MAKING PEOPLE H-APP-Y

GUEST COLUMN

By Sean Kopelke, Vice President, Solutions Engineering, Asia Pacific & Japan at Riverbed Technology

Digital transformation is underway throughout Australia, offering new and profound ways to improve customer and employee experience, while boosting revenue and productivity.

But what we see time and again is organisations with all the gear and not enough understanding of how their users are experiencing it. What many businesses overlook in this rush towards transformation is the importance of putting customer experience at the centre of the process.

In the age of the app, a customer’s digital experience has become integral to brand value and getting this right is the key to extracting the most out of your digital investments.

The modern customer now carries strong expectations of your app performance. Digital experience may be the front-end digital services and processes that your customers directly interact with but it’s also a crucial part of the total service offering.

As the speed of service grows tenfold, so too does an unwillingness to wait more than three seconds for a web page to load. We are living in an environment where a single second of delay can bring a significant number of lost conversions.

Convenience is the name of the game, and the channel or method is unimportant. Internally and externally, users are quicker than ever to critique your business based on app performance, whether it’s those on your customers’ phones, or your employees’ desks.

Recent Salesforce digital customer research revealed 69 per cent don’t just want but actively expect Amazon-esque buying experiences. The same research noted 59 per cent felt companies need cutting-edge digital experiences to keep their business.  

At the same time, the reality is that every company is vulnerable to poor app performance. We’ve seen the likes of Amazon suffer significant outages that left its AWS services offline for hours. Instagram’s very public crash left users unable to upload content to the platform and the subsequent hashtag #instagramdown was retweeted millions of times as a result.

Attune Hearing is an example of one company who has recognised that improving customer experience can provide its business with a competitive edge. It offers a wide-range of audiological services from hearing tests to hearing aid fitting and rehabilitation. They run 44 clinics across Australia and operate primarily on referrals from healthcare providers.

Amidst growing competition and in a sector undergoing major disruption, customer experience became the primary battleground. Attune needed to innovate and deliver richer experiences for its customers, which meant adopting new services and applications while maintaining efficiency with the new traffic being created.

With clinics spanning vast distances nationwide, bringing these new services, apps and sites online required a significant amount of time, travel and cost for the brand. Additionally, the rapid introduction of new service applications and locations was placing a strain on existing legacy infrastructure and making it function at a subpar level.  

This is where SD-WAN and cloud networking solutions made the save, drastically simplifying networking while reducing the time it takes to spin up new apps, services and locations. With this platform in place, Attune was able to accelerate the slew of new traffic crossing their hybrid environment and strengthen its digital performance.

Now all that is required is a basic internet connection and Attune’s new site can be up and running on the network.  

As a bonus, the visibility Attune receives from the new applications has given them a better understanding of their own performance and the ability to diagnose and resolve issues faster, improving service levels for staff and customers with relative ease.

This is the power of having deeper visibility into how users are interacting with the apps in your system, something big data plays a fundamental role in unearthing. In the face of constant features and updates, it’s inevitable that over time an applications performance will erode. Big data lets us know the rate this is occurring and how we can get our systems back on track.

The growth of customer expectations is matched by the growth in innovation and technology, and it is ultimately a very exciting prospect. It puts the onus back on businesses to continue delivering better digital experiences. When a company takes stock of their applications and its performance, everyone benefits.

Sean Kopelke is Vice President, Solutions Engineering, Asia Pacific and Japan at Riverbed. Based in Sydney, Australia, Kopelke is responsible for leading the region’s sales engineering team and helping to build and execute a long-term growth strategy for the company, which includes deepening and expanding its own technology expertise in close collaboration with partners and customers.

 



‘JUST 5% OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATIONS WORK’ WARNS FORMER CISCO EXEC & AI ADVOCATE TOBIAS

The emergence of artificial Intelligence should not be seen as a threat but opening a plethora of opportunities for jobs, business and individual ventures, according to transformation strategist and founder of The Strategy Group, and AGSM Fellow Jeffrey Tobias.

Tobias, who will be a co-presenter at next month’s Artificial Intelligence and Creative Intelligence seminar in Sydney said that recent research showed that only 5 per cent of digital transformations proved successful. “Organisations need to understand how to adapt to the new world of AI and what effects the new digital economy will have on them,” he emphasised.

Tobias – who previously served as Cisco’s global lead for Innovation Strategy in the Internet Business Solutions Group – said that while the future for society is bright with the continuing onset of AI, there will be many who will suffer job losses and insecurity.

“However, this is not new; technology has been shaping our workforce through every industrial revolution so far,” he added.  “The many company leaders do not even begin to understand the problems and challenges their organisations face before commencing a digital transformation, often featuring AI.”

“It is important for leaders to understand how the digital economy is eroding their companies’ current business models, the many opportunities offered and timeframes in digital transformation, as well as the need bring the entire organisation along for the journey,” Tobias said, adding that only after considering these factors organisations, faced with disruption of their usually out-of-date business models, could actually benefit from the process of digital transformation.

Dr Tobias will be joined by experts, Bem Le Hunte, Associate Professor Faculty and Founding Director of the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation at UTS, together with Professor Bogdan Gabrys, Professor of Data Science in the Faculty of Engineering and IT, UTS,  to break down these concepts at a seminar next month.

ACMA TELLS OFF TELCOS ON DISABILITY INFORMATION FAILURES

The Australian Communications Media Authority (ACMA) has formally warned Telstra, Optus and Vodafone for failing to offer information about products and services that may benefit consumers with a disability.

Under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code, telcos are required to provide information about the disability products and services they offer to consumers who have identified having such needs.

Nerida_O’Loughlin_Chair_of_the_Australian_Communications_and_Media_Authority“Telecommunications services play a vital role in the lives of all Australians. It is critical that consumers with a disability are able to find out about services and products that may suit their particular needs when making enquiries with their telco,” commented ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin.

According to the ACMA, its investigation uncovered  “significant gaps in knowledge and awareness of disability products” among consumer-facing sales staff employed by the  telcos.

It kicked off the investigation following research by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network indicating poor practice by telcos in supplying information to people with disabilities.

‘The ACMA and Australian Communications Action Network work together on important consumer issues and I thank them for undertaking this research,’ said Ms O’Loughlin, noting that following the formal warning, TelstraOptus and Vodafone indicated they will ensure staff are equipped with the accurate information about products and services for people with a disability.

 

THIRD OF INDONESIAN CONSUMERS USE PIRATED TV BOXES: SURVEY

In a recent study of the online content viewing behaviour of Indonesian consumers, it was revealed that 29% of consumers use a TV box which can be used to stream pirated television and video content.

These TV boxes, also known as Illicit Streaming Devices (ISDs), allow users to access hundreds of pirated television channels and video-on-demand content. Such illicit streaming devices often come pre-loaded with pirated applications which are either free or charge low subscription fees, which then provide ‘plug-and-play’ access to pirated content.

The survey found that IndoXXI Lite, LiveStream TV and LK 21 Reborn are among the most popular pirate applications amongst Indonesian consumers. More alarmingly, 55% of respondents admitted to using free streaming services, with the IndoXXI Lite app (29%) in particular representing a larger user base than all local legitimate online video platforms combined (19%).

The survey, commissioned by the Asia Video Industry Association’s (AVIA) Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), and conducted by YouGov, also highlights the detrimental effects of streaming piracy on legitimate subscription video services.

Of the 29% of consumers who purchased an illicit streaming device for free streaming, two in three (66%) stated that they cancelled all or some of their subscription to legal pay TV services. Specifically, 33% asserted that they cancelled their subscriptions to an Indonesian-based online video service as a direct consequence of owning an ISD.

International subscription services, which include pan-Asia online offerings, were also impacted – more than one in three (31%) Indonesian users abandoned subscriptions in favour of ISD purchases.

The surge in popularity of ISDs is not unique to Indonesia. Similar YouGov consumer research has been undertaken in other South East Asian countries where high levels of ISD usage was also found: 15% of Singapore consumers, 20% of Hong Kong consumers, 25% of Malaysian consumers, 28% of Filipino consumers and 34% consumers of Taiwanese consumers use a TV box which can be used to stream pirated television and video content.

“The illicit streaming device (ISD) ecosystem is impacting all businesses involved in the production and distribution of legitimate content”, said Louis Boswell, CEO of AVIA. “ISD piracy is also organised crime, pure and simple, with crime syndicates making substantial illicit revenues from the provision of illegally re-transmitted TV channels and the sale of such ISDs. Consumers who buy ISDs are not only funding crime groups, but also wasting their money when the channels stop working. ISDs do not come with a ‘service guarantee’, no matter what the seller may claim.”

The damage that content theft does to the creative industries is without dispute. However, the damage done to consumers themselves, because of the nexus between content piracy and malware, is only beginning to be recognised. In late 2018, the European Union Intellectual Property Office released a report on malware found on suspected piracy websites and concluded that such websites “commonly distribute various kinds of malware luring users into downloading and launching such files”. The research, which worked closely with the European Cybercrime Centre at Europol, concluded that “the threat landscape for malware distributed via copyright-infringing websites is more sophisticated than it might appear at first glance”.

Cancelling legitimate subscription services and paying less for access to pirated content is fraught with risks, as Neil Gane, the General Manager of AVIA’s Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), comments, “Piracy websites and ISDs typically have a click-happy user base, and are being used more and more as clickbait to distribute malware. Unfortunately the appetite for free or cheap subscription pirated content blinkers users from the very real risks of malware infection.”

Of those consumers who own an ISD, more than two in five of respondents (44%) claim to have purchased their ISD from one of the largest Southeast Asia-based ecommerce stores. Also, one in three (31%) of ISD owners say they acquired their devices via one of the world’s most popular social media platforms.

In addition to the short-term problem of cancelled subscriptions is a longer term problem – namely, many of the cord-cutters are young. The survey found that free streaming apps are particularly favoured among 18-24 year-olds, with almost two in three (58%) cancelling legitimate subscription services as a result of owning ISDs, especially international online subscriptions (34%).

The Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) is the trade association for the video industry and ecosystem in Asia Pacific. It serves to make the video industry stronger and healthier through promoting the common interests of its members. AVIA is the interlocutor for the industry with governments across the region, leads the fight against video piracy and provides insight into the video industry through reports and conferences aimed to support a vibrant video industry. AVIA evolved from Casbaa in 2018.

NEC TRIALS SD-WAN AT KUALA LUMPUR UNI’S NEW CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE

NEC has flagged the successful completion of a Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) trial with the University of Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) in Malaysia.

The project, funded by  Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, aims to boost cybersecurity resilience among ASEAN Member States.

The trial began in September 2018 using the WAN infrastructure in UniKL as the testbed.
NEC said it showed that implementing its open source-based SD-WAN Security Common Platform in the university’s WAN allowed the network management and control to be completely centralized. “It also allows the institution to manage its existing network equipment from multiple providers from a single SD-WAN controller,” the firm added.

Following the successful trial, NEC Malaysia has won a contract to deliver OpenMSA, an open network orchestration framework for the UniKL-NEC SDx Center of Excellence, which was officially inaugurated by UniKL today.

The center was established to foster Malaysian network engineering talents and spearhead its research on the latest networking technologies, including Software-Defined Networking, Internet of Things and 5G mobile communications.

“Moving forward, we will launch the new open source-based SD-WAN Security Common Platform globally to help organizations transform the way they operate and manage their networks,” said NEC Global Platform Division SDN/NFV Technology Expert Masanori  Tsujikawa.

AIIA HAILS ONGOING GOV’T-INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIP ON DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the peak member body for the ICT industry, is celebrating the progress made by government and industry since a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed with the Digital Transformation (DTA) one year ago.
Michael Keenan, Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation, was the keynote speaker at the AIIA hosted Ministerial Luncheon held on Tuesday 19 March at the National Press Club. The event marked the anniversary of the shared commitment to continue to deliver the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agenda.
MK-HeadshotIn his valedictory speech, Minister Keenan emphasised he is an ongoing supporter of the MOU between the DTA and AIIA, highlighting some of the positive outcomes benefiting the industry.
The MOU was entered into on 13 March 2018 in order to facilitate practical ways for the DTA and AIIA to engage industry and government agencies in meaningful dialogue. During the first year, participating AIIA members have benefited from ongoing updates on the DTA’s activities relating to its digital transformation agenda. This included the opportunity for AIIA members to contribute directly to DTA on user research.
Commenting on the anniversary of the AIIA and DTA MOU, Ron Gauci, CEO of the AIIA, said: “We’ve made great progress identifying opportunities for the parties to exchange information and draw on expertise to deliver better government online services for individuals and businesses.
“Our members think this has been a ‘great start’ for industry and government agency dialogue. We hope this model will continue to evolve, and that it can be applied across other agencies.”
Several initiatives and activities have been undertaken to support the opening of the dialogue.
These include:
  • Regular meetings between DTA CEO and AIIA CEO
  • Cadence meetings between AIIA members and DTA Senior decision makers
  • Being part of the October 2018 USA delegation visiting the following AIIA member offices: Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce, IBM, Cisco, Infosys, Qlik, WIPRO, Singtel Innov8 and Oracle. The delegates also attended think tanks such as the World Economic Forum and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, as well as startup incubators at Berkley SkyDeck and the Australian Landing Pad, all showcasing innovative Australian technology start-up companies

HUMANITY 2.0 IN THE AI REVOLUTION

In Aurecon’s latest Just Imagine blog post, Aurecon Chief People Officer Liam Hayes and Chief Digital Officer Andrew Maher suggest that in the middle of the war between humans and machines, we may have missed one thing: machines are not our enemies.

No one is better at being human than humans. But robots beg to differ… ask Harish Natarajan, the world record holder for debate competition victories. In February this year, Harish faced the most unique and unpredictable opponent he had ever encountered – Miss Debater, IBM’s six-year-old artificial intelligence (AI) system.

While Harish may have had more debating experience than the bot, truth be told, the odds have not been in favor of humans lately. The battle between humans and machines has witnessed world champs and record breakers fall short to AI countless times.

Yet, in today’s world where everyone is claiming that robots are out to take our jobs, humans needed a win – and win, Harish did. Not this time, machines!

In between the irony of our desire for innovation and rising distrust against technology, AI to many, has become our competition, an enemy. But is it really?  Contrary to a 4th industrial reality where humans need not apply, AI could just be the catalyst to unlock deeper, more sublime expressions of our humanity over time, just as Miss Debater did.

Stop comparing robots and humans!

Indeed, some professions have more reason to worry than others; those with highly repeatable work such as lawyers, accountants and professional drivers are at a greater risk than robotics specialists. Some AI experts like Kai-Fu Lee would say the odds are stacked against 40% of all existing jobs over the next 15-25 years, but this is dependent on region and profession. An OECD study found that in some regions it could be as little as 4% while in others it is as high as 40% and can vary wildly within a country. In fact, there are so many studies examining what robots might do to humans that the estimates can range from anywhere to 4% to 70%.

While this may be true, other experts argue that comparing AI with human intelligence is not a ‘fair matchup’, with both having different skillsets and functions. Says Scott Robinson, SharePoint and business intelligence expert: “Computers were invented to have them do well what human brains do poorly. But there’s more to business processes than task execution: could AI get the inspiration to merge a smartphone and the iPod into a handheld digital apps platform?”

AI is great at replicating intelligent behavior, but intelligent thought is another matter . We don’t fully understand how intelligent human thoughts develop, so we’re not going to build machines that can have them anytime soon,” he adds. “An office worker knows how other human beings think and behave, so she can anticipate delays or opportunities. There are implicit tasks in all areas of business that are undocumented but natural and deeply ingrained. AI can’t get anywhere near those implicit tasks and passive knowledge.”

Consequently, it would be unfair to compare what is natural and programmed.

The need to build trust

How can we prepare employees to adopt a positive outlook on the future and support AI in reinventing our roles within the workforce? In spite of the significant benefits to implementing and scaling a digital workforce, there’s an innate distrust around the success and sustainability of AI-human symbioses.

However, with so much evidence for the alternative, there is a more positive message around the AI revolution. Competition, after all, is not necessarily a bad thing and has been proven to be healthy and effective in unleashing the maximum potential of employees in the past. Shouldn’t we trust the same will occur when AI joins the workforce?

We need to address a mindset of learning, where challenge constantly gives way to opportunity and problems ignite our best solutions. AI is unveiling a range of services that were previously inaccessible to our clients. Our job as organisational leaders is to breed environments of learning, where we can develop and empower our people to master new digital technologies and creative skills to bridge that gap between human and machine. We as humans also need a mindset of lifelong learning.

Robo-ethics

Despite lacking emotional intelligence, AI is not excused from following humanity’s ethics and principles . Amid all research and experiments on unlocking the power of big data, science is not blind. Humanity is still placed at the centre. An entire field called ‘robo-ethics’ is on the rise to tackle the moral and ethical issues created by the evolution of AI.

Biochemist and science fiction author Isaac Asimov proposed three laws of robotics, designed to protect the safety of humans. And, even though these are up for debate and may still not suffice, achieving a truly ‘ethical AI’ is undeniably a goal and requirement we must strive for. The laws are:

  1. A robot cannot harm a human or allow a human to come to harm by inaction.
  2. A robot must obey any orders a human gives them unless the order violates the first law
  3. A robot may defend itself if they can do so without violating the first or second law.

“AI’s relative objectivity can help counteract human subjectivity and has, so far, proven to be revolutionary to domains such as science, health, technology and finance. Consequently, with great power comes great responsibility, and there are significant risks to such powerful advances in computation and technology which must be mitigated before public consumption. To ensure that AI does no harm, we must proceed with caution,” according to Charlotte Murray, consultant and Engagement Lead at HR analytics start-up Qlearsite.

More human than ever

With so much computational power at our disposal, the opportunity stands as never before to transform this power into effective change by stretching our creative human capacities to new limits. Although technical skills will remain important, the emphasis will be on our abilities to make sense of all this data and to marshal the digital knowledge for fresh value and insights.

It will require a ‘doubling down’ in communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and cognitive flexibility. These attributes will augment our current jobs as designers and engineers, but they’ll also pave the way to brand new jobs across the business landscape.

Just imagine… a human-machine teaming manager could help oversee the human-robot working partnership; an ethical learning manager could ensure AI is trained in ethical practice; a chief trust officer would ensure financial and regulatory credibility within a world of constant change and disruption.

In an increasingly hybrid reality shared by human and machine, emotional intelligence will become the cornerstone skill to navigate people through the change. Bearing this in mind, perhaps, it is time to take down the score board and stop counting how many times we have won against machines; and instead count how many times we have won with them.

We will only lose if we give in to fear and don’t try. Remember: A win for AI is also a win for humans . Let the new scoreboard stand: Humans and AI: 1; Fear: 0.

This article was first published Aurecon’s Just Imagine blog. Just Imagine provides a glimpse into the future for curious readers, exploring ideas that are probable, possible and for the imagination.