funded. But some are getting significant support. For example, in October, researchers at the University of North Carolina, in collaboration with Harvard scholars, were awarded $1.5 million for something called DataBridge, a social network to help scientists locate relevant data and research across a variety of scientific fields. Another recent $1.3 million NSF grant went to researchers at Iowa State University, Stanford, and Virginia Tech “to develop core techniques and software libraries for high-throughput DNA sequencing to address challenges in human genetics and metagenomics—a field that studies DNA samples of diverse cultures found in the environment.”
These are ideal government-funded big data projects that probably would not have elicited much support from private companies. Whether they bear fruit or not, only time will tell.
Thinking of applying? A word to the wise: Government agencies, just like corporations, follow their own business processes. But sometimes, just as in business, those processes change. According to the NSF, its Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures GUIDE (PAPPG) has been revised. So, if you’re putting together a project grant proposal and plan to submit it to the NSF on or after 14 January of 2013, you must use the new PAPPG.
What does that have to do with your supply chain? Quite a bit — because 3D printing does more than just revolutionize the production process. It also requires a complete realignment of the supply chain.
And the way 3D printing transforms the supply chain holds lessons for how organizations must reinvent themselves in the new era of the extended supply chain.
Supply chain spaghetti junction
The extended supply chain replaces the old linear chain with not just a network, but a network of networks. The need for this network of networks is being driven by four key factors: individualized products, the sharing economy, resource scarcity, and customer-centricity.
To understand these forces, imagine you operate a large restaurant chain, and you’re struggling to differentiate yourself against tough competition. You’ve decided you can stand out by delivering customized entrees. In fact, you’re going to leverage 3D printing to offer personalized pasta.
With 3D printing technology, you can make one-off pasta dishes on the fly. You can give customers a choice of ingredients (gluten-free!), flavors (salted caramel!), and shapes (Leaning Towers of Pisa!). You can offer the personalized pasta in your restaurants, in supermarkets, and on your ecommerce website.
You may think this initiative simply requires you to transform production. But that’s just the beginning. You also need to re-architect research and development, demand signals, asset management, logistics, partner management, and more.
First, you need to develop the matrix of ingredients, flavors, and shapes you’ll offer. As part of that effort, you’ll have to consider health and safety regulations.
Then, you need to shift some of your manufacturing directly into your kitchens. That will also affect packaging requirements. Logistics will change as well, because instead of full truckloads, you’ll be delivering more frequently, with more variety, and in smaller quantities.
Next, you need to perfect demand signals to anticipate which pasta variations in which quantities will come through which channels. You need to manage supply signals source more kinds of raw materials in closer to real time.
Last, the source of your signals will change. Some will continue to come from point of sale. But others, such as supplies replenishment and asset maintenance, can come direct from your 3D printers.
Four key ingredients of the extended supply chain
As with our pasta scenario, the drivers of the extended supply chain require transformation across business models and business processes. First, growing demand for individualized products calls for the same shifts in R&D, asset management, logistics, and more that 3D printed pasta requires.
Second, as with the personalized entrees, the sharing economy integrates a network of partners, from suppliers to equipment makers to outsourced manufacturing, all electronically and transparently interconnected, in real time and all the time.
Third, resource scarcity involves pressures not just on raw materials but also on full-time and contingent labor, with the necessary skills and flexibility to support new business models and processes.
And finally, for personalized pasta sellers and for your own business, it all comes down to customer-centricity. To compete in today’s business environment and to meet current and future customer expectations, all your operations must increasingly revolve around rapidly comprehending and responding to customer demand.
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About Hans Thalbauer
Hans Thalbauer is the Senior Vice President, Extended Supply Chain, at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic direction and the Go-To-Market of solutions for Supply Chain, Logistics, Engineering/R&D, Manufacturing, Asset Management and Sustainability at SAP.
The digital age has transformed every aspect of corporate processes, and corporate learning is no exception. We have mobile apps, social media, and online courses to help us achieve just-in-time learning when we identify a gap in knowledge at work or in our personal lives. Companies everywhere face the challenge of training and reskilling their workforces to keep pace with technological change, business disruption, and global competition.
Yet the traditional approach to learning, accomplished through classroom training, has been transitioning quickly to more cost-effective and real-time learning methods. This transition is crucial in enabling employees to learn new technologies at the rapid pace that vendors deliver them by, along with associated skills, such as data analysis.
Additionally, Millennials, the largest workforce demographic today, are demanding new methods for learning that center on social collaboration, video, and mobile apps. Corporate learning departments are determining how and where to blend face-to-face learning with digital learning methods.
Our experts discuss the trends and challenges ahead.
How is the digital world affecting corporate learning today?
Elliott Masie: We’ve seen a huge spike in the use of tracked online learning. Depending on the industry, as much as 70% of learning is now driven by compliance or regulatory experiences and as much as 90% of that is delivered digitally, either to a mobile phone or a desktop or through a live Webinar. If it’s skill building, such as how to delegate in a positive way as a leader, you’ll want a blended model where some content is delivered face-to-face. When you don’t have digital learning, the irony is you have a limited supply of learning and the supply goes to the people who need it the least – those who are really enthusiastic and proactive. Once you add a digital component to learning, the supply becomes limitless, available to talent across the organization.
Karie Willyerd: My daughter wanted to apply to the Centers for Disease Control for an internship, which required statistics knowledge. So she went to Khan Academy, took a few modules, and passed the test. It’s the idea that you can instantly get the training you need. I think the softer skills, such as leadership skills, will still require a classroom. But companies are getting increasingly virtual. There will be a very limited percentage of training that is done live in the future.
Bernd Welz: The general shelf life of knowledge is shortening with the increasing pace of digital transformation, so companies need a strategy to push knowledge and make sure that knowledge is always fresh. That’s where the digital learning platforms come into play. A manager will be able to say, ”Here’s a piece of knowledge that you really need.” With the learning management platform the manager can then very effectively dispatch the course to the employee and check later to see whether the learning was completed. Learning is much more real time and proactive.
Digital learning often consists of short snippets of content, with a video or social element, rather than longer courses that take place over a day or two. Is there a danger to fly-by-night learning?
Jim Carroll: There’s always a phrase I use with Millennials, whether it’s about video games, how they ingest knowledge, or how they play sports: it’s not bad, it’s just different. The older generations tend to retain their values and understanding of what education is, but this generation has grown up in an entirely different world. Millennials think differently about what the world is and where they can get knowledge.
Willyerd: We need to connect with other people in our learning. In one of the studies we did for my book The 2020 Workplace, people said they don’t really like e-learning. We have to come up with ways to make e-learning more sociable.
How can companies create an effective learning culture as they transform their learning organizations to digital and just-in-time learning?
Masie: Southwest Airlines has recognized that learning is continuous. Its goal is to launch its learning program and then include follow-ups and touchbacks for the learners rather than just teach in traditional classes.
Emirates, too, has figured out that digital is where the bulk of learning takes place. It has a culture of continuous learning whereby managers regularly talk to the people about what they’re learning or bump them to new or better learning activities or resources.
Carroll: Organizations are realizing that they need to deliver knowledge where it wasn’t required before, and the time they have to do it in is compressed. Organizations used to plan a year out for the changes that were going to occur in their industry. But business is speeding up to such a degree that all of a sudden we have to get ready now, because the change is going to have a big impact on us in the next three months.
Are corporations doing enough to invest in learning transformation?
Willyerd: Eventually, people are going to realize ”Wow, we’ve got a real reskilling thing to do here!” When you look at how much the United States puts into training as a percentage of overall revenue, I think we are in 25th place or something ridiculous like that. But how did Korea go from where it was to being such a powerhouse? The government subsidized half of all training budgets for companies. I don’t think we’re going to go that far, but I can see it being a tax deduction or a tax incentive.
I know of a large hotel chain that implemented an online social collaboration space and began to use it for innovation ideas. It got people together from different brands who could share what they were doing. Before the collaboration space, the hotel chain didn’t have a way to do this effectively; now it can foster cross-brand innovation. Corporate leaders need to understand that learning does have a bottom-line benefit when there’s the right kind of investment in it.
Welz: In many industries, companies need to transform themselves, and knowledge is the key ingredient of a successful transformation. You need to know what the state of the art is, and you can only do that if you have a systematic approach to learning. You can’t just leave it to up to the employees hoping that they will read the right books or find the right training course on their own. The transformation is much less stressful if you can assure employees that they will get the knowledge they need to be successful.
Polly Traylor is a freelance writer who reports frequently about business and technology.
Big Data and the Internet of Things brings new level of insight to sports medicine
With the 2015-16 European football (soccer) season underway, we are already seeing the impact of the huge pressure to succeed. In some cases, it is boiling over even this early on, with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho getting involved in a very public row with his medical staff over the treatment of Eden Hazard during a match. As the season builds momentum, all clubs know one of the most vital aspects of winning trophies is keeping the best players fit so they can play at the top of their game as often as possible.
Last season, just like in every season, we saw injuries that affected teams’ results and possibly their final standings at the end of the season, while other teams capitalized. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blamed injuries for the team’s failed title bid, while Real Madrid suffered injuries to players like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric at a crucial stage of the season and lost the title to Barcelona.
There’s no doubt that football clubs, especially the bigger teams, employ first-rate medical staff – physiotherapists, doctors, sports scientists, and so on – but they can only do so much to keep players off the treatment table. Players are human, after all, and keeping them injury-free for such long and grueling campaigns is a big ask. This season again will see players on the end of crunching tackles, over-exerting their bodies, and over-stretching.
What’s less talked about than lost games and league titles when discussing injuries is the salaries paid to injured players. The estimated average cost of player injuries in the top four professional football leagues in 2015 was $12.4 million* per team. Remarkably, every year teams lose an equivalent of 15%-30%** of their player payroll to injuries.
As salaries continue to rise, injuries are becoming just as much of an off-the-pitch boardroom issue as they are an on-the-pitch issue. Consider that if Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, the world’s highest-paid player, spends just a week out injured, the club still has to pay his weekly salary of around $1 million. Not only that, but there’s the huge potential for lost revenue from missing out on UEFA Champions League progress or domestic success because key players are out.
Just as winning seems to mean more than ever, so does football as a business. So with the spotlight firmly on “sweating the assets” – extracting maximum value from the entire squad – clubs are looking to Big Data and Internet of Things technology to consider how player injuries can be prevented with new levels of insight.
Prevention is better than cure
In July this year we saw what could be a huge landmark in the potential of monitoring the risk of injuries, when football’s international governing body FIFA announced its approval of wearable electronic performance and tracking systems during matches. As well as collecting data on statistics like distance covered and heart rate to determine decisions like substitution timings, this also paves the way for wearable satellite devices that keep medical staff updated on the likelihood of a player picking up an injury from over-exertion.
Emerging injury-risk monitoring software uses the concepts of Big Data and wearable technology to pull in and apply mathematical formulas to an exhaustive range of relevant data about players: fitness levels, recent levels of exertion, opponents, age, technique, hydration, even weather. This could help medical staff predict the risk of future injuries with much greater accuracy, allowing them to run simulations and take corrective actions in real time. Imagine a seemingly non-injured key player being substituted during a tightly contested match, only to find out afterwards that monitoring software had indicated he was at a high risk of pulling a muscle. This could very much be a part of the future of professional football.
Going back to Jose Mourinho and his reaction to the Chelsea medical staff running onto the pitch to treat Eden Hazard, it’s interesting to consider how in the future this kind of technology could either support or discredit his position in the dispute. It could help managers work more closely with physiotherapists, as they can visualize the data that shows the risk of injury to players. Although the pressure to win will likely keep on rising, the risk of expensive players injuries could see a big reduction.
SAP’s own injury risk monitoring software is currently in the proof-of-concept phase and will be entering development in the near future. The goal is to build IRM on the SAP Sports One platform as an additional component, and to provide integration to the existing modules of SAP Sports One solution. SAP Sports One was launched earlier this year and is the first sports-specific cloud solution powered by the SAP HANA platform, providing a single, unified platform for team management and performance optimization.
Here’s a mind-blowing fact: Research from IBM shows that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. I find this fascinating.
Which means that companies have access to an unprecedented amount of information: insights, intelligence, trends, future-casting. In terms of HR, it’s a gold mine of Big Data.
This past spring, I welcomed the Industry Trends in Human Resources Technology and Service Delivery Survey, conducted by the Information Services Group (ISG), a leading technology insights, market intelligence, and advisory services company. It’s a useful study, particularly for leaders and talent managers, offering a clear glimpse of what companies investing in HR tech expect to gain from their investment.
Not surprisingly, there are three key benefits companies expect to realize from investments in HR tech:
• Improved user and candidate experience
• Access to ongoing innovation and best practices to support the business
• Speed of implementation to increase the value of technology to the organization.
It’s worth noting that driving the need for an improved user interface, access, and speed is the nature of the new talent surging into the workforce: people for whom technology is nearly as much a given as air. We grew up with technology, are completely comfortable with it, and not only expect it to be available, we assume it will be available, as well as easy to use and responsive to all their situations, with mobile and social components.
According to the ISG study, companies want HR tech to offer strategic alignment with their business. I view this as more about enabling flexibility in talent management, recruiting and retention — all of which are increasing in importance as Boomers retire, taking with them their deep base of knowledge and experience. And companies are looking more for the analytics end of the benefit spectrum. No surprise here that the delivery model will be through cloud-based SaaS solutions.
Companies also want:
• Data security
• Data privacy
• Integration with existing systems, both HR and general IT
• Customizability —to align with internal systems and processes.
Cloud-based. According to the ISG report, more than 50% of survey respondents have implemented or are implementing cloud-based SaaS systems. It’s easy, it’s more cost-effective than on-premise software, and it’s where the exciting innovation is happening.
Mobile/social. That’s a given. Any HCM tool must have a good mobile user experience, from well-designed mobile forms and ease of access to a secure interface.
They want it to have a simple, intuitive user interface – another given. Whether accessed via desktop or mobile, the solution must offer a single, unified, simple-to-use interface.
They want it to offer social collaboration tools, which is particularly key for the influx of Millenials coming into the workplace who expect to be able to collaborate via social channels. HR is no exception here. While challenging from a security and data protection angle, it’s a must.
Butthe final requirement the study reported is, in my mind, the most important: analytics and reporting. Management needs reporting to know their investment is paying off, and they also need robust analytics to keep ahead of trends within the workforce.
It’s not just a question of Big Data’s accessibility, or of sophisticated metrics, such as the key performance indicators (KPIs) that reveal the critical factors for success and measure progress made towards strategic goals. For organizations to realize the promise of Big Data, they must be able to cut through the noise and access the right analytics that will transform their companies for the better.
Given what companies are after, as shown in the ISG study, I predict that more and more companies are going to be recognizing the benefits of using integrated analytics for their talent management and workforce planning processes. Talent analytics creates a powerful, invaluable amalgam of data and metrics; it can identify the meaningful patterns within that data and metrics and, for whatever challenges and opportunities an organization faces, it will best inform the decision makers on the right tactics and strategies to move forward. It will take talent analytics to synthesize Big Data and metrics to make the key strategic management decisions in HR. Put another way, it’s not just the numbers, it’s how they’re crunched.