Click to learn more about author Ian Stendera.
Last year, the pandemic catapulted organizations across industries into a new world of work seemingly overnight, forcing many to rush digital transformation initiatives to stay afloat against market uncertainties. Because many businesses are still operating under the same or similar circumstances that served as a catalyst for these projects, these rushed investments may still be proving satisfactory. However, as organizations embark on new change projects to pull themselves out of the pandemic and prepare for the future, they’ll soon realize that the rapid speed of execution of those previous initiatives most likely resulted in compromises in quality and security that can sabotage business outcomes in the long term.
Whether an organization is trying to return to its pre-COVID-19 status quo or perform more significant updates to its business model, it needs to first reconcile any instabilities in its tech stack to ensure those change projects are poised to succeed. Here are three common mistakes made when rushing digital transformation projects – and how organizations can fix them.
Bloating the tech stack: At this point in the pandemic, as organizations start to renew the applications they adopted at the start of COVID-19 in 2020, they’ll notice discrepancies between the ROI their investments should be delivering and what capabilities are actually available to them. This disconnect can be the result of bloating in the tech stack; in the rush to transform, leaders conducted a shallower analysis of which technologies they needed to adopt and consequently overbought software packages or purchased ones that perform functions similar to the systems they already owned.
It’s also possible that this overbuying is not entirely the organization’s fault. For example, as workforces went remote, business leaders may have needed to scale programs to accommodate employees in different geographies. Regardless, a tech stack with more tools than necessary only complicates the process of integrating new applications into the organization (in addition to unnecessarily maxing out the company’s budget), making now the time for IT teams to streamline their investments.
Similar to if a company was undergoing a merger and needed to consolidate assets, resolving pandemic purchases means eliminating redundancy, which results in wasted spend, and streamlining the tech stack to only the applications and digital tools that offer clear value to business operations. To determine which programs and tools to keep, business leaders can enlist enterprise architects (EAs) to help them take stock of everything within their tech stack, along with what benefits each one purports to offer. Software platforms exist to host all this data so that EAs can assess how every tool and application within the stack is being used side by side. With this information all clearly mapped out, EAs can then identify where capabilities are overlapping, or where spending outweighs promised deliverables. Additionally, they may recognize underutilized technologies that can fulfill organizational demands, eliminating the need to purchase new ones.
Conducting an incomplete assessment of the organization’s ecosystem: Oftentimes when decisions are made in haste, they’re also made shortsightedly, with key considerations overlooked as a way to accelerate towards the end goal. Likewise, change projects executed too quickly tend to fail to account for the full impact a technology has on a business environment and the employees within it. Especially as many workers have relocated throughout the pandemic, it’s easy for business leaders to overlook technology dependencies across functions, technology, processes, and people. However, without representative insights into how a technology will be used by employees across departments and seniority, organizations can’t ensure an investment will be implemented to its full potential, and therefore be worth the spend.
Worse, rushed projects can also overlook critical security considerations, which organizations might not be lucky enough to catch proactively. Since organizations’ IT teams didn’t have the time to perform proper due diligence and ensure technologies were meeting all expectations and safety criteria before they took effect, the risks of rushed transformation can be as severe as system breakdowns and even breaches in data security.
To overcome these vulnerabilities – and avoid similar gaps going forward – EAs can conduct a holistic survey of a business’ IT infrastructure, extending beyond the functions of its technologies to include how employees are using them across workflows, to identify any vulnerabilities. By stepping back and looking at how an organization’s 2020 investments interact with other tools, data, and roles within the organization, EAs can pinpoint where a solution is falling short, as well as how to correct those shortcomings. Defining these relationships also enables organizations to better recognize areas for increased investment to fill those gaps. Again, a software platform that captures and organizes this data in one location is critical for ensuring EAs are equipped to make as informed business decisions as possible as they review a company’s assets.
To increase their confidence in their organizational analysis, it’s essential EAs collect input from experts across the organization, as they may have insights regarding their technology usage that doesn’t register in the data alone. By distributing the knowledge collection to the experts, EAs empower those most adept in a given domain to take ownership of it, which mitigates the likelihood of future risk and improves the organization’s ability to keep their insights up to date over time. As an added benefit, democratizing data collection alleviates EAs of the task of chasing employees down for information.
Designing original solutions as only temporary: Organizations may realize that digital investments made during the pandemic will be valuable in the post-COVID-19 business landscape. For example, new digital services implemented to maintain customer relations while remote may prove to drive increased customer value, so organizations want to make those efforts permanent. However, because they weren’t designed to be scaled, IT teams are now struggling to evolve these short-term solutions into long-term strategies. If this is the case, organizations can regard this hurdle as an opportunity to optimize the project and redo it more strategically to increase its ROI.
Data will play a key role in this effort, since organizations must consider how they can set up a tool or program in a way that allows it to continuously serve value even as the business evolves. Beyond looking back at how the solution performed initially (e.g., benefits the company wants to reproduce, or if there were any bottlenecks that need correcting), business leaders need to consider how this investment will perform in the future as business demands evolve.
To make this planning easier, organizations should establish a continuous data collection process that factors in changing organizational and environmental factors. EAs can drive this effort, promoting the use of modern EA tools to secure up-to-date insights from across the organization, from which they can then build dynamic predictive models for new investments that take all necessary considerations into account and forecast how the investment will operate over time and in a variety of circumstances. With a look into the future, IT teams can put better care into implementing a new tool or program that won’t have a short shelf life and can instead grow over time.
No matter the reason organizations are adjusting their digital transformation projects, it’s not too late to pause and course correct. Once business leaders realize they have rushed projects, they may want to then rush their solutions to fix them. Unfortunately, this only applies more mistakes on top of an unsteady foundation, making it bound to collapse once again. However, with the right approach and tooling, organizations can establish an infrastructure that not only remedies the rushed projects but also prepares them to better adapt to future business disruptions.
Exclusive-Toshiba’s No.2 shareholder calls for immediate resignation of board chair, 3 directors
By Makiko Yamazaki
TOKYO (Reuters) -Toshiba Corp’s second-biggest shareholder on Sunday demanded the board chairman and three other directors immediately resign after an investigation found the company had colluded with the Japanese government to pressure foreign investors.
The letter, seen by Reuters, is from 3D Investment Partners, which owns a 7.2% stake in Toshiba. It was sent to the four on Sunday, according to people with direct knowledge of the process.
It is likely to heighten scrutiny into governance at Toshiba, a renowned industrial conglomerate in crisis sparked by Thursday’s report. The shareholder-commissioned report marked an explosive turn in a long battle between the Japanese company’s management and foreign shareholders.
In addition to 3D, these shareholders include activist investors and Harvard University’s endowment fund.
The revelations in the report “are deeply troubling and represent one of the most prominent and shocking corporate governance failures among large public companies anywhere in the world in the last decade,” the 3D letter says.
The letter, addressed to board chair Osamu Nagayama and three current audit committee members, describes Nagayama as “ultimately responsible for Toshiba’s recent governance failures, including the flawed internal investigation and the board’s determination to oppose an outside, independent investigation.”
“It is also troubling that you have been silent about the investigative report and have failed to accept responsibility for the misconduct that occurred under your oversight as chair of the board,” the letter says.
Toshiba declined to comment on the letter, telling Reuters in a statement it was “carefully reviewing the content of the investigation report and plans to announce its comments towards this investigation result after the review.”
The company was holding an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss reassigning the candidates for three key board committees ahead of a June 25 shareholder meeting. Major shareholder advisory firms recommended against some of the candidates, including the four addressed in the 3D letter.
Four independent directors, all non-Japanese, have said in a sign of revolt that they were no longer in support of the full slate of director candidates nominated by Toshiba.
(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by William Mallard)
Image Credit: Reuters
The rising importance of Fintech innovation in the new age
The rise of fintech has opened an array of opportunities for smart cities to develop and thrive. Its importance has actually increased in the age of the pandemic that calls for social distancing or contactless transactions.
The leading global payment solutions provider Visa recently indicated the increasing role of digital payments. Thanks to the expanding role of fintech, digital payments are expected to enter different smart city sectors.
Reportedly, fintech application is going to be instrumental in the transportation sector. It will come to people in different forms of contactless payments. It will also ease the process of paying for parking or hiring bikes and scooters.
More than that, whether it’s about loans, money transfer, investment, accounting and bookkeeping, airtime or fundraising. Smart cities and businesses are going to hugely rely on fintech in the coming future.
Going ahead, we are delving into understanding the fintech situation in three smart cities. All three are important fintech hubs that the entire world looks upon.
In the smart city culture, London has the reputation of being the ‘fintech capital’ of the world. The number of fintech giants in the city is valued at more than $1 billion.
However, the pandemic has caused a number of businesses to shut down. At the same time, it has also catalysed the shift to digital and contactless. Businesses are now adopting new ways to support their customers.
Even in this time of crisis, London is at the foremost position of producing the next generation of fintech leaders. This is as per the Ed Lane, VP of Sales for the EMEA region at nCino, a US-based cloud banking provider.
Remote work is becoming a necessity due to COVID-19. Hence, investments in different technologies and solutions in financial organisations and service providers are “more important than ever”. And so Lane claims that this has increased the adoption of cloud-based banking software developed by his firm.
The UK recently introduced the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). This is helping Lane’s company nCino and others. They are offering a Bank Operating System to aid SMEs with effective processing of loan applications.
Fintech companies are surviving and tapping into benefits in the COVID-19 age due to their disruptive mindset. The dot.com crash of 2001 and the financial crash of 2008 are drivers that lead them to become proactive.
Innovatively, fintech companies started offering mobile banking, online money management tools and other personalised solutions. Today, the same is enabling them to prevail during this pandemic. Besides all, partnerships have proven to be key strategies in achieving even the impossible, as experts say.
Singapore is showcasing a pioneering move in the fintech industry. Fintech is at the core of Singapore’s vision to become a ‘Smart Nation’ with a “Smart Financial Centre.”
To achieve the dream, the city-state has been showing constant efforts by using innovative technology. With this, it intends to pave the way for new opportunities, enhance efficiency and improve national management of financial risks.
Until 2019, Singapore was already home to over 600 fintech firms. These companies attracted more than half of the total funding for the same year. And amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) introduced two major support packages.
First on April 8, 2020, it announced a S$125 million COVID-19 care package for the financial and fintech sectors. This package aims at aiding the sectors in fighting the challenges from the COVID-19 health crisis. It will help in supporting workers, accelerate digitalisation, and improve operational readiness and resilience.
Second, on May 13, 2020, MAS, the Singapore Fintech Association (SFA) and AMTD Foundation launched the MAS-SFA-AMTD Fintech Solidarity Grant. The S$6 million grant proposes to support Singapore-based fintech firms.
A specific focus is on managing cash flow, producing new sales and seeking growth strategies. At the individual level, many industry participants have launched their own initiatives to support the sector.
HongKong’s fintech startup sector tells us a different story which involves the role of blockchain. Blockchain-based companies are dominating the city’s startup sector.
In 2019, enterprise DLT and crypto-assets exchanges earned rankings as the most popular sectors in Hong Kong’s fintech industry. The report comes from the Financial Services and Treasury Bureau. It confirms that blockchain startups make up 40% of the 57 Fintech firms established in the city in 2019.
As per reports, 45% of new companies are focused on developing applications for large businesses. This is the reason that enterprise blockchain firms were the most popular. Another 27% account for blockchain-related firms in Hong Kong involved in digital currency.
The increase in the number of blockchain-based fintech startups is due to the Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. The authority introduced new policies towards blockchain tech development – making it a priority.
Blockchain is thriving in Hong Kong due to a number of reasons. The city has laid down clear regulatory guidelines for blockchain-related businesses. Many have leveraged the benefits of the QMAS program. It enables applicants to settle down in the region before having to look for employment. This has immensely encouraged several blockchain specialists to move to Hong Kong.
The city government is also entering partnerships to expand its fintech footprint in the right direction. For example, in November 2019, the government collaborated with Thailand’s officials to explore the development of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). Blockchain is a promising technology for the fintech industry. It supports quick, secure and cost-effective transaction-related services.
More importantly, it provides transparency that other traditional technologies were not capable of. Thanks to the use of encrypted distributed ledgers. These enable real-time verification of transactions without the need for mediators such as correspondent banks.
Why Is Fintech Innovation Important For The Development Of Smart Cities?
Advanced cities that are now smart cities have been using fintech for their development. With that, they are also leading the way for others to follow. Many experts confirm that innovation in fintech is a must for any city to become a ‘smart city.’
It enables easy national as well as international business. For the residents, it makes life more convenient by encouraging contactless, economical, sustainable and efficient payment-related operations.
One important aspect that smart city development and fintech innovation has in common is their determination to cut bureaucracy. A city that manages to enable speedy and inexpensive international transfers will also enable its citizens with greater access to the global market. This is as said by Hans W. Winterhoff from KPMG in one of his articles.
Furthermore, fintech innovations of the past have demonstrated their success. Some fintech applications have simplified procedures that became unnecessarily complex over time. Traditional banking services are one of the biggest examples.
The innovative fintech services opened doors for online shopping and easy international money transfers. Fintech is able to provide the same product or service to consumers. But that’s happening in less time, with fewer steps, and at more affordable rates.
Besides, transparency is another important factor that is allowing consumers to have faith in fintech services. With the current potential of fintech, we can now say that it is one of the essential pillars of successful smart city development. The results are already here in the age of this pandemic.
If you did not already know
In the last decade, a variety of topic models have been proposed for text engineering. However, except Probabilistic Latent Semantic Analysis (PLSA) and Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA), most of existing topic models are seldom applied or considered in industrial scenarios. This phenomenon is caused by the fact that there are very few convenient tools to support these topic models so far. Intimidated by the demanding expertise and labor of designing and implementing parameter inference algorithms, software engineers are prone to simply resort to PLSA/LDA, without considering whether it is proper for their problem at hand or not. In this paper, we propose a configurable topic modeling framework named Familia, in order to bridge the huge gap between academic research fruits and current industrial practice. Familia supports an important line of topic models that are widely applicable in text engineering scenarios. In order to relieve burdens of software engineers without knowledge of Bayesian networks, Familia is able to conduct automatic parameter inference for a variety of topic models. Simply through changing the data organization of Familia, software engineers are able to easily explore a broad spectrum of existing topic models or even design their own topic models, and find the one that best suits the problem at hand. With its superior extendability, Familia has a novel sampling mechanism that strikes balance between effectiveness and efficiency of parameter inference. Furthermore, Familia is essentially a big topic modeling framework that supports parallel parameter inference and distributed parameter storage. The utilities and necessity of Familia are demonstrated in real-life industrial applications. Familia would significantly enlarge software engineers’ arsenal of topic models and pave the way for utilizing highly customized topic models in real-life problems. …
In statistics, the median absolute deviation (MAD) is a robust measure of the variability of a univariate sample of quantitative data. It can also refer to the population parameter that is estimated by the MAD calculated from a sample. Consider the data (1, 1, 2, 2, 4, 6, 9). It has a median value of 2. The absolute deviations about 2 are (1, 1, 0, 0, 2, 4, 7) which in turn have a median value of 1 (because the sorted absolute deviations are (0, 0, 1, 1, 2, 4, 7)). So the median absolute deviation for this data is 1. …
Most work on temporal action detection is formulated in an offline manner, in which the start and end times of actions are determined after the entire video is fully observed. However, real-time applications including surveillance and driver assistance systems require identifying actions as soon as each video frame arrives, based only on current and historical observations. In this paper, we propose a novel framework, Temporal Recurrent Networks (TRNs), to model greater temporal context of a video frame by simultaneously performing online action detection and anticipation of the immediate future. At each moment in time, our approach makes use of both accumulated historical evidence and predicted future information to better recognize the action that is currently occurring, and integrates both of these into a unified end-to-end architecture. We evaluate our approach on two popular online action detection datasets, HDD and TVSeries, as well as another widely used dataset, THUMOS’14. The results show that TRN significantly outperforms the state-of-the-art. …
CDF2PDF is a method of PDF estimation by approximating CDF. The original idea of it was previously proposed in  called SIC. However, SIC requires additional hyper-parameter tunning, and no algorithms for computing higher order derivative from a trained NN are provided in . CDF2PDF improves SIC by avoiding the time-consuming hyper-parameter tuning part and enabling higher order derivative computation to be done in polynomial time. Experiments of this method for one-dimensional data shows promising results. …
Amazon raises minimum pay in Germany to 12 euros per hour
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Amazon will guarantee an entry-level wage at its German warehouses of 12 euros ($15) an hour, the company said on Friday in the face of a long-running battle with a top labour union.
Germany is Amazon’s biggest market after the United States, and the Verdi union has been organising strikes at Amazon in the country since 2013 to protest low pay and poor conditions.
The pay increase is effective from July and compares with entry-level pay as low as 11.30 euros per hour for some locations, though pay exceeded 12 euros in other locations.
Amazon’s wages exceed Germany’s current minimum wage of 9.50 euros per hour. But workers have regularly gone on strike, such as last year to coincide with the $1.6 trillion company’s global “Prime Day” promotion event. They were disgruntled that a coronavirus bonus had been scrapped.
A Verdi official said that the increase was the least that the company could do after “earning a pretty penny in recent months” and that pay still fell short of its demands for many employees.
Amazon – which saw net profit rise to $8.1 billion in the first quarter, more than tripling from $2.5 billion the year earlier – has faced similar criticism over conditions and pay throughout the globe.
A spokesperson for Amazon in Germany said all employees would be getting a raise, and Amazon said in a statement that further increases were scheduled for the future.
($1 = 0.8254 euros)
(Reporting by Klaus Lauer and Tom Sims; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
Image Credit: Reuters
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