Article

18.11.2016

Big data: six questions to ask yourself before getting started

Big data is a new class of assets that companies must embrace, develop, protect and make work for them during their transformation into a digital enterprise. We have put together some points to help guide your strategy.

Is there a course in big data?

Most universities around the world have come to understand the importance of big data. More and more, they are using analysis, both in research and to improve the lives of students on campus and help guide them; however, there is little in terms of training on this topic. Nevertheless, some establishments have recently started to offer their own diplomas and programmes to train the next generation of data scientists.

Do I need to provide training for my staff?

Yes. However, it's difficult to send your IT teams back to the school room in order to train or bring them up to speed. Nevertheless, various training courses have been organised around the country by specialist service providers. A two-day training course already teaches its students about the specific issues surrounding big data and the potential technical solutions.

Do I need to hire a data scientist?

Not necessarily. Some figures: last year, there were 4.4 million jobs in this sector, of which only 40% were filled. Not everyone has the budget for a data scientist. You can instead call on an independent consultant to pave the way and get your company up and running with big data.

What main techniques are required?

Techniques such as machine learning and data mining are essential for those working with big data. They help you tackle tasks that are difficult or even impossible to complete using more classic algorithms. The art of Data Visualisation enables you to communicate discoveries from data analysis.

What keyword should I take away?

Hadoop! In the same way as Microsoft Office is known for productivity and Apache is synonymous with the internet, apps are the key in the world of Big Data. Hadoop should be the cornerstone of your strategy. Without such expertise, it is impossible to master big data. This open-source software framework is designed for distributed data storage. It is highly scalable and resistant to failures. Its role is to process and analyse new and old data silos to extract significant knowledge from them that can be used in a company's strategy. Your experts will have to become familiar with its components: ‘Spark’, ‘Hive’, ‘Pig’, ‘MapReduce’ and ‘HBase’.

Is big data relevant for SMEs?

Certainly, in particular for marketing: big data enables companies to sort data in order to gain a clear profile of its customers. Segmentation can be used to optimise campaigns. Analysis also allows you to  really observe how customers behave. SMEs don't have the same budget as a large group, and so they must primarily focus on data which is both crucial and can be exploited to reap the greatest reward: creating a stronger link with their customers.

Article

22.10.2016

Digital transformation: your action plan

33% of IT decision-makers don't have a clearly defined strategy for digital transformation, a survey reveals. Why is this and how can this situation be rectified effectively?

In the fast-moving consumer goods market, technology is now radically reshaping competitive dynamics in the marketplace, for both consumers and distributors. This has irrevocably changed how people buy things. In the results of its "Fast-Moving Consumer Goods" survey, Progress reveals the current paradox: digital transformation is crucial, but implementation is slower than desired.

"60% [of IT decision-makers] admit that their organization is still largely in denial about the need to transform digitally."

Where exactly does the problem lie?

More than half of IT decision-makers see this process as something daunting that will take a long time. 66% feel that their marketing and IT teams are not in alignment to deliver on the project. 64% find it difficult to keep up with the ever-changing digital landscape. When it comes down to it, two departments clash on the distribution of tasks and budgets: IT versus Marketing. The good news? 96% of companies have plans to act within the year.

The key elements of your action plan

1. Begin with an inventory

Achieving digital transformation involves customer satisfaction, the ability to alter the focus of the business and rollout of a flexible platform, but you shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater. The transformation should be initiated after taking stock of the company's assets, in the form of an inventory.

Then you should visualize possibilities for change to consider the future of your business, no longer as a traditional firm, but as an ambitious digital hub.

2. Inspiration to think big

The founders of Google say that they have always sought to reject a traditional management approach by adopting two basic principles, which apply perfectly to digital transformation: focus on satisfying users and hire "smart creatives". This can be achieved through the LEAN method.

3. The will and the time

The company has to recognize that digital change is permanent in order to be relevant. It requires the creation of new experiences and the definition of new paradigms that can overthrow traditional models but are ultimately beneficial: 41% of CIOs notice an increase in market share post-transformation, with 37% of employees becoming more motivated as a corollary.

4. The vision and the tools

In order to improve and optimize the customer experience, you have to work on the speed, responsiveness, security and standardization of distribution channels. Mobile devices are widely favoured (62% according to the survey) for analytics, data connectivity, e-commerce, content and the Cloud.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded for free from the publisher's website.

Source: Progress

Article

22.12.2016

Get on board with corporate responsibility

Customers are demanding quality products, and also companies that share their values. In the US, the B Corp example could redefine the commercial strategy of all new start-ups.

In 1970, the economist Milton Friedman wrote in the columns of the New York Times Magazine, ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits’. In a complete departure from the practices of the age, this innovative speech was not necessarily convincing. For 40 years, business has consisted of optimising the return on shareholder investment, with boards of directors putting profit above all else. To do this, they carried out redundancies and restructuring, paying little attention to the environment.

Nevertheless, as Steve Denning emphasised in 2011, maximising profits for investors, intended as an economic remedy, ended up becoming a disease. According to the editorial writer, we have reached “the limits of the model”. The figures prove it: capital ROI is now 25% of what it was in 1965.

More responsible growth

In 2016, everything has changed. There is a shift towards a corporate conscience, greater transparency and authenticity, values personified by a movement that now brings together such emblematic companies as Ben and Jerry's and Warby Parker, B Corps certification. This highly successful label is awarded by a not-for-profit organisation, B Corp, already present in 50 countries and adopted by more than 2,000 companies. One of them is the Belgian company Ecover.

Jay Coen Gilbert, the founder of B Corp, took the opportunity offered by the 2016 Net Impact Conference to explain the model he endorses:

"The tectonic plates of business are shifting beneath our feet. Sometimes they move so slowly that it’s hard to feel it, but now they are shaking the earth and transforming the landscape right before our eyes. We are seeing the change from one form of capitalism to another." For him, corporate responsibility no longer only concerns large enterprises, but all trade in goods and services around a common project: "The creation of jobs with dignity and purpose, concern for the environment and the need to create pathways out of poverty and reduce inequality.

Is Occupy Wall Street the solution? No, insists Jay Coen Gilbert:

"There are populist movements around the world in response to the realisation that the economic system is not working, but these are not enough. Hope is not enough to bring about profound social change. History has proved to us that this comes from the creation of viable and visible alternatives. And in our view, one way that’s happening is through companies themselves.” Whatever their size.

Article

27.12.2016

Trend spotting. A manual.

Would you like to know what people will want next? If so, all you have to do is look at successful innovations and the expectations they generate, according to David Mattin, trendwatcher at www.trendwatching.com and co-author of the book Trend-Driven Innovation.

Any professional is long accustomed to the hyper-accelerated pace of innovation that sees new products and services arrive and disappear at light speed. With that comes the sense that consumer behaviours and mindsets change faster, more unpredictably — chaotically, even — than ever. Put together, it's an avalanche that can feel overwhelming.. That is, in summary, what David Mattin writes in his article How to spot a trend at www.trendwatching.com.

Still, being on board wih the latest trends or even anticipating them doesn't have to be the preserve of a chosen few with seemingly magical intuition, Mattin says. According to him, trendspotting can be a simple, replicable process that anyone can do. His article provides a model that answers the question that any start-up, CEO, marketing director or product developer struggles with: what will my customers want next?

Human needs

There are various methods to determine what customers want. Traditional market research is the most well-known method. Yet Mattin believes this method is inadequate to spot future trends in an environment of rapid change.

”After all, our job is to figure out what people will want before they want it. People often don't know what they want until you show it to them."

Observing potential customers with ethnographic fieldwork is another research method. This can yield deep insights, but it is hard, slow and expensive. Big Data can provide useful customer information, but it usually only allows you to optimise what you’re already doing. Big data rarely generates the radical insights that can underpin something truly new, Matting claims.

So what’s the answer? The key to actionable foresight lies in looking at the overwhelming onslaught of innovation — new brands, products, services, campaigns, experiences and more — that now parade before our eyes and across our screens every day.

Mattin: "The ultimate answer lies in the customer expectations those innovations are creating. In order to be successful, businesses must meet those expectations at the right time.”

In order to spot consumer trends, it is essential to define what a trend is exactly. According to the trendwatcher a trend is a new manifestation - in behaviour, attitude or expectation - of a fundamental human need or want, usually via a new technology or an economic or social change. In other words:, when an age-old human need: for connection, security value, excitement… is served by a new technology, this will most likely introduce a new trend. A good example of this is Napster, the well-known illegal music streaming platform from 1999 This innovation served the basic needs ‘novelty’ (more music) and 'convenience' (instant access). It was this innovation that has led to iTunes, Netflix and Spotify, all of which satisfy those needs and are extremely successful.

Learning from Uber

But there's still a piece of the puzzle missing. How does a cluster of innovations that serve a basic need in a new way become a worldwide trend? The answer lies in two words: expectation transfer.

David Mattin: “When an innovation serves a basic human need in a new way, it sets new customer expectations: it primes consumers to expect something new. Once created, new expectations spread across markets, industries, product and service categories.”

He refers to Uber as an example, with which the basic human needs of 'convenience' and 'low-cost transport' are served. The iconic innovation of Uber raised consumer expectations of one-touch smartphone fuelled services, and these expectations were served by others, such as Handy, an American on-demand home services start-up that earned 50 million dollars in just one month.

Mattin claims it is crucial to watch as many innovations as possible, as this allows you to tap the collective intelligence of the business crowd around the question: what will customers want next? When you spot a cluster of similar innovations, you'll know that you could be on to an interesting new signal of where customers are heading. The trendwatcher also emphasises to not dismiss innovations that seem niche or even ridiculous — they can often be weak signals of powerful new emerging expectations.

“Remember when couch-surfing was just for students and broke travellers? Now, Airbnb will let you rent the Villa Machiavelli in Tuscany for 5,164 pounds per night”, Mattin argues.

Goldmine of opportunities

The trendwatcher concludes that in order to spot trends, you should start interrogating every innovation you see for the new customer expectations it creates, and pretty soon it will become a habit.

“That habit becomes something more: a new way of seeing the world that turns the overwhelming flood of innovations into a goldmine of opportunity. Of course, you'll need to apply the trends you spot. That means turning them into winning new innovation ideas, and then executing.”

Read the whole article here

(Source: www.trendwachting.com)

Article

27.01.2017

Blockchain, innovatie in de beveiliging van online transacties

La blockchain est une solution digitale d’échange sécurisée entre partenaires. Décryptage d’un mécanisme ingénieux, sans intermédiaires, appelé à stocker 10 % du PIB mondial d’ici 2027.

Qu'est-ce que la blockchain ? Définition et explications

A l’origine, la blockchain est l’infrastructure informatique sur laquelle repose le bitcoin, monnaie alternative apparue en 2009 et générée par un algorithme. La blockchain sert à valider l’identité des utilisateurs, à sécuriser les échanges mais aussi à les rendre transparents. En adhérant au système, chacun peut télécharger sur son ordinateur l’historique de toutes les opérations et les éléments les concernant comme un livre de compte partagé et consultable à tout moment. Il n’y a donc pas d’organisme central, pas d’autorité régulatrice, ni d’intermédiaire ; et ainsi aucun coût afférent. D’où l’intérêt, pour de petites et moyennes entreprises, de se saisir de ce dispositif. 

Concrètement, l’échange entre deux parties sur une blockchain est chiffré et entre dans ce que l’on appelle un bloc. Un identifiant formé d’une suite de chiffres et de lettres lui est attribué. Une partie est générée aléatoirement, une autre doit respecter certaines contraintes (débuter par un certain nombre de 0, par exemple). Ce sont les ordinateurs connectés à la blockchain qui mettent leur puissance de calcul au service de cette tâche, et non un serveur central. Quand l’un d’eux trouve la bonne combinaison, l’opération est définitivement validée. Un lien technique est créé avec le bloc validé précédemment puis avec celui qui le sera juste après, créant ainsi une « chaîne de blocs » (blockchain) interdépendants. Falsifier un bloc est quasiment impossible  car cela impliquerait de falsifier toute la chaîne et serait visible par toutes les parties prenantes impliquées.

Une technologie prometteuse… et quelques inconnues

Malgré sa courte histoire, la blockchain a connu quelques déboires. Comme le piratage du fonds d’investissement « The DAO » en juin 2016 ou le vol de bitcoins sur les plateformes d’échange « Bitfinex » ou « Mt. Gox » suite à des failles informatiques. Et cela sans que l’origine de la faute ne soit toujours claire : un défaut de la blockchain elle-même ou des services mis en place autour ? Et c’est bien l’un des problèmes : cet environnement technologique récent est encore nébuleux. Les projets sont pour l’heure de type proof of concept, par définition expérimentaux et n’offrent que peu de recul.

La gouvernance décentralisée, faite de communautés d’utilisateurs et de développeurs, pose aussi question. Comment procéder à des évolutions techniques acceptables par tous ? Qui tranche, qui décide ? D’autant que des interrogations se posent déjà : la blockchain, qui pèse actuellement plus de 90 Mo et qui continue de grossir, peut-elle rester maniable ? La taille des blocs, limitée à 1 Mo, empêche par ailleurs de réaliser plus de 7 transactions par seconde. De quoi freiner l’appropriation de la technologie.

La blockchain en entreprise : zoom sur une transformation digitale

Toujours est-il qu’un rapport du Forum Economique Mondial de septembre 2015 prévoit un plein déploiement de la blockchain autour de 2027.

Pour les entreprises, l’absence d’intermédiaire - intrinsèque à la blockchain - a plusieurs intérêts : elle élimine certains coûts et simplifie et accélère les procédures (pas de traitements « papier » ni d’opérations manuelles). Elle renforce la sécurité puisque seules les parties contractantes ont accès aux données stockées. Un avantage non négligeable à l’ère du Big data où la moindre donnée échangée peut être captée et analysée par des tiers.

 (Source : Newsletter BNP Paribas Entreprises)

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