Monday, July 20, 2015

Mobility, Sensors, Robotic Process Automation and the Principle of Acceleration

If you have spent any time working on IT projects you would have heard the comment, "The system is only as good as the data." It's an accurate and necessary statement, as it describes a prerequisite for many technological innovations. Many system designs fail in the face of reality. Reality is often a cloaked term for implementing a digital solution in a physical world without a sufficient understanding of how the physical world operates. This is one problem where sensors can really help.

Sensors fill in the blind spots in our systems and operations by measuring the physical world and providing us with the data. Where previously we operated on conjecture or false assumptions, sensors provide real data on how the real world functions. Operating on real data allows for new and different approaches and IT strategies. Strategies that utilize artificial intelligence or in more complex environments robotic process automation solutions. These automated processes or solutions know exactly what to do in a complex process given specific data. Robotic process automation offers operational speeds and levels of accuracy never before possible with humans alone.

In a world of ubiquitous mobility, businesses must learn to operate in real-time. Marketing, sales and commerce must all evolve to operate in real-time. Think about a LBS (location based service) where retailers want to inform their customers, via SMS, of nearby discounts or special offers. If the SMS is delayed, the customer will likely have moved on and the SMS will be irrelevant. Payments must operate in real-time. Real-time is a speed deemed impossible just a few years ago and remains a future goal for most companies. Today, however, with mobile devices and real-time wireless sensors updating complex systems, it is often the humans in a process that are the sources and causes of bottlenecks. Think about how slow a credit or debit card transaction would be if every transaction ended up in a human's inbox to review and approve before it could be completed. Global and mobile commerce would stop. The credit and debit card processes have long ago been automated. Enterprises are now feeling the pressure to automate more processes to enable an operational tempo than runs at the speed of mobility.

What does it take to automate and run at real-time operational tempos? First, it takes accurate data that has not expired on the shelf. Data that has expired on the shelf means the value it once had, no longer remains.  For example, the weather forecast for last weekend, is not useful for this weekend.  The value of the data has expired. Second, it takes IT infrastructures capable of supporting real-time transactions and processing speeds. Thirdly, it takes defining decision trees, business rules and processes to the level where they can be coded and automated. This will then enable artificial intelligence to be added and utilized. Once enough artificial intelligence is supported it can be connected together into a complete process for RPA (robotic process automation) to be supported. Now you have a chance at real-time speeds.

In summary, accurate and real-time data, especially in a physical environment, will require sensors to fill data blind spots and replace data that has expired on the shelf. This is just one of the many ways enterprises can take advantage of the IoT (Internet of Things).

Mobile apps are driving the demand for real-time interactions and information.  Real-time demand drives a need to change business processes and IT (digital transformations). Digital transformation increases the demand for real-time IT infrastructures and processes, which in turn will increase the demand for IoT and robotic process automations. In economic circles this is known as the principle of acceleration. If demand for a product or solution increases, then the production capabilities for supplying the demand increases at an even greater amount. What does that mean for us?  Mobile is going to drive all kinds of increasing changes in business and IT. Mobile technologies are having an acceleration effect across enterprises and IT today. This effect is driving digital transformation initiatives toward reaching the "real-time" benchmark that will require more enterprise IoT and robotic process automations to achieve real-time speeds.

************************************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Senior Analyst
Digital Transformation, EBA, Center for the Future of Work Cognizant
View my profile on LinkedIn
Read more at Future of Work
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Subscribe to Kevin'sYouTube Channel
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility
Join the Google+ Community Mobile Enterprise Strategies

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Laws for Mobility, IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Process Automation

If you are the VP of Sales, it is quite likely you want and need to know up to date sales numbers, pipeline status and forecasts.  If you are meeting with a prospect to close a deal, it is quite likely that having up to date business intelligence and CRM information would be useful.  Likewise traveling to a remote job site to check on the progress of an engineering project is also an obvious trigger that you will need the latest project information.  Developing solutions integrated with mobile applications that can anticipate your needs based upon your Code Halo data, the information that surrounds people, organizations, projects, activities and devices, and acting upon it automatically is where a large amount of productivity gains will be found in the future.

There needs to be a law, like Moore's infamous law, that states, "The more data that is collected and analyzed, the greater the economic value it has in aggregate," i.e. as Aristotle is credited with saying, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." This law I believe is accurate and my colleagues at the Center for the Future of Work, wrote a book titled Code Halos that documents evidence of its truthfulness as well.  I would also like to submit an additional law, "Data has a shelf-life and the economic value of data diminishes over time."  In other words, if I am negotiating a deal today, but can't get the critical business data I need for another week, the data will not be as valuable to me then.  The same is true if I am trying to optimize, in real-time, the schedules of 5,000 service techs, but don't have up to date job status information. Receiving job status information tomorrow, does not help me optimize schedules today.

Mobile devices are powerful sensor platforms.  They capture, through their many integrated sensors, information useful to establishing context.  Capturing GPS coordinates for example, enables managers to see the location of their workforce.  Using GPS coordinates and geo-fencing techniques enables a software solution to identify the job site where a team is located.  The job site is associated with a project, budget, P&L, schedule and customer.  Using this captured sensor data and merging it with an understanding of the needs of each supervisor based upon their title and role on the project enables context to be established.  If supervisor A is responsible for electrical, then configure the software systems to recognize his/her physical approach to a jobsite and automatically send the latest information on the relevant component of the project.

I submit for your consideration yet another law, "The economic value of information multiplies when combined with context, meaning and right time delivery."  As we have seen, mobile technologies are critical for all of the laws discussed so far in this article.

Once sensors are deployed, sensor measurements captured, data wirelessly uploaded, and context understood, then business rules can be developed whereby intelligent processes can be automated. Here is an example, workers arrive at a jobsite and this data is captured via GPS sensors in their smartphones and their arrival automatically registers in the timesheet app and their supervisor is notified.  As they near the jobsite in the morning, using geo-fencing rules, each worker is wirelessly sent their work assignments, instructions and project schedules for the day.  The right data is sent to the right person on the right device at the right time.

The IoT (Internet of Things) is a world of connected sensors.  These sensors feed more sources of captured data into the analytics engine that is used to find meaning and to provide situational awareness.  If smartphones are mobile sensor platforms, then smartphones and IoT are both peas in the same pod.

Intelligent automated processes, like the ones mentioned above, are called "software robots" by some. These are "aware" processes acting upon real-time data in a manner that supports human activities and increases productivity.  Here is what we all need to recognize - mobile applications and solutions are just the beginning in this value chain.  Rule: Mobile apps provide only as much value as the systems behind them.  Recognizing mobile devices are sensor and reporting platforms that front systems utilizing artificial intelligence and automated processes to optimize human productivity is where the giant leaps in productivity will be found.

If you agree with my premises, then you will understand the urgency to move beyond the simple testing and deployment of basic mobile apps and jump into building the real value in the intelligent systems behind them.

Summary of Laws:
  • The more data that is collected and analyzed, the greater the economic value it has in aggregate
  • Data has a shelf-life and the economic value of data diminishes over time
  • The economic value of information multiplies when combined with context, meaning and right time delivery
  • Mobile apps provide only as much value as the systems and intelligent processes behind them
************************************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Senior Analyst
Digital Transformation, EBA, Center for the Future of Work Cognizant
View my profile on LinkedIn
Read more at Future of Work
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Subscribe to Kevin'sYouTube Channel
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility
Join the Google+ Community Mobile Enterprise Strategies

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.