Enterprise hits and misses - AI confronts its project barriers, ERP gets buried, and IBM pulls an earnings surprise

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed April 26, 2021
This week - AI's project barriers come into focus - including the skills gap. ERP gets a burial, and an identity expert critiques WHO's vaccine verification model. IBM surprises, and quantum computing gets real. Your whiffs include fireside chats, and: I call a whiff on myself.


Lead story - Barriers to AI project success - skills, regulation, and bias

MyPOV: Say this for AI projects in 2021: the obstacles are coming into focus. In his article Main barrier to AI in the enterprise now skills, not culture, Derek cites an O'Reilly AI report, which found:

Looking at the problems respondents faced in AI adoption provides another way to gauge the overall maturity of AI as a field. Last year, the major bottleneck holding back adoption was company culture (22%), followed by the difficulty of identifying appropriate use cases (20%). This year, cultural problems are in fourth place (14%) and finding appropriate use cases is in third (17%).

Data challenges persist, but this year, the top AI obstacle is skills. O'Reilly again:

The biggest skills gaps were ML modelers and data scien? tists (52%), understanding business use cases (49%), and data engineering (42%). The need for people managing and maintaining computing infrastructure was comparatively low (24%), hinting that companies are solving their infrastructure requirements in the cloud.

In sum: this report indicates AI projects are maturing, but maturity brings its own challenges. As Stuart notes, in Uh oh, AI, EU - what could possibly go wrong? The risky business of regulation, regulatory barriers remain. One huge issue: vague definitions, forged by policy makers without the AI chops. Stuart:

Without crystal-clear definitions, tech firms developing AI futures will be at the mercy of regulatory box-tickers whose understanding of the underlying tech is little better than those opportunistic politicians who stand up and declare that ‘something must be done’.

Then there is the potent problem of AI bias. Neil revisits, via a fruitful LinkedIn exchange: Is there good bias in AI, or is AI bias always undesirable? Responses to a LinkedIn debate.

Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

  • Inclusion is not an illusion, but it needs work - D&I leadership lessons from the tech sector - It's a cliche that "change comes from the top." But how does a diversity and inclusion leader make that happen? Cath explores the lessons and pitfalls. Bottom line: set clear/measurable goals, and keep at it:  "Transformation takes on average about three years, so people can’t be complacent. It’s a process of continual learning and change."
  • Mainframe, meet the cloud - and let us get at your data! - Mainframes may not process as many day-to-day transactions anymore, but their value storing historical data remains a factor. And yet, we need better access to that data. Enter cloud data tools. The hard part remains bridging that data format gap, but once's that's done, writes Martin: "Bridge that gap and a whole new world of data opens up to AI, Machine Learning and analytical tools."

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:

  • Salesforce's new Service Cloud CEO on helping businesses pivot to the Vaccine Economy - Phil has a Salesforce view on what's next: "Those 12 years have confirmed [Shih's] early insight that CRM would evolve to use digital technology to move from a purely transactional process to focus much more on the ongoing customer relationship." As leaders plunge into the Vaccine Economy, they're going to need that shift in CRM emphasis - especially in service, where lost service threads become lost relationships.
  • Collision 2021 - can advertising save the open web? Quantcast's CEO makes his provocative case - I still worry that digital advertising is broken, but I enjoyed this intellectual skirmish nonetheless.
  • Workday comes to bury ERP and prise finance from its grip - Count on Workday for a wake-up-call kind of quote. Phil parses this one for us - with contributions from Brian Sommer for good measure. Workday's Aneel Bhusri says ERP has overstayed its welcome: "Everything about ERP is static. It's not flexible. It's wedded to highly customized systems, very different than a lot of the cloud architectures." Whether or not the ERP term goes away, it's the right conversation to have. Customers need and deserve more from "ERP vendors" now.

A few more vendor picks, without the quotables:

Jon's grab bag - Content marketers are flummoxed and tantalized by the potential of audio and video - but it's not text. That means SEO curveballs. Barb looks at where the traction is, including multi-purposing content across mediums, in Casting an eye over the future of content marketing - Casted CEO Lindsey Tjepkema on the role of audio and video.

Put aside your quantum-computing-will-save-the-world-hangover buzzword overload, and check Chris' hype-free review of the quantum computing use cases: "Khan believes that quantum computers could serve humanity well in two ways: either by doing things that classical computers are unable to do, thanks to the limitations imposed by the laws of physics; or by carrying out calculations much, much faster." (Giant leaps from small things - UK quantum firm sees reason).

Finally, Stuart (properly) undermines Netflix's wet noodle excuse that their slowing numbers are about the end of the pandemic. It's about the competition, and a brutal pun from headline maestro Stuart: A tale of two broadcasters - why Netflix's post-COVID slump is the talk of The Ton.

Best of the enterprise web

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

My top seven

Overworked businessman


This last year in a nutshell: a woman called police on a home intruder - but it was her robot. Meanwhile: Apple Must Face Lawsuit Over iTunes "Buy" Button. It's about time, though Apple is hardly the only offender in the "own this movie" scamjob.

My colleague Phil Wainewright spotted this one:

Perhaps, but: 

Yeah, this happened a few days ago:

jonerp whiff
(jonerp whiff)

Yep, I'm calling a self-whiff. That's what happens when you don't replace your placeholder text before you hit the "publish' button. And, I reached another event overdose:

Bring on the patio grills please:

A guy can dream - see you next time...

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. 'myPOV' is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.