MyPOV: Den rounds up our event season with a review of the UK leg of the Future of Operations in the Robotic Age (FORA) event, organized by HfS Research. RPA (Robotics Process Automation) sounds nifty enough. But does it live up to the hype? After immersing with practitioners and analysts, Den concludes:
The HSBC case is the most comprehensive and detailed example I’ve seen so far of RPA in motion yet with clearly defined objectives in mind that are about realigning customer service to customer needs.
As HSBC put it, this isn't about eliminating humans or forcing customers into botty call center hell:
There is a sense in which we have forgotten that we are meant to be providing a human to human interaction as the natural way we expect to get things done. So I don’t want to put robots everywhere to replace the human but I want to have tools that help the call center agent do a better job.... Anyone who is not considering robots for a variety of tasks is missing the point.
You can expect plenty of debate on this topic in 2018. We'll be pushing for use cases on the practical side of AI, automation, and machine learning. You know, the unsexy side where enterprises (sometimes) get things done....Diginomica picks - my top three stories on diginomica this week
- Pier 1 Imports still considering need for a mobile app as share price goes off the end of the pier - The holidays aren't kind to all retailers, especially digital laggards - as Stuart notes in pungent prose. Sidenote: ping me if you're heading to NRF's Big Show in January and want to chinwag.
- Cloud infrastructure vendors provide design guidance, but more help is needed - Kurt doesn't think cloud vendors are doing enough to support enterprise architects - here's why it matters.
- Four things marketers should not do in 2018 - and one they should - Marketers will find plenty of shiny new
analytics and overrated social sentiment toystoys under the tree this year. Not so fast, she warns. There's a data project that needs looking after first.
Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:
- How Salesforce Einstein AI makes BI predictive at FinancialForce - Phil explores how a key Salesforce platform partner is putting "Einstein" to work. Making sense of the patterns is the rub: "The machine learning has turned up several predictive patterns from the data that are helpful for managing customer attrition. For example, if a customer has implemented and is using custom objects that tailor the FinancialForce applications to their business, that’s a strong indicator that they’ll renew. On the other hand, late payment doesn’t correlate to churn — often it’s simply an indicator of the size or complexity of the organization."
- Oracle hit as Wall Street's greedy appetite for cloud cash isn't sated - Stuart parses a revenue report that doesn't quite satiate
- SugarCRM CEO - ignore AI “parlour tricks” and focus on people - AI "parlour tricks?" It's not every day we find a vendor throwing cold water on AI. Chris found one. Sugar's CEO: "I’ve been a sceptic around how AI is often positioned as this magic technology that’s going to solve all things. And in our industry, people often hold up the idea that customers will talk to a robot, talk to the AI, rather than to a person. But I don’t think that’s going to happen – well, it may happen for mundane tasks, and that’s a good thing as it will take people away from things that don’t add value, but I think we have a long way to go before AI is doing people replacement."
Jon's grab bag - Den's got a tonic for those who are stuck in the net neutrality bell jar: Net neutrality - the fat lady hasn't sung. Stuart has a stinging take on pending mega media merger: Mickey Mouse meets Murdoch - media digital disruption just got real.
Through the holidays, if you need a break from eggnog overdose and laborious "I love this gift - really I do!" merchandise returns, check out individual best-of holiday roundups. Den and Derek have posted theirs - plenty more to go!
Best of the restYep, it's time for the year end hits/misses awards, still unsuitable for framing. Drumroll:
“Best batting average per blog post award” – Blogging is less about frequency and more about the trust that each time I click on your work, the effort and quality will be bloody obvious:
- Stephen O' Grady - With posts like What's Scary about Amazon Web Services, RedMonk’s Stephen O’Grady is in the winner's circle yet again.
- Lora Cecere - Cecere hit the best balance between volume and quality. Strong views and good data, along with personal stories, make her a supply chain must read, even though I'm still not sure what a supply chain shaman is. (Trust, But Verify)
- Frank Scavo does his thing from time to time; we need to coax him out a bit more in 2018 (Manufacturing is a huge opportunity for cloud ERP).
- Phil Fersht - Seems like a weekend of concerns over the future of the services industry in the face of AI and automation always winds Fersht up. The result: a blistering Monday missive (Since when did AI become the job creation antidote to automation's job destruction? Time for an augmented reality check). Just be careful on April Fool's day; Fersht likes to trick ya.
“Most likely to appear in hits and misses awards”– Based on yet another (extremely) unscientific count, this year’s winners are: Lora Cecere, Phil Fersht, Hank Barnes and of course, Holger “red shoes on the tarmac” Mueller. And no, appearances in the “whiffs” section don't count.
"Fresh voice cutting through the BS” award” – Alas, fresh blogging voices in the enterprise are hard to come by these days.
- Fintan Ryan - Ryan's been at RedMonk for a while, now, but this year, I started tracking his work more closely. (Voice and the Future of the Platform Companies). Yeah, he got a mention last year, but this year he sealed it.
- UpperEdge - This company blog has been around for a while, but they really hit their stride in 2017 as an essential voice for customers. In the past, UpperEdge struggled with the balance between blatant service promotion in their blog content. This year they dug into the perils of negotiations with the mega vendors more consistently than anyone. (The Top 10 Internal Issues Impacting Vendor Relations).
And now, let's give out some even cheekier honors:
The best newsletter you should be reading award - Thanks to the nudging of newsletter maven Den Howlett, I've been tracking more newsletters closely in 2017. The winner? Azeem Azhar's Exponential View, a curated blessing that always includes gobs of deep AI dives you won't find in your social feed.
The "Too bad your user experience sucks eggs" award - Once again to Forbes and their
ad tech flatulence "quote of the day" advertorial overdose. I promised readers I would not include Forbes articles and I'm sticking to it. ZDNet is hanging on by a thread here as well with their autoplay video hell.
The "Desperate for newsletter sign ups" award - Dishonorable mention to otherwise interesting First Round for their insistence on an abominable full screen exit "I don't want to learn more" pop-up that doesn't even really know when you're actually exiting, and seems to have no cookie memory either.
The "no, were not going to merge, but we're rooting for you" award - Michael Coté wants diginomica and The New Stack to merge so that he can get all his customer use cases in one handy place. Sorry dude, not happening - though I'll mash up an RSS feed for you if you want and put it in your stocking. I'll definitely root for The New Stack and their quality tech coverage and clean user experience - versus the above abominations.
The "I wrote this blog on my iPhone on the tarmac" award - Only Vijay Vijayasankar can write a decent enterprise blog this way.
The "Come back snarkmaster, all is forgiven" award - Pesky questions expert and enterprise
crank gadfly Esteban Kolsky didn't blog much this year. C'mon back dude, we're gonna need some attitude, big idea seeding and epic disclosure statements in 2018.
The "Best way to track what your network cares about" award - We're all a bit brain-fried and over-tasked, so we need pointers here. Plenty of aggregation tools exist, but I still prefer Digg Deeper for trending on my network (you can do the app, I do RSS). Peering under dark/non-trending corners still matters though...
The brevity-is-merciful award - Short blogs sound lovely but delivering something useful in a few paragraphs is an art unto itself. Vinnie Mirchandani is the reigning master here, but it's boring to give him an award he already knows is coming. I thought this year, Gartner's Hank Barnes really found his short-form groove.Check: Urgency and the Buying Process.
The "daily blogging is a beast, but someone's got to do it" award - I'm not sure if RedMonk's James Governor blogged every day this year, frankly I lost count, but he sure gave it a go - the only analyst to even attempt that Mt. Everest in 2017, as far as I know (diginomica excluded; our model is different). Daily blogs can be chattier, and there's less pressure on each post - you can pick it up the next day. Governor highlights: strong diversity-in-tech coverage/advocacy, and good blow-by-blow of key shows, such as Amazon re:Invent. (AWS: working backwards into the enterprise).
The "most important one-off post of the year" award - A late but vital addition. Susan Fowler, former Uber executive, published Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber - and set off a massive and largely productive chain reaction of tech stories around diversity and the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the tech industry. There is a long way to go on this in 2018, we'll do our utmost to present fresh thinking and, where needed, tough stances.
Update: it was pointed out to me that this particular column didn't really get across the diversity of voices in tech. That's a fair criticism. I'd like to call attention to a few more I've been tracking this year:
- Our own Madeline Bennett just issued her top 10 of the year which included as number one her Diversity (not) in Tech coverage, a solid part of our diginomica workplace diversity coverage for 2017.
- Barb Mosher Zinck, whom I have the pleasure of editing, just issued How Innovative Marketers will be in 2018? Which calls out marketers for tech obsessions when business impact is the real song.
- Kimberly Mok of The New Stack has been a good read this year. Check her latest, This Robot Is Learning from Humans through Virtual Reality.
- James Governor pointed me towards Cindy Sridirhan. If her future posts are as good as Technical Decision Making, she'll be a terrific follow in 2018.
WhiffsIs there anything more mind-numbing than the happy holidays email blast?
One good thing about the holidays -> paring down my name on email lists by unsubscribing from all generic "happy holidays" blasts :) #GRINCH
— Jon Reed (@jonerp) December 19, 2017
Whatever happened to sending a nice Bratwurst?
Meanwhile, the U.S. says North Korea are the perps behind the WannaCry cyberattack of ransomware from hell. Several other nasty DDos attacks were pulled off by... Rutgers students. Interesting: lust for bitcoins or the illusion of bitcoin payments factored into several of these. Frank Scavo pointed me towards other bitcoin
marks suckers addicts enthusiasts who are going to extreme lengths to recover passwords.
So we've heard of consumer credit scores, but what if we were all comprehensively rated - as citizens? China's all over it:
Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens https://t.co/foREKdDDQl -> "Amazon's consumer tracking with an Orwellian political twist" -> sounds awesome
— Jon Reed (@jonerp) December 19, 2017
To keep things cheery, governments the world over are boosting their requests for Facebook user data data. And to think we put up with this just to become depressed with lifestyle envy while scrolling our feed. Just don't cement a microwave to your head - there are better ways to cope - aren't there? Paging Anderson Cooper.
Brian and I already issued our satirical un-predictions, but you really can't beat the real thing. Check these
callous/opportunistic bromides bold stances from my inbox:
Getting some truly bold predictions in my inbox: ""2018 will see the biggest ever increase in demand of advanced AI services." -> Wow are you sure?
— Jon Reed (@jonerp) December 15, 2017
One more gutsy prediction: ""Data Literacy becomes a societal and company-wide imperative" -> Love a bold stance with a firm timeline for accountability
— Jon Reed (@jonerp) December 15, 2017
I'll make a firm one: look for hypnotists who specialize in bitcoin password recovery to thrive in 2018...
Finally, we saw the proper way to handle a whiff via Patreon, who jacked up user fees as a way to (supposedly) handle other problems. Solution? Roll back the changes immediately. Have your CEO say: "We F'd Up." See? That wasn't hard. But evidently it is. I'm skipping a week here - see you on the other side. Hug your peeps.
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.