Digital Operation Digital Transformation Top-Highlights

Train Your Employees to Think Like Hackers


Ever thought of training your employee as a hacker amid the disruptive digital tides? Misunderstanding of hackers due to the images constructed by media has put leaders inside the box. Thinking like hackers not solely addresses cybersecurity issue but also boosts creativity and smoother communication lines. This article sets forth the boons of hacker mindset of every employees, with 3 inspiring approaches clearly listed.

Companies that want to help their employees become better stewards of cybersecurity need to go beyond regular trainings on password security and other basic protocols. The best way to train employees to defend against hackers is to teach them how to think like one.

The first step is getting smart about what it actually means to be a “hacker.”

Start by forgetting everything the media and entertainment industry has told you about hackers. The media has a history of sensationalizing the term by using it to denote cybercriminals. This is too narrow a view.

In many ways, hackers are the model citizens of the digital era. They are creative, persistent, and resourceful. They think in digital terms and have the curiosity and drive to figure out how technology works. They view every problem as an opportunity. They stand up for what they believe in and they want the world to be a safer place.

Hackers also know a thing or two about the limits of technology. They have a healthy mistrust of computer systems and they understand that no software is immune to bugs (and that even without bugs, software will still have security vulnerabilities). They also know that just because computers and software can do a lot of good, it doesn’t mean they can’t also be used for doing a lot of bad. To them, it goes without saying that software will always do MORE than it was intended to do, and so they are constantly on the lookout for vulnerabilities.

For those of us who were born before the digitalization of society (probably the majority of your workforce), these concepts may sound foreign. But for hackers, it’s simply the way the world works — and they’re right.

That’s why it’s so important for companies to start cultivating the hacker mindset inside their own organization today. Not only can it change the way employees view and value cybersecurity, which leads to better security across the entire organization, but it can also help your workforce become more curious and resourceful — two of the most valuable skills in a future with widespread artificial intelligence and automation.

Here are a few ways companies of any size can start teaching their workforce to think like hackers:

#Hackathons and Competitions

Encourage employees to attend hackathons — even if only perhaps to observe or learn. These events give people a chance to take a step back from their day-to-day work for a moment and think creatively to solve some kind of problem, which is what “hacking” is all about.

Sometimes these events are related to the product or business, but they can also be focused around something else entirely. The idea is to get people shifting gears and exercising their mental muscles in new ways. This helps teams avoid tunnel vision and groupthink, and gets them thinking more creatively. It also makes everyone more observant and curious about the world around them, which is at the very heart of good cyber hygiene.

For more hands-on cybersecurity learning, arrange company-wide competitions and games that encourage employees to figure out how cybercrime could potentially happen. You can even take it a step further and role play a fictitious cyber incident. Acting out a breach scenario can help employees, technical or not, better relate to organizational risk and inspire a new level of mindfulness when it comes to cybersecurity.

#Incident and Information Sharing

When something major happens in your industry, encourage teams to share findings and analysis. That’s not to say everyone needs to be writing up ten page reports — a few quick thoughts will do. The idea is to condition your workforce to make it second nature to share information and insights.

When you break down the silos that exist across teams in so many companies today, it helps build community and create a shared purpose, which are powerful defenses when it comes to cybersecurity. It helps create a more vigilant workforce that is more likely to detect and respond to threats.

This is especially important with security teams. When there’s an incident, they should debrief a broader group on what happened and how they responded. If vulnerabilities are found and fixed, they should work with the software architects, designers, and engineers to help them avoid making similar mistakes in the future. When industries are hit by major cyberattacks (like WannaCry) or vulnerabilities (like Heartbleed), the security team should actively circulate updates and information with the entire company and also host open Q&As for those who want to learn more.

#Teaming Up

Create a mandate for employees to work across departments and teams. This helps open up better lines of communication across the entire organization and also helps teams solve all sorts of challenges with a fresh perspective.

Even if your security team is the best in the business, the reality is that all humans are fallible. When the same people are looking at the same codebase or dashboard every day, it’s only a matter of time before something important gets overlooked. That’s why the most security-conscious organizations look for help outside of themselves — i.e. inviting talented and trusted outside security experts to help identify vulnerabilities.

They also keep internal security and product teams coordinating closely as new products and features are developed. While some vulnerabilities are caused by deficiencies in the code, others result from hidden functionality that is there by design. Bringing the security team into the process early can help uncover and resolve these would-be issues before they become real vulnerabilities.

Looking to the years and decades ahead, we must all learn to think like hackers. When you adopt a hacker mindset, you aren’t traumatized by rapid advances in computer technology. Instead, you embrace them and recognize their ability to make the world a better and safer place. That’s not just good for security — it’s good for business.

By Marten Mickos

Digital Transformation Leadership

What Successful Digital Transformations Have in Common


We’re already in a tech-oriented world,where for the companies, in particular the incumbent ones, it is digitization that holds key to survive and thrive in the growingly fierce competition. It is not too late to reverse the digital curse and re-create a more profitable growth path via digitization. The following article expands on 6 statistically robust factors conducive to a fulfilling reinvention.

Technological innovations have radically transformed the business landscape in many ways over the last two centuries, from the introduction of steam power to the market conquest of radial-ply tires. Research by McKinsey & Company and the McKinsey Global Institute shows that digitization is having the same radical impact. In particular, our research shows how digitization can significantly hurt incumbent firms in many industries — depleting as much as half the revenue growth and one-third of earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) growth of companies that neglect to embrace digital innovations.

It is not too late for incumbents to reverse the digital curse and re-create a more profitable growth path if they are willing and able to invest more in digital than their peers and take the offensive by reshuffling their activity portfolios and beefing up remaining activities with new business models. On top of that, incumbents would be wise to choose a “platform play” — creating value by intermediating in transactions between other parties, such as suppliers and consumers — because it opens the way to capture more value in disrupted industry chains.

Despite the demonstrated benefits of this path, which we call “digital reinvention,” only a minority of companies have fully embraced it. In our early research on 2016 data we had found that only 16% of companies had taken steps toward reinvention, meaning they restructured their portfolios (shedding declining businesses and expanding profitable ones) and poured more money than their peers into an aggressive digital strategy based on new platform business models. In more recent research in mid-2017, our data from 1,650 firms around the world still confirms that still less than 20% of companies take the path of “digital reinvention.” We conclude that, despite warnings from ourselves and others, most incumbent firms are failing to adjust to the digital era.

Hence, our new research, which focuses on understanding how to encourage more frequent (and more profitable) digital reinvention. We found six important and statistically robust factors that predict the probability that an incumbent company will choose the path of being a reinventor. They are, in order of importance:

1. Obsess about turbulence on the horizon.

In general, incumbents tend to be disrupted because they neglect signals of turbulence. On the contrary, companies that understand the degree of digital turbulence are the most eager to go on the offensive. Those in the most digitally advanced sectors, such as high tech, already feel the pressure of digitization and are more inclined to take the offensive. In our survey, we found that one-fourth of high-tech companies are on the offensive, 2.5 times more than across all firms and sectors. In contrast, the automotive industry has barely half the rate of digital reinventors.

Even more interesting are differences within industries, where the perception of risk drives action. In the high-tech industry, we found that when companies conclude that their current model is not viable and must be fully adapted (versus making only marginal digital adjustments to the existing model), they digitally reinvent themselves 40% more often than the industry average. The tipping point for action is different by industry — in high-tech, companies often make the leap when cannibalization is perceived to hit 25% of their traditional revenue; in banking, the tipping point of perceived cannibalization risk is about 35%. In any case, at those tipping points the decision becomes relatively easy, as digital rules.

2. Understand all risks, not only those from startups.

One mistake incumbents often make is to look at turbulence signals only from digital entrants. But for every digital startup in an industry, there also is likely be an incumbent reinventor in the making.

Imagine a firm in an industry with nine competitors. One competitor is a digital startup within the industry, one is a digital startup from an adjacent industry. The remaining seven are incumbents within the industry. These examples aren’t purely hypothetical; they’re estimates of a typical industry structure, based on our data. Companies typically face a mix of traditional competitors, new entrants within their industry, and entrants from adjacent fields. However, we also found that, on average, three of these traditional rivals are likely to have already chosen to forcefully engage in digitization, and one of them is probably already morphing into a digital reinventor.

In total this means the company in question faces offensive attacks from three digital players, not just one, and one of the attackers is a known competitor that has chosen to break from the established conduct of the industry — the so-called “red queen effect.” Furthermore, the more digitized an industry, the more often incumbent companies have jumped into digital reinvention. From an average of three offensive players, we found that grows to 5.5, or more than 50% of total competition in highly digitized high-tech industries.

To become a reinventor itself, a corporation would be wise not only to track new digital entrants but take a good look at traditional competitors that can become digital reinventors and must keep an eye out for established companies crossing their industry border.

3. Deliver a dual offensive: core and diversification.

Today, many companies have in mind to defend their core business first and attack via diversification second. A typical incumbent focuses only about 30% of its resources on activities outside its core business. By contrast, true digital reinventors devote an equal amount of resources to revising core business models and investing outside the core.

However, we found that focusing only on non-core activities may be a mistake. First, revenue and, to a lesser extent, profit growth tend to be diluted though diversification as companies take time to build a presence in each new field. Further, companies’ assets and competencies outside the core are not yet as comprehensive and established, as they are in an incumbent market. Second, as discussed, core businesses are still the bread and butter for many companies; a digital reinvention in the core may still lead to a better growth path.

When digital reinventors increase offensive actions in both core and digital, we find that total revenue as well as profit growth is enhanced. The effect is not large, statistically — it is in the range of 0.5% to 1% of yearly revenue growth on top of base line depending on industry — but the effect is three times larger on profit, and further such an increase builds up over the years.

4. Fix leadership skills first.

Many incumbents still face major roadblocks in their digitization journeys. In one way, this is natural, as incumbents have succeeded by establishing robust routines and competencies over the years. In general, the more successful those competencies were at providing non-replicable assets, the more difficult it is to let them go. What we find in our statistical analysis, however, is that companies are more likely to take the path of digital reinvention when leaders are committed to taking action, e.g. CEO sponsoring the program heavily, executive board appointing specific managers in charge of the transformation, etc.

5. Prioritize demand-centered business play.

We mentioned earlier that incumbents see higher returns when they shift business models to a platform play – this effect is even greater for incumbents who show the other indicators of digital reinvention. Our new survey reconfirms the finding, but we also find two new nuances. The first is that one reason why digital attackers are often more successful than incumbents is that they select the platform play as their top priority two and an half times as often as incumbents choosing to go for digital reinvention. The second is that a platform model re-centered on the demand side increases the chance of being a digital reinventor, and making better profit inroads. This recipe for digital profitability is the consequence of the potential of large demand network effects, as it is emphasized in the management literature of platforms.

6. Experiment with frontier technologies.

Digital reinvention only works if companies master the right digital technology architecture. Consistent with findings in parallel research, we found that digital reinventors ensure that they have adopted the full range of digital technologies, and diffused them across their organization to support mission critical applications and processes. Further, they are already investigating emerging artificial intelligence technologies, such as upgrading machine learning algorithms to deep learning ones, or investing in new generation of smart robotics, as a way to have an edge. Surprisingly, we see no evidence of leapfrogging in our data: companies that kickstart AI without mastering the first wave of digital technologies, such as social media or mobile, are not only rare but also do not get full return on their investments. Companies must master each generation of technology, and fast, in order to become digital reinventors and obtain good returns on their technology investments.

By Jacques Bughin and Tanguy Catlin
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Seven and a Half Reasons to Be Optimistic About Tech in 2018


We’re now on the threshold of the 5G’s era. What can we  expect in the unfolding 2018? There are some cringeworthy moments about tech in the past year, however, looking forward, the whole society is very likely to witness faster and more achievements in more alluring entertainment, treatment tailored to cure disease and green energy exploited as the more realistic replacement. Last but not least, the revival of social conscience as the victims’ blog post blasts the sexual harrassment into public consciousness. All in all, a better life that deserves optimistic attitude.

A few weeks ago, my colleague Shira Ovide, a longtime tech reporter and columnist, said what many of us have been thinking: Silicon Valley sucks these days. “I’ve fallen out of love with technology,” Shira wrote, noting that this felt like the year when much of America began to seriously confront the downsides of the new economy. “The same qualities that made the internet so thrilling for a couple of decades—eliminating gatekeepers, making information instantaneous and connecting people with different points of view—now sometimes seem more threatening than alluring.”

The novelty of social media has given way to concerns about misinformation. Smartphone mania has become tougher to distinguish from outright addiction. Smart speakers are convenient, but could also double as scarily effective surveillance devices. The robots are going to take our jobs. Oh, and some of the guys responsible for these problems increasingly seem like a bunch of misogynistic creeps.

Yes, 2017 has been full of betrayals and unforced errors by people in the tech industry. A shocking number have revealed themselves to be even more greedy, petty, and narcissistic than common sense would suggest.

But some other stuff happened, too. I’m not saying it was a great year, but I am saying it wasn’t all awful. Here are some reasons not to go looking for a telegraph:

1. Faster Cellphones

These days it’s tough to rack up a $62,000 cellphone bill just because your nephew wants to watch Wall-E, but data fees and caps are still a prime consideration for lots of wireless customers. That should come to an end under the fifth-generation (5G) cellular standard, a set of improvements expected to make data transfer up to 100 times faster than it is today while dramatically increasing bandwidth. Once the system is that efficient, worrying about how much data you used in a given month will seem as silly as worrying about the cost of a long-distance phone call.

In November, Verizon said it’d bring 5G service to as many as five U.S. cities by the end of next year. T-Mobile promises nationwide 5G coverage by 2020. 5G may also serve as a credible alternative to local monopolies maintained by traditional internet service providers and cable companies, eventually adding an additional $3.2 trillion to the global economy and creating 22 million jobs worldwide by 2035. This should cheer you up if you’re depressed by last week’s net neutrality rollback.

2. Smarter Stuff

When it comes to 5G, faster phones are the least exciting part of the story. Right now, many developments in artificial intelligence tend to be stuck in the labs where the biggest, most powerful computers are located. Even self-driving cars have to carry trunks full of expensive electronic brains. Reliable 5G could allow enough of that computing power to be done remotely to make driverless cars safer and cheaper, and make internet-connected medical devices genuinely useful. Imagine, for instance, smart bandages that monitor the healing of a wound, alerting your doctor if it becomes infected, or internet-connected glucose monitors that use sophisticated machine learning algorithms to tailor treatment for diabetes patients. (There will be security concerns, of course.)

3. Bigger Batteries

Partly because phones keep getting more powerful, most still need recharging before the end of the day. Improved manufacturing processes, however, have made batteries cheaper and much more useful than they’ve ever been. Earlier this year, while blackouts were plaguing southern Australia, Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk boasted on Twitter that he would build a 100-megawatt battery facility in 100 days, “or it is free.” The Aussies took him up on it, and despite Musk’s tendency to set unrealistic goals, Tesla delivered the world’s biggest battery one day early. (This might count as two reasons: Elon Musk hit a deadline!)

There are other large-scale battery projects on the way, including an even bigger one Hyundai is building in South Korea, scheduled to open in February. The speed with which these facilities are being built suggests that wind and solar power are a more realistic replacement for fossil fuels than most people realize, as long as Tesla and others are able to work out manufacturing kinks.

4. A New Space Race

Musk’s other company, SpaceX, hit a big milestone Friday. For the first time, it sent a reused spaceship to the International Space Station on top of a reused rocket, which in the long run could mean dramatically reduced launch cost. SpaceX’s next-generation rocket, Falcon Heavy, could fly as early as January. Meanwhile, Planet Labs is democratizing satellites, Rocket Lab is trying to further slash launch costs, and Jeff Bezos is doing what Jeff Bezos does best on behalf of his rocket company, Blue Origin.

5. Cheaper Stuff

Economies of scale are an underappreciated side effect of Bezos’ growing wealth and power. Recently, New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo described how the online retailer—which just so happens to be trying to jump into pretty much every other industry and increasingly looks like a target for antitrust regulators—had enabled no-name startups to undercut the big electronics companies. Wyze Labs, for instance, makes an internet-connected video camera and sells it for $26, including shipping; a similar product sold by Alphabet’s Nest division costs $200.

As Manjoo wrote, Amazon has essentially superseded the typical value of product brands (building trust, setting up a sales infrastructure, marketing). Customers who don’t go to stores and buy based on Amazon reviews essentially get to keep the money brands once invested in those things. That’s sad for Nest, I suppose, but it’s arguably pretty great for cash-strapped parents who can get an internet-connected video camera for the same price as a traditional baby monitor.

6. Bitcoin!

You can’t use bitcoin on Amazon, or for much of anything at the moment besides speculation. But that’s only half the story.
For a second, let’s forget the crazy runup, ignore the bitcoin lottery winners, and just marvel that bitcoin mania happened in the first place. At a time when a handful of giant companies and their billionaire founders control the technology landscape, a group of misfits led by a creator nobody knows managed to popularize a technology that may fundamentally change how Wall Street moves money around, how we vote, and how we organize ourselves. Bitcoin could turn out to be a total bust in every way, but the fact that it happened shows the internet is still capable of producing things that are genuinely new.

7. New-New Media

Outside of patent lawsuits, the big tech companies often act like rent-seekers in the media business, where Google and Facebook swallow most of the new digital ad money and wield that power poorly. Squint hard enough, though, and you’ll see some reasons for optimism. While Snap Inc. has performed poorly as a public company, Snapchat has done an admirable job of keeping free of fake news. Another bright spot: Patreon, which combines aspects of Kickstarter and the NPR pledge drive to help support tens of thousands of podcasters, filmmakers, and other artists. And then there’s the hot startup of the moment, HQ Trivia, an interactive game show that you can play on your iPhone. It’s not world-changing stuff, but it’s entertainment that feels genuinely novel without sucking up huge amounts of time.​​​​​​

7½. Tech Gets a Social Conscience, Maybe

As cringeworthy and depressing as the stories about sexism in Silicon Valley have been, it’s possible to see the outrage they’ve provoked as a sort of turning point for an industry that finally seems to be getting serious about its place in the world. Susan Fowler’s blog post about sexual harassment at Uber drove investors and the press to confront the company’s moral failures, helping to pave the way for the flood of revelations about men in other industries. And while Facebook has never looked worse than it does today, Mark Zuckerberg is showing signs of the humility that his company, and the broader industry, desperately need.

It may not be much, but it is something. Here’s to a happier 2018.

By Max Chafkin

Digital Operation Digital Supply Chain Highlights

Complexity In The Digital Supply Chain


Audience around world have been expecting better online experience for game, music and movies. Netflix, the world’s leading Internet entertainment network with over 100 million members in over 190 countries believes that to realize the construction of real digital supply chain entails 2 parts: to ensure the materials quality and to manage B2B order and catalog in a more efficient way. To make this happen, we need shared industry standards to help with delivery tracking and catalog curation.

Netflix launched in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland on Oct. 15th. I just returned from a trip to Europe to review the content deliveries with European studios that prepared content for this launch.

This trip reinforced for me that today’s Digital Supply Chain for the streaming video industry is awash in accidental complexity. Fortunately the incentives to fix the supply chain are beginning to emerge. Netflix needs to innovate on the supply chain so that we can effectively increase licensing spending to create an outstanding member experience. The content owning studios need to innovate on the supply chain so that they can develop an effective, permanent, and growing sales channel for digital distribution customers like Netflix. Finally, post production houses have a fantastic opportunity to pivot their businesses to eliminate this complexity for their content owning customers.

Everyone loves Star Trek because it paints a picture of a future that many of us see as fantastic and hopefully inevitable. Warp factor 5 space travel, beamed transport over global distances, and automated food replicators all bring simplicity to the mundane aspects of living and free up the characters to pursue existence on a higher plane of intellectual pursuits and exploration.

The equivalent of Star Trek for the Digital Supply Chain is an online experience for content buyers where they browse available studio content catalogs and make selections for content to license on behalf of their consumers. Once an ‘order’ is completed on this system, the materials (video, audio, timed text, artwork, meta-data) flow into retailers systems automatically and out to customers in a short and predictable amount of time, 99% of the time. Eliminating today’s supply chain complexity will allow all of us to focus on continuing to innovate with production teams to bring amazing new experiences like 3D, 4K video, and many innovations not yet invented to our customer’s homes.

We are nowhere close to this supply chain today but there are no fundamental technology barriers to building it. What I am describing is largely what has been for consumers since 2007, when Netflix began streaming. If Netflix can build this experience for our customers, then conceivably the industry can collaborate to build the same thing for the supply chain. Given the level of cooperation needed, I predict it will take five to ten years to gain a shared set of motivations, standards, and engineering work to make this happen. Netflix, especially our Digital Supply Chain team, will be heavily involved due to our early scale in digital distribution.
To realize the construction of the Starship Enterprise, we need to innovate on two distinct but complementary tracks. They are:

1. Materials quality:

Video, audio, text, artwork, and descriptive meta data for all of the needed spoken languages

2. B2B order and catalog management:

Global online systems to track content orders and to curate content catalogs

Materials Quality

Netflix invested heavily in 2012 in making it easier to deliver high quality video, audio, text, art work, and meta data to Netflix. We expanded our accepted video formats to include the de facto industry standard of Apple Pro Res. We built a new team, Content Partner Operations, to engage content owners and post production houses and mentor their efforts to prepare content for Netflix.

The Content Partner Operations team also began to engage video and audio technology partners to include support for the file formats called out by the Netflix Delivery Specification in the equipment they provide to the industry to prepare and QC digital content. Throughout 2013 you will see the Netflix Delivery Specification supported by a growing list of those equipment manufacturers. Additionally the Content Partner Operations team will establish a certification process for post production houses ability to prepare content for Netflix.

Content owners that are new to Netflix delivery will be able to turn any one of many post production houses certified to deliver to Netflix from all of our regions around the world. Content owners ability to prepare content for Netflix varies considerably. Those content owners who perform the best are those who understand the lineage of all of the files they send to Netflix. Let me illustrate this ‘lineage’ reference with an example.

There is a movie available for Netflix streaming that was so magnificently filmed, it won an Oscar for Cinematography. It was filmed widescreen in a 2.20:1 aspect ratio but it was available for streaming on Netflix in a modified 4:3 aspect ratio. How can this happen? I attribute this poor customer experience to an industry wide epidemic of ‘versionitis’. After this film was produced, it was released in many formats. It was released in theaters, mastered for Blu-ray, formatted for airplane in flight viewing and formatted for the 4×3 televisions that prevailed in the era of this film. The creation of many versions of the film makes perfect sense but versioning becomes versionitis when retailers like Netflix neglect to clearly specify which version they want and when content owners don’t have a good handle on which versions they have. The first delivery made to Netflix of this film must have been derived from the 4×3 broadcast television cut. Netflix QC initially missed this problem and we put this version up for our streaming customers. We eventually realized our error and issued a re-delivery request from the content owner to receive this film in the original aspect ratio that the filmmakers intended for viewing the film. Versionitis from the initial delivery resulted in a poor customer experience and then Netflix and the content owner incurred new and unplanned spending to execute new deliveries to fix the customer experience.

Our recent trip to Europe revealed that the common theme of those studios that struggled with delivery was versionitis. They were not sure which cut of video to deliver or if those cuts of video were aligned with language subtitle files for the content. The studios that performed the best have a well established digital archive that avoids versionitis. They know the lineage of all of their video sources and those video files’ alignment with their correlated subtitle files.

There is a link between content owner revenue and content owner delivery skill. Frequently Netflix finds itself looking for opportunities to grow its streaming catalogs quickly with budget dollars that have not yet been allocated. Increasingly the Netflix deal teams are considering the effectiveness of a content owner’s delivery abilities when making those spending decisions. Simply put, content owners who can deliver quickly and without error are getting more licensing revenue from Netflix than those content owners suffering from versionitis and the resulting delivery problems.

B2B Order and Catalog Management

Today Netflix has a set of tools for managing content orders and curating our content catalogs. These tools are internal to our business and we currently engage the industry for delivery tracking through phone calls and emails containing spreadsheets of content data.

We can do a lot better than to engage the industry with spreadsheets attached to email. We will rectify this in the first half of 2013 with the release of the initial versions of our Content Partner Portal. The universal reaction to reviewing our Nordic launch with content owners was that we were showing them great data (timeliness, error rates, etc) about their deliveries but that they need to see such data much more frequently. The Content Partner Portal will allow all of these metrics to be shared in real time with content owner operations teams while the deliveries are happening. We also foresee that the Content Partner Portal will be used by the Netflix deal team to objectively assess the delivery performance of content owners when planning additional spending.

We also see a role for shared industry standards to help with delivery tracking and catalog curation. The EIDR initiative, for identifying content and versions of content, offers the potential for alignment across companies in the Digital Supply Chain. We are building the ability to label titles with EIDR into our new Content Partner Portal.

Final Thoughts

Today’s supply chain is messy and not well suited to help companies in our industry to fully embrace the rapidly growing channel of internet streaming. We are a long way from the Starship Enterprise equivalent of the Digital Supply Chain but the growing global consumer demand for internet streaming clearly provides the incentive to invest together in modernizing the supply chain.

By Netflix Technology Blog

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Digital Strategy Digital Transformation

How Small Businesses Can Increase Their Digital Capabilities


The realization and ubiquity of today’s technology hyperboles like AI from the tech giants such as Google and Apple seems still far away from our life. But online paying and people’s changed lifestyle in a digital world must be noticed by small businesses, who can extract much more value from customers with rising expectations for seamless and convenient experience. The following passage gives instruction on how small businesses can increase their digital capabilities.

It takes you 6 minutes to read.

Paying for a cup of coffee on an iPad is mainstream in big cities, but the majority of small businesses — the backbone of our local economies — have not yet fully come online. And as e-commerce outfits increasingly follow Amazon’s lead in adopting a purely data-driven model to provide greater value in the face of squeezed margins, retailers and service providers that don’t embrace technology will be at a major disadvantage. Small businesses like restaurants, which have an 80% failure rate in the first five years, are some of the most challenged in curbing inefficiency and meeting the rising expectations of tech-empowered customers.

While the business case for embracing technology is widely documented, retailers have historically shied away, given the high cost and operational complexity. But the rise of cloud computing and open APIs has changed the game for the industry, allowing small businesses to take advantage of data in entirely new ways.

I categorize local businesses into four generations of technological maturity. At either end of the spectrum are the minorities — mom-and-pop shops on one end, with old-school cash registers and no bar codes, and the most tech-savvy businesses on the other end, who are using data to optimize everything from staffing to inventory. The majority are somewhere in the middle — they’ve embraced basic or cloud-based technology but aren’t taking advantage of their data that’s now easily API-accessible in the cloud. And they’re leaving money on the table as a result.

No matter where your business is on this spectrum, here are some best practices I’ve absorbed working alongside small businesses successfully crossing the digital divide.

Bringing Your Operations Online

Bringing efficiency to operations is table stakes for retailers. Choosing a low-cost, cloud-based point-of-sale platform that facilitates smart decision making for everything from inventory to staffing is the first step. There are many to choose from, so consider the following benefits when evaluating one for your business:

#Vet feature richness

Historically, point-of-sale (POS) systems were vertical-specific, but today it’s more common to find open platforms that work across many verticals that support rich integrations and add-on solutions. That said, you want to make sure the POS system you choose has the features that are core to operating in your vertical. For example, if you’re a clothing boutique, you need accounting integration, employee management, and sales tax automation. Cafés should look for platforms with turnkey loyalty programs and staffing solutions. Consider integration, too. Many systems can function with the software you’re already using, and integrate with third-party sites like Yelp and Google, so information such as hours of operation and menus can be updated online in real time.

#Put analytics to work

The cloud and APIs are providing access to data on every aspect of the business, allowing retailers to make smarter, and sometimes unforeseen, business decisions. The Cafe Grind*, a busy NYC coffee shop, uses its POS system to track customer visits, how long it takes to serve each customer, and which items are selling, saving the store five to 10 hours per week in managing logistics. Palo Alto–based Tin Pot Creamery* used demographic analytics to prove that opening a store in the neighboring town of Los Altos would not cannibalize sales in its current location, overcoming a strict real estate rule banning locations within five miles of each other.

#Optimize staffing

Staffing typically accounts for 30%–35% of operating costs for a restaurant. Small businesses are embracing a new crop of apps like Homebase to manage hourly employees — from forecasting labor costs to scheduling and payroll. Businesses report saving an average five to 10 hours per week on scheduling, freeing up time and resources for other priorities.

Click here to read: Small-Business-Digital-Marketing-Essentials

Double Down on Your Customers

Amazon and Starbucks have made reaching customers a science. They’re not simply acquiring customers — they’re enlisting subscribers who shop so frequently that joining a service like Amazon Prime is a no-brainer. You don’t have to be Amazon or Starbucks to do this. Omaha-based Scooter’s Coffee* has enlisted a loyal customer base rivaling that of Starbucks through its mobile app, where 7% of transactions occur. Here are a few examples of how small businesses are delivering the most convenient, personalized experiences for customers, and how other small business can follow suit:

#Go mobile

Incorporating mobile devices — tablets or POS devices — is crucial, considering that 68% of diners say server handheld tablets improve their guest experience. You still need at least one mobile device that can print physical receipts, but many customers (42%) now prefer email receipts. Spend time handling the devices, and take yourself through the customer’s experience before you buy. While mobile payments are still nascent, about 33% of U.S. smartphone users are expected to use them by 2020, and U.S. Apple Pay transaction volume is up 450% over the past year alone. To stay ahead of the curve, look for a POS system that accepts as many forms of payment as possible, including EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa), and Alipay.

#Bring ordering online

Online ordering is a huge opportunity for restaurants. Morgan Stanley projects that the U.S. delivery market will skyrocket from $11 billion annually to as much as $210 billion over the long term. A recent study found that restaurants offering online ordering have seen their takeout revenue grow by an average of 30%, while one in five saw revenue double. Partner with established delivery services such as UberEATS, GrubHub, and Seamless to take advantage.

#Launch a digital loyalty program

It literally pays to double down on your most valuable customers with loyalty programs, which are proven to increase purchases by 20% or more. Launching a mobile loyalty program can be tricky, though. LaFleur’s Seafood Restaurant* ditched traditional punch cards and enlisted 1,800 rewards members in less than a year. It gave staff extensive training in offering, encouraging, and setting up the rewards program for customers, motivating employees by posting a sign that read, “If your server doesn’t tell you about our rewards program, we’ll give you $10 off your meal.” Offer a significant discount or a gift in exchange for joining to jumpstart your program. Advanced marketers are taking this a step further, integrating CRM with loyalty systems to identify when a customer hasn’t been in for 90 days, then automatically putting an offer in their mobile wallet. Or, if Wednesdays are typically slow days, businesses can automatically send a discount push notification to customers with deals and incentives for Wednesdays.

While tech is the secret sauce of the eBays of the world, it’s also leveling the playing field for small businesses. I believe there will always be a place for small businesses, but the ones that will thrive are leveraging these tools to connect with customers and run more efficiently.

By John Beatty, Co-founder and CEO of Clover.


Digital Transformation

Constant Digital Transformation Is Now the New Norm


The world of work is changing at a rapid rate as the technology develops and companies have been evolving to meet this challenge.We have already set out on the journey to a connected and digitalized world, a process more an on-going and constant evolution to stay ahead than a once-and-for-all transformation.Thus the following passage offers incisive comments that enterprises must rethink it constantly.

It takes you 6 minutes to read it.

Digital transformation is a little bit like The Matrix. At the start, Keanu Reeves is noodling around with a couple of PCs, a consultant enters his life and encourages him to see the world as a huge technical matrix. Understanding this system properly will give him great power. He fumbles it. A lot. But finally, he grasps his place and he’s permanently at the heart of the constantly evolving system.

Given the rapid speed and evolution of disruptive technologies, even digital-born organisations feel a little bit like Reeves’ character Neo, having to continually transform to stay up to date.

“Over the last seven or eight years the rise of digitally native user-focused businesses like Amazon and Uber means customers now expect every company to interact with them in the way they interact with Amazon or Uber,” explains Perry Krug, principal architect, strategic accounts at big data integration company Couchbase. “Human beings are trained to want constant improvement, iteration and change.”

But do these digital-native companies actually view it as transformation? Yes and no. “Natives building stuff from scratch do have a different culture from the outset, although some have taken off-the-shelf tech to get to market quickly,” says Oded Karev, vice president at data technology developer NICE.

“If you use off-the-shelf systems, you end up similar to digital migrants, enterprises that know they need to transform, but don’t have the tech to manage that transformation. In fact, in that scenario, legacy enterprises have the largest resources available, so if they can overcome the challenges, they have a head start.”

Indeed, the gap between legacy enterprises and digital natives is decreasing, says Mr Krug. “Retailers like Tesco are as cutting edge as any online-only business,” he argues. “The biggest challenge is analysis paralysis… the desire to boil the ocean and be revolutionary, but not knowing how to get started. That can be true of both groups. The most successful enterprises are the ones that start small in one area and constantly iterate.”

Michael Allen, vice president, Europe, Middle East and Africa, at app performance platform Dynatrace, says: “The culture of constant transformation should be at the heart of digital-native companies, but that’s not always so – sometimes cultures have to change.”

Two to three years ago, Dynatrace released new versions of its software twice a year. “But people use our tools to be more agile, so we had to change culturally,” he explains. “We now do 250 software deployments a day with one major release offering new functionality every two weeks. We run 35,000 automated tests an hour on stuff our developers build; it’s tested within an hour of developing and then it’s out there.”

And while a lot of the press coverage about digital transformation focuses on retail, Colin I’Anson, chief technologist for internet of things at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), points out that every business would benefit. He cites a recent client, Kaeser, that makes high-pressure pumps for delivering compressed air to power tools in factories. HPE combed through all of the company’s available data and realised that by measuring a pump’s performance they could predict its behaviour.

“Looking at indicators like vibration and bubbles getting into fluids, we set up an algorithm that predicts how much longer this pump is going to survive,” Mr I’Anson explains. “By understanding common failures, Kaeser could plan which spare parts were needed nearby, rather than having all spare parts in stock at all time. They made a saving of $10 million while, by anticipating failures, reducing failure rate by 60 per cent.”

Eventually the data showed that Kaeser’s business would improve if it loaned or rented out it’s compressors and charged for the air, like a mobile phone company with free handsets and voice, text and data charges. “Kaeser can now change compressors according to what the factory needs,” says Mr I’Anson. “And blowing compressed air reliably and continually, like electricity, makes it harder for competitors to replace Kaeser.”

So digital transformation means total business transformation. There is some lag, however. Dynatrace recently commissioned an independent global survey of 1,239 IT and business professionals and found that 75 per cent of respondents had low confidence in their ability to resolve digital performance problems. Some 48 per cent said digital performance challenges were directly hampering the success of digital transformation strategies in their organisations.

The rise of artificial intelligence and machine-learning can help as technology solutions themselves can transform as they learn, says Mike Hobday, cognitive automation practice leader at IBM. The company’s Watson supercomputer thinks like a human; it can understand intent, handle most of the standard functions of an IT help desk, including lost passwords, with chatbots and structured or unstructured data analytics.

“There is effort involved in training your solution,” he explains. “But after that it can make judgment calls like a human. You can set levels of confidence – if the bot is 90 per cent sure, go ahead; if 70 per cent sure, go to a human adviser. It frees up staff to interact with users in ways that can drive revenue growth.”

This level of transformation is much more complex than simple “if… then…” data-processing. And further change is on the way as enterprises struggle to incorporate new technology such as blockchain into supply chains. Indeed, the term digital transformation itself is starting to fall out of favour, giving way to digital evolution, says Anand Birje, global head of digital and analytics practice at HCL Technologies.

“Transformation implies that there is an end goal – a place the company is heading to,” he explains. “In fact, we’re now in a constant change environment – large enterprises need to rethink processes constantly. Do they have the right strategy? How can they better serve the user? How can they secure and improve their asset life cycle? Digital transformation has been seen as a topic companies had to deal with. Now it’s just the way we do business.”

By Stephen Armstrong, a contributor and occasional broadcaster.


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5 Tips for Healthcare Data Security Success in 2018


According to the last passage, the healthcare sector plagued with insecurity of users’ data as well as time-honored inefficiency is listed as the top use case of data science. Such a rapid development of the smart life and smart health with the emerging mobile devices and connections entails all-encompassing security management.The following passage offers five great ways for companies pertaining to healthcare act quickly, to any device, efficiently, and of course, securely as well by utilizing the cloud computing, virtualization and other digital tools.

It takes you 7 minutes to read.

We’re more than half-way through 2017 and many healthcare organizations are already looking ahead. And, for good reason.

Healthcare data security will remain one of the top concerns for the vast majority of healthcare organizations housing sensitive data. We’ve seen an increase in breaches, attacks, and ransomware instances. And the attackers are getting bolder.

Today, healthcare is truly at an inflection point. Over the next three to four years, digital transformation will absolutely shift away from just ‘projects,’ ‘initiatives,’ or ‘special business units.’ The digital healthcare framework will become a part of our everyday lives.

Trends around mobility and the growing number of IoT devices are only going to continue to increase.

Consider this latest report from Cisco analyzing the mobility market. Almost half a billion (429 million) mobile devices and connections were added in 2016. Smartphones accounted for most of that growth, followed by M2M modules. Global mobile devices and connections in 2016 grew to 8.0 billion, up from 7.6 billion in 2015.

And, healthcare is at the center of this. As Cisco points out, these devices come in various shapes and forms, ranging from smart watches, smart glasses, heads-up displays (HUDs), health and fitness trackers, health monitors, wearable scanners and navigation devices, smart clothing, etc. The growth in these devices has been fueled by enhancements in technology that have supported compression of computing and other electronics (making the devices light enough to be worn).

Plus, there’s the cloud.

Do you remember, traditionally, when it was one server that carried just one workload? Well, that’s not the case any longer.

Now, increasing server computing capacity and virtualization, multiple workloads per physical server are common in cloud architectures. Cloud economics, including server cost, resiliency, scalability, and product lifespan, along with enhancements in cloud security, are promoting migration of workloads across servers, both inside the data center and across data centers (even data centers in different geographic areas).

Healthcare organizations are taking advantage of the new, compliance-ready, cloud environments to extend and distribute their healthcare ecosystem.

Looking ahead, let’s examine five great ways to enhance security for healthcare organizations, and where you can leverage new technologies.

Healthcare, compliance, and cloud – They can be friends

For too long organizations bound by compliance and regulations were forced out of the cloud market. This really isn’t the case anymore. Furthermore, cloud security has become a lot better. Amazon AWS for example now offers a variety of compliant cloud servers, including ones around DoD, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and more. You’re able to control the flow of data with dedicated secure links into the AWS cloud. From there, you can dynamically load-balance your workloads to ensure secure data resides at the appropriate point. Here’s the big point – just because the data is traversing a different network does not mean you can stop monitoring it. Direct integration with a cloud provider allows you to span your monitoring and security control plane.

Integrate server and data center functionality into security monitoring and management

Traditional Windows and operating system services were always left to work within their own little environment. After all, these processes are for the most part internal. So, aside from a few security checks here and there, why monitor them…right?

This is why: “As of June 2017, a new strain of ransomware dubbed ‘Petya’ is worming its way around the world with alarming speed. The malware is spreading using a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that the software giant patched in March 2017 — the same bug that was exploited by the recent and prolific WannaCry ransomware strain.”

New kinds of threats are taking aim at very specific points within your data center. We’ll get to that in a minute. However, integrating your ITSM solution, LDAP, and even Active Directory services to an enterprise security management layer is a great way to keep an eye on your entire cloud, physical and virtual environment. There are a lot of options here and a lot of great ways to integrate core cloud and OS-layer services directly into the security layer.

Finally, think about the end-point. Do you really need PCs or can you work better with powerful thin clients? Remember, the less OS and data at the endpoint, the less you potentially lose.

Leverage security virtualization for greater controls

You can now deploy entire virtual appliances capable of next-generation firewall and advanced security services, data loss prevention, IPS/IDS, and more. You can also deploy these as standalone virtual services throughout your healthcare network. Traditional unified threat management (UTM) appliances can do a great job managing traffic and controlling security at the core. But what about new kinds of threats? What about data loss within a specific network segment? What about your distributed locations and the edge?

These new VM-based security appliances allow you to monitor internal traffic and integrate with APIs to let you proactively monitor VM changes dynamically feeding that context into security policies.

Application and workload-centric security

Your healthcare applications are an absolutely critical part of your business. New tools around application firewalls and application-centric security are allowing organizations to have greater control over the delivery of their apps.

Furthermore, integrating your applications into an overall management solution can greatly help automate and simplifies the entire security change management process to accelerate application delivery.

Application-aware security features can actually monitor anomalous changes within application behavior. Is there a spike in traffic? Is the wrong kind of data being accessed? Who is actually connecting to the application and from where? New concerns around mobility and application access require a better approach to data and application security.

Stop APTs, create smarter locks

Advanced persistent threats (APTs) can take aim at almost any part of your data center. But, if it’s targeted, the bad guys are after your data.

The best way to keep these kinds of threats at bay is to have an all-encompassing security management and policy control solution.

Consider this, you now have network, firewall, and virtual security services running within your environment. Now, what if they’re distributed? What if they are all different brands of security appliances? How do you manage control of policies and security delivery? How do you control threats which can span your entire cloud or data center architecture?

Managing complex environments is made easier with powerful visibility tools that allow you to control a heterogeneous security environment. The goal here is to simplify security management without giving up control.

One of the best pieces of advices to give is to constantly stay proactive with your security environment and policies. Test out your own systems and make sure your security is evolving at the same pace as your business.

Most of all, when providing services to your healthcare end-users you don’t want to hinder their experience. With a huge focus on application and data delivery, users want their content delivered quickly, to any device, efficiently, and of course, securely as well.

By Bill Kleyman



Digital Strategy Digital Transformation Top-Highlights Work Style

The Data Science Renaissance


“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” – Michaelangelo

Have you ever think of the common place shared by the Renaissance and today’s irresistible digital trend? In the following passage, the author believes what the Renaissance to the ancient world is what data science to the modern history and offers a distinct insight into the comparison.Ultimately it was about a new way of thinking.Five essential elements are listed as the pre-existing condition for a successful Renaissance to survive in the information-flooding era. Several potential use cases are also presented in the passage. 

It takes you 8 mintes to read.

Renaissance means rebirth. A variety of factors, coming together at the same time, can spark a rebirth. In the analytics world, we are facing a confluence of factors: economic disruption, a great re-skilling, and unprecedented access to data. The combination of these factors is sparking the rebirth of data science, with the expert-led model a relic of the past. History is a great teacher, and demonstrates that this Renaissance is not all that dissimilar from the original.

The Renaissance was a development that took place in Italy beginning in the 1400’s. Renaissance artists broke away from the norm (simple styles) and inspired a new era of expressionism. Ultimately, the Renaissance was about a new way of thinking, which sparked a period of extended innovation in the arts.

In the late 1300’s, Florence emerged as an affluent city, with the wealthy using their riches to hire local artisans. As typically happens, this movement led to competition, which in turn stoked creativity. This continued in the 1400’s when the Medici family rose to power in Florence, and used their money and influence to continue the movement. In the 15th century, the Renaissance spread rapidly from its birthplace in Florence to the rest of Italy and then to the rest of Europe.

While there were numerous artistic masterpieces created in this period, the one perhaps most associated with The Renaissance is the sketch of the Vitruvian Man. Combining a circle and a square, with man in the middle, the piece was symbolic of the combination of two things: the heavenly and the earthly. The idea was first postulated by the writer Vitruvius, giving the figure its name. But, it was da Vinci who was credited with first illustrating the idea in an anatomically correct way. A reminder that those with the original idea, are not always the ones that make the mark on history.

The modern day Renaissance in data science is also about a new way of thinking, and draws many parallels from The Renaissance of many years ago in Italy:

1) It is economically driven, as the cost of compute, storage, data, have enabled the funding of a new artisan enlightenment.

2) The new artisans can be anyone, not just the wealthy few or those trained in a certain discipline. The expert model of data science is ending.

3) The application and confluence of data and science are being combined into a modern day vision of the future: continuous intelligence through the application of machine learning and deep learning.

Neither the Renaissance in Italy nor the one in data science would exist without a certain set of pre-existing conditions. In both cases, the market conditions enabled the creativity and served as a launching point for future innovation. In the case of the artisans of Florence, as they began to understand science and its application, new technology could develop out of their imagination (think of Leonardo’s early helicopter drawings). Similarly, today’s data science Renaissance is determining the winners and losers in each industry, and those that adapt will survive, driven by application of a new technology.

Today, organizations aiming to harness data science instinctually know what they need to do, there is just have a prescriptive roadmap which leads to success and a leadership position. Most companies leap to model building and algorithm selection. For some companies, this is the right place to start. But for others, it may be a step too far.

Charlie Munger tells a story about a plane is flying over the Mediterranean Sea, making its way towards an exotic location. The pilot’s voice comes on the intercom and says, “A terrible thing just happened, we’re going to have to make a water landing. The plane will stay afloat just long enough to open the door and let everybody out. We have to do it in an orderly fashion. Everybody who can swim, go to the right wing and just stand there, and everybody who can’t swim, go to the left wing and just stand there.”

The pilot continues, “Those of you on the right wing, you’ll find a little island just two miles off. When the plane goes under, just swim to the island and you’ll be fine. For those of you on the left wing, we’d like to thank you for flying with us today.”

Most organizations feel like they have been abandoned out on that left wing of the plane. No guidelines, no assistance. Just an obvious set of challenges. Machine learning problems are data problems. Data science will fundamentally change, automate, and optimize all industries. But, it starts with the basics: the essential elements of data and analytics.

A data strategy is an enabler of data science, because all data is dirty before you feed it into a model. The 5 essential elements of data and analytics create the proper pre-existing conditions for the Renaissance in data science.

The 5 essential elements are:

# Open source is a key enabler of a comprehensive analytics strategy. Openness ensures innovation and speed, while linking to innovation sitting on top of the open platforms. Open source is an eternal community of innovation.

# Unified governance is necessary for insight and compliance. Unified governance does for data what libraries have done for books. Organize, catalog, mask, protect, archive, and make any asset instantly findable. A data library provides insight, but also compliance with key regulations (such as GDPR).

# Hybrid data management prepares an organization for a multi-cloud world. It aligns on-premise and private cloud data investments with public cloud deployments. Whether the focus is on unstructured data or structured data, the future of data management is both private/public, with seamless integration between the two.
Visualization is about data discovery. Understand data assets, render them in the form the user expects, and enable the data to be manipulated and explored. This is dynamic and real-time, not static.

# Machine learning and #data science are ingredients across all of the essential elements of Analytics. This is the source of ‘a ha’ moments, as an organization enhances and automates decision making and operations. Build, deploy, and train models. Continuously learn as new data comes in. Machine learning and data science must be resident where the data resides for maximum impact.

The starting point is different for every individual, department, and organization. But, the 5 essential elements are consistent. They are the pre-existing condition for a successful Renaissance. While many organizations have done something in each of these areas, most of that was done during and for the prior era.

We are entering a new era of simplicity. Analytics and data science approaches must be simple: installed and running in 15 minutes or less. With the previous era of long, expensive projects, the IT department was the scapegoat. In this new era, IT is no longer the victim of business transformation. Instead, IT, like the Medici’s in 1400 Italy, lead and enable this Renaissance.

Data science is coming into form, with machine learning use cases leading the way. Companies are starting to win with machine learning and there are repeatable patterns to drive outcomes. Take for example a pharmaceutical company that is accustomed to a market where new drugs take 12–14 years to make it to market, w/ an average cost of $2.6 billion. In this case, data science and machine learning was applied to reduce the cost by 70%. The algorithm was trained on two distinct datasets, one on the toxicity of various chemicals, with the other on known side effects from approved medicines. From both datasets, the algorithm was able to predict the toxicity of the medicine with reasonable accuracy.

Many use cases have emerged. Here are the Top 10 I see today:

The only constant here will be change. I expect the Top 10 will evolve every 6–12 months.

As mentioned previously, while da Vinci was the first to correctly draw the Vitruvian man, history shows that he did not come up with this idea on his own. The secret was to make the geometric shapes off-center, and the credit for that goes to Giacomo Andrea da Ferrara. Giacomo Andrea’s version was riddled with iterations, eventually leading to success. He and da Vinci were colleagues, shared meals, and were seen together. Yet, history only remembers da Vinci’s version.

The difference was a bias for action. da Vinci took action, while others just iterated and stayed in experimentation mode. A Renaissance is a call to action, not a call to reflection. The time is now for data science.

By Rob Thomas, author of The End of Tech Companies and Big Data Revolution.


Digital Strategy Digital Transformation Highlights Top-Transformation

A digital transformation case study: The Met Office

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Digital transformation has brought new mode of thinking and exciting experience to re-vitalize the traditional weather industry, as what people perceive when using the Met Office, the UK’s national weather service. The content and service it offers to its users as well as the internal structure of the organization are greatly change to better interact with the public. The following passage is a reader friendly introduction of the on-going digital transformation with such a successful case.

It takes 8 minutes to read.

It was 1758 when Samuel Johnston wrote: “When two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather.” Fast forward 250 years or so and he’s still pretty much spot on.

The only difference now is that digital technology enables us to talk about it even more.

For the Met Office – the UK’s national weather service – shifting to a digital-first approach hasn’t just meant reacting to this change in consumer behaviour.

Digital now spans across the entire organisation, impacting everything from research to content marketing and internal culture. I recently spoke with Simon Swan –working in digital strategy and transformation at the Met Office – to gain more of an understanding about the organisation’s ongoing journey.

Growing reach and revenue through a digital team

Despite being in the public sector, it’s important to first remember that the Met Office is also a trading fund (within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), operating on a commercial basis under set targets, meaning that it needs to generate revenue.

When Simon first started at the organisation, it mainly did this through B2B partnerships – working with multiple business areas across the UK and globally. At this time, the company had no real digital marketing team to speak of, however –identifying the opportunity to monetise the reach of the Met Office through sponsorship programs and advertising – this soon became a priority.

Simon started in the role of head of digital marketing at the Met Office with a focus on building out the digital team and identifying ways to grow reach and further revenue. This also fell in line with the organisation’s central remit –to increase awareness of the Met Office as an organisation that delivers socioeconomic benefits, as well as provides weather warning information to the public at large.

Creating a point of difference through content strategy

One of the biggest challenges the Met Office has always faced is differentiating itself in a competitive market. Recent growth in new technology – an explosion of mobile apps, APIs, and even voice search – means data around weather has become much more accessible.

In the face of stiff competition, the Met Office set out to achieve a point of difference, focusing much more heavily on its content marketing efforts through storytelling.

One of the first steps was to determine exactly what everyday consumers want from the Met Office. Turning to analytics, it soon found that the answer is not simply data, but as Simon describes it, the ‘what, the why, the where, the when’ that surrounds it.

In other words, users want content that brings weather data to life – information that impacts decision making, event planning, or aids learning about particular weather phenomenon, for example, the answer to questions like ‘what is a weather bomb’?

Drawing on the huge vertical knowledge of scientists working within the organisation, the Met Office has set out to separate itself by creating and distributing this kind of content. Using the pillars of trust, authority and relevancy, it has been able to build on its social strategy over the past few years in particular, growing to a combined audience of around 1.75 million. In turn, this has also led to the creation and optimisation of new channels to better interact with the public.

 Excerpt from a Met Office infographic about the pollen forecast – an product of the organisation’s content strategy

Optimising digital formats and content

Since discovering that users desire contextual information about the weather, the Met Office has also focused efforts on determining the specific kinds of content that drives the most engagement.

Video in particular continues to be an effective tool, also helping to differentiate the organisation’s mobile app from competitors. It provides users with an updated weather forecast four times a day, and includes other innovative features like an interactive rain fall map and pollen push notifications.

The Met Office also optimises content based on different audience demographics, pushing out tailored infographics, videos, and blogs geared to people interested in seasonal or timely events, such as Glastonbury festival or the pollen season. Again, it is this kind of contextual information that really drives engagement across all channels.

“Whether it’s video vs. infographics, how we use YouTube compared to Instagram, or how we use Twitter

for customer service – it’s all about how we can use these channels to help us

differentiate our proposition around weather and climate

and pass that information directly back to the public.” 

Collaboration and digital education across the organisation

So, what does it take to produce this type of content? In order to properly serve digital users, the Met Office realised that collaboration was going to be key, with the digital marketing team working closely with everyone from scientists and forecasters to the observation and graphics departments.

The solution has been working with various departments to explore and find areas of real value, educating internal teams on how collaborating horizontally can benefit all.

For example, if the core digital team is able to determine that a specific area of content works well on social – let’s say satellite imagery, for instance – it is able to feed this back to the satellite team to help them better understand the type of information they should be sharing.

Another example could be discovering any gaps or opportunities for content. For instance, if a user asks a question on social media about rain formation, the team can directly liaise with scientists and forecasters to establish how best to answer it.

In order to facilitate and further this approach, the Met Office has recently set up the Digital Academy – an initiative designed to help educate and up-skill internal teams. It involves fortnightly workshops and webinars on different digital principles, with talks often held by external organisations.

The end goal is to expand digital knowledge internally, encourage and foster a culture of knowledge sharing, as well as give clients a better understanding of how they can work with the Met Office.

Commercial partnerships and new opportunities (search and voice)

Alongside internal and user-facing activity, the Met Office also provides industry-specific weather and climate services.

The organisation has been working with a number of companies in the retail space, with this market particularly interested in how weather data can be used to better understand and optimise product sales. One specific example is an affiliate network that worked with the Met Office to optimise product feeds, enabling the network to recognise what products to promote and when, in accordance with weather changes.

Another area of interest for the Met Office is voice technology – unsurprising considering that weather is the second-most popular search activity enabled through voice devices.

The Met Office’s Informatics Lab recently designed an Amazon Alexa Skill which helps users to make decisions by talking to the device. Instead of merely responding to a request for the weather, the technology also recommends recreational activity based on the forecast, including contextual detail such as location and time.

Establishing the right culture

While other areas of technology such as voice and machine learning undoubtedly offer exciting opportunities for the Met Office, Simon suggests that its main focus will be consolidating its position in the market. It is through internal initiatives like the Digital Academy that it aims to do this.

As well as sharing knowledge, Simon also sees the Digital Academy as a vital way of establishing a digital culture throughout the organisation – extending to employee values and attitudes, not just technical expertise.

“Culture is the hard bit,” he says, “you can spend money on finding people with the specific tactical skills, but it is the attitude that drives real innovation.”

By Nikki Gilliland, a writer at Econsultancy.


Digital Transformation

The 10 commandments of digital transformation

Stories of the spectacular success of some digital tech companies are prodding ‘legacy’ non-digital companies to undergo digital transformation. Before they jump on the bandwagon, they would do well to keep in mind the 10 commandments listed here, for the journey can be long, painful and convoluted.

Stories of the spectacular success of some digital tech companies are prodding ‘legacy’ non-digital companies to undergo digital transformation. Before they jump on the bandwagon, they would do well to keep in mind the 10 commandments listed here, for the journey can be long, painful and convoluted.

A couple of years ago, research firm Gartner Inc. predicted that by 2017 20% of all market leaders will lose their number one position to a company founded after the year 2000 because of a lack of digital business advantage.

It was a startling statement and some of it is coming true. In late 2015, Airbnb Inc. had a million and a half rooms available for rent, and their bookings were projected to double to 80 million over the year before. The world’s largest hotel chains— Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International Inc., and InterContinental Hotels Group Plc—have 700,000 rooms each worldwide. Soon, Airbnb will have more rooms than these three combined, and this is without owning a single one.

Already, Airbnb’s reported valuation is more than that of the world’s three largest hotel chains. The same story is true across many categories, whether it be Uber Technologies, Inc. in personal transportation, YouTube in video, or soon Inc. in retail.

Needless to say, this makes the chief executive officers (CEOs) of ‘legacy’ non-digital companies nervous, and more than a tad envious. Many of them, across industry, size or geography, seem to have one common burning desire: to become ‘one of them’. To do this, they need to embark on a journey of ‘digital transformation’—the use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of their business.

It can be a long, painful and convoluted journey, and while embarking on it, it is good to keep these 10 commandments in mind:

Leadership vision and commitment is key: Unlike with most stories, in this one, the best place to start is the end. The CEO must have a clear vision of what she wants her business to become at the end of the transformation, and be able to articulate the same. It will not happen if the they are not completely bought in. One of the best examples of this is probably General Motors Co. (GM), whose vision says: ‘Over the past 100 years, GM has been a leader in the global automotive industry. And the next 100 years will be no different…”

GM’s CEO Mary Barra and her management follow this to the letter, and GM is transforming like no other: the $500 million infusion in Lyft to enter the fleet platform space, their electric vehicle programme, and the GM OnStar digital experience are steps taken to reinvent and transform the company.

Transformation needs to create business value: There was a time companies fell over each other to create their own dotcoms; it was the fashionable thing to do. Until, suddenly one day it was not. It is surprising how many CEOs want to go digital, because everyone is doing it, or because it has great ‘PR value’ or because the kids want them to! Needless to say, these are absolutely the wrong reasons to go digital. The digital transformation exercise has to impact real metrics—revenue, profit, cost, customer engagement, retention or repeat buying—and therefore impact business in a positive manner. And, we should know what metrics are we trying to change, and by how much, right up front; else, the whole exercise is not worth doing.

Think the customer journey: Most of our organizations are built vertically into functions—marketing, sales, production/operations, customer service, etc. The customer, on the other hand, traverses our organization horizontally. She gets wooed by marketing, then buys something through sales, gets the product or service delivered by operations and hopefully gets served by customer service. Each function owns the customer for periods of time, and then ‘hands her over’ to the next function. In the digital world, we need to build the organization around her journey, and use the customer’s digital footprint and data to own and manage her journey better. That is why digital transformation calls for a very fundamental relook at and change in business processes and organizations.

Make the front-end and back-end talk : The digital front-end (website, app, store, etc.) and the back-end (like customer relationship management or CRM, enterprise resources planning or ERP and billing systems) need to sync with each other. There is no point building a killer engagement app for smartphones, without it being integrated seamlessly with the Big Iron at the back. This is the ‘uncool’ part of the equation, the most common point of failure of your digital story. It is also where most hard work has to happen. While digital is not IT, IT is the backbone of all digital execution.

Strive for product-market fit: This concept brings us back to the much disparaged marketing adage: ‘Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.’

Digital products are often about building great mousetraps, and the product-market fit concept is about building the perfect mousetrap. Conventional wisdom talks about listening to the customer, and creating a product which is the best possible fit for her needs. After it is built, you pilot it, and then you cannot change it until the next version or model, so you sell the hell out of it—by advertising, promoting, discounting, etc.

Digital wisdom is different—create a product that ‘just works’, put it out, take continuous feedback, and iteratively tweak the product continuously (through tools like A/B testing), until you arrive at the best product-market fit. After that, the product sells itself. Think Gmail—five years in iterative beta, until Google got the best product market-fit. And then the world lapped it up.

Partnerships, partnerships, partnerships: Much like the hotel business is all about ‘location, location, location’, digital business is about partnerships. In legacy business, competitors are arch enemies, to be crushed and obliterated, their market shares stolen and their brands annihilated. In the digital world, you partner with everyone—your friends and your foes. Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and compete bitterly with each other publically; but behind the scenes they are cooperating even more furiously. Windows products are on the Google Play Store, Microsoft’s software is sought after on the Mac, everyone uses each other’s cloud. In the digital world, you leverage each other’s strengths, and ‘make’ larger markets, rather than steal each other’s market shares.

Rethink business models : Digital transformations are, in the end, about two holy tenets, and one of them is about the business model, which is the way you make money in your business. To continue the Airbnb example, Marriott spends a lot of money building fancy hotel rooms, and then makes even more over a few years, by renting them out. Airbnb upends this model by using rooms which already exist, renting them out and sharing the spoils with the owners of the room. Similarly Uber makes its money by leveraging the existing car and driver base, rather than setting up their own fleet. Marketplace e-commerce businesses like Alibaba do something similar. The traditional resource and capex heavy business models are being replaced by ‘platforms’—where existing resources, sophisticated matching algorithms, connected devices, and artificial intelligence (AI)-fuelled data crunching come together to create enormous business value. Most businesses can be ‘platformized’, and this is one of the most powerful ideas behind digital transformation

Enable a ‘Cultural Revolution’: Digital is not about technology, or cool devices, cloud data centres, or even long-haired ‘bros’ high-fiving each other in co-working spaces. It is really about the innate culture of the organisation—the ability to ‘fail fast’, tolerance for dissent, encouraging tinkering, creating products that just work, the need for speed, super-fast decision making. As Facebook co-founder, chairman and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, declares on every wall in the Facebook office—‘Break things, and move on’, and ‘Done is better than perfect’. In many ways, the CEO needs to bring in a cultural revolution to the work place, and lead the charge.

People uber alles: Culture is all about the people. This is the second of the two holy tenets of digital transformation, the other being the business model. Your people need to buy in, since it is going to be a long process, a fundamental change. They need to either lead this with you, or follow you, or unfortunately get out of the way. This is not about firing hordes of people, and getting a newer, younger, savvier lot. It is about setting a vision, telling people why, painting the future, and then over-communicating the hell out of it. Most people will be happy to change, and be retrained: they know what is happening around them. Some will not be, and they need to go and new people brought in. Many times you will need to bring in a Chief Digital Officer: someone who will own the customer journey horizontally across the organisation, and lead the digital change.

Patience: Digital transformation is going to be a long, trying passage. There will be stomach-churning ups and downs, and severe doubts and disruptions along the way. The primary quality needed of a CEO to traverse this path is not mercurial brilliance, or a driving ruthlessness or even faultless execution, but sheer, limitless patience. Because, as the world renowned artist Michelangelo remarked: “Genius is eternal patience”.

By Jaspreet Bindra, Senior vice-president, digital transformation, at Mahindra & Mahindra.