Enterprise hits and misses - Intel confronts itself; robots come as a service while humans reconfigure

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed June 26, 2018
This week - Intel faces a leadership challenge while the business model gets a grilling. Fresh robotics use cases bring you robots as a service (RaaS?). A new report advises humans on their higher skills ground. Plus: your whiffs include a system outage that has me scratching a satirical itch.

Cheerful Chubby Man
Lead story - Robot service armies on demand - use cases by Jessica Twentyman

myPOV: If you want a juicy IoT or robotics use case, the PTC LiveWorx event in Boston is a good bet. That's where Jessica went to nab two nifty diginomica use cases, starting with The Robot-as-a-Service business model - go Fetch the future of logistics.

Recently selected as one of 61 "most promising technology pioneers" by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Fetch Robotics is buzzword-compliant to the max. As Jessica explains:

Fetch Robotics combines its own range of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) and its cloud-based robotics platform FetchCore to help organizations in the warehousing and intralogistic markets with materials handling and data collection, particularly those struggling to keep up with the pace of online orders.

It's the fusion of robots and cloud in an "on-demand automation" model - pay for the robots you need as you go. Fetch is also female-led, not a common thing in robotics. I don't know if the acronym "RaaS" is gonna stick though...

Meantime, FedEx isn't messing around with robotic half-measures, as Jess reports in FedEx recruits robot army to fight e-commerce battle. Though FedEx debuted its first customer-facing robot in April, it's been steadily investing in robotics across operations. Jessica notes that handling a range of package sizes/shapes appropriately is not a small feat, even for newer robots:

If the first challenge is to figure out how to automate across that whole spectrum of packages and integrate traditional robotics with newer approaches to materials handling, the second is dealing with increasingly unpredictable periods of peak demand. For a start, robotics can help here through the redeployment of human workers to where they’re more urgently needed.

Chris Middleton had a different angle in  The rise of the Farm-bot - ploughing through the possibilities. He breaks down a new report that argues robotics and automation in agriculture could help alleviate future food shortages and security. Reductions in pesticides, "smart farming" and drone land monitoring support for farmers are all part of the future mix.

Reading these pieces, I was struck by an inexorable robotics rise with new possibilities that industry experts will conceive. Along with the challenges that make this more of a tricky long game for enterprises hungry for genuine ROI, not just countless pilot projects.

Happy children eating apple
Diginomica pick -The XaaS Effect and what it means for the services business - Phil extends his diginomica d·book, The XaaS Effect, with a lens from FinancialForce Community Live here in Las Vegas - and how the services industry is impacted. Start here: "Delivering a product or completing a project used to be seen as the end of a customer engagement, but in the XaaS world it’s when the relationship really gets under way."

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

  • Salesforce staffers voice concern over contract with U.S. border control - Stuart anticipated the problems vendors would face here: "I said last week when we looked at the Microsoft blog story that this was an issue that wasn’t likely to go away... Now Salesforce employees are expressing concern. In many respects, this is actually something that should cheer CEO Benioff – a corporate culture in which staff are empowered from the top to take a stand on important moral and ethical issues."
  • Neptune Software invades Planet 9, aka object-oriented REST APIs - Den trekked to Oslo for an on-the-ground look at an SAP partner, and how its customer collaborations laid the groundwork for an open platform.
  • Can we believe anything about Domo? - Den nails down Domo based on their most recent S1, harkening by to his 2016 critique on Domo's corporate maturity. I've been to Domo's last two user conferences. The customer stories are compelling but cannot be sustained without fiscal vendor responsibility. I'm not going to say much now, as the IPO and/or cost cutting will factor into what happens. But unless something changes dramatically for the better, I'm about to get seriously bent kerfluffled ticked off about customers and employees being let down. I will hold off on a definitive word until it plays out, but: to say that I don't like what I see from the S1 is a gross understatement.

A few more vendor picks from a hectic show calendar:

Jon's grab bag - diginomica brushed up our legal reporting this week with not one, but two stories on the Supreme Court: U.S. Supreme Court e-commerce tax ruling is bad news for ‘mom-and-pop’, not Amazon (Stuart) and U.S. Supreme Court ruling makes major statement on privacy in the Digital Age (Jerry). Jerry says this privacy decision requiring a warrant for mobile location data is a "big setback for the surveillance state."  I'm not sure how big a setback this is, but if it's a wet noodle, we'll take it - it's better than no noodle at all.

Finally, we're kicking tires on a lot of productivity/collaboration software at diginomica lately. Even crotchety distracted overtravelled smart diginomica team members can learn a lot from each other when we open the research process up. Den shares another installment from our brilliant Quixotic transparent journey: A software selection taught lessons about the next generation of leaders.

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer
Lead story - The 3 key skill sets for the workers of 2030 by World Economic Forum

myPOV: WEF has done a good a job as anyone in defining human skills needs amidst the machines. One of the big distinctions in their report from the McKinsey Global Institute? The all-important difference between basic and higher cognitive skills:

Indeed, the decline in work activities that mainly require basic cognitive skills is the largest across our five categories.

It's a different story for the so-called "higher" cognitive abilities:

Demand for higher cognitive skills such as creativity, critical thinking and decision making, and complex information processing, will grow through 2030 at cumulative double-digit rates.

I guess we can count WEF amongst those, like me, who aren't impressed with the soulless contrivances that pass for machine-composed music:

The growing need for creativity is seen in many activities, including developing high-quality marketing strategies. The rise in complex information processing, meanwhile, is related to the need to be aware of market trends and the regulatory environment that affects a company’s operation, or the need to understand and explain to customers the technical details of a company’s products and services.

I can't dig into detail here, but one I don't believe that those "liberal arts" types who excel at critical and creative abilities should feel a sense of triumph right about now. If you can't work amongst and with machines, your standout human capabilities may not gell. And most of the creative/critical thinkers I know lack the industry focus to make a corporate difference.

The WEF data backs that up to an extent, with "social and emotional" skills at an even higher project demand, and technological skills higher still. It's those who can blend all this who have the brightest prospects. I think machines will be socially effective before they are creatively resonant but that's another debate.

Other standouts:

Intel's leadership and business model crisis - Intel made headlines with the surprise resignation of their CEO, due to an employee fraternization policy far stricter than many tech companies, as Larry Dignan explains in Intel's leadership crisis hits in the midst of reorganization. For a deeper critique of Intel's business model, check Ben Thompson's Intel and the Danger of Integration. Thompson puts his hat in the ring for this week's tell-us-how-you-really-feel award:

The details of Krzanich’s departure, though, ultimately don’t matter: his tenure was an abject failure, the extent of which is only now coming into view.

Honorable mention 


Overworked businessman
I'm not going to call this one an outright whiff, but if you travel 4,000 miles to tag someone and then fly home, you do have a lot of time on your hands. Oh, and this went well:

Finally, I'm going to pick on Commun.it, the social monitoring service. I don't mind having a reason to pelt them, I've hated their pseudo-free-upsell-hell model for a [email protected] time. Anyhow, they recently had some extended downtime on Twitter that drove their customers a bit nutty. Uh oh:

On another note, how childish is it that Commun.it encourages you, with a prominent "Not Following" banner, to stop following people who aren't following you back? God forbid we might enjoy the insights of someone on their own terms, without owing us anything. No, we're just a bunch of insecure babies prickly pears. We need services that protect us from anyone who might not hold us in the highest possible regard at all times. So wake up, grab a coffee and have a look at the Commun.it portal, to see who unfollowed you during the night. Good times.

I probably shouldn't make fun of this typo, but in the midst of the outage, it seemed a bit awkward passive aggressive unfortunate:


The site is back online now, so you can go ahead and unfollow whoever doesn't think your tweets are wondermuss. 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.

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