SAS 70

May 28, 2019  6:27 PM

How AI and Machine Learning Are Affecting the Computer Science Industry

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

It’s no secret that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are a big deal. By some estimates, within 15 years, automated algorithms and robots could take over approximately 40 percent of global jobs available to humans today.

If you’re in the computer science or computer engineering industry, news of this nature probably doesn’t affect you much. After all, the jobs being replaced are often entry-level, or those that require highly repetitive manual tasks. Computer science is a realm that would feasibly be in even higher demand with the advent of machine learning and AI. However, there are some important changes already developing thanks to the higher demand and higher excitement for these technologies.

The Push for “Sexy” Projects

For starters, AI and machine learning are hot topics in the realm of IT. Companies are clamoring for more machine learning solutions, even if they don’t fully understand them, pushing demand for new machine learning tools, scripts, and software to unprecedented new heights. For example, it’s estimated that by next year, roughly 20 percent of companies will have employees dedicated to monitoring and guiding neural networks, and more than 10 percent of new IT hires in customer service will be responsible for writing scripts for chatbots, one application of AI.

There are going to be several side effects of this push. First, novel projects that have the capacity to be even more impressive than conventional machine learning could be pushed aside, as our most talented engineers and computer scientists chase the positions that are offering the most money or the widest range of opportunities. This means the next truly original breakthroughs in computer science could be pushed back to make sure we explore this current trend to its fullest. Next, the demand for lower-level IT experts is going to shrink, making it harder to find entry-level positions, and virtually impossible to sustain a career indefinitely unless you have some kind of niche skillset.

The Diversity Dilemma

We’re also facing increasing consequences from the lack of diversity in AI and machine learning fields. AI experts are overwhelmingly white and male, and the byproducts of an industry with an overwhelming majority are typically problematic, unaware of how other populations are affected by their work. For example, in the past, facial recognition technologies have had trouble recognizing people with darker skin tones, since these systems were developed by people who were mostly white.

As interest in AI continues to grow, it’s going to show up in more places. AI will be giving you search results, choosing which news articles to show you, gatekeeping access to your important files and personal information, and possibly keeping you safe. And because the field will likely grow faster than the diversity problem can be solved, it’s going to introduce many new headaches—both for consumers and for computer engineers and scientists trying to stay ahead of those problems.

Harder Problems to Solve

Machine learning and AI also introduce a new layer of complexity that makes certain problems harder to solve—and it’s not just because they’re more complex than previous forms of coding. For the most part, machine learning algorithms aren’t necessarily a set of instructions; instead, they’re designed as a vague learning process for a machine to follow. The machine collects data, usually millions of examples of whatever it’s studying, and gradually learns about the concept, whether it’s recognizing faces in images or learning how to play Super Mario Bros.

The problem with this is that while we can see the evidence of the machine getting closer and closer to achieving its goal (or even surpassing human-level skills), the developers can’t “see inside” the algorithm to determine which pieces of information led to a specific conclusion. In other words, it’s incredibly hard to diagnose, specifically, where an algorithm goes right or wrong.

As AI and machine learning become more common, this is going to become an increasingly complex problem for computer scientists and engineers to address, requiring more insight, higher level skills, and possibly, entire new approaches to developing AI in the first place.

The Automation of Automation

We also need to take seriously the possibility of one day automating the process of creating new machine learning or, in an Inception-like twist, new automation software. Such a multi-layered approach to computer science would open a new branch of study, and require the creation of entirely new ways to look at problems in the computer industry.

AI and machine learning aren’t merely passing fads, though there may be even more novel computing breakthroughs on the near horizon. As a computer scientist or engineer, it’s your responsibility to predict and adapt to the massive changes in store for the industry in the coming years, as machine learning and AI become even more in demand.

May 25, 2019  11:25 AM

Climbing the Career Ladder in IT

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

When you’ve graduated with your IT qualification, it’s time to enter the world of work. For most graduates, this is a daunting task. What few of them understand is that, despite their qualifications, they must start at the bottom.

The IT career field offers multiple job opportunities. An entry-level job as a programmer is the first step onto a career ladder that offers diverse opportunities. Work experience, on-the-job training, and further study may well be required to achieve your career goals.

Take a look at how you can climb the IT career ladder:

  1. Business analyst

The organization you work for may offer you the chance to work as a business analyst. A business analyst studies how technical systems works in the organization. They also study the company’s business model, process, and strategic needs.

Part of the analysis includes determining the needs of stakeholders such as management, employees, customers, vendors, and partners.

With some experience as a business analyst, you could move up the career path and manage a team of business analysts. Alternatively, you could start a business analysis company. Small and medium enterprises seldom make use of the services of a full-time business analyst. You can freelance and work your own hours.

  1. Finance career options

Moving up the career ladder means taking on more responsibilities that involve financial aspects of the business. These include doing cost-benefit analyses, budgeting, and overseeing expenditure.

Your understanding of how IT systems work means that you can easily adapt to the company’s accounting system. If the finance bug bites you, consider a career as a CPA (certified public accountant). You may need to do further college-level study in economics and accounting. After that, you should take exam courses for CPA prep before writing the board exam.

  1. Research and development (R&D)

If you’re an innovator, you might be comfortable working for the R&D department of the company. Or you might make a move to a company that specializes in R&D. This kind of work allows you to work on creating new products or technologies.

R&D employees work in the development of new systems and services that a company either utilizes or sells. Once you’ve worked as an R&D programmer for a while, you could seek a promotion to manage the R&D department. Putting in the hard work and effort could see you rise to a position in the company’s senior management team.

  1. Support

If you’re a people person, you could consider working in the support department. It might mean starting off working at the IT helpdesk. This is a job that allows you to apply your knowledge of IT in the lives of users. One of the essential qualities a helpdesk worker needs is patience. You also must be able to adapt your advice to the needs and level of understanding of the caller.

Working at the helpdesk allows you the chance to progress to the position of IT Support Manager. This can, in turn, lead to a position of Support VP. There you’ll manage the IT and other support departments such as customer care.

  1. Hardware engineering

Software is continually evolving, and hardware must meet its needs. Hardware engineers design new hardware. They make prototypes and test them before they are manufactured in bulk. If you want to work in hardware engineering, you’ll start in a lower-level position as a technician.

Most hardware engineers work for computer manufacturers. However, it is possible to secure a position at a research organization. A hardware engineer needs to be very detail oriented. This is an increasingly competitive field of work, so jobs are not as plentiful as they are in other fields.

May 24, 2019  10:26 PM

4 Tips on Becoming an ERP Consultant

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

Large companies need enterprise resource planning (ERP) consultants to help them integrate and manage essential parts of their businesses. Even though there are software applications that can make it easier for companies to integrate sales, finance, purchasing inventory, planning, marketing, and other departments, large businesses rely on ERP consultants to facilitate the day-to-day activities of the supply chain. With this job, you’ll not only be doing very well financially but you will also have great career development opportunities.

There are many benefits to being an ERP consultant. However, actually getting the job is the hard part. Keep in mind that you’ll likely face strong competition no matter the company that’s hiring. With that being said, you can increase the likelihood of securing the position if you follow these tips.

Graduate from a 4-Year College

Since there will likely be a lot of other people applying for the same position as you, it’s recommended you have a good educational background. Ideally, you should graduate from a 4-year college and major in computer science or engineering. Note that ERP software can be quite complex, which is why you should know everything about it before you apply for the position. On top of that, you’ll need a background in business since this software is often used to integrate all of the processes needed to run a business.

Your primary task as an enterprise resource planning consultant will be to implement this software in a way to identify processes which are unproductive, duplicate, and redundant and replace them with more efficient operations. Essentially, your goal will be to increase the overall productivity of the company you’re working for.

Improve Your Communication Skills

It goes without saying that any type of consultant needs to have excellent communication skills. You’ll often be answering numerous questions your clients ask you. Of course, you will need to learn how to be a good listener as well. On top of that, consultants have to know how to convince management to make certain changes in their system.

Although some people have a natural talent for this, it’s recommended you work on your communication skills prior to applying for the job. Your first step should be learning how to give your undivided attention to someone. You can practice this with your friends and family members by focusing solely on what they’re saying and not doing anything else. Your clients won’t take you seriously if you text or talk with someone on the phone while talking to them.

It’s also a good idea to avoid always saying the first thing that comes to your mind. Thinking before you speak will help you build a reputation as someone who is clever. It’s worth mentioning that you should be both brief and specific whenever you speak.

Complete Formal Training in Different ERP Platforms

Do an online search and find people and organizations that offer formal training in the use of ERP software near you. It’s a good idea to learn using as many different platforms as possible. While mastering a certain software product is definitely a great idea, you should at least have some basic knowledge on other applications as well. After all, you’ll be more likely to get the job if you have a rich and diverse skill set. Aside from finding formal training near you, there are also countless of online courses that can help you learn how to use different ERP software products.

Offer Free Services

You can make a lot of money working as an ERP consultant. However, it will take you some time to actually get this job. In order to speed up the process, you should try offering free services to showcase your potential. It’s a good idea to have an established client base before you start applying for paid positions.

May 21, 2019  5:35 PM

The Importance of Predictive Analysis

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

No matter the industry, many firms can benefit from using predictive analytics to improve their business. Whether it’s a Banking and Financial Services company that needs to analyze their customer’s data to detect and reduce fraud and measure credit risk, Health Insurance companies who would like to know which patients are most at risk for chronic diseases and what the best treatment methods and interventions will be or Manufacturing companies who would like to optimize distribution and service processes or identify and reduce quality and production failures. Of course, we can’t forget how much anything digital and ecommerce related can benefit from predictive analytics. Online Retail stores can use predictive analytics for countless activities including forecasting what merchandise is likely going to sell well, when to order and stock certain items, what items will appeal to particular markets, and it can help predict how effective certain promotional activities will be. Predictive Analytics is useful in an array of business settings because it has features that are useful to many different industries. Some of the most important and widely used include:

Detecting Fraud and Reducing Risk

The pattern detection helps spot criminal behavior and prevent it. Analysis can be done in real time to spot abnormalities and inconsistencies in order to fix the problems as soon as they arise.  

Improving Operations

It can help with managing resources and forecasting inventory needs. This ultimately helps businesses operate more effectively and efficiently.

Optimizing Marketing Campaigns

Predictive Analytics can be used to determine customer responses or purchases and can be helpful when trying to identify cross-sell opportunities. These forecasting models can help with identifying and retaining loyal and profitable customers and is tremendously valuable for companies whose activities involve digital marketing and ecommerce.     

Why YOU need to use Predictive Analytics

In the current market, data is constantly being collected and analyzed in order to be used to optimize business processes. It’s no longer a question of whether or not a company should utilize predictive analytics since using predictive analytics doesn’t set companies apart from one another anymore. Especially in digital marketing and ecommerce, all successful firms use forecasting models to their advantage, that’s partly what makes those successful companies so successful. It’s become more of a necessity to understand and embrace predictive analytics in order to remain a competitive player in the industry. With improved technology and easy-to-use software, mathematicians and statisticians are no longer the only ones who can understand and apply forecasting models to make strategic decisions, making this technology more accessible to a wider audience. With time, forecasting will only continue to grow, so it is important to stay up to date with the latest technology and knowledge surrounding it.   

May 19, 2019  7:30 AM

Improving Employee Workflow

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

Businesses have a daily challenge to plan more and accomplish more. An effective workflow — or the process of how you get stuff done — can make work so much easier. However, it can be quite difficult to establish an efficient workflow for your team, especially because there are so many tools and systems available.

Every team is different and so is every workflow. You have to find out what works best for your team. What you need to keep in mind is that your workflow does not have to be complicated to be effective. In fact, the simpler it is, the better it’s likely to work.

What does an efficient workflow mean?

A good workflow keeps everyone on the same page, preventing frustration, confusion and miscommunication. Many employees waste their time waiting for information from team members. Eliminating this bottleneck helps each individual to make the most of their time.

A good workflow also means streamlining repetitive tasks. Automating these tasks allows the team to focus on higher level tasks.

Analyze your current work process

The first step towards improving workflow is to list each process and analyze it. The goal is to figure out what you could improve. Talk to your employees and ask them for their feedback. Identify any factors that are standing in the way of productivity and find ways to make changes.

Create an environment where people can do their best work

Giving employees a sense of being in control and giving them the ability to make decisions can increase the focus and energy they bring to a task.

Define roles

When roles are vague, no-one really knows what they’re responsible for and it can result in plenty of wasted time and overlapping. Show employees the larger mission of the company and how their roles contribute to it.

Use effective equipment

Using the best business headset can help an employee to be more productive, especially in an environment with plenty of background noise.

Establish communication routines and habits

Most problems in a team come from a lack of communication. Establish communication routines and habits to streamline collaboration and prevent misunderstandings.

This may be as simple as pinging a team member in Slack for something urgent, sending an email or creating a task in Asana if it’s not urgent or talking on Skype or in person if it’s complicated.

Have a system for sharing and storing information

Document the steps employees need to follow instead of expecting them to rely on memory. When they have to rely on memory, it is easy for them to make mistakes.

Having a central place for information can help employees to get answers to questions without having to interrupt another employee. A central place where information lives gives everyone the opportunity to update it and refer back to it.

Automate routine processes

The most common way to track and manage workflow today is by using work management software solutions. Today simple tools and apps help businesses to streamline their workflow. They offer advanced capabilities and features that make managing workflows simple.

Test, adjust and refine

Any changes made to workflows need to be tested. It’s important to evaluate how they work within a live workplace environment. You can make adjustments based on the results and continue to make refinements for further productivity.

Continue to keep tabs on a system to make sure it’s working and check in with a team to make sure that all is running smoothly.

Final thoughts

When you have defined systems in place, all employees understand their responsibilities, know what’s expected of them and who to ask if they have a problem. It’s an empowering way to work and encourages more productivity.

May 17, 2019  5:37 PM

Moving from natural language processing to natural language understanding

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

Imagine a world where satisfying human-computer dialogues exist. With the resurgence of interest in natural language processing (NLP) and understanding (NLU) – that day may not be far off.

In order to provide more satisfying interactions with machines, researchers are designing smart systems that use artificial intelligence (AI) to develop better understanding of human requests and intent.

Last year, OpenAI used a machine learning technique called reinforcement learning to teach agents to design their own language. The AI agents were given a simple set of words and the ability to communicate with each other. They were then given a set of goals that were best achieved by cooperating (communicating) with other agents. The agents independently developed a simple ‘grounded’ language.

Grounded vs. inferred language

Human language is said to be grounded in experience. People grasp the meaning of many basic words by interaction – not by learning dictionary definitions by rote. They develop understanding in terms of sensory experience — for example, words like red, heavy, above.

Abstract word meanings are built in relation to more concretely grounded terms. Grounding allows humans to acquire and understand words and sentences in context.

The opposite of a grounded language is an inferred language. Inferred languages derive meaning from the words themselves and not what they represent. In AI trained only on textual data, but not real-world representations, these methods lack true understanding of what the words mean.

What if the AI agent develops its own language we can’t understand?

It happens. Even if the researcher gives the agents simple English words the agent inevitably diverges to its own, unintelligible language. Recently researchers at Facebook, Google and OpenAI all experienced this phenomenon!

Agents are reward driven. If there is no reward for using English (or human language) then the agents will develop a more efficient shorthand for themselves.

That’s cool – why is that a problem?

When researchers at the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research lab designed chatbots to negotiate with one another using machine learning, they had to tweak one of their models because otherwise the bot-to-bot conversation “led to divergence from human language as the agents developed their own language for negotiating.” They had to use what’s called a fixed supervised model instead.

The problem, there, is transparency. Machine learning techniques such as deep learning are black box technologies. A lot of data is fed into the AI, in this case a neural network, to train on and develop its own rules. The model is then fed new data which is used to spit out answers or information. The black box analogy is used because it is very hard, if not impossible in complex models, to know exactly how the AI derives the output (answers). If AI develops its own languages when talking to other AI, the transparency problem compounds. How can we fully trust an AI when we can’t follow how it is making its decisions and what it is telling other AI?

But it does demonstrate how machines are redefining people’s understanding of so many realms once believed to be exclusively human—like language. The Facebook researchers concluded that it offered a fascinating insight to human and machine language. The bots also proved to be very good negotiators, developing intelligent negotiating strategies.

These new insights, in turn, lead to smarter chatbots that have a greater understanding of the real world and the context of human dialog.

At SAS, we’re developing different ways to incorporate chatbots into business dashboards or analytics platforms. These capabilities have the potential to expand the audience for analytics results and attract new and less technical users.

“Chatbots are a key technology that could allow people to consume analytics without realizing that’s what they’re doing,” says Oliver Schabenbergerin a recent article. “Chatbots create a humanlike interaction that makes results accessible to all.” The evolution of NLP toward NLU has a lot of important implications for businesses and consumers alike.

Satisfying human-computer dialogues will soon exist, and will have applications in medicine, law, and the classroom-to name but a few. As the volume of unstructured information continues to grow exponentially, we will benefit from AI’s tireless ability to help us make sense of it all.

May 15, 2019  5:38 PM

5 Steps Leaders Can Use to Combat Workplace Conflict

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

Wherever you may go, as long as there are people there who work together on a daily basis, conflicts will always ensue. The good news about conflict is that if it’s carefully managed, it can be beneficial to your business. The bad news is that if it isn’t properly managed, it can cripple your company.

Managing conflicts, however, doesn’t mean creating a fake sense of harmony as this doesn’t eliminate the cause of the problem. Creating an illusion of harmony will only result in more tension that will eventually play out negatively. To get to the root of this problem, you’ll have to follow these 5 steps.

Address conflict promptly

Addressing conflict immediately makes it easier for you to show all parties involved how their behavior affects the business’s performance negatively. Also, as a leader, you’re expected to take action and deal with problems swiftly.

Failure to do this will result in your team making the necessary decisions for you and that will reflect negatively on your part.

Communication is key

Addressing conflict doesn’t entail doing anything drastic. Effective communication holds the key in these situations. You can begin with asking the parties involved to settle their differences in private by themselves. If this doesn’t work, you can get involved and schedule a time and place that’ll allow you to talk things out without any interruptions.

Upon meeting, give all parties involved enough time to voice their opinions and don’t give one party total control over any part of this conversation. Also, focus on the problem and not your personal opinion of either party.

Keep an open mind

Accepting and respecting all parties’ opinions will make it easier for them to talk to you. In today’s socially diverse working environment, keeping an open mind will also prevent you from dealing with conflict in a manner that may seem discriminatory.

Another responsibility you have as a leader is the ability to make firm informed decisions when dealing with workplace conflicts. You need have a strong grip on your management skills so that you remain unwavered during critical situations.

This is where PMP certifications by EdWel programs come in as your knowledge in project management will help you make the best decisions in those complex workplace situations.  

Listen attentively

When listening to both parties, it’s important that you focus all your attention on each of them without interrupting. Do your best to understand what each party is trying to tell you. You can do this by rephrasing or repeating what they’ve told you so they’ll be able to confirm or dispute your understanding of what they said.

To better understand what they’re telling you, you may also restate the main points in their arguments or ask them to do so. When listening, do not react immediately to what’s being said.

Instead, use this opportunity to gather as much information as you can about what caused the conflict. This information will help you to better understand each party’s limitations and it’ll also help in conflict prevention.

Use your position effectively

As a leader, you should know when to step in. You’ll need to act as the mediator during work conflicts and that means you’re expected to be impartial. Your responsibility is to help employees deal with conflicts amicably, not taking sides.

During scheduled conflict resolution meetings, you may be needed to ensure that the conversation remains on topic. This means that you’ll be expected to calm down emotional employees and focus their attention solely on fixing the problem at hand.

The decisions you’ll make will need to address the affected party’s feelings. Another thing you’ll need to do is to encourage your employees to apologize sincerely when they make mistakes. You’ll also need to encourage them to be forgiving and not to grudges. Their keeping grudges will only worsen the situation over time and erase all the progress you’ve made as a team.

February 27, 2019  3:30 AM

Common Website Problems and Solutions

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

Companies, organizations, and individuals who want to attract attention online know they need a website. Unfortunately, far too many do not know every important characteristic of one that gets traffic, converts visitors to customers or clients, and helps them succeed at their goals. See if you suffer from any of these eight common website problems and consider their solutions for a strong online presence.

Ugly, Confusing, or Out-of-Date Design 

Website design has trends just like anything and while chasing the latest thing is not always the right idea, you need to stay up-to-date if you want people to look favorably upon you. How many times have you found a too flashy website that hurt your eyes or one that was so slick and artistic you struggled to find the navigation menu?

Besides using a current template with a CMS like WordPress or having a professional designer work on your site, always make sure your navigation is clear and all of the content is organized neatly. Graphics, videos, galleries, and sliders work wonders to improve appearances and interest, but a clear menu, visible links, and actual content give people what they need and want.

Low Quality or Repetitive Content 

Most site visitors scan for the content they want when they visit a site. If your content gives the same fluffy information over and over, they will not trust you as an authority. Also, if it is the type of surface information found on any similar pages online, you will struggle to achieve followers or repeat customers.

Give enough fresh valuable information coupled with unique and interesting ad copy or calls to action (CTAs) to make reading worth their time. Keep it informative while interjecting some entertainment value as well.

Lack of Effective SEO 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the cornerstone of connected, quality site marketing. Many factors like keyword choice, title and image tags, meta descriptions, on-page links, and external factors work in conjunction to boost the value of a webpage. Get an SEO audit or use CMS plugins to find problem areas and fix them.

The world of optimization encompasses vast collections of tips, tricks, methods, and solutions. Learning about all of them is the work of a lifetime, especially since they keep changing when Google updates its algorithms. Learn the best practices and implement them or hire outside help.

Slow Load Times 

Twenty years ago, online users happily waited up to 10 seconds for their chosen site to load. These days, you have two or three seconds before they click or swipe away. Boost slow load times by building your site on high-quality website hosting , optimizing images, and keeping the code squeaky clean.

No Obvious Calls to Action 

It is difficult to succeed online when you do not define what that success looks like. Do you want people to sign up for a newsletter, click an ad link, or purchase a product directly? The people who visit the website also need direction to take the right action that benefits them. Each page should have a clear call to action. Make them obvious but not overwhelming. Repeat the CTA in a natural and non-obnoxious way. Always tell people what you want them to do and what they get out of it.

Excessive and Complicated Signups and Forms 

Although CTAs are essential to success, having too many signup links and forms to fill out can leave people feeling confused or frustrated. If you force people to enter their email address, name, or other personal information before they can see your content, they may just click away and find it somewhere else. People are increasingly anxious about spreading their data across the web these days due to all the horror stories of stolen identities.

Make your forms easy to understand with clear labels to say what data goes where. Do not ask for information you do not need and people are hesitant to share. A simple newsletter signup does not require birthday, city and state, or what job they have in most cases.

Limited Ability to Connect or Contact 

A simple landing page may get your point across, but people these days want to know who they are doing business with before handing over their information and money. Whether for networking or simply putting a face to a company, the personal touch is valued. When a site visitor finds limited or no other ways to connect with you, suspicion starts to grow.

Make yourself accessible. This means you need to present visible links to social media pages where you interact with others, your blog if you have one, and contact forms or links to email you. This will not only make potential customers and clients happier, but it will also boost your website’s SEO within a quality link network.

Not Mobile Ready and Responsive 

More than 60% of polled consumers accessed the internet for shopping from mobile devices as early as 2012. On Black Friday alone in 2017, sales from smartphones and other devices made up 22% of all purchase. The numbers will continue to skyrocket. If your site is not responsive, you are missing out on not only a massive audience but also a boost in SERPs from Google.

How to fix this? The simplest way is to use a responsive web template or hire a professional designer to help. Adaptive web practices mean you have two differently designed sites for different access methods. No matter which option you choose, you want people to find you and interact comfortably with your website whether they use a 40-inch or 4-inch screen.

Avoiding these common website problems will go a long way toward creating a strong platform online where customers, clients, and interested people can get information and grow to trust you over time. Whether you run an instructional blog, a massive e-commerce mall, or just want to build a presence on the internet for your brick-and-mortar company, the solutions to these errors work to push you toward success.

February 11, 2019  8:52 AM

Common Technology Problems Affecting Small Businesses

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

For technology professionals, many of the problems once associated with the personal computer, e-mail, mobile devices and various kinds of business software have been solved. Years of bug-fixes, best practices improvements, general stability improvements and education have created a world where struggling with technology is rare. Many are unaware of just how much better things are now than they used to be.

That said, there are some issues businesses contend with that aren’t all that common among other kinds of users. Further, many businesses share these common technology problems while they search for solutions. The time and expense devoted to workarounds, delays and alternatives can be a persistent and significant drag on a company’s productivity and profitability. Here are some of those common problems and some potential solutions.


Any company that generates significant document volume contends with the filing system problem likely on a daily basis. Where do you put files? What do you call them? How can our office staff tell what is in a file? Do they have to open it? What software should they use?

Like the time-draining practice of checking e-mail several times a day, trying to figure out where to put your documents and what to call them can be a mind-bogglingly expensive and unexpectedly complicated problem. Can your office manager find any document stored on your computer systems with only a general description? Can your documents be internally searched from a general interface? Not being able to find the right document can bring any project to a screeching halt. Just ask your accountant or lawyer.

The solution to the filing problem is the same as the one related to e-mail: Your company should set a written policy and spend the time necessary to train everyone in how to comply with it. Once the entire office is speaking the same “document language” the ability of your staff to store and locate files, documents, images and other digital assets will improve and your productivity will follow.

Day to Day Security

Simply put, the average businessperson has no idea how vulnerable their technology is until they are educated on the subject. It then stands to reason their employees are equally uncertain when it comes to protecting their data, their information systems and their customer relationships. On any given day, there are likely to be at least a couple of stories in the news about identity theft, data breaches and privacy invasions affecting huge numbers of people. These large-scale security issues make great headlines, but they also distract entrepreneurs and managers from the fact big companies aren’t the only ones facing these kinds of problems.

Like the e-mail and document issues, improving security relies almost entirely on education. Until a company, and more importantly its employees can recognize a security threat, it is far more difficult to defend against it.


If you lose your data, you can lose your company. It really can be that simple. “When you have a technology emergency, your whole company could be down until the issue is resolved,” say IT experts at Tekhattan. The number of companies without a working and reliable backup plan is shocking considering the value of their data. The only reason backups are a continuing problem is because a fair number of companies don’t become aware of it until disaster strikes. The other reason is backups require both hardware and software components, and being an expert in either one is tough enough. Being an expert in both is often out of reach for executives, given their commitments elsewhere.

Backups are important enough they should be assigned to a competent group of employees or to an outside firm that specializes in the right tools and services.

Technology problems only remain problems if they are unaddressed. The major issue at some companies is that infrastructure isn’t sexy enough to excite people. The reality, however, is that the kinds of disasters that can occur in the absence of solid technology infrastructure aren’t all that sexy either.

January 20, 2019  5:47 PM

Artificial Intelligence Continues to Change Health Care

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT

There isn’t any question that artificial intelligence is a transformative technology that will continue to completely change the way every human being operates in the modern world. One of the major industries where artificial intelligence is making some very positive impacts is in healthcare. You can debate on how and where you want your healthcare delivered, but artificial intelligence will make healthcare much more efficient and accessible for us all.

In fact, artificial intelligence may be able to find congenital heart defects in children before they are born. Just think of all the lives that can be saved using this exact technology.

As a result, a child’s odds of survival can improve. What makes this even more noteworthy, is the CDC reports that congenital heart disease is one of the most common forms of birth defects. As you can see, artificial intelligence can certainly improve the odds for many babies whose lives are on the line.

Enhancing healthcare marketing

After a patient is diagnosed, the next step is to match them with the right therapies. Of course, there are many forms of therapies to choose from and consumers are inundated with marketing messages from drug companies and others. So, you can expect consumers do ask their physicians about this or that drug that they learned about via a commercial. Nonetheless, the pharmaceutical companies are running businesses for profit.

And, much of the messaging does not take into consideration the needs of the actual patient. Yet, with artificial intelligence, data can be drawn and aggregated for use in pulling relevant analytics. In addition, datasets can be pulled from lab results and hospital records. Those results can be matched with Internet usage and demographics.

Now, marketers can really put all the pieces together to create highly relevant messaging. Furthermore, the patient can make better decisions on treatment options as they are served only the most tailored marketing messages.

IBM is leading the way with AI in healthcare

At the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, IBM Watson Health general manager Deborah DiSanzo spoke about the various areas where AI is disrupting the healthcare industry as many know it. One of the more interesting advancements is in drug discovery. Before AI, it took pharmaceutical companies an average of one decade to launch a new drug. Moreover, the most experimental drugs are often left off the shelves.

Yet, IBM Watson worked with the Barrow Neurological Institute to rank around 1,500 proteins for their association with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The results showed that five of the proteins found had never been associated with the disease before. There is just so much data to process, humans can’t keep up. So, with AI, better drugs can be introduced to the market even quicker.

Smarter than your doctor

Would you ever consider seeing a virtual doctor? There are already apps in place that let you communicate with your doctor using your smartphone. Yet, what if you could see your doctor come to life powered by AI and hologram technology? Then, you no longer have to go to the doctor’s office, you can be treated or diagnosed in the comfort of your home.

Currently, AI can read Imagen radiology scans and monitor the spread of cancer. Furthermore, Google’s DeepMind AI can offer a blood test without using any blood to determine dangerous levels of potassium in the bloodstream.

AI can even predict disease. Right now, the healthcare industry is dealing with practitioner burnout and shortages of healthcare employees from doctors to nurses. Perhaps AI can fill in the gap.

Final thought

Picture doctors and nurses appearing in hologram form offering diagnoses and management. Then, imagine robots performing surgeries and/or administering medication in your home. This is all quite possible through AI. It looks like the future really is bright for the healthcare industry.

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