Automation to drive creativity and collaboration in the office of the future

Automation to drive creativity and collaboration in the office of the future

Fundisiwe Maseko
June 05, 2018

Over the past decade, the office environment has evolved with rapid advancements in automation, the Internet of Things (IoT) and voice activation which are all set to play a bigger role in future ways of working.  “How we interface with devices in the office has evolved dramatically. With voice-activated technology rapidly making strides, we will likely evolve from manual to voice interaction with office devices in the near future. We are already seeing evidence of this with the likes of Amazon launching Alexa for Business. Connected devices are also becoming more ubiquitous in office processes such as monitoring office supplies and self-reporting technical errors,” says Lee-Anne Letcher, product manager at Canon SA.

As IoT devices become more commonplace, they may begin to be used more widely for staff wellbeing. For instance, in forward-thinking organizations, connected workplace solutions are being adopted to optimise the environment for employees, with connected heating systems responding to changing weather conditions and smart desks which warn users if they have been sitting too long.  Citing from research by the World Economic Forum, Letcher says creativity will be one of the most in-demand workplace skills by 2020 and many roles that were formerly purely technical, are expected to begin demanding it.

“Automation is one of the major drivers behind this change. In the next few years we can expect to see automation and augmented robotics being used more consistently in the workplace, largely to remove the mundane, repetitive jobs that sap time and inspiration. This will leave the workforce free to focus on uniquely ‘human’ tasks such as creativity and logical reasoning, rapidly creating a demand for these skills.”  For the last decade businesses have been focusing on supporting mobile and remote working, aiming to free employees from their desks and enable them to work however and wherever they want. However, as the debate continues over the productivity of remote workers, this vision for the future of work is undergoing rapid changes and creativity is becoming the new priority.

Remote working means employees are working independently and missing out on the collaborative work environment thought to encourage creativity. InfoTrends’ 2018 report notes that some businesses, like IBM, have actually begun to scale back their remote working programmes, in order to focus on creativity and drive workers towards an environment that supports this.  The ways in which people communicate within the workplace are also changing dramatically. With Cisco Systems Spark, Facebook’s Workplace, Flock, Slack, and Microsoft Teams all rising in popularity over the last couple of years, communication and collaboration at work is becoming more real-time.

Communication is entering a new stage, referred to as ‘conversational interface’ where employees will do most of their work from inside a chat app, rather than switching between different apps for different functions. This better supports an increasingly real-time ‘always on’ culture, where email is no longer suitable; collaboration is far more effective when response time is more immediate.

“With plenty of buzz about connectivity, creativity and collaboration, it’s easy for business leaders to get caught up with intangible concepts. There’s a perception that challenges around these factors are unresolvable issues. But that’s not true. Businesses should start by quantifying their goals, and by seeking expert advice on what processes will create value. Only by doing this can they build a smart office for the future, which delivers a robust return on investment and improves the working lives of employees and decision-makers alike,” concludes Letcher.

IT News Africa

Do you know what it takes to build a 21st Century Brand?

Do you know what it takes to build a 21st Century Brand?

by Carmen Murray
June 05, 2018

With the rise of the connected individual, marketers must re-think the way they build a brand to be future fit for the digital savvy consumers.  There are many challenges and opportunities as we chase the ideal way for brands to connect with consumers. I had a candid conversation with seasoned and award-winning marketing professional, Benjamin Schoderer who leads Digital for Yum! Brands in Africa on the KFC brand and was recently named “Marketer of the Year 2018” at the IAB Bookmarks in March.

Anna Vaulina, Head of the IAB SA Marketing Council adds, ”As the IAB SA we are extremely excited to have Benjamin and YUM! recognised for brilliant work in the digital space. As the South African digital advertising industry matures, it is exciting to see individuals like Benjamin championing the way brands use digital to meet their objectives in a way that engages and has a positive impact on their customers.”  I spoke with Benjamin about some of the challenges and opportunities for today’s brands.

How would you define a 21st century brand?

For me, it’s a brand that understands the 21st century consumer and how to engage a connected individual. If you understand the connected consumer you will be a connected brand. You need to understand that behavioural patterns have changed and how this will impact your brand. For example, eating out and movies have evolved into Netflix and Ubereats. In my view, a 21st century brand is ready for this consumer and their demands, anytime, anywhere, on any device.

What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the marketing landscape over the past 5 years?

First and foremost, the fact that digital has become a central part of marketing and business planning when it was just an afterthought only a couple of years ago. When I first started at Vodacom in 2007, I joined a digital team of three which was part of the IT team looking after call centre systems. Today they are one of the most successful digital teams in the country and digital is at the heart of what they do, a really amazing journey. We are on a similar journey here at Yum! Brand and thus incredibly excited to have been named Digital Brand of the Year for the second year in a row at the 2018 IAB Bookmarks.

Another big change I’ve noticed, is the change of the Digital Media Landscape. It has become so sophisticated and advanced and you can measure your objectives and what you want to achieve through audience insights, programmatic media buying and so on.

Digital has certainly grown up.

When I attended the IAB Summit in California earlier this year, I was amazed by the sheer amount of ad tech companies that exist as part of the digital ecosystem. In line with this, there seems to be a trend of the titles “Chief Digital Officer” and “Chief Marketing Officer” collapsing into a “Chief (Brand) Experience Officer” (or similar) type role. Business adapts to reflect the changes in the digital economy we find ourselves in.

We now live in the age of The Connected Individual. It’s becoming more crucial not just to serve a physical product, but provide an individual brand experience. Tell us more about how you merge the Physical Product and the Digital Experiences for your customers?

First of all, the key experience for us at KFC is our food. We know that if our food is prepared correctly and eaten hot and fresh it really is finger licking good.  We then think about how we enhance this experience through technology or the environment we create around it, along the customer lifecycle. We do a lot of work around the in-store experience and how do we enable a better service experience for instance. Another example of an exciting experience in our restaurants was the SoundBite Case Study and how we used music as a passion point to attract younger consumers.

Another important aspect is customer service, and enabling our staff with technology to improve the service they offer to our customers.  One of our partner markets created an Employee VR Education Program called the Escape Room. This was particularly created to educate service staff on hygiene, preparation of food, and applying the service levels in virtual world and exposing them the KFC way of doing things. See trailer here: KFC Virtual Training Escape Room.

What are the biggest challenges that marketers face, and what advice could you offer them to improve their marketing approach?

The whole marketing universe has just become very confusing and overwhelming for a lot of marketers. There are so many new technologies being introduced to the market, new ways of targeting consumers and a lot of marketers tell me that they feel intimidated by this constant change. The risk with that is that marketers tend to stick to what they know instead of exploring new opportunities for their brand or taking any risks.

We combat that at KFC by running several training programmes, often with our digital partners, so that our entire marketing team is comfortable navigating the digital advertising space.  Our customers are embracing this change, and as marketers, we need to be willing to explore and embrace these changes or we will be left behind. My key advice to marketers would be and stay curious. You really have nothing to lose, but so much to win. Just find the right fit for your brand to get you the results that you need.  Make budget available for experimentation. Be Brave, test it. If it doesn’t work, move on and try again.

In marketing, collaboration is key. What advice can you give marketers on choosing their partners to ensure the most abundant explosion of creativity and problem solving?

Surround yourself with experts that are right for your brand and with the skill sets that you need. I am not an expert at all digital disciplines (and there are a lot), but I am trying to surround myself with experts in these areas to help me do achieve my vision.  What I have learned is that you acquire your partners based on skills and experience and you retain them based on people and culture.

If there is chemistry, you can make magic happen. We have built this amazing culture with our partners like Ogilvy and Mindshare, and we just click. It’s also important to be able to have healthy debates and criticise ideas. Trust your partners and ensure you are always aligned.

There is a saying: Garbage in, Garbage out. How can we move away from generic briefs and inform our partners better for effective projects?

Know what you want, what you going to measure and know what success looks like. Make sure you have strong insight into why people behave the way they do. Ask the question why over and over to match your product to the truth. It’s a marketing fundamental.

Key takeaways:

  1. Adapt to Change
  2. Your brand is no longer just a product. You need to augment your product with experiences
  3. All your staff, whether Head Office staff or service staff, should be exposed to technology and empowered to offer better service to customers
  4. Don’t stick to what you know
  5. Go for constant training to get Future Fit and be comfortable with the new
  6. Make budget available for experimentation
  7. Be curious and take risks
  8. Choose the right partners

IT News Africa

World’s First 100 Gbps Wireless Transmission

World’s First 100 Gbps Wireless Transmission

Edited by Neo Sesinye
May 23, 2018

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) has successfully demonstrated the world’s first 100Gbps wireless transmission, using a new technology that already surpasses the upcoming 5G standard.  This is the first time OAM multiplexing has been used for wirelessly transmitting such a high data rate. The eventual aim of this project is to achieve terabit-class wireless transmission to support the demand for wireless communications in the 2030s.

The technical feat was part of NTT’s laboratory experiments. NTT conducted transmission experiments at a distance of 10 meters using a system operating in the 28GHz frequency band.  In total, NTT simultaneously generated 11 data signals, each at a bitrate of 7.2 to 10.8Gbps, achieving large-capacity wireless transmission at 100Gbps — a world first.  This level of wireless capacity reaches a level around 100 times that of LTE and WiFi, and about five times that of 5G, launching in 2020.

In the short-to-medium term, this technology could be used to help boost 5G performances for new domestic uses requiring higher transmission capacities (autonomous and connected vehicles, VR, high-definition  video transmission, etc.).  NTT will present the results at Wireless Technology Park 2018 in Tokyo, Japan, May 23-25. Although the concept is still relatively new, the successful experiment paves the way for a host of exceptional possibilities.

IT News Africa

Uber launches data sharing portal in Kenya

Uber launches data sharing portal in Kenya

by Fundisiwe Maseko
May 18, 2018

Taxi-hailing service, Uber has launched introduced Uber Movement in Kenya, a digital data-sharing website to help urban planners, city leaders, third parties and the public to better understand the transportation needs of Nairobi. According to a report by Business Daily, The portal is designed to help urban planners in making informed decisions on road networks in and around the capital.  Uber Movement includes filters for specific dates and times, allowing users to investigate the impact of occurrences such as floods and electoral processes on traffic. There will be anonymised traffic data derived from Uber trips in Nairobi which will be freely accessible through Uber’s public and free data-sharing tool.  Uber Movement will provide data from the trips that passengers have taken with Uber in Nairobi, enabling urban planners to more effectively evaluate where their investments in transport infrastructure should be made.

Uber Movement was launched at the East Africa Com conference attended by government officials, city planners and local and international think tanks. Speaking at the launch, Uber’s Head of Public Policy for East Africa, Cezanne Maherali, said Uber Movement is the next step to connecting with cities and having the opportunity to recognise their transportation needs.  Kenya is the third African country to get access to transportation data through Uber Movement, after Egypt and South Africa.

IT News Africa

Cybercrime To Be Most Disruptive In The Next 2 Years- PwC Study

Cybercrime To Be Most Disruptive In The Next 2 Years- PwC Study

By Fundisiwe Maseko
May 15, 2018

A study conducted by PwC has revealed that a quarter of South African businesses believe that cybercrime will be the most disruptive economic crime to affect their organisations in the next two years. The 2018 PwC Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey found that South Africa has the dubious honour of having the highest level of reported economic crime in the world, with a staggering 77% of companies being affected.  Junaid Amra, Partner in PwC’s Forensic Services Division, says that when it comes to combating fraud and economic crime, technology can become a double-edged sword. “In the never-ending efforts to modernise both the business and the fraud-detecting capabilities of the business, technology can become a business protector, but also a threat if the risks associated with technology deployment are not properly assessed,” he says.

He points out a key finding in the global survey which says technology has become so pervasive across every business process that how a company chooses to leverage this technology to combat crime is central to the customer experience. Amra further stated, “Over a fifth of all customers said business technology to predict fraud was producing too many false positives and these false alarms become invasive for the customer.”  The survey found that companies are finding it increasingly expensive to invest in technology. “This being said, South Africa, and Africa in general, are investing in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence at a faster rate than the rest of the world. This may be to play catch-up with the rest of the world in efforts to combat economic crime, but it also signals the seriousness with which cybercrime is being approached.”

In addition to the customer experience being directly affected by the use of technology, criminals can and do use the company’s own technology to commit their crimes.  With new digital products, criminals are given new attack vectors, making the job of stopping these attacks so much harder. “In the past, companies may well have used good old-fashioned business-to-business processes to bring a product to market – resellers, distributors and retailers. However, technology has meant that there are innovative business-to-consumer platforms providing a wider attack surface for cybercriminals,” explains Amra.

In 2017, a single ransomware attack crippled the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, not only threatening lives, but also crippling hundreds of thousands of computers around the world. This is just one example from many that can be cited. The potential for harm is frightening as the technical sophistication of external fraudsters and attack surfaces within businesses continue to grow side by side.  It is for this reason, says Amra, that more than a quarter of respondents to the survey felt that cybercriminals would attack them in the next two years.

Amra concludes that the survey found that the responsibility of dealing with economic crime rests with the C-suite. Based on incidents we’ve assisted clients with organisations are falling into two categories, those who have executive-led initiatives and those who are crisis-driven i.e. moving from one crisis to the next without a clear cybersecurity strategy supported by the C-suite. It goes without saying that organisations with executive-led initiatives are faring much better when faced with cyber attacks. From a steering, strategic and reputational point of view, business leaders such as the CEO are finding that the buck stops with them in the fight against cybercriminals.

Distributed By APO Group