Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Time Continuums as a Competitive Advantage in Digital Transformation

We humans have a finite speed at which we think, analyze and make decisions that is largely determined by biology, chemistry and physics.  These limitations were not a problem when business was conducted largely by face-to-face interactions with other humans.  Today, however, in the digital age, businesses must operate in “digital” and ultimately in “future” time. Here’s a closer look at these different time continuums:

Human time: Time governed by our biological and mental limitations as humans. We can only focus on a small set of data before our minds are overwhelmed.  When important decisions must be made, our brains need time, significant time, to weigh all the variables, pros and cons and possible outcomes in order to arrive at a good decision.  In times of high stress when making fast decisions is required, many of us don’t perform at our peak.  In addition, weak humans that we are, we need sleep.  We are not always available; we require daily downtime in order to function.

Digital time: Time governed by computing, networking, software application and data transmission speeds. Digital time refers to the speeds at which computer systems and networks operate.  Computers can tirelessly act on algorithms and pre-determined decision trees 24x7x365 in milliseconds. The goal is to reach speeds as close to real-time as possible by optimizing each connected system, component and process that touches the data in a given business process.

Future time: Time governed by predictive analytics, algorithms, artificial intelligence and automation. Future time is faster than real-time.  It is the ability to anticipate needs, recognize patterns, take actions and deliver content even before it is requested.  By harnessing future time, we can prepare for the future in a manner that adds value to our businesses today.

Consumers today demand more real-time queries, transactions, decision-making, personalization and business process execution than are humanly possible without computer and software augmentation operating beyond the limitations of human decision-making capabilities and into the realm of artificial intelligence and robotic software automation.  Us humans, already at our limit, must augment our decision-making capabilities to handle the massive increases in the volume, speed and complexity of data.

Future time is the evolutionary nirvana for human-to-digital interactions. Businesses that can’t harvest value from the future have no possibility of competing there.

Foundation for Future Time

Systems that can collect and analyze larger quantities of data, and execute relevant actions quicker, are the basis for operating at the speed required for winning today. Digitally mature organizations have in place an optimized information logistics system (OILS) that enables data to flow unencumbered and efficiently throughout its systems of intelligence.

Think of it in biological terms. When a person has clogged arteries, it restricts and reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood through their body. In the digital age, the equivalent of oxygen-rich blood for organizations is the data running through an information logistics system, and bottlenecks that prevent the speedy movement of data are the equivalent of a digital heart attack.

What clogs or restricts data movement in an enterprise?  Here are a few examples:

• The need for a human to open a file, read it and take action.
• The need to manually inspect, monitor or collect data.
• Quarantined files delaying communications or restricting information flows.
• Batch – rather than real-time – processes.
• Dependencies on individuals’ knowledge and memory.
• Stopped work due to shifts, weekends, employee illness and vacations.
• Inability to access required data.
• Constraints on system performance.
• Non-digitized data or data that is not searchable for easy and fast reference.

An optimized information logistics system enables data to flow faster than is possible in a system dependent upon biological entities.  An optimized system must operate at the speed of digital or future time, and both require automation and artificial intelligence.

The argument for automation and AI is simple to understand.  No one wants a human manually approving our Starbuck’s mobile app transaction while a long line of impatient people wait behind them. When using a turn-by-turn GPS navigation system, drivers don’t want to be connected to a guy with a headset looking at a map. They want their transactions to be lubricated by an OILS and responding as fast as possible. They want GPS sensors connected to satellites, automatically identifying their location on a map, and an AI bot instructing them where to go, using an OILS operating in digital-time.

Simply put, the faster customers can act and get the desired results, the better.  The speed of our actions, however, are often restricted by the speed of data collection and analysis. Businesses can gain speed advantages by improving their ability to:

• Collect data
• Transmit data
• Secure data
• Normalize data
• Store data
• Analyze, report and share information and meaning
• Pair meaning with capabilities and execution

Systems of intelligence and OILS utilize predictive analytics, algorithms and AI to provide an experience that anticipates the needs of the user in an invisible way. It’s like the F-35 fighter jet with its over 8 million lines of software code running it.  It operates on sensors, computers and software just to keep it in the air. Code is required to process all the data at rates fast enough to augment the pilot’s decision-making skills.  Massive volumes of new data in commercial environments will also soon mandate augmented human decision-making that reaches into the future.

As an independent analyst, consultant, speaker and futurist, I am available for new projects and interesting opportunities.

Kevin Benedict
President, Principal Analyst, Futurist, the Center for Digital Intelligence™
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.