Enterprise hits and misses - AI faces workplace diversity, Amazon faces re:Invent overload

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed December 6, 2017
This week: what is the role for AI in workplace diversity? And why were analysts frustrated at AWS re:Invent? Plus: retail carnage with Amazon versus everybody else. Loads of whiffs this week as the social media spank tunnel ramps up.

Cheerful Chubby Man

Lead story - AI, diversity and the workplace - by Cath Everett and Jessica Twentyman

MyPOV: Diversity is a core topic at diginomica. I'm always looking for business impact, to keep us from getting too dreamy. We got that this week, starting with Jessica's GE Digital’s Deborah Sherry - why diversity and equality add up to productivity.

Turns out when you have to conceal important parts of your identity at work - such as your sexual orientation - your productivity goes down. As Sherry from GE says:

There’s an overwhelming body of evidence out there that shows that, when you’re able to bring your whole self to work and be open about who you are, you’re much more productive. For people to be successful in their jobs, they need to be themselves.

Granted, asserting "Openness, happiness and workplace productivity are all strongly aligned" does come off a tad idealistic. But who wouldn't mind working for a company with those values right about now?

How will those values fare amidst the machines? Cath takes that up in AI in the workplace - a female perspective. She poses a provocative question:

If the introduction of AI in the workplace means that demand for soft skills will rise, and soft skills have traditionally been associated with women, just where does that leave men?

My jugular answer: men are gonna have to get their sh%$te together. But as Cath notes, it's far more complicated then that. Automation could help, in theory, free women up from more home labor, but an inclusive workplace is the product of better policies and school/training opportunities. That takes time - and collective will.

If soft skills take on a higher perceived value, that shifts the conversation about what each of us brings to the table. Cath is right: technology unto itself won't address gender pay discrepancies or address management imbalances. How we apply it matters.

Happy children eating apple
Diginomica picks - my top three stories on diginomica this week

Retail carnage vs Amazon - and AI's impact - It's another retail smorgasboard at diginomica. Legendary luggage shopper and video gear collector Den looks at Amazon vs everyone in RBS, Feather and Black, Thomas Cook, Toys 'R' Us and Multiyork. Symptoms of retail carnage courtesy of Amazon and omni-channel? Stuart takes the AI angle in Sucking up AI insights from Dyson - which includes Dyson's view on AI ethics and data privacy. Stuart assesses the skills impact in Shopping for an AI future at Ocado with the 'Data Whisperer' generation. Message: it's not just about learning code, it's about ethics and yeah, even a philosophical mindset.

The dawning era of decentralization. The healthcare example - Denis would like you to know that we're living in "an era of decentralization in economics, a subgroup of the Age of Information and Telecommunications which is itself ending." Why should we care, you ask? Because if decentralization can somehow live up to its healthcare promise, "The decentralization moves healthcare from the monolithic and expensive institutions of break-fix medicine or hospitals to neighborhood clinics, which are closer to patients and have lower overhead." Works for me.

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

  • How AWS is rotting the buyer's brain with sprawl - Yikes, brain rot - that sounds nasty! Kurt grinds Amazon into context: "AWS is hardly the first company to be afflicted with creeping featuritis,. Apparently, the lesson that layering on products and features trades off flexibility for complexity must be learned the hard way.Giving customers four different ways to do the same thing isn’t doing them a favor in the long run."
  • Five things I learned about Plex and its cloud MES - Phil digests his first on-the-ground Plex event, as seen through his cloudy expertise:  "Insight into data and operations is already an important differentiator. Giving workers on the shop floor real-time insight into throughput and stock requirements empowers them to be more effective."
  • How SyncThink powers EYE-SYNC mobile brain health testing with Couchbase - use case from yours truly. Check the creepy/cool brain health video with the moving eyeballs!

A few more vendor picks, without the quips:

Jon's grab bag - Cath's Classroom robots - China's educational gambit poses questions for the West made me wonder: wait - was my high school chemistry teacher a robot? But this is a serious issue, if the west doesn't want to find itself at a competitive disadvantage. In an unexpected post, Den derives enterprise lessons from his brother's masterful ukelele building - while bashing codified crud best practices in the process.

Jerry asks whether Facebook can do something about the sense of well being it destroys via its popularity algorithm helping at-risk folks in Suicide prevention Facebook style. A net good in an AI-driven world? Yeah, it's a Faustian bargain to let Facebook know so much about ourselves, but I'm with Jerry: "They are not stealing our secrets; we are willingly giving them away." Might as well let Facebook use their algorithmic flags to reach out to those at risk, who have already opted in to this massive data lake personal network.

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer
I'm not picking one post for special treatment this week - get busy bloggin' people! But here's some honorable mentions:


Overworked businessman
Buckle up... so Mark Zuckberberg is reportedly Seeing A Behavioral Psychologist To "Appear More Human" After Wave Of Internet Memes Portray Him As Robotic Or Alien-Like. True or not, the memes are classic:


Oh, and ADT would appreciate if you agree never to criticize it  - to the point that they did the ol' TOS foot-in-mouth, putting legalsleaze not to "disparage" ADT or its affiliates into its TOS (they've since changed it, but arguably didn't fix it; the social media spank tunnel continues).

Speaking of the spank tunnel, Apple got itself a rare red bottom for its continued fix/not fixed/reboot approach to its root log-in bug gaping hole back door in High Sierra. I've stopped trying to help people patch this. Basically keep updating and rebooting and updating. "Genius" indeed.

The British MPs who give out passwords verbally to staff got to experience a pungent news cycle. And: I wanted to call the attempt to make an AI-authored death metal album a whiff, but the real whiff is that songs like Wisdom Trippin' by DADABOTS are better than some of the human-based metal I've heard. The machines are comin' for your tattoos!

Finally - I don't want anyone to leave without a hangover over the bizarre views of American consumers. Tom Foremski issued a review of Instamotor's top five tech scandals of 2017:

  • Facebook, Twitter and Google testify about Russian meddling in the 2016 election
  • Equifax announces data breach
  • Uber admits to 2016 data breach and hacker bribing
  • Google engineer sends sexist memo
  • Female engineer unveils sexist culture at Uber

(good on ya Uber for making the list twice!) Hard to pick against the anti-democratic algorithmic lemonade stand ad sale of 2016, but in terms of pure customer trust, doesn't it seem like Equifax should take the biggest hit? Not so fast, my peeps - the majority of Instamotor survey respondents still trust Facebook and Uber, and a staggering 42 percent still trust Equifax, with 19 percent characterizing ranking Equifax as "very trustworthy."

Wow. What more does Equifax have to do to lose trust? Auction social security numbers on the dark web? Feature each person's social security number in a dedicated Instagram post? The social gurus are wrong: a social media spanking is not as painful as it sounds. 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.

Image credit - Businessman Choosing Success or Failure Road © Creativa

Disclosure - SAP, Oracle, Workday, Plex, Coupa and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.