Forrester Predictions 2019 – Amicus ITS Digests: Session#5 – Employee Experience

(L-R) Carrie Johnson, Sharyn Leaver and Sam Stern

Forrester’s Chief Research Officer Carrie Johnson asked Principal Analysts Sam Stern and Sharyn Leaver about employee experience and looked at the psychology behind work and the introduction of workplace automation.

In defining ‘employee experience’, Sam Stern said this was the “sum of their perceptions of their experiences working within an organisation, informed by how they feel about their employer and their working life for that company”.

Carrie Johnson reflected that Forrester’s predictions around large scale digital transformation for big organisations were that it would be very challenging (to avoid a workforce feeling excluded and devalued) as it involved a range of issues that had to be managed well to avoid failure, including culture.

Sam Stern commented that this would give companies a chance to look around their different departments to try to get some of the smaller things right. This included:

• Helping managers become better coaches
• Remove unneeded process or any broken rules that no longer apply
• Help employees be more productive in their daily work

Stern continued that with many companies currently experiencing generally low unemployment, employees had more options and might question whether their employers were doing enough with just smaller efforts. 2019 could mark an exodus of staff, unless the company was demonstrable in showing it cared and that staying was right for them and their future?

Sharyn Lever commented that whilst the road to transformation had to have regard for the legacy stack involved, forgetting the employee experience as part of this journey could form the biggest single cause of failure, as fundamental change was very hard for staff to accept.

Carrie Johnson observed that one fix or ‘band aid predicted for 2019’ was updating infrastructures from legacy technology. This created a natural path for the introduction of ‘Robotic Process Automation’ (RPA) to make processes more efficient.  How did that investment conflict with the investment into the employee experience to make people feel good about the work they are doing?

For Sharyn Lever, RPA was a very pragmatic investment as it was so specific, but she acknowledged it could have ‘unintended’ consequences in sending the wrong message to staff if they read into the transformation incorrectly without context and constructive guidance.

Sam Stern commented that it was imperative for companies to be explicit in messaging what RPA was not about in the workplace, otherwise people would make up their own minds – probably incorrectly.   Explaining to staff which areas of business would benefit most from the introduction of RPA would be more constructively received, if the plans were shared with employees in advance to get them on board (and offer a discussion).  “RPA is designed to take away from the human as many of the non-human tasks as possible as we ask them to do and automate them” ie. those which are boring or repetitive (as humans don’t tend to do this well as we lose interest when we’re not focused and quality drops).    Stern agreed it had to start with intentionality, not as a by-product of change, to ensure motivation and focus remained.  With the right messaging, staff have a chance to embrace change, not just be onside – and employee experience would be enhanced with recognition of their value and personal contribution.

Chief Research Officer Carrie Johnson was concerned that should we experience a downward economic trend in 2019 and investment went the route of RPA, that there could be a loss of trust for employees, as people’s instincts would naturally be to imagine their job was at risk if the focus went on technology, not the people.

Sharyn Lever commented that businesses needed to make time to re-think their core values to properly understand their identity.  Sam Stern added that if values and purpose were weighed against each other, a company had to be very clear about its values – and keep them in line of sight when making decisions. Doing this would ultimately lead to better business decisions, rather than selecting when to apply values.

In summary, both recommended steps to support navigating this tricky path included:

•  For management to keep staff focused and to manage any distractions
•  To allow employees time to get important work done either directly or in their teams.

◊  Statistically, the better employee response and higher productivity comes from employees feeling they are able to make progress on their most important work (and have distractions managed with minimum interruption of meetings/online tools interference.

• If employees can be supported to focus on the company’s core mission, this will align with the organisation’s wider strategies and lift productivity further.
• Finally, if the individual feels they are making personal progress this will be valuable in helping with staff retention and reduce the costliness and lost time of staff replacement.

Vikki Fox, HR & Client Relationship Manager

Vikki Fox, Amicus ITS HR & Customer Relationship Manager is unequivocal on the matter, “Amicus ITS is a 24×365 B2B IT Managed Service organisation and our staff are at the centre of solution delivery and customer satisfaction every day.  You have to start by focusing on your employee and think of them as a person not a commodity.  Their employee experience is pivotal to good retention, personal satisfaction and productivity”. 

“If you can lead staff with integrity, review any processes to remove those that are obsolete, whilst providing the support and training your staff need to grow personally – they will add value for you and you will have gained their trust through your performance”. 

“So when transformation and change inevitably comes (which it will with technology), you are far better prepared to talk things through and nurture their confidence by identifying the solution’s value and the employee’s fit – either as a consumer, or the expert guide for the customer”.

“Company vision can often seem distanced where it is not understood at floor level and recognised by all whatever the role.  Ensuring that everyone can identify with your organisation’s core values puts you on that path to a shared vision and sense of pride by association”.

“HR have a big responsibility for employee experience throughout the employee lifecycle, we are selling the opportunity, business, culture and environment from the interview and this experience must continue throughout the individual’s employment. My aim is to lead with integrity and ensure that as a team we understand and work within our company values”.

 

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.

 

 

Forrester Predictions 2019 – Amicus ITS Digests: Session#1 the CIO and CMO

Last Wednesday saw the gathering of some of the brightest executive brains at Forrester, sharing their technology predictions for 2019 plus offering wary cautions against us taking the foot off the brake on the road to transformation.  In a sequence of fast-paced topical sessions targeted at both businesses and customers, Amicus ITS will be sharing these high level digests with you in mini break-out blogs this week.

Our Forrester co-chairs for 2019 were Carrie Johnson, Chief Research Officer and Victor Milligan, Chief Marketing Officer.  They started off by taking a look back at the last two years of business globally and summarised that some of the goals of businesses in the last two years technologically had been very bold but not always successful.  Forrester’s view for 2019 was that 2019 is the year that ‘transformation goes pragmatic’.

CIO and CMO
In the first session with VP Research Directors Matthew Guarani and Keith Johnston, the Forrester duo looked at how transformation could be ‘translated’ in practical terms to yield the best results from these two perspectives.


Matthew Guarini (middle of picture) commented that whilst transformation presented a great opportunity for business, many organisations are still not prepared to take full advantage of it.  He suggested that focusing on the essential elements in 2019 was primary – and choosing the right time to do innovation was key.

The challenge facing the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) according to Keith Johnston  (seen on right of picture) was that technology had been massively commoditised in the last two years without much differentiation as digital media matures and finds its place . For him, finding a balance was key to making decisions (ie not technology for technologies sake).  With the customer experience largely flattened in 2018 (across the big brands), Johnston felt companies needed to go back to basics to ‘foundation build’ on their core values and brand in 2019 to deliver improvements after the big ‘growth and go’ directive in 2018.

Chair and Chief Research Officer Carrie Johnson asked about the risk of disenfranchisement from fellow Board exec members if the recommendation appeared to be asking companies to look backwards instead of consolidating on the big changes in the last 12-18 months?

Matthew Guarini agreed it carried a risk but pointed out the need for balance to be struck, employing the right focus and reasoning – and yes, with push back if needed.  This, he said should be accompanied by a parallel action plan (ie. so as not to have all eggs in one basket).   It needed correct development and focus to create momentum and give the marketing the best chance.    Keith Johnston added that any transformation takes time and metrics are often used in increasingly tight periods to evaluate hard results. This makes it hard for the CIO to get everything moving at speed to fulfill the demand.

Matthew Guarini added that the Operations side remained fundamental to achieving all these goals.  However, it was the change leaders and true business partners who could make the real difference – and this would be channelled by the Head of Sales.   The CMO role was ideally positioned to use the right technologies to drive the commercial directives where incremental value had been identified.  Using Marketing’s abilities of communication this should deliver the collaboration at C-Level in 2019 to ensure messaging was fully shared and taken on board throughout the organisation – which reflected what the customer needed.

Both felt that the technology disrupters would continue apace globally, challenging business assumptions and business models.  This was a good thing though and we should not be distrustful, as these creative business thinkers would continue to bring new technology, talent and ideas to the marketplace.

~~~

Whilst much of this is targeted at the big brands, retailers and B2C markets, from our B2B perspective these are still resonant takeaways.  It binds together good forward thinking and the need for pragmatism and planning.

For Amicus ITS, 2019 is about continuing to drive our business forwards, keeping our eyes on the horizon seeking out new technologies that we believe could create transformative opportunities for our customer base.

The difference between an MSP doing this versus a reseller is that we have the whole customer’s IT estate in front of us.   This makes us their trusted partner and safe pair of hands to offer guidance and deliver the right transformation programme that offers least risks on their journey.

The Week’s Technology News – 5th December 2014

Outsourcing priorities changing
The latest Forrester Research report across 435 Europe-based IT decision makers has found that whilst 60% of European businesses are satisfied with IT infrastructure service providers, there is a subtle shift in focus from simple cost reduction desire (66%) to businesses offering  services to help increase sales and improve customer experience (71%).

The overall feedback stats should give serious food for thought to MSPs when marketing and servicing their offerings:
• 34% said cost savings were lower than expected
• 29% said service quality or delivery was inconsistent or poor
• 26% said there is a lack of innovation and/or continuous service-level improvements
• 23% said there is a lack of flexibility in changing volume, scope, business needs or pricing models
• 22% said service providers lacked a fully developed and functioning global delivery model.

“Faced with this customer demand for better, faster and more cost-effective infrastructure services, and increased competition from emerging and India-centric suppliers, Europe’s leading providers are forced to bring new offerings and delivery models to the market,” said Forrester analyst Wolfgang Benkel. “The good news is some of them are finally listening to their customers.”

Businesses which have moved to cloud services are benefiting from accessing more flexible services and MSPs need to ensure that to deliver the most for their clients they have a) the right technical skill set b) the business skills to think strategically around the business objectives of their clients and c) the experience, diligence and ability to adapt to create a more innovative approach with their offerings, in order to stand out from the crowd.

The Euro responses indicate that just meeting an SLA is no longer what is needed in the MSP marketplace and that evidencing and thinking about all ones added values will be the key to retaining customers and winning new business in 2015.

Modular mobile phone developments and corporate tailored opportunities
Google was first out of the gate with a modular mobile phone announcement with Project Ara, planned for release in 2015, but not without competition. Finland based Circular Devices has announced its own plans to create and sell a modular smart phone called Puzzlephone next year.

The Puzzlephone approach is a simpler one with the smart phone being detachable into 3 parts; the spine (the main structure including the screen), the Heart (a large piece that slots into the bottom half of the back – this includes the battery and secondary electronics) and finally the Brain (This slots into the top half of the back – includes the processor and camera).   Google’s Project Ara approach is a lot more customisable with prototypes having 8 smaller, changeable parts – compared to Circular Devices larger 3.  However, it is possible that the simpler solution could win out with users finding Project Ara a bit too complex to get their head around.

With two companies now in preparations for a modular phone launch next year, making reality from the concept is s significant step closer. These devices should appeal to tech enthusiasts and organisations.  The potential for modular phones in the workplace is huge. Organisations would be able to create their tailored smartphone using selected prioritised modules according to their business need and deploy to employees. This would both have the benefit of cutting costs on unneeded or unused features but also being able to add in requested features such as larger capacity batteries or fingerprint scanners.   Another advantage of the modular approach is when things go wrong. Currently if a particular part of a phone fails, the whole unit has to be replaced or sent off to be repaired.  With a standard modular build, fixing future issues could be as simple as swapping the faulty part with stock.   Modular phones will be arriving next year, but their success will be dependent not only the cost of the phone and its modules, but how well the platform is supported by manufacturers providing unique hardware.  Over then to the android market and the likes of Samsung, HTC and Sony for part two of this evolving story…

puzzlephones

Sony hacked again – leaking unreleased films and 47,000 personal records
Sony is no stranger to data breaches, infamously having to pull down their Playstation network in 2011 for 3 weeks after 77 million customers were potentially compromised, later to be fined by the ICO.

Now Sony Picture Entertainment is the next division to fall under cyber-attack. The attack itself appears to be malware and has been used not only to steal data, but also wipe machines at Sony.  With hugely damaging commercial potential, four unreleased films have been leaked online pre-launch with personal details of 47,000 people including Hollywood stars such as Sylvestor Stallone exposed.

Since the Sony attack, the FBI has sent an alert out to US businesses warning them of malicious software that matches up with reports from the Sony Pictures attack. The report warns of malware that overrides all data on a computer’s hard drive including the master boor record, preventing booting up successfully afterwards.  The geographical origin of the attack remains unknown, but a group calling itself Guardians of Peace is claiming responsibility.     With both the risk of data leaks and data deletion, the importance of both a truly secure infrastructure and multiple data stores is more important than ever. For Sony this is another huge wake up call for a household name, swiftly becoming synonymous with susceptibility to cyber-attacks.

sony_pictures

Radio heads up some surgical changes for 5G
The race is on to deliver the fifth generation of our mobile network.  The build in excitement around 5G may in fact be wholly worthy of the buzz, if the latest news on this joined-up superfast technology pans out, as vaunted by Professor Rahim Tafazolli of Surrey University’s 5G Innovation Centre.  This means the opportunity for properly connected smart cities, remote medical surgery, driverless cars and the “internet of things”.  The thought of stalling videos and apps and load delays becoming a mere footnote in tech history would be thrilling news.  Prof Rahim Tafazolli says, “5G will be a dramatic overhaul and harmonisation of the radio spectrum”.

The difference comes from the 5G networks transmitting data via uninterrupted radio waves bouncing off small masts with improved antenna technology.  The waves split into bands (frequencies) with each band reserved for different communications ie.  one for TV broadcast, one for mobile data, one for aeronautical signals etc.  The system has got messy with new technologies squeezed into the gaps.  Now, the regulators, the International Telecommunications Union (ITG) are restructuring parts of the radio network used to transmit data to make more space whilst simultaneously creating efficiencies in the traffic flow, whilst 3G and 4G use carries on.  The network which scientists hope will kick in by 2020, will need to cope with vastly increased levels of communication. Through The Internet of Things (IoT), devices will ‘smarten’ and dynamically switch between three TBC ‘lanes’ (bandwidths) in order to avoid frequency overload and will rely on lower latencies (timelag between action initiation and response).  Ericsson predict that 5G’s latency will be around one millisecond – unperceivable to a human and about 50 times faster than 4G.

So what?  Well 5G is anticipated to run faster, much faster. In 2013 when Samsung announced it was testing 5G at 1Gbps, journalists reported that a high-definition movie could be downloaded in less than half a minute.  A speed of 800Gbps would equate to downloading 33 HD films – in a single second. This is 100 times faster.  To do this, it will need capacity – and lots of it.  By 2020 it is thought that 50 billion to 100 billion devices will be connected to the internet.

Whilst there is great competition between the giants Ericsson and Huawei, both are investing hugely in this research phase and despite the obvious rivalry and associated costs, each is co-operating with the other to bring on the technology to enable product development to advance.   Samsung hopes to launch a temporary trial 5G network in time for 2018’s Winter Olympic Games, whilst Huawei is racing to implement a version for the 2018 World Cup in Moscow. For Managed Service Providers and businesses alike the vast potential of 5G is a major game changer, but harnessing and directing opportunity to create an ‘intelligent’ and more intuitive commercial response for customers will be the real game changer for business.

Barclays seeks (again) to improve customer experience
Barclays is leading the way again in banking technology by seeking to deliver a more personal form of assistance to its customers.  Barclays Beacon service called ‘Barclays Access’ is being trialled in Sheffied and will work through an iPhone app.  iBeacon which uses Bluetooth to detect when a person using the app enters the branch will trap personal details, information on their requirements, plus the option of a photo, to assist with speedy ID on arrival.  An iPad at the front desk picks up the alert.  All of these touch points can then alert bank staff to react promptly, discretely and courteously when a customer with an assistance need arrives at the branch to improve the overall customer experience.

Previously, Barclays pioneered customer banking transfers using only a mobile number, plus enabling some businesses to swap PINs, passwords and authentication codes for fingerprint scanners.  Technological advances have not by themselves caused massive behavioural changes to get customers to switch or stay loyal, but a combination of technology and personal intervention with insight creates a whole new level of customer care.

barclays

This week’s technology news – 27th June 2014

Supreme Court ruling for mobile phone privacy does not answer Cloud issue
Forrester report an emphatic decision by the Supreme Court in the US this week, which has endorsed the fundamental right of the individual to safeguard the privacy of data held on a mobile phone and that the only way for 3rd party agencies to access this, would be to seek a warrant.

The sheer variety of applications now available on mobile phones (cameras, video players, Rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, newspapers, forums etc.) reveal much about its owner as well as what can be shown through the browsing history.  Consequently it was felt this would give 3rd parties too personal an insight about things we would prefer to keep private, even from our partners.  The crossover impact for this in business is in BYOD where corporate employers may not yet have taken steps to assess and implement data security policies to safeguard corporate privacy.

With the increase of devices and wearable technology, much of the content will inevitably be stored in the Cloud and what is not revealed through the phone as its conduit, will be accessible once it hits storage sites like Dropbox, Evernote etc.   So as soon as you have connected, you are no longer able to control that privacy, or that right.   This ruling is insufficient therefore in the wider context of cloud content and management of personal (and customer data), so expect more rulings in future as the further legal ramifications are reviewed.  As an MSP, it is your responsibility to be a privacy advocate.

Stop thief – you are turning me off!

Research by Glasgow Caledonian University into the way we hold and use smartphones, is leading to a new form of security being developed, to identify abnormal patterns which could trigger a “kill switch”. The software logs, monitors and profiles “normal” behaviour, carriage mannerisms, application access and timing, plus geolocation and browsing. Subtle changes to this information could indicate unauthorised use and prompt a shut down. The profiles take a few days of average use to build up a coherent picture and current versions of logging software are detecting illegal use within a couple of minutes which will no doubt get far quicker.

Lead scientist, Professor Lynn Baille notes that a further development of this software could be in authenticating identity. Research indicates users wiping or tapping in their pin up to 100 times a day to unlock their handset, which for some users is putting them off using security measures, if they have that choice. This new software could sanction access simply because the device is “in the right hands” and keeps a phone unlocked in normal use, except where a user needed to purchase something, or log in to a corporate network. Yet again, there are implications about privacy for such monitoring and whether this is managed centrally, or locally on the device.