January 10, 2017  12:30 PM

Digital transformation strategy is common language at Rosetta Stone

Jason Sparapani Jason Sparapani Profile: Jason Sparapani
Digital business, Digital transformation, partnership

Rosetta Stone knew CDs alone wouldn’t cut it in the digital age. The language-learning company now helps people roll their Spanish R’s and sort out der, die and das in German with cloud software, available to them online and on their smartphones.

It’s something out of the digital transformation strategy playbook, if there were one: Using digital technologies like cloud computing to revamp business and better serve customers. That gives Mark Moseley, who leads IT at the Arlington, Va., company, the responsibility of not just supporting business but helping drive it.

But as cloud and mobile computing have made it easier than ever for business people to create new technology-enabled products and services, Moseley wouldn’t say he leads the company’s digital evolution in the traditional sense.

“I’d say I’m keeping pace with where my internal customers have been going,” said Moseley, vice president of IT at Rosetta Stone. “I lead with the best practices and with the element that guides them in the direction that I want them to go.”

A beacon for business

That direction is one that safeguards the security of the company’s data and its customers’ data, he said. And even the company’s large contingent of software developers, eager to try a new third-party service or get out the next product using the open source container technology Docker need guidelines.

“They may not be thinking about all of the different elements necessary for us to ensure that we’re meeting our corporate and compliance, legal and customer goals,” Moseley said.

Moseley doesn’t like to use the word boundaries — “because when you establish a boundary, it’s going to get crossed.” What he and his team do is make it clear that they are partners with users. IT is there to provide guidelines on cybersecurity and compliance, not slow them down in their quest to improve customer offerings.

That way, he said, “they’ll come and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to look at X service,’ or ‘We’re going to implement Y. How can you help us out to be faster than us just doing it on our own?'”

‘They can do it’

There once was a time, Moseley said, when IT didn’t have to focus on new technology. Instead, it set up the tools it had or ones it knew about. “You didn’t really think about it because you had a locked-down environment, and there were no options.”

Today, in a fast-moving, technology-driven business climate — and in a company where the business model is built on a digital transformation strategy — that’s not the case.

“Now if you don’t partner with your users,” Moseley said, “they’re going to bring in their own [technology]. They can do it. You’ve got to make those partnerships. You’ve got to stay on top of things.”

Mark Moseley talks more about Rosetta Stone’s digital transformation strategy in this SearchCIO interview.

December 29, 2016  4:00 PM

AR/VR, AI tech make list of best-read Data Mill columns in 2016

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

CIOs are on to the next new thing. From virtual reality technology to artificial intelligence to digital business, CIOs are educating themselves on all of it, according to this list of the best-read Data Mill columns in 2016. I take this as a very promising sign indeed, for the new year will almost certainly require new ways of thinking and new solutions to meet business challenges.

This roundup is a curated collection from SearchCIO’s Data Mill series, a column created in 2013 to capture “all things data,” as the tagline used to say, in particular the revolutionary impact of big data on business strategy. Looking back at this year’s greatest hits reveals just how much the big data conversation has changed in the span of a few years.

In 2014, the best-read column was a piece on Hadoop, a distributed file system that has become synonymous with big data. Last year, Spark, which processes big data in memory, ranked best. This year, the interest was more nuanced, with AR/VR and AI tech taking top spots.

1. AR/VR will change the way you work

Collaboration software tends to be a thorn in most CIOs’ sides. It can be intuitive, but if employees don’t use it, the investment is a waste. That pain might be eased with augmented and virtual reality technologies, which are poised to change how work gets done in the enterprise, according to two Deloitte Digital consultants. In this column, they describe the role CIOs will play when enterprises adopt AR and VR tech.

2. Bimodal IT doesn’t go far enough

CIOs who are undergoing a digital business transformation are likely familiar with bimodal IT, a term coined by Gartner. Bimodal describes a strategy that separates IT projects focusing on the delivery and maintenance of reliable, industrialized IT services from those innovative, fast-moving projects that require agility. Last spring, Forrester threw shade at the concept, advising that bimodal IT doesn’t go far enough. This column takes a look at Forrester’s research.

3. Define AI tech before investing

The first thing CIOs need before investing in artificial intelligence technology is to understand what AI tech means. Tom Davenport, renowned analytics expert and President’s Distinguished Professor of Information Technology and Management at Babson College, says CIOs will need to “disaggregate” the term, especially for C-level executives. He explained what he meant during a fireside chat with Vikram Mahidhar, senior vice president of AI solutions at RAGE Frameworks Inc., at this year’s EmTech, an emerging technology conference hosted by the MIT Technology Review. This column covers the highlights.

4. CFOs on when to renew or replace software

CFOs are changing the way they assess technology investments. Instead of gathering requirements, they’re taking business capabilities such as skills and expertise into consideration. That’s a big change, Leslie Owens, executive director at the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research, said at this year’s MIT Sloan CFO Summit in Newton, Mass. This column summarizes the discussion she moderated at the event.

5. The cloud or the edge? Depends on the use case

Basic analysis of the data created by an Internet of Things project is often done on edge devices such as smart phones, but that’s not always necessary. According to experts at the PAPIs event (a portmanteau of predictive

December 21, 2016  3:43 PM

CIOs take advantage of the digital opportunity

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

Phil Weinzimer has noticed a trend that will no doubt resonate with CIOs: These days, there are a lot more senior IT leaders out there. As companies realize technology is a core part of the business, they’re turning to technology experts like CIOs to lead a digital transformation. In some cases, CIOs aren’t waiting around for permission.

Weinzimer, author and IT consultant, ticked off several examples of CIOs who are proactively taking on the digital opportunity — from those who work with emergency rooms to the CIO of a candy company. They are examples of CIOs acting like business people, as they look for opportunities to integrate technology into customer-facing applications and change how the business interacts with its customers.

Digital opportunity in the ER

Emergency rooms are hammered for their inefficiencies. Patients are shuffled through a hurry-up-and-wait process, undergoing tests and seeing multiple healthcare professionals to get treated, Weinzimer said. The nurses who manage ERs often have limited insight into what’s happening. “The nurse doesn’t know, for example, how long a patient has been in a room without seeing a doctor. They don’t know when they need a certain piece of equipment,” he said. “So managing an emergency room is a very reactive process, although they use technology to manage all of the scripts and the medical tests that need to be done.”

That changed for a hospital in northeast, Pa., when Steve Heilenman, CIO at Computer Aid Inc., developed a solution to rid the ER of inefficiencies. Upon check in, patients are given a pin, a small digital device that records their movements and where they are at any given time. The healthcare professionals also wear the digital device. “Now when a patient gets into a room, the charge nurse knows how long they’ve been there without seeing a doctor,” said Weinzimer, who asked that the name of the hospital not be named.

The hospital uses a set of metrics based on the medical issue that a patient has, and they are triaged accordingly. It also uses a set of standards to ensure patients receive care in a timely manner based on their diagnosis.

The new process, developed by the CIO and his staff, has been in place for a few months, and the ER has found that “patients are being seen more often, that there’s been a significant improvement in the care that’s being provided, and patient satisfaction is going up,” Weinzimer said.

Digital opportunity in tomatoes

Digital transformation of an ER was inevitable. But CIOs are also having an impact at other kinds of companies. Peter Forte, CIO at Analog Devices Inc., a company that makes integrated circuits, has given new meaning to the term IoT: For one Analog project, IoT is the Internet of Tomatoes.

“The way you determine that a tomato has ripened to the right chemical composition is that you’ve got to cut into it,” Weinzimer said. Analog Devices is working with tomato farmers to build a digital platform that tracks the environmental conditions tomatoes are grown in, which affects the quality of the tomato. The platform will provide real-time updates to farmers, informing them if they need to, say, water the plant more or less to ensure optimal growing conditions. “Here’s a CIO who is really coming up with new ways to integrate technology in their products,” Weinzimer said.

Even the candy company Just Born, best known for its marshmallow confections called Peeps, is turning to digitization. “They’re basically a manufacturer, but they’re now starting to want to engage with their customers,” Weinzimer said. In fact, Just Born has just hired a new CIO, Rachel Hayden, whom he describes as “ambitious, smart as a whip, very business focused.” The maker of Peeps may be looking at big changes ahead. On her LinkedIn profile, Hayden, who has an MBA, describes herself as a “transformation IT executive” with proven experience of “shifting the operating model and culture of IT organizations from cost centers to proactive enablers of business growth.”

December 19, 2016  8:14 AM

How two CIOs define digital

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

Digital transformation means different things to different departments, according to new research out of Deloitte LLP. Marketing, sales, customer service and even finance often see digital as customer-facing tools and applications. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg, according to Deloitte.

“What many business leaders currently regard as ‘digital’ is predominately the part of the iceberg that shows above water,” states the Navigating legacy: Charting the course to business value report. “What lies below is often legacy systems, a rigid organizational culture, and antiquated processes that have encumbered the shift toward digital.”

The Deloitte researchers encourage CIOs, whom they describe as being best positioned to see the entire iceberg, to step up and help get everyone on the same page. In that vein, here’s how two CIOs, who took part in Deloitte’s research, define digital at their companies.

Cause and effect

Vittorio Cretella, CIO at Mars Inc. in McLean, Va., defines digital in terms of cause and effect. The causes include massive amounts of data, the consumerization of IT and the availability of more computational power thanks to the cloud.

The combination of data and technology affects not just “the digitization of commerce,” Cretella said, “but also the digitization of operations.” For that reason, the business model of Mars, a company founded in 1911, is changing to take advantage of digital technologies. He is currently looking at artificial intelligence technology, including robotic process automation and cloud services from IBM Watson, to automate business processes. Technologies like these will also help to democratize analytics by “spreading knowledge across the company that allows our talented associates to make faster decisions and better educated decisions,” Cretella said.

So, when he talks about the concept of digital, he makes sure to talk about the digitization of commerce, of operations and of the business model. “It touches all sides of the business,” he said.

Knocking down silos

At NuVasive Inc., a medical device manufacturer aiming to make spine surgeries less invasive, digital is the lifeblood of it business model.

“Digital doesn’t just mean we’re going to put a website up,” said Johnson Lai, CIO at the San Diego, Calif.-based NuVasive. “Digital means the entire flow, all of the way through the organization and looping that back around to a commercial goal.”

NuVasive’s digital-based business model, which includes applications and digital platforms, requires IT and the business to work closely together. “Those conversations and decisions are becoming so depending on each other and each other’s function, that I think all C-level individuals are now knowledgeable in each other’s silos, so to speak,” he said.

The new reality means it’s not unheard of for the CFO to spend two days at an IT conference with Lai. And vice versa, if warranted, he said.

December 13, 2016  6:09 PM

CIOs, beware rising SaaS costs

Jason Sparapani Jason Sparapani Profile: Jason Sparapani
CIOs, Forrester, SaaS, Software as a Service

As vendors rake in revenues from software-as-a-service subscriptions, CIOs could see their SaaS costs rise 10% to 15%.

A new tech spending forecast from Forrester research advises CIOs to negotiate caps on price increases in cloud software agreements — and to evaluate alternatives to current vendors when contracts expire.

The problem, Forrester analyst Andrew Bartels said, is SaaS agreements are often structured “in ways that in fact don’t provide downward flexibility of costs — [they] only provide upward flexibility.”

So a contract with a vendor may allow for prices to rise as IT adds more users to an application, said Bartels, who wrote the report. What they don’t do is decrease if the number of users goes down. And many of those contracts last for three years.

There are other aspects of SaaS that box CIOs in on cost. When an organization owns the servers that its business software runs on, it can stop paying maintenance on it, for example, to save cash, Bartels said. Or it can decide not to do an upgrade. Not so with SaaS.

“Any time you’re using SaaS, any time you’re using cloud, you don’t have the option of stop paying because as soon as you stop paying, you lose the technology,” Bartels said “You’re renting it.”

Rising SaaS sales, SaaS costs

The attention to contract details and exit clauses is particularly important going forward, Bartels said. SaaS sales are expected to rise in 2017 despite uncertainty surrounding President-elect Donald Trump’s policies on international trade deals and immigration. But this is not the case for all tech sales. Indeed, the Forrester report lowered its pre-election forecast of 5.1% growth in tech spending to 4.3%, as companies remain cautious about investments.

Swelling SaaS sales reflect Forrester’s projection that sales of “business technology” — that is, technology that aims to serve and keep customers and win new ones — will also grow by 7.7% in 2017. In contrast, IT spending is expected to increase by 2.8%.

“The type of uncertainty that we’re facing becomes an incentive for firms to adopt cloud perhaps more rapidly than they might otherwise adopt it,” Bartels said. A heightened adoption rate of cloud sharpens the challenge for CIOs.

“One of the downsides of cloud technology is the potential — unless you are careful, unless you negotiate carefully, unless you create exit paths — that you’ll be trapped into agreements where your cost rises over time and doesn’t in fact either flatten out or go down in tough times as you might like it to,” Bartels said.

December 7, 2016  8:07 PM

Gartner: Chief data officer role continues to grow

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

Chief data officers are gaining organizational clout, according to a new report from Gartner. Researchers at the consultancy found that companies are establishing a data office, what they refer to as “the office of the CDO,” complete with staffing, budget and specific responsibilities.

“This is a new business function, equal to IT and HR, finance, supply chain and any of the operations departments,” said Jamie Popkin, a Gartner analyst and co-author of the new research, which is based on interviews and online surveys with 180 chief data or analytics officers or others who hold a high-level data and analytics position.

The consultancy’s first survey of chief data officers was qualitative; the current report, Survey Analysis: The Second Gartner CDO Survey – The State of the Office of the CDO, is a quantitative study, with researchers looking to consider the merits of eight CDO hypotheses, including the organizational structure of the role itself.

“What we’re seeing is that, increasingly, there is an office of the chief data officer run by a chief data officer,” Popkin said. “And the chief data officer generally is having a very broad scope of responsibilities.” Because the position cuts across an organization, Gartner predicts CDOs will use the position to propel themselves into another C-level role in just three years.

The office of the CDO

Chief data officers are often brought in as governance gurus. The position was born out of the financial industry, in which companies have heavy compliance and regulatory requirements, Popkin said. Since its emergence in finance, companies such as those dealing with sensitive data or are transactional-heavy have also taken to the chief data officer role.

Researchers found that more than half of the respondents (54%) have a fully or partially implemented office of the CDO; another 20% are exploring or planning to implement one within the next year. The office of the CDO is still a relatively small one — no more than 24 people, according to 61% of respondents. But, as the report states, “with people and programs [come] budget.”

The average budget globally for the office of the CDO is $6.5 million, with North American companies budgeting more than twice the amount of their European counterparts.

The CDO’s unique perspective

Ensuring data quality, information strategy and master data management were and are primary responsibilities for CDOs, according to the research. But the potential impact a CDO has on the organization extends beyond keeping corporate data in order. Popkin said CDOs are uniquely positioned to be change agents and, as such, break out of the chief data officer role and into another influential C-level position.

Because they’re tasked with looking across the organization, CDOs understand how things operate, where there is resistance to change and why there’s resistance to change, and they can help groups change the way they do things, according to Popkin. They can shine a light on when and where a process or business model breaks down.

The experience they gain from helping transform an organization sets them up for future C-level positions such as a chief marketing officer, chief operations officer and even a chief executive officer. Indeed, Popkin and his co-researchers predict 15% of CDOs will begin to parlay their expertise into another C-level role by 2020. “I think someone who has that ability to work across all of the administrative functions is actually demonstrating the personal and professional maturity you might expect in a CEO,” Popkin said.

He pointed to the turnover they’re already seeing among the chief data officer role — not due to failure but due to demand — as a piece of evidence behind their thinking. “We think there are already bidding wars going on for top CDOs who have demonstrated their capability,” he said.

November 30, 2016  9:06 PM

Hyper-converged systems: Questions for CIOs

Jason Sparapani Jason Sparapani Profile: Jason Sparapani
Hyper-convergence, Infrastructure

Hyper-converged systems are drawing a lot of interest. The main reason is simplicity. They bring together all the necessary data center components in one package — computation, storage, networking and virtualization. So the systems are easier to buy, implement and manage than traditional infrastructure. They take up a lot less room and can reduce management costs.

How can’t CIOs find an appeal? To determine whether hyper-converged systems are a good fit, they should start by asking a variety of questions.

Start with the basics

Consultant Judith Hurwitz said CIOs should consider specific uses — what do they actually want to do?

“Are you analyzing data in real time and coming up with next steps that really require a tremendous amount of compute and storage, where all of that has to come together very quickly?” said Hurwitz, president of Hurwitz & Associates and a prolific author of books on IT.

A cloud infrastructure service by say, Amazon Web Services or Microsoft’s Azure, could work, too, but depending on the applications that will be run, it could run up some serious bills.

“What is it going to cost you in the public cloud?” Hurwitz said.

Exactly what CIOs will do with a hyper-converged system is also important to John Burke, an analyst at Nemertes Research. CIOs need to think about what kind of performance they will need for the applications they will run — things like how many units of information need to be processed and how fast.

“You’ve always got to ask yourself the performance questions,” Burke said. “Will [a hyper-converged system] deliver the performance I need for the job that I envision running on it?”

CIOs should also think about where their administrators currently spend their time and how much time a hyper-converged system might save, he said.

Thinking of others

But CIOs can’t just ask themselves questions, Hurwitz said. They also need to pepper their constituents, their business users, with them.

“The basic question is, ‘What do you want to do that you can’t do now? What’s holding you back?'” Perhaps the business side wants to use applications that rely on the internet of things or on huge amounts of data or analytics — and their current infrastructure systems aren’t cutting it.

When they’re ready, Hurwitz said, CIOs need to take their concerns straight to the companies that sell hyper-converged systems.

“You put those same questions to those vendors: ‘This is what the people in my organization are trying to solve. Show me how you do it,'” she said.

November 30, 2016  7:55 PM

The industrial internet’s edge

Nicole Laskowski Nicole Laskowski Profile: Nicole Laskowski

Jeffrey Bornstein, SVP and CFO at General Electric Company, took time during his fireside chat at the MIT CFO Summit to make a distinction between what he called the “consumer internet” and the “industrial internet,” a term coined by GE that refers to industrial machine to machine communication.

“The architecture and the infrastructure of the industrial internet is completely different than the consumer internet,” he said. Rather than send all of the data to the cloud for analysis, the industrial internet relies on edge computing, the ability to collect and analyze data closer to the machine itself.

When a customer buys an item on Amazon, the transaction happens in seconds — not milliseconds, Bornstein said. And that’s because Amazon captures the data; sends it to the cloud; analyzes it; runs it against a profile it has of the customer; checks on the product’s digital twin, a digital representation of a physical asset; and then responds, according to Bornstein.

“When Amazon sends you back recommendations and you look at it, it takes you a couple of seconds to ingest it, and if you decide none of that is interesting, there’s no cost associated with that. There’s no cost for the false positive,” he said. “But in the industrial internet, the cost of a false positive could be catastrophic.”

A piece of industrial machinery like a jet engine, for example, needs to be able to respond to requests — such as a data anomaly — in microseconds rather than seconds, Bornstein said. Rather than send all of the data to the cloud and wait for a response, a good chunk of the data analysis needs to happen at edge — on or near the industrial machine itself.

“A very small amount of data will migrate all of the way to the cloud where you’ll do long-term data and analysis,” he said. But most of the compute happens where the machine lives.

There’s another reason for keeping compute local. “The amount of data we’re talking, just in our jet engine business, is way beyond anything Facebook or Google deals with,” he said. “So you’d never be able to pour all of that information to the cloud anyway.”

November 30, 2016  4:22 PM

In elections, opinion polls matter less than ‘stable’ voters

Jason Sparapani Jason Sparapani Profile: Jason Sparapani
2016 elections

Donald Trump’s surprise win over Hillary Clinton in the recent U.S. presidential election spurred a lot of questions about the opinion polls leading up to Election Day and how they were conducted. Harvard University political scientist Gary King said the attention is focused on the wrong group.

“The story is not really about the pollsters; the story is really about the people,” said King, who also leads Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science.

Certainly, the campaigns turned up twist after twist — Clinton’s swoon at a 9/11 memorial service, seemingly giving credence to reports about her ill health; infighting among top brass in the Trump campaign; leaked Democratic National Committee emails indicating that officials conspired against Clinton’s primary challenger, Bernie Sanders; a surfaced 2005 video of Trump boasting about groping women.

Changing hearts and minds?

Opinion polls zigzagged — Clinton was up by a few percentage points, then she was up by a lot more, then the race tightened and it was tougher to call. Through it all, the media, King said, characterized voters as indecisive, favoring one candidate and then the other as pundits pontificated and “fake news” circulated on social media.

News website Politico asked pollsters about fluctuating polls before the Nov. 8 election and found that when there was bad news about, say, Trump, the Republican candidate, registered Republican voters were less likely to answer questions about the election. Ditto for news on Clinton and Democratic voters.

Voters themselves are remarkably stable, King said. They tend to choose early on whom to support and then move toward that choice throughout the campaign. (King co-wrote a paper on the tension between variable polls and predictable elections in 1993 and stands by it today.)

“If you watch CNN, they’re all obsessed about the people being swayed by this, and the people being swayed by this and they only talk about the horse race,” King said. “Very few people know people who flipped and flopped across the campaign.”

Predictable people

Once the voters get a general understanding of who candidates are and what their ideologies are, King said, forecasters can pretty reliably predict the outcome of the election, at around the times of the Republican and Democratic conventions, plus or minus three or four percentage points.

What happened in this election, he said, wasn’t that voters switched from planning to vote for Trump to Clinton and then back to Trump or vice versa. It was just that the race was incredibly close.

“The facts about people are that people are very stable and very predictable and in this sense trustworthy,” King said. “They’re not swayed by crazy little events in the campaign.”

Rising use of mobile phones means pollsters have to rethink how to run opinion polls during elections. Read about it in this SearchCIO news story.

November 30, 2016  3:49 PM

Shopping for survey research services? Look to the election for lessons

Jason Sparapani Jason Sparapani Profile: Jason Sparapani
2016 elections, Surveys

Your organization launched a daring new product. It wants fast feedback from customers, so it signs with a company that does customer satisfaction surveys.

Quick survey: Would you trust the results?

It may seem that now — just weeks after political surveys and resulting analysis largely missed Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election — is a bad time to ask. But with more organizations using data analysis to make critical business decisions, I’d argue it’s a great time to ask.

Harvard University political scientist Gary King said companies can learn a valuable lesson from what pollsters got wrong: If they want to buy services from a survey research outfit, they should ask tough questions about how it does its surveying.

“I would ask, ‘How do you know that you’re going to get a right answer?'” said King, who is also the director of Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science. “‘Give me some evidence that what you’re doing makes sense.'”

Beyond customer satisfaction surveying, survey research services include market research, to gather information about markets or customers, and new-product research, to determine whether a certain product or service will satisfy a certain need.

A serious problem with the political side of survey research today, King said, is this: Pollsters can’t easily get a representative sample of voters — that is, a small group of people who reflect the larger population. Lots of people use mobile phones only, and they often don’t want to respond to polls.

The nice thing about polling during elections is, after pollsters gather results of their survey — which point to one result or another — come Election Day, they learn the truth, King said.

“If the survey went wrong somehow or in some way small or large, then we get to know,” King said. “That’s actually a great thing for the survey research team because they get to learn something.”

Pollsters who’ve been proven wrong after the election — and that’s most of them — now have a great opportunity to improve their data collection and ultimately their forecasting prowess, King said.

Companies doing product or market research will have, he hopes, done the same: stumbled early on and then learned from their mistakes.

“There’s plenty of analytics where nobody learns anything; you just do it. And that’s not very good,” King said.

Rising use of mobile phones means pollsters have to rethink how to survey voters during elections. Read about it in this SearchCIO news story.

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