Forrester Predictions 2019 – Amicus ITS Digests: Session#4 AI and Automation

(L-R) Forrester CMO Victor Milligan with Principal Analysts Michele Goetz and
JP Gownder

In the fourth of our sequence of digests on Forrester’s 2019 findings and forecasts looking ahead in 2019, Principal Analysts Michele Goetz and JP Gownder were in the hot seat for the AI and automation session with #Forrester CMO Chair, Victor Milligan.

Asked about the current status of AI and Automation, Michele Goetz observed that AI was becoming more interesting to companies.  Activity remains principally on pilots and Proof of Concepts, with the main focus on what analytics can offer.   But it was the automation aspects that were identified as having the most traction because of the opportunity for business benefit outcomes.

JP Gownder added that business values were starting to be seen in ‘Robotic Process Automation’ (RPA), whereby repetitive tasks get automated, freeing up people to spend time on more strategic tasks.  Through automation he said, businesses can identify the seeds of opportunity in AI with connections starting to be made and APIs connected and the starting steps of value to the change in process.

Victor Milligan asked how businesses were addressing the issue of (high) risk and (high) reward with AI (where machines replace people) but what were the ‘consequences’.

To evaluate this, Michele Goetz recommended that if an organisation broke down its ‘business processes’ and ‘automated processes’, you could get a ‘horizon view’ of business activities, business behaviours and customer behaviours.   Then, through Machine Learning providing pattern analysis, organisations would be able to spot the ‘digital twin’ in order to make simulations that could support strategic decisions about a company’s AI road map.  This would enable organisations to:

• Determine where they wanted to go
• Redesign their processes
• Create new products as required
• Create new experiences and engagement with customers

By committing to AI, organisations would be positioned to change the way they operate, to better manage the day-to-day and oversee outputs.  Then if things went awry, managers could act quickly and de-risk any aspects, whilst still looking ahead at new opportunities by virtue of having deep operational knowledge and how customers engage, plus a holistic view of the business.

Victor Milligan wanted to know what AI could improve in business today, against what it will create for a business net new?  Michelle Goetz felt there was great opportunity for the new opportunities arising from AI.  However, most organisations are still getting to grips with the basics.  To get to this next stage, organisations would need to review some key aspects and remove old and inefficient processes. This approach includes:

• How we look at data
• Changes in how we approach and utilise analytics and algorithms
• How we see and understand our businesses

In looking at the changes on how employees work (or not) JP Gownder advised that with RPA, for legacy systems that are disconnected – automation can be a game changer. In retail shops (eg. Wallmart), robotic scanners were now deployed to look for product/shelving or price errors, so clear example in retail where robotics were driving value and adding efficiencies. Elsewhere physical robots are starting to be seen in factories working alongside humans.

Victor Milligan questioned what pragmatic aspects people should think about doing or avoiding.  Goetz reflected that people should think big and re-imagine their approach to business, production and what the experience looks like through a customer’s eyes – and stop testing algorithms.

JP Gownder believed that there were opportunities at both ends of the business spectrum, not just driving costs down.  He advocated that part of the solution lies in cleaning up shared IT operations to use automation – and secondly to make new money solving customer problems.

The traditional role of operations and the new role of digital were not consistently hand-in-hand today, but Gownder said would need to blend together to create commercial success.  Using automation technology could bring about greater clarity through rationalisation, but also be a means to drive profit ultimately for businesses.

Amicus ITS Sales Director, Les Keen

Amicus ITS Sales Director Les Keen commented:  “The evolution of cloud technology with AI and automation is putting B2B and B2C organisations at a crossroads, both developmentally in tech terms as well as the commercial opportunities on the horizon in the longer term”.

“Whatever the industry, the key to realising the benefits of AI and automation will be for organisations to review their business processes against existing infrastructure to understand their direct needs and priorities. Modernisation is key throughout, however looking at the processes that should be targeted to create the greatest improvements and efficiencies is a starting point”.  

“I would agree with Michele Goetz that introduction of AI has to start with a clear business plan to direct the vision, strategy and drivers required (technical or human resource).   Re-imagining an organisation would be a highly invigorating exercise for all companies as it would free you up from thinking about how you have done things before.   AI and automation are still largely in their infancy, but will mark a leap in the way a lot of organisations can and will operate and interact with people in the future”.

“Having a sensitivity and regard for humans in the workplace must be a focus to ensure the humans do the intelligent and creative work to distinguish from the repetitive and mundane. Mapping this journey successfully is also greatly about the messaging within an organisation to ensure everyone understands what the advantages will bring for them, as much as any business benefit”.

“For the public sector in the UK, despite a Cloud First Government directive, budgets are increasingly under pressure to maintain legacy IT estates, so ‘re-imagining’ could remain just a dream for many. However, in the short term it may well be that the greatest initial changes we see are in the clinical environment, rather than with core business IT”.

What are your thoughts on AI in the workplace? Do you consider it a threat or an advance that’s overdue? Leave your comment here

 

 

Forrester Predictions 2019 – Amicus ITS Digests: Session#3 – Digital Transformation

In the third of our sequence of digests on Forrester’s findings and forecasts for 2019, we look at digital transformation and how it will be different this year to last for many companies with Allen Bonde, VP Research Director at  #Forrester.

Allan Bonde’s first observation was that 2018 had shown that many firms’ experience of attempting large scale ‘big bang’ transformation had been problematic with a number failing in their endeavours.

This, Bonde felt, was frequently because people’s focus needed to shift from transformation efforts to innovation efforts to improve everyday processes. He illustrated this quoting the anecdote of a Chief Digital Officer who’d hidden his digital road map away and instead was looking to go out into the field to talk to others business leaders and gather grass route support for change strategy, taking small incremental steps towards improvement to make his transformation achievable.

Allen Bonde felt that in 2019 transformation focus would be on pragmatic efforts, creating efficiencies and taking big transformation and making it small.   Operational improvements would become higher priorities as companies ‘tuned up their digital experience stock’.

To execute this, Bonde said we needed to build up our cultural reinforcements as we accepted constant change. This meant re-evaluating strategy to put the right people in the right roles.   This would mean shifting customers to:

• Lower cost digital channels
• Launching digital products
• Turning data assets into new products
• Driving automation in everyday tasks faced employees and customers

Allen Bonde acknowledged this would be uncomfortable for a lot of people, currently modelling their business case on a B2C basis.  Instead though, Bonde felt that the B2B route would be the main profit driver, as digital leaders should look at the macro economic picture and decide upon their investments based on which tools would result in ‘payback’.

Forrester anticipate 25% of organisations will decelerate their digital spend either through an assumption they had done enough, or that they were worried about the economy – and will end up losing market share.

The winners would be the 15% of top companies who are customer-obsessed, who will look to invest more, build the right processes and modern architecture to be ‘fit’ and back this up with the right product managers and digital leaders to roll out the next phase of ‘pragmatic transformation’ using the right processes to achieve this.

Ben Davis, Snr Account Manager

Senior Account Manager for Amicus ITS, Ben Davis added:  “These observations by #Forrester echo with Amicus ITS’ thinking.  In the last two and half years we have been supporting our customer base in their journeys to digital transformation.  Our Consultancy efforts primarily focus on understanding our customers, their business outcomes, priorities, IT environment, challenges and budgetary constraints.  For the public sector, our customers are also challenged by other wider mandates including UK Gov’s Cloud First strategy.   For the health sector, the desire to achieve the digital transformation, create improvements and efficiencies is there in full.   However, there are so many legacy applications and keeping the lights on is as great a struggle as any desire to fulfil ‘transformation’”. 

“In the NHS, they are operating in a highly politically charged environment where targets and patient service must come first.  For instance, we see a resistance in Office 365 adoption because of the high ongoing revenue costs.  What this sometimes fails to take into account, is that in subsequent years, NHS organisations would stand to make significant productivity gains and efficiencies, making the operating costs far lower.  Those productivity gains and efficiencies are sometimes intangible.  For instance, a business may struggle to pin a value on the implementation of Microsoft Teams for collaboration, or say, Microsoft Forms (a powerful and easy tool for customer service questionnaires and surveys)”.

“Healthcare organisations are simultaneously looking to implement clinical advances which utilise the best of modern technology, but unless they are freed to be able to take the steps towards digital transformation, they will ultimately always face an uphill struggle.  Minister of Health, Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP said in September 2018 that he wanted to accelerate a vision of a greater technology-driven NHS.   This necessarily has to be more than a five year political plan which ensures it is not just full integration of technology across primary and secondary healthcare, but the binding in of health and social care with wider agencies to provide a full patient-centric service and efficient NHS”. 

“The road to digital transformation is not a rapid journey for any organisation.  The business change has to be carefully thought through and engaged with by all stakeholders to have a chance of success”.

If you are interested in discussing your digital transformation plans or any challenges you are facing in confidence, please contact our Sales team on +44 2380 429429.

Forrester Predictions 2019 – Amicus ITS Digests: Session#2 Customer Experience

Customer Experience or ‘CX’ is the interaction between the organisation and the customer over the duration of their relationship. It is made up of three parts:

  • The customer’s journey
  • The brand touchpoints the customer engages with and
  • The environments the customer experiences (including the digital environment) during their experience

A good customer experience means that the individual’s experience throughout all touchpoints matches their expectations.

In this Forrester session chaired by CMO Victor Milligan with VP Principal Analyst James L McQuivey (middle of picture) and VP Research Director Harley Manning (right of picture), they talk about creating the best experience for customers in 2019 to get ahead of the competition.


James L McQuivey (seen above) talked about how consumers are changing their behaviours and consumption patterns towards brands as well as how they choose to interact – so it’s hard for companies to keep up.  However, he added, to differentiate ourselves in the market, we perhaps need to rethink our approach?  Instead of dreading more changed consumer habits that we have to keep up with, that organisations (like Amicus ITS as a service provider), could view a customer’s changing behaviours as a fresh opportunity for conversation and to explore how we could help differently and deliver things better?   This was set against a backdrop of consumers having massively increased their power through use of digital tools today and they demand more now – but they are also showing a willingness to be open to new experiences and new relationships with product and service providers.

Perhaps reassuringly, Harley Manning (pictured above) pointed out that the majority of companies are stagnating and have not been successful in creating change.  He observed that a good company will recognise that customer experience is important and something they have to do to be competitive.  But a great, ‘leading’ company will take advantage to expand opportunities because they’ve already taken time to try different forms of engagement and have the ‘permission’ to go further in 2019 using yet more channels.

Asked by Victor Milligan if this marked a strategic opportunity for companies, Harley Manning agreed, adding that for Boards, there was a ‘hygiene factor’ to note, as product and service companies could not afford to do poorly because this created a ‘reason’ for the customer to leave.  James L McQuivey added that therefore the invitation to seek to try something anew at that point was lost.   Harley Manning commented that the game changer for businesses would be those companies which recognised they may not have the best product, but could offer the best ‘experience’, as being the ones most likely to succeed going forwards.

James L McQuivey added that consumers have access to more digital tools today, but choosing between opportunities (read companies), required an ‘emotional connection’ to elevate the product/service. Harley Manning believed that the companies who were already delivering a substantially good customer experience, may not actually be racing to be the best, but remain happy with a holding position. Looking beyond to 2020, the panel believed that price wars were definitely not the answer, merely a race to the bottom, with those that failed to innovate not being able to catch up.

(Amicus ITS Sales Director, Les Keen)

For Amicus ITS, in our B2B market as an IT Managed Service Provider, the key takeaway is that successful customer experience is not a given in any industry, it comes through hard work, regular engagement at all levels by our teams with our customers to gain the right and  relevant insights from our customers that we can use internally to help us try do better each day.

Not everything works perfectly first time, but what I say to my team and our wider company is that success is a journey.  You have to keep working at it and refining the detail – and this is especially true of the digital age.   Finding the right digital tools to match not only our organisation’s needs but also the tools that we think will delight our customers, has been a journey Amicus ITS has been undertaking through 2018 with our Ami baby chat bot – and the choices we make to take us to the next stage in 2019 could be moderate or substantial game changers for the business in the longer term.  So whether through data insights, AI chatbots or  machine learning, we are with Forrester in that 2019 is the perfect time to revitalize, re-energise and lead the way with a vision for freshness and vitality.

We’d welcome your thoughts too if you would like to add a comment.

 

 

Leeds first city to launch fully integrated NHS GP Electronic Patient Records service through GP Connect

NHS Digital have announced the launch this week of the first fully integrated GP Electronic Patient Records system to go live in the City of Leeds.  Leeds is the second largest city in England with a population approaching 785,000 so a decent test for working practice results.

This digital transformation has been facilitated by the NHS GP Connect programme service which works with various GP clinical system providers to develop Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to make data from clinical systems available in standard form, so that it can be used across different systems.  In the case of Leeds, TPP (SystmOne) joined forces with EMIS Health to create this vital, secure backlink to GP practices.

The new system unlocks the digital records of all patients across the City to hospital clinicians, connecting primary and secondary care providers 24×7. It will enable authorised clinical staff to view GP records digitally and have source GP patient information to hand to better inform their care of patients.  The move reduces the burden on GP practices having to share  information via traditional unsecured routes like fax.  This is the first in a sea change of healthcare updates for the City, as plans are made to add more benefits in 2019.  These include secure access to structured medications (to optimise use of medicines), provision of allergies information, a more efficient appointment management system between practices and the integration of social care and mental health care records.

Richard Corbridge, Chief Digital & Information Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust said: “GP Connect connectivity improves the way data can be used as information in clinical practice throughout the city.  Delivering integrated care for the population is the key goal for every healthcare system and why the investment in digital is so intrinsic to the success of healthcare as a system rather than as silos of excellence.  In Leeds we can now plan to have a fully integrated primary care, social care, hospital care and mental health care record in place throughout the city in 2019, a giant leap and a unique proposition for the NHS.”

Dr John Parry, Clinical Director at TPP said; “This is a very important step to ensuring that patients benefit from having their medical records available for those caring for them , wherever they are receiving care”.

Dr Shaun O’Hanlon, chief medical officer at EMIS Group said: “We are delighted that connectivity via GP Connect is available right across Leeds. This important partnership with NHS Digital is part of our company’s wider commitment to providing the tools for system interoperability using open NHS standards across the UK, and helping clinicians drive up standards of joined up patient care.”

This marks a significant chapter for the NHS in contrast to the dismal days of NPfIT (National Programme for IT ), the NHS IT programme started in 2002 and scrapped after 9 years by the then coalition government and a public bill of £10 billion.  The journey to transformation in the NHS deploying Electronic Patient Records (EPR) has been slow and painful, but now with a number of vendors rolling out EPR services across the country (including: Cerner, Epic, Emis, Rose, eCare, Intersystems and System C), the pace is quickening for standardised data platforms to make an integrated healthcare service a reality rather than a dream.

What’s in our MSP crystal ball for 2019?

Amicus ITS has just completed its annual Technology Strategy Review to look at the trends and demands we have seen from our customers in 2018.  We have also taken the opportunity to look at the wider development of technology solutions affecting our public sector customers and those which we believe are likely to have a significant impact in our industry in 2019.

A recent CRN survey of a group of VARS captured interesting views on where they are spotting trends around datacentre technologies they believe are tipped for take off in 2019. Their key results included:

• AI (Automation) – driven by monitoring and decision making
• Hyperconverged Infrastructures (HCI) – single platform flexibility
• Intelligent Edge (IoT)
• Network Automation (underpinned by software defined networking (SDN) – Cisco and VMWare
• Data archive + data backup – hyperconverged backup (vendors like Rubrik and Cohesity)
• Cyber security

So what’s our view?

After 30 years, Amicus ITS recognises that our success centres on our core strengths offering 24×365 IT Managed Services.  This gathers together service desk and other disparate services and software management for each customer.  Customers can buy umpteen individual technology solutions, but it’s helping run the whole service, understanding the customer and being able to spot what adds value that makes an MSP’s role special.  Some customers are in an advanced state of cloud enablement, others undergoing the journey to cloud through us. Others are preparing to embark.  With so much technology out there, we are transparent enough to acknowledge we cannot do everything ourselves inhouse.  So strategy for us, is around consultancy, with regular health checks and the nurturing of our technology partner ecosystem to match what is best in breed and need, so we can tailor what’s right our customers.

Looking at the drivers for our customers and based around conversations that are resonating most strongly, we would identify Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI), cyber security and smart working around people-centric technologies as the key go to strategies for the public sector.

Whatever the dictats may be from Government, the price of an entire shift to cloud is beyond the reach of most councils (and is also too complicated and expensive for many), so HCI continues to form a happy medium.  Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops Service on Citrix Cloud delivers secure, virtual applications and desktops from on-premises resources or from major public cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure.  HCI really lends itself well to this strategy, offering the ability to adopt a cloud-first architecture but maintaining complete control over your application and desktop resources.

Added to this, the protection and compliance offerings around cyber security rightly command attention (though better on the front foot than reactive), as organisations not only want to protect data, but interrogate it to analyse behaviours and manage systems better.  Ultimately, whilst local authorities continue to battle with legacy systems, true end-to-end integration will be challenge to achieving true digital outcomes and the rollout of 5G networks will underpin many advances, but the journey has begun, so the consultancy around the best routes through cloud and most effective spend will continue to foster development and progress for us.

What do you think is going to be a focal point for the industry in 2019?  Let us know?

Artificial Intelligence in the NHS – transformative benefits requiring open mindedness and a well-considered plan

In June’s budget announcement, new healthcare minister Matt Hancock announced the NHS funding headlines:  real-terms funding growth for the NHS of 3.4% per year over the next five years, amounting to an extra £20.5 billion by 2023/24.   The Government’s intention is to marginally ‘frontload’ the extra money, meaning 3.6% in each of the first two years. The NHS budget for the year 2018/19 is set at £113.8 billion.   Nonetheless, whatever these headlines, for NHS organisations to calibrate themselves correctly to be able to transform their IT services in 2020 and beyond – they must be IT fit.

Examples where healthcare AI is starting to make a difference
• Precision AI – AI is revolutionising healthcare tech using graphics software in areas like radiology.  Here radiologists can use AI-based video analytics to find brain bleeds or tumours in MRIs and another creates 3D colour representations of organs from a chest x-ray.
• Predictive AI – using muscle:fat ratio from CT scans, AI analytics is being developed to create predictive clinical outcomes for illness or disease.
• Natural Language Processing (NLP) – layering this onto data could enable AI algorithms to have access to all patient information vs a small part ie. making sense of badly written disparate medical notes.

Artificial intelligence impact on business
By deploying the right AI technology, organisations can gain the ability to:
• Save time and money by automating routine processes and tasks
• Increase productivity and operational efficiencies
• Make faster business decisions and greater strategic direction, based on outputs from cognitive technologies.
• Avoid mistakes and ‘human error’, provided that smart systems are set up properly
• Use insight to predict customer preferences and offer them better, personalised experience
• Achieve cost savings, by optimising your business, your workforce or your products
• Mine vast amounts of data to generate quality leads in Sales and grow an organisation’s customer base in business.
• Increase revenue by identifying and maximising sales opportunities
• Grow expertise by enabling analysis and offering intelligent advice and support

Some of the challenges around AI
With so much rapid innovation taking place in technology there are enormous digital capabilities on offer especially around AI.  One challenge for healthcare ICT leaders may rest with how they prioritise their spend to evidence best return on improvement and experience for both staff and patients in future years.   On top of this, AI needs access to good quality data.  Not something commonly associated with the NHS.   There is a lack of data standardisation and centralisation which continues to hamper progress (despite healthcare attracting plenty of AI start-ups fostering innovation in the marketplace).

Could personal ‘health clouds’ be the answer?
One answer leading to digital transformation could be ‘personal health clouds’?  Currently data is often stored in separate silos on local hospital servers.  There are no data standards nor centralisation.  The physical dislocation of NHS data is coupled with the many governance issues around Personal Health Information (PHI) which create an inhibiting mix.  If patient records, test results etc. could be stored centrally, with the patient confirming who has access to the info, AI could view all data versus only a part of the data.  It could be transformational for the efficiency of the overburdened hospitals – as well as the patients.  A main barrier to conversion is the necessity of patient buy-in, agreeing to the use of their data and trusting that all healthcare trust compliance measures are met and protecting their data 24×7.

Clearly, the opportunities for the NHS to seize are massive.  But just how hospitals and healthcare organisations go about seizing AI opportunity to transform the sector and how we might receive very different treatment in future may largely centre on the following elements:
• All public sector organisations having an ICT digital lead and visionary who is connected strategically to the Board – and fully conversant of the complexities of the public sector environment.
• Preparedness of the project teams to spend the right length of time at discovery to understand and map out the needs and most desirable outcomes for all stakeholders to ensure the touch of digital feels like a light wand not a heavy fist for implementation or users.
• Starting with getting one project right rather than seeking to fix the whole system in one go.
• Working closely with innovative software companies focused on the sector.
• A highly skilled IT team or partner (internal or outsourced) to safely walk the journey together from infrastructure transformation to a better digital future.

Rome was not built in a day, but those straight roads from 2000 years ago are still much admired today.  The transformative opportunities facing the NHS through AI are immense – and since IBM Watson beat Ken Jennings in 2011 the progress of AI has marched on into our consciousness.   AI requires an open-minded attitude and a willingness to embrace new opportunities when they arise.  It’s baby steps to bring about large scale progressive change, but having advanced technological understanding, drive and support to champion and deliver change and connect is a true game changer.    Let us know what you think to add to this article?

Hospital and Council start to test AI in undertaking tasks, as ‘virtual workers’

Ipswich Hospital, part of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) has engaged three robots over the past three months to mimic keyboard and mouse clicks, to assist with routine admin referrals, using ‘virtual workers’.  Handling 2,000 referrals on average per week, this has saved the Trust considerable costs and increased efficiency amongst frontline staff.

• Tasks have included sending scan and blood test results from Primary Care GPs to Secondary Care hospital consultants, with intelligent automation supplied by British software company Thoughtonomy. This works over the existing applications and systems as part of the GP Electronic Referral Service (where patient data is collected and sent to the relevant consultant).

• Initial results claim the new system is eight times more productive than using humans, releasing 500 hours of medical secretaries’ time, working 24×7 and anticipated to save £220,000 over the next nine months. The referral process has been seen to successfully reduce down the referral process from 15-20 minutes, to 5 minutes.

Darren Atkins Deputy Director of ICT, commented, “At the Trust we have a philosophy of making time matter”.   Mr Atkins continued: “Done to scale, intelligent automation has the capacity to massively drive transformation on a huge scale within the NHS.”

Neurology department medical secretary, Christine Harvey added:  “We used to extract information from (patient records) from one bit of software and put it into another bit of software. This was time consuming and carried the risk of mistakes from the patient notes system”.

The technology has been received positively at the hospital, offering flexibility from ‘virtual buddies’, maximising the benefit of automation and enabling frontline staff to spend more quality time with patients and on workload, be more productive and enabled the Trust to cut down on short term agency use.  Technically, the queues and productivity can also be monitored very easily on the move through smart devices.  The scheme has the capability to be extended to using AI ‘staff’ to make appointments and do accounting and patient queries.

A report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) states that automation could save the NHS up to £12.5bn a year, or 10 per cent of its annual budget.  The Department for Health identified that the NHS’ infrastructure was “not currently fit for purpose for AI” and would require standardising to fully harness the technology’s potential.  A move in this direction however is clearly signalled as a route to improvement and cost savings for the NHS.

Dr. Bernhard Kainz at the Department of Computing at Imperial College London said: “At the moment the NHS has still an IT problem rather than a data science or AI opportunity.. and rather, it marks an important step towards clinical decision making supported by AI because it makes sparse, unstructured data accessible for automated data processing”.

Meanwhile, in a bid to improve transformation of social care through technology, Bradford Council is in the process of developing a proof of concept for an AI tool in adult social care, funded by NHS Digital and the Local Government Association.  Bradford, working with Rescon Technologies has designed the relevant service requirements which take on board matters as diverse as dental care, financial matters and watching football.  The findings of the project will be known in December and decisions on how to take matters further determined at that time with stakeholders.

For an understanding of the core distinctions between IT transformation and Digital Transformation and routes of developmental interest for the public sector, read Amicus ITS’ latest White Paper here.

If you would like to discuss this with a member of the Sales department, please contact Amicus ITS on 02380 429429