Everybody is talking about digitization. And this buzzword isn’t just omnipresent right now, it has been for some time and looks to follow us around for quite a while to come as well; and for good reason. Because, digitization is not really anything new. It has been our loyal companion for several decades already. All the word means is the transformation from analog to digital, and as such, digitization has been constantly accelerating our lives and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Many of its effects are not always immediately apparent, and some of them are not always desirable.
It has been ascertained that in Australia, a country with 22 million inhabitants, there are 440 million internet accesses using mobile devices every day. That means 20 hits per person with all applications such as mails, chats, weather services, etc. – and that statistic includes infants, old people and internet conscientious objectors. So mobile devices have entirely changed our lives in the last 15 years, and we can definitely assume that we are still far from the end of the application possibilities.
We are still making separate solutions right now, but the complete interconnection of our daily life with the internet will take major strides. What is exciting to see is that ever new business models are emerging that are no longer based on owning the things they make their money with. These include concepts like Airbnb, which organizes the renting of real property without owning it, Uber, which brokers taxi rides without owning any taxis, Alibaba, which has not one single product in its inventory, and innumerable others. This only became possible with digitization, realizing business ideas by automating business processes. The power that these new companies acquire in the shortest period of time often represents a threat to the original business model. This can be seen particularly vividly in the field of book sales, in retail and in the taxi industry.
This is not good news for companies that have been around for a while. What they now have to do is make their existing processes digital, and then open up new business fields with innovative ideas in order to back up their existing business. And the time to do so is now! Failing will highly probably lead to the downfall of what was once the core business (half of the Top 500 companies in 2000 are today no longer on the market).
If you listen to ordinary people discussing the IoT, talking refrigerators are a common example that comes up. And indeed, that is a possible application, and regardless of whether we would ask our fridge for its philosophical opinions, it won’t be long before it can tell us exactly what food it has in it and how much of it has already passed its best-before date. After that it is just a short hop to the most varied of other applications: we enter into an app the recipe for a meal we want to cook, and it tells us which ingredients we already have at home and what we still have to buy. But because we are already running late, we ask the local supermarket to deliver what we are lacking straight to our doorstep. Of course it is no problem whatsoever to have our eating habits appraised on a daily/weekly/monthly or yearly basis – we have the data after all. We can even give the data to our doctor and get suggestions for improving our nutrition; that is if we don’t already have an internet portal or app do that for us anyway.
The IoT works exclusively on the basis of digital data, the analysis and further processing of which is then subject to business processes that have mostly also been implemented digitally. Striped Giraffe helps in many ways here; from providing concepts for the right edge-computing, to the storage and management of data (data lake, DWH), through to their evaluation and use in smart solutions (apps, BI, marketing, etc.).
The IoT in industry transforms production processes, communication and the business processes of companies. It gives us information about machines we use, so that we can proactively service them and replace worn components before they become problematic. At the same time, our products will in future report data about their surroundings, usage or operation so that we can already make changes to our production processes in the design phase or during production. Sensors and their data play a key role in this. They provide the data base for automation and self-learning machines. The data can even be used for “predictive analytics”, giving decision-makers outstanding planning reliability.
The IIoT is a core component of Industry 4.0. The willingness to use it and employ it properly will spell the difference between our success or failure tomorrow.
Data Mining & Big Data
In 2015, we didn’t have 95% of the data that was available to us in 2017. This growth is exponential, quite simply because there is an ever growing number of data sources. Enormous volumes of data are generated in a digitization. They then have to be efficiently stored and further processed. Striped Giraffe works with the latest technologies, in order to make storage and access as fast and efficient as possible. We are proficient in the market’s most important systems, such as Oracle, Cloudera, SAP Hana, NoSQL systems and Mongo-DB, to name just a few. And we are always learning about new concepts and technologies to keep in control of the growing data volumes. Companies need reliable information from these data, so that they can make strategic decisions. That is why we offer the integration of KPIs into applications like Tableau, QlikView, etc.
The term “artificial intelligence” lends itself to fears and notions of machines replacing people. But these fears are unfounded. When we speak of AI today, we mean systems designed to provide a basis for decisions, with parameters and rule sets that make our work easier and reduce the susceptibility to human error. Essential for this is a software engine that can “learn” – i.e. take the results of its previous decisions into account in its next ones so that it can improve itself (machine learning). We can use this technology to make our lives and work far easier. Banks use it nowadays, for instance, to facilitate their lending processing and reduce sources of human error.
Smartphones, cars, banks and an increasing number of homes today use artificial intelligence on a daily basis. Sometimes what they do is obvious, for example when you ask Siri how to get to the next gas station. Sometimes it is less so, such as when your request for a bank loan is rejected, although you consider yourself to be creditworthy and of high moral integrity. Yes, AI is everywhere, and it is already making decisive changes in our lives.
Striped Giraffe applies a range of different approaches when using algorithms to design AI applications, such as for data utilization, pattern recognition, probability calculations and many others besides. We can implement these concepts ourselves or take recourse to applications from our partners.
“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
W. Edwards Deming
All efforts in digitization ultimately affect processes – things we today do manually but which will tomorrow be taken care of digitally, either by humans or machines. The direction is plain: everything we can make digital, we will.
So a good way of approaching the digitization of an enterprise is to occupy oneself in more detail with all its business processes that take place daily, and to check whether they can be digitized. This admittedly one-dimensional method is a good starting point for putting together an initial road map for change, but on its own it will not be enough to make sustainable transformations. Not until we start thinking in terms of new business concepts and ideas in connection with the digitization can we achieve the breakthrough.
We at Striped Giraffe are convinced that the transformation can only be accomplished in collaboration with our clients. The traditional business model is being confronted with digital innovation, and only if both sides provide their input and come to a consensus will the results be lasting and gain the acceptance of staff and customers.
“You can’t build an adaptable organization without adaptable people–and individuals change only when they have to, or when they want to.”
Changes within an organization have to be carried by the staff. This was true in the 80s, when the introduction of large IT systems failed, and it is still true today. Of course, it is way preferable that employees open their minds to the change and welcome it as a friend. But in our experience, that only happens if they are integrated into the change processes early on. You can’t just dump a finished new system or work process down in front of people and expect them to accept it. And sending them to training seminars won’t help much either. What is needed is acceptance, and you only get that if people have been involved from very early on, at best already when analyzing what is needed. You want to keep everybody on board up until the go-live of new systems or the launch of new technologies or processes.
The way people in a company think has to open up to the changes that a digitization brings with it. Much of that responsibility lies with the company itself, by showing people that it is not digitizing just to reduce costs and staff numbers, but to prepare the company for the challenges of tomorrow’s market and open up new fields of business. In doing so, the tasks of the employees change, and further training is a key activity within the company for ensuring the success of all the digital efforts taken.
So companies have a big ethical responsibility. You don’t have to do everything that is possible. Both good and bad things can be derived from the use of the new technologies. You can use data to offer customers additional services that heighten customer loyalty, make them happy and secure the business for the future. But in contrast, data can also be used to monitor and domineer staff and clients.