Artificial Intelligence Capabilities

 

AI is one of the most popular talked about technologies today. For business, this technology introduces capabilities that innovative business and technology leadership can utilise to introduce new dimensions and abilities within service and product design and delivery.

Unfortunately, a lot of the real business value is locked up behind the terminology hype, inflated expectations and insecure warnings of machine control.

It is impossible to get the value from something that is not understood. So lets cut through the hype and focus to understand AI’s objectives and the key capabilities that this exciting technology enables.

There are many definitions of AI as discussed in the blog post “What is Artificial Intelligence: Definitions“. Keeping it simple: “AI is using computers to do things that normally would have required human intelligence.” With this definition in mind, there are basically three things that AI is aiming to achieve.

3 AI Objectives

  • Capturing Information
  • Determine what is happening
  • Understand why it is happening

Lets use an example to demonstrate this…

As humans we are constantly gathering data through our senses which is converted by our brain into information which is interpreted for understanding and potential action. You can for example identify an object through site, turn it into information and identify the object instantly as, for example, a lion. In conjunction, additional data associated with the object at the present time, for example the lion is running after a person yelling for help, enables us to identify danger and to take immediate action…

For a machine, this process is very complex and requires large amounts of data, programming/training and processing power. Today, technology is so advanced that small computers like smart phones can capture a photo, identify a face and link it to a name. This is achieved not just through the power the smart phone but through the capabilities of AI, made available through services like facebook supported by an IT platform including, a fast internet connection, cloud computing power and storage.

To determine what is happening the machine might use Natural Language Understanding (NLU) to extract the words from a sound file and try to determine meaning or intent, hence working out that the person is running away from a lion and shouting for you to run away as well.

Why the lion is chasing and why the person is running away, is not known by the machine. Although the machine can capture information and determine what is happening, it does not understand why it is happening within full context – it is merely processing data. This reasoning ability, to bring understanding to a situation, is something that the human brain does very well.

Dispite all the technological advancements, can machines today only achieve the first two of the thee AI objectives. With this in mind, let’s explore the eight AI capabilities relevant and ready for use, today.

8 AI Capabilities

AI-8Capabilities

  • Capturing Information
    • Image Recognition
    • Speech Recognition
    • Data Search
    • Data Patterns
  • Determine what is happening
    • Language Understanding
    • Thought/Decision Process
    • Prediction
  • Understand why it is happening
    • Understanding

Image Recognition

This is the capability for a machine to identify/recognise an image. This is based on Machine Learning and requires millions of images to train the machine requiring lots of storage and fast processing power.

Speech Recognition

The machine takes a sound file and encodes it into text.

Search

The machine identifies words or sentences which are matched with relevant content within a large about of data. Once these word matches are found it can trigger further AI capabilities.

Patterns

Machines can process and spot patterns in large amounts of data which can be combinations of sound, image or text. This surpasses the capability of humans, literally seeing the woods from the trees.

Language Understanding

The AI capability to understand human language is called Natural Language Understanding or NLU.

Thought/Decision Processing

Knowledge Maps

Prediction

Predictive analytics is not a new concept and the AI prediction capability basically takes a view on historic data patterns and matches it with a new piece of data to predict a similar outcome based on the past.

Understanding

Falling under the third objective of AI – Understand what is happening, this capability is not currently not commercially available.

To Conclude

In understanding the capabilities of AI you can now look beyond the hype, be realistic and identify which AI capabilities are right to enhance you business.

In a future blog post, we’ll examine some real live examples of how these AI capabilities can be used to bring business value.

Release Management as a Competitive Advantage

“Delivery focussed”, “Getting the job done”, “Results driven”, “The proof is in the pudding” – we are all familiar with these phrases and in Information Technology it means getting the solutions into operations through effective Release Management, quickly.

In the increasingly competitive market, where digital is enabling rapid change, time to market is king. Translated into IT terms – you must get your solution into production before the competition does through an effective ability to do frequent releases. Doing frequent releases benefit teams as features can be validated earlier and bugs detected easily. The smaller iteration cycles provide flexibility, making adjustments to unforeseen scope changes easier and reducing the overall risk of change.

IT teams with well governed agile and robust release management practices have a significant competitive advantage. This advantage materialises through self-managed teams consisting of highly skilled technologist who collaborative work according to a team defined release management process, that continuously improves through constructive feedback loops and corrective actions.

The process of implementing such agile practices, can be challenging as building software becomes increasingly more complex due to factors such as technical debt, increasing legacy code, resource movements, globally distributed development teams, and the increasing number of platforms to be supported.

To realise this advantage, an organisation must first optimise its release management process and identify the most appropriate platform and release management tools.

Here are three well known trends that every technology team can use to optimise delivery:

1. Agile delivery practises – with automation at the core 

So you have adopted an agile delivery methodology and your re having daily scrum meetings – but you know that is not enough. Sprint planning as well as review and retrospection are all essential elements for a successful release, but in order to gain substantial and meaningful deliverables within the time constraints of agile iterations, you need to invest in automation.

An automation ability bring measurable benefits to the delivery team as it reduces the pressure on people in minimising human error and increasing overall productivity and delivery quality into your environment that shows in key metrics like team velocity. Another benefit automation introduces is consistent and repeatable process, enabling easily scalable teams while reducing errors and release times. Agile delivery practices (see “Executive Summary of 4 commonly used Agile Methodologies“) all embrace and promote the use of automation across the delivery lifecycle, especially in build, test and deployment automation. Proper automation support delivery teams in reducing overhead of time consuming repetitive tasks in configuration and testing so them can focus on the core of customer centric product/service development with quality build in. Also readHow to Innovate to stay Relevant“; “Agile Software Development – What Business Executives need to know” for further insight in Agile methodologies…

Example:

Code Repository (version Control) –> Automated Integration –> Automated Deployment of changes to Test Environments –> Platform & Environment Changes automated build into Testbed –> Automated Build Acceptance Tests –> Automated Release

When a software developer commits changes to the version control, these changes automatically get integrated with the rest of the modules. Integrated assembles are then automatically deployed to a test environment. If there are changes to the platform or the environment, the environment gets automatically built and deployed on test bed. Next, build acceptance tests are automatically kicked off, which would include capacity tests, performance, and reliability tests. Developers and/or leads are notified only when something fails. Therefore, the focus remains on core development and not just on other overhead activities. Of course, there will be some manual check points that the release management team will have to pass in order to trigger next the phase, but each activity within this deployment pipeline can be more or less automated. As your software passes all quality checkpoints, product version releases are automatically pushed to the release repository from which new versions can be pulled automatically by systems or downloaded by customers.

Technologies:

  • Build Automation:  Ant, Maven, Make
  • Continuous Integration: Jenkins, Cruise Control, Bamboo
  • Test Automation: Silk Test, EggPlant, Test Complete, Coded UI
  • Continuous Deployment: Jenkins, Bamboo, Prism

2. Cloud platforms and Virtualisation as development and test environments

Today, most software products are built to support multiple platforms, be it operating systems, application servers, databases, or Internet browsers. Software development teams need to test their products in all of these environments in-house prior to releasing them to the market.

This presents the challenge of creating all of these environments as well as maintaining them. These challenges increase in complexity as development and test teams become more geographically distributed. In these circumstances, the use of cloud platforms and virtualisation helps, especially as these platforms have recently been widely adopted in all industries.

Automation on cloud and virtualised platforms enables delivery teams to rapidly spin up/down environments optimising infrastructure utilisation aligned with demand while, similar to maintaining code and configuration version history for our products, also maintain the version history of all supported platforms. Automated cloud platforms and virtualisation introduces flexibility that optimises infrastructure utilisation and the delivery footprint as demand changes – bringing savings across the overall delivery life-cycle.

Example:

When a build and release engineer changes configurations for the target platform – the operating system, database, or application server settings – the whole platform can be built and a snapshot of it created and deployed to the relevant target platforms.

Virtualisation:The virtual machine (VM) is automatically provisioned from the snapshot of base operating system VM, appropriate configurations are deployed and the rest of the platform and application components are automatically deployed.

Cloud:Using a solution provider like Rackspace to deliver Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS), new configurations can be introduced in a new Rackspace instance is produced, instantiated, and configured as a development and test environment. This is crucial for flexibility and productivity, as it takes minutes instead of weeks to adapt to configuration changes. With automation, the process becomes repeatable, quick, and streamlines communication across different teams within the Tech-hub.

3. Distributed version control systems

Distributed version control systems (DVCS), for example GIT, Perforce or Mercurial, introduces flexibility for teams to collaborate at the code level. The fundamental design principle behind DVCS is that each user keeps a self-contained repository with complete version history on one’s local computer. There is no need for a privileged master repository, although most teams designate one as a best practice. DVCS allow developers to work offline and commit changes locally.

As developers complete their changes for an assigned story or feature set, they push their changes to the central repository as a release candidate. DVCS offers a fundamentally new way to collaborate, as  developers can commit their changes frequently without disrupting the main codebase or trunk. This becomes useful when teams are exploring new ideas or experimenting as well as enabling rapid team scalability with reduced disruption.

DVCS is a powerful enabler for the team that utilise an agile-feature-based branching strategy. This encourages development teams to continue to work on their features (branches) as they get ready, having fully tested their changes locally, to load them into next release cycle. In this scenario, developers are able to work on and merge their feature branches to a local copy of the repository.After standard reviews and quality checks will the changes then be merged into the main repository.

To conclude

Adopting these three major trends in the delivery life-cycle enables a organisation to imbed proper release management as a strategic competitive advantage. Implementing these best practices will obviously require strategic planning and an investment of time in the early phases of your project or team maturity journey – this will reduce the organisational and change management efforts to get to market quicker.

Modular Operating Model for Strategy Agility

One of life’s real pleasures, is riding a motorcycle. The sense of freedom when it is just you, machine and the open road is something only sharing enthusiast would truly understand. Inspired, I recently completed a hobby project building the Lego Set 42063. The building blocks of this Technic model constructs the BMW R1200GS Adventure motorcycle, arguably the best allrounder, adapted to handle all road conditions. The same building blocks can also be used to build a futuristic flying scooter, or shall I call it a speedster in true Star Wars style… While building the model I was marvelled by the ingeniousness of the design and how the different components come together in a final product – fit for purpose today but easily adapted to be fit for future.

Lego-Technic-modular

This made me think about business agility – how can this modular approach be used within business. We know that SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) takes a modular approach in building adaptable software application and in the talk on “Structure Technology for Success – using SOA” I explained a modular approached to design a Service Orientated Organisation (SOO), to directly contribute to the business success.

Recently I’ve also written about how to construct a business Operating Models that delivers. Such an operating model aligns the business operations with the needs of it’s customers, while it provides the agility to continuously adapt to changes in this fast changing technological ecosystem we live in. An Operating Model that delivers, fit for purpose today but easy adaptable to be fit for the future, in other words – a Modular Operating Model.

As the environment for a company changes rapidly, static operating models lack the agility to respond. Successful companies are customer centric and embrace continuous innovation to enhance the ability of the organisation to re-design it’s operations. This requires an Operating Model that incorporates the agility to be responsive to changes in business strategy and customer needs. A modular operating model enables agility in business operations with a design that can respond to change by defining standard building blocks and how to dynamically combine them. Modular blocks (with the specific operational complexity contained) simplifies managing complexity. This reduces the time to produce a new operational outcome, irrespective of this being a new services, product or just an efficiency improvement within an existing value chain.  An example of applying modular thinking to a operational delivery methodology is covered in the blog post: “How to Innovate to stay Relevant”. In combining the core principles and benefits of three different delivery methodologies, Design Thinking, Lean Startup and Agile Scrum as modular building blocks, a delivery methodology are constructed that ensures rapid delivery of innovation into customer centric revenue channels while optimising the chances of success through continuous alignment with customer and market demand.

A modular operating model imbeds operational agility through the ability to use, re-use, plug and play different capabilities, processes and resources (building blocks) tech-TOMto easily produce new business outcomes without having to deal with the complexities which are already defined within the individual building blocks – just like a Lego set using the same set of standardised and pre-defined blocks to build completely different things. The focus is on re-using the blocks and not on the design of the blocks itself. Off course a lot of thinking has gone into the design of the different building blocks, but through re-using the same block designs, the model design time is focussed on a new/different outcome and not on a component of an outcome.

Designing modular capabilities, processes and resources that are used to design operating models have benefits not just in efficiencies and savings through economies of scale, but also in the reduction of time to market. These benefits are easier to accomplish in larger multi-divisional organisation with multiple operating models or organisations with complex operating models bringing together multiple organisations and different locations, where the re-use of modular operating model blocks bring demonstrable efficiencies.

 

WIP…

An Operating Model that Delivers

Every organisation that I have worked with around the world, whether it is in London, Johannesburg, Sydney, Singapore, Dallas, Kuala Lumpir, Las-Vegas, Nairobi or New York, there was always reference to a Target Operating Model (TOM) when business leaders spoke about business strategy and performance. Yes, the TOM – the ever eluding state of euphoria when all business operations work together in harmony to deliver the business vision… Sometime in the never reaching future.

Most business transformation programmes are focussed to deliver a target operating model – transforming the business by introducing a new way of working that better aligns the business offering with it’s customer’s changing expectation. Millions in business change budgets have been invested in TOM design projects and 1000s of people have worked in these TOM projects of which some have delivered against the promise.

With the TOM as the defined deliverable, the targeted operational state and the outcome of the business transformation programme, it is very important that the designed TOM are actually fit for purpose. The TOM also has to lend itself to be easily adjustable in order to contribute to the agility of an organisation. The way the business is operating must be able to adapt to an ever changing technology driven world. The quick evolving digital world is probably the main catalyst for transformation in organisations today – read “The Digital Transformation Necessity” for further insights…

Operating Model (OM)

The Operating Model uses key inputs from the Business Model and Strategy.

The Business Model focuses on the business’ customers, the associated product and service offerings – how the organisation creates value for it’s cliental – and the commercial proposition. Within the business model the business’s revenue streams and how those are contributing to the business value chain to generate profits, are decried. In other words, the Business Model envisages the What within the organisation.

Within the Business Strategy the plan to achieve specific goals are defined, as well as the metrics required to measure how successfully these are achieved. The business goals are achieved through the daily actions as defined within the Operating Model.

Typically an Operating Model takes the What from the Business Model in conjunction with the business strategy, and defines the Why, What, How, Who and With. It is the way in which the business model and strategy is executed by conducting the day to day business operations. Execution is key as no business can be successful by just having a business strategy, the execution of the operating model delivering the business strategy is the operative ingredient of success.

In order to document and describe how an organisation functions, the Operating model usually includes business capabilities and associated processes, the products and/or services being delivered, the roles and responsibilities of people within the business and how these are organised and governed within the business, the metrics defined to manage, monitor and control the performance of the organisation and then the underpinning Technology, Information Systems and Tools the business uses in delivering it’s services and/or products.

Analogy: A good analogy to describe the Operating Model is to compare it to the engine of F1 car. In 2016 the Mercedes Silver Arrow (the fastest car, driven by Lewis Hamilton (arguably the fastest driver), did not win because of engine and reliability problems. Instead the World Championship was won by Nico Rosberg, who had a better performing engine over the whole season. Nico benefited from a better operating model – he had the processes, data, systems and the people (including himself) to win. The mechanical failures that Lewis suffered, mostly not through fault of his own, were a result of failures somewhere within his operating model.

Target Operating Model (TOM)

The Target Operating Model (TOM) is a future state version of the Operating Model. To derive the TOM, the existing Operating Model is compared with the desired future state keeping the key aspects of an operating model in mind: Why, What, How, Where, Who and With. The TOM also cover two additional key aspects: the When & Where defined within the transformation programme to evolve from current to future states.

The difference between the “as is” Operating Model and the “to be” Target Operating Model, indicates the gap that the business must bridge in the execution of its Transformation Model/Strategy – the When and Where. To achieve the Target Operating Model usually require large transformation effort, executed as change & transformation programmes and projects.

ToBe (TOM) – AsIs (OM) = Transformation Model (TM)

Why >> Business Vision & Mission

What >> Business Model (Revenue channels through Products and Services – the Value Chain)

How >> Business Values & Processes & Metrics

Who >> Roles & Responsibilities (RACI)

With >> Tools, Technology and Information

Where & When >> Transformation Model/Strategy

Defining the TOM

A methodology to compile the Target Operating Model (TOM) is summarised by the three steps shown in the diagram below:

TOM Methodology
Inputs to the methodology:

  • Business Model
  • Business Strategy
  • Current Operating Model
  • Formaly documented information, processes, resource models, strategies, statistics, metrics…
  • Information gathered through interviews, meetings, workshops…

Methodology produces TOM Outputs:

  • Business capabilities and associated processes
  • Clearly defined and monetised catalogue of the products and/or services being delivered
  • Organisation structure indicating roles and responsibilities of people within the business and how these are organised and governed
  • Metrics specifically defined to manage, monitor and control the performance of the organisation
  • Underpinning Technology, Information Systems and Tools the business uses in delivering it’s services and/or products

The outputs from this methodology covers each key aspect needed for a TOM that will deliver on the desired business outcomes. Understanding these desired outcomes and the associated goals and milestones to achieve them, is hence a fundamental prerequisite in compiling a TOM.

To Conclude

An achievable Target Operating Model, that delivers, is dependant on the execution of an overall business transformation strategy that aligns the business’ vision, mission and strategy with a future desired state in which the business should function.

Part of the TOM is this Business Transformation Model that outlines the transformation programme plan, which functionally syncs the current with the future operating states. It also outlines the execution phases required to deliver the desired outcomes, in the right place at the right time, while having the agility to continuously adapt to changes.

Only if an organisation has a strategically aligned and agile Target Operating Model in place that can achieve this, is the business in a position to successfully navigate its journey to the benefits and value growth it desires.

renierbotha Ltd has a demonstrable track record of compiling and delivering visionary Target Operating Models.

If you know that your business has to transform to stay relevant – Get in touch!

Originally written by Renier Botha in 2016 when, as Managing Director, he was pivotal in delivering the TOM for Systems Powering Healthcare Ltd.

How to Innovate to stay Relevant

Staying relevant! The biggest challenge we all face – staying relevant within our market. Relevance to your customers is what keeps you in business.

With the world changing as rapidly as it does today, mainly due to the profound influence of technology on our lives, the expectations of the consumer is changing at pace. They have access to an increasing array of choice, not just in how they spend their money but also in how they are communicating and interacting – change fueled by a digital revolution. The last thing that anyone can afford, in this fast paced race, is losing relevance – that will cost us customers or worse…

Is what you are selling today, adaptable to the continuous changing ecosystems? Does your strategy reflect that agility? How can you ensure that your business stays relevant in the digital age? We have all heard about digital transformation as a necessity, but even then, how can you ensure that you are evolving as fast as your customers and stay relevant within your market?

Business, who has a culture of continuous evolvement, aligning their products and services with the digital driven customer, is the business that stays relevant. This is the kind of business that does not require a digital transformation to realign with customer’s demand to secure their future. A customer centric focus and a culture of continuous evolution within the business, throughout the business value chain, is what assure relevance. Looking at these businesses, their ability/agility to get innovation into production, rapidly, is a core success criterion.

Not having a strategy to stay relevant is a very high and real risk to business. Traditionally we deal with risk by asking “Why?”. For continuous improvement/evolution and agility, we should instead be asking “Why not?” and by that, introduce opportunities for pilots, prototypes, experimentation and proof of concepts. Use your people as an incubator for innovation.

Sure, you have a R&D team and you are continuously finding new ways to deliver your value proposition – but getting your innovative ideas into production is cumbersome, just to discover that it is already aged and possibly absolute in a year a two. R&D is expensive and time consuming and there are no guarantees that your effort will result in a working product or desired service. Just because you have the ability to build something, does not mean that you have to build something. Focusing the scares and expensive resources on the right initiatives makes sense, right! This is why many firms are shifting from a project-minded (short term) approach to a longer-term product-minded investment and management approach.

So, how do you remain customer centric, use your staff as incubators of innovation, select the ideas that will improve your market relevance and then rapidly develop those ideas into revenue earners while shifting to a product-minded investment approach?

You could combine Design Thinking with Lean Startup and Agile Delivery…

In 2016, I was attending the Gartner Symposium where Gartner brought these concepts together very well in this illustration:

Gartner - Design-Lean-Agile 2

Instead of selecting and religiously follow one specific delivery methodology, use the best of multiple worlds to get the optimum output through the innovation lifecycle.

Design-Lean-Agile 1

Using Design Thinking (Empathise >> Define >> Ideate >> Prototype) puts the customer at the core of customer centric innovation and product/service development. Starting by empathising with the customers and defining their most pressing issues and problems, before coming up with a variety of ideas to potentially solve the problems. Each idea is considered before developing a prototype. This dramatically reduces the risk of innovation initiatives, by engaging with what people (the customer) really need and want before actually investing further in development.

Lean Startup focuses on getting a product-market fit by moving a Prototype or MVP (minimum viable product) through a cycle of Build >> Measure >> Learn. This ensures a thorough knowledge of the user of the product/service is gained through an active and measureable engagement with the customer. Customer experience and feedback is captured and used to learn and adapt resulting in an improved MVP, better aligned to the target market, after every cycle.

Finally Agile Scrum, continuing the customer centric theme, involves multiple stakeholders, especially users (customers), in every step in maturing the MVP to a product they will be happy to use. This engagement enhances transparency, which in turn grow the trust between the business (Development Team) and the customer (user) who are vested in the product’s/service’s success. Through an iterative approach, new features and changes can be delivered in an accurate and predictable timeline quickly and according to stakeholder’s priorities. This continuous product/service evolvement, with full stakeholder engagement, builds brand loyalty and ensures market relevance.

Looking at a typical innovation lifecycle you could identify three distinct stages: Idea, Prototype/MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and Product. Each of these innovation stages are complimented by some key value, gained from one of the three delivery methodologies:

Design-Lean-Agile 2

All of these methodologies, engage the stakeholders (especially the customer & user) in continuous feedback loops, measuring progress and capturing feedback to adapt and continuously improve, so maximum value creation is achieved.

No one wants to spend a lot of resource and time delivering something that adds little value and create no impact. Using this innovation methodology and associated tools, you will be building better products and service, in the eye of the user – and that’s what matters. You’ll be actively building and unlocking the potential of you’re A-team, to be involved in creating impact and value while cultivating a culture of continuous improvement.

The same methodology works very well for digital transformation programmes.

At the very least, you should be experimenting with these delivery approaches to find the sweat spot methodology for you.

Experiment to stay relevant!

Let’s Talk – renierbotha.com – Are you looking to develop an innovation strategy to be more agile and stay relevant? Do you want to achieve your goals faster? Create better business value? Build strategies to improve growth?

We can help – make contact!

Read similar articles for further insight in our Blog.

KAMOHA Tech interviewing Renier as “Introduction to GSA Chair”

Robert Bertora, founder of KAMOHA Tech, interviews Renier Botha as an introduction to GSA’s (Global Student Accommodation) chair and executive team.

Kamoha Tech – The KAMOHA story began in 2015 servicing Global Student Accommodation (GSA), which has a wide global footprint including the UK, Ireland, Spain, Germany, UAE, Australia, Japan and China. It has grown over 10-fold in 3 years, doing so both through organic growth, (Property development & Construction of its own purpose-built student residences) and through several company acquisitions.

The GSA need was for someone to take control of their IT & Systems prior to the explosive growth they were about to undertake and that is when KAMOHA TECH founder Robert Bertora joined GSA.  The company had a need for its teams to be highly mobile and as such he implemented a ‘Pure Cloud Strategy’.  Rapidly migrated GSA away from, and off of all their traditional existing IT Data & System suppliers, and replaced these with a Cloud Infrastructure, Managed Cloud Data Services and our Remote Desktop Support Services help-desk facility. The subsequent customer satisfaction ratings doubled and our scalable model allowed for the fast and efficient taking on of new property assets, and new company / brand acquisitions in various countries.

Having a global client that has had such explosive growth, has meant that we have faced some complex and unique challenges, which have been overcome with passion, dedication and putting our customers first.

Renier and Robert know each other since 2014 where they worked together in the Global IT team of Regus, a FTSE 250 giant providing workspaces to business ventures ranging from start-up entrepreneurs to global businesses. Start-up conversations between Renier and Robert started mid 2017 and Renier joined the venture as director in May 2018, when Kamoha Tech LTD was officially registered.

 

What is Artificial Intelligence: Definitions

The term “Artificial Intelligence was first coined by John McCarthy in 1956. He is one of the “founding fathers” of artificial intelligence, together with Marvin Minsky, Allen Newell and Herbert A. Simon

Artificial Intelligence today is bathed in controversiality and hype mainly due to a misconception that is created by media. AI means different things to different people.  Some called it “cognitive computing”, others “machine intelligence”. It seems to be difficult to give a definition of what AI really is.

Different Definitions:

Wikipedia: “Artificial intelligence (AI, also machine intelligence, MI) is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence (NI) displayed by humans and other animals. In computer science AI research is defined as the study of “intelligent agents“: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals. Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”.

English Oxford Living Dictionary:  “The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”

Webster: ” A branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers. The capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.”

Google: “The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision making, and translation between languages.”

Quartz: “Artificial intelligence is software or a computer program with a mechanism to learn. It then uses that knowledge to make a decision in a new situation, as humans do. The researchers building this software try to write code that can read images, text, video, or audio, and learn something from it. Once a machine has learned, that knowledge can be put to use elsewhere.”

Rainbird: “A computer doing a task that was previously thought would require a human.”

In my own words, keeping it simple: “AI is using computers to do things that normally would have required human intelligence.”

In other words, we might say that AI is the ability of computers/machines to use human knowledge modelled into algorithms and relational data, to learn from human reasoning and the associated conclusions/decisions, and use what has been learned to make decisions like a human would.

Thus can specialist (expensive) human knowledge be stored and processed, to make the decision making ability/application available to other non-specialist people (who do not have that specialised knowledge), empowering them to, through the use of the AI system, make a specialised decision.

Unlike humans, where specialists are numbered and constrained by human limitations, can AI-powered machines scale, don’t need to rest and they can process massively large volumes of information, can conduct tasks and make reasoning decisions at a significantly higher frequency and lower error ratio than humans, all at once!

Value!?

“Creating value”; “delivering value”; “the value proposition”; “focus on value, not cost”; “price is a reflection of value” – just a few of the statements we are using on a daily basis.

But what is value?

Value comes in different forms and types and can be different for a business, it’s shareholders, clients/customers, suppliers, employees. For example: A business might define value in recurring business and it’s loyal customers; the Board might value the increase in assets on the balance sheet; Shareholders define value in the profitability of the business that convert into dividend payments or an increase in the share price; Suppliers sees value in market penetration;  Employees perceive value in an inviting work environment, culture, recognition and benefits received from their employer.

In previous posts, we covered “how to build a compelling value proposition” and what is “your value proposition“. Value was associated with what you offer (sell) into a buying market – a product or service that addresses a specific need and is of value in a commercial world. “Remember – you define your value proposition, but it’s true value is in the eyes of the beholder – your customer.”

So you are creating value for your customers in solving a specific problem or providing to a specific need in a way that makes your product of service desirable. So when you want to describe your value, it is important to think about the customer’s need first. Being customer centric in your product or service design ensures your business is aligned to deliver to a specific customer (market) need, in a profitable way – value to the customer drives business results in revenue. Excellent customer service ensures recurring customers, customer retention means future revenue growth. Satisfied customers talk about your product and service which brings revenue growth. Thus focussing on the customer value first will lead to the other types of value, as mentioned above.

But how can you define value for your customers? Well, by simply asking if your product or service helps the customer to:

  • make their life easier or better?
  • save them time?
  • save or make them money?
  • be happier?
  • be more positive?
  • be healthy?
  • be more productive?
  • improve their effectiveness and/or efficiency?
  • achieve their goals and objectives?
  • build relationships?
  • make more friends?
  • get more customers?
  • etc…?

Place yourself in your customer’s shoes – be a customer to your own product and service. How does it make you feel? Does it help you – in what way? Use the answers to these questions to continuously improve your value.

Action: Have a look at your value chain and identify how the different processes, teams and people, add value in different ways and how these combine, to focus your value proposition onto the customer.

 

Related Posts:

3 positions of leadership – Leading from the front

We can learn much from horses about teamwork and leadership in business. In our workshops with horses, we share a leadership model that the horses use to create cohesive teamwork. It involves three positions of leadership and we will explore Leading from the front in more detail in this post.

Many of our clients have found this leadership model to be enlightening and have embraced and implemented it into their business with substantial success. The model is based on building relationships rather than a more traditional command and control style of leadership which does not engage and inspire employees. The success of the team is dependent on every team member taking responsibility for leadership and changing their position within the team according to what they believe is needed in each moment.

The model we use is adapted from a model developed by Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling. He observed that there are three different leadership roles in a herd of horses:

  • Leading from the front where the leader sets the pace, destination and direction
  • Leading from the side where leaders coach each other in a democratic leadership style and ensure everyone is moving forward together in the same direction
  • Leading from behind which has a check and balance style of leadership and drives the team forward to maintain momentum

Each member of the team is leading at different moments, and all are essential to the success of the team.

It might seem obvious that dragging or shoving half a ton of horse is impossible yet many employees feel as though they are on the receiving end of this behaviour in the workplace. When we work with horses, we are always working at a fine-tuning level of leadership to maximise leaders’ effectiveness so we reduce coercion and passivity and help leaders find that knife-edge of assertiveness when they are leading out of the comfort zone. Asa result, they improve their ability to flex and adapt to what is needed in any given situation and are able to inspire their teams much more easily.

In this post, I share an extract from my book Leadership Beyond Measure which explores leading from the front in more detail.

Leading from the front
The alpha mare is the most dominant member of the herd and leads from the front. Her role is to set the pace, direction and destination. Since horses are a prey animal, they are on the alert for danger. Imagine a pack of wild dogs appears, the alpha mare will decide where the herd go, how they get there and how fast they go.

If the dogs are close by, she will set off at a gallop. If they are further away, she will set off at a walk. She will go as fast as is necessary to keep the herd safe. This way, the herd conserve their energy for when it is most needed. Many people in business are going at three hundred miles per hour constantly. That is exhausting, and more balance is essential to prevent burn-out and work-related stress.

In a workplace setting, the leader of the company and each team and department usually lead from the front. For example, the MD or CEO will set the strategy and vision for a company. A Project Manager defines clear goals and objectives for his project team. A leader of a team translates the vision and goals so everyone on their team has clear expectations. Everyone at some point will need to lead from the front.

If nobody takes the lead from the front or the vision and direction are not clear enough, the team gets diverted and disperses. This can ultimately lead to conflict in the team and causes increased workload as the team become ineffective. If you’ve ever sat in a meeting and listened to a discussion go round and round without a decision, you’ve experienced what happens when nobody is leading from the front.

And if you’ve ever sat in a meeting where everyone talks over the top of each other, then you’ve experienced what happens when everyone is trying to lead from the front!

One of the challenges of leading from the front is you can get so far ahead that you lose the team. It is essential to keep checking that all team members are coming with you and understand where they are going. A common mistake in organisations is to believe that the strategy and vision have been clearly communicated when they have not. If the team is not doing what you want them to do, the destination, pace and direction need to be clearer.

When leading from the front, the focus is in the direction you are heading. If you keep turning round and looking back, you create a stop/start behaviour in your team. It indicates doubt, a lack of self-belief and self-confidence. Leading from the front requires enormous trust in yourself and the team and a belief that people will execute the strategy you have set. Be purposeful, focused, committed and clear about where you are heading or the team may stall.

In today’s business environments of rapid transformation and change, leading from the front is critical to providing the clarity and vision that employees need in order to drive the business forward.

How clear is the vision in your business and team?

Next month, I’ll explore Leading from behind and how it is critical to drive the team forward in line with the vision and pace that has been articulated.

Jude Jennison is an international speaker, author and Horse Assisted Educator with a 16 year senior leadership career in a global IT organisation, where she led UK, European and global teams.

Jude helps senior leaders and executive teams develop embodied leadership skills that create tangible business results. By receiving a horse’s non-judgemental feedback, any leader can identify their leadership behaviours and transform themselves into a courageous and hugely influential non-verbal communicator.

For more information on our leadership development programmes,
contact us on 0800 170 1810 or visit our website www.theleadershipwhisperers.com

Business Driven IT KPIs

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are a critical management tool to measure the success and progress of effort put in towards achieving goals and targets – to continually improve performance.

Every business set their specific KPIs to measure the criteria that drive the business success – these vary from business to business. One thing every modern business has in common though, is IT – the enabler that underpin operational processes and tools used to commerce daily. Setting KPIs that measure the success of IT operations does not just help IT leadership to continuously improve but also proof the value of IT to the business.

Here are ten IT KPIs that matter most to modern business

1. % of IT investment into business initiative (customer-facing services and business units)
How well does the IT strategy, reflected in the projects it is executing, align with the business strategy? This metrics can help to align IT spend with business strategy and potentially eliminate IT projects for IT that does not align directly with business objectives.

2. % Business/Customer facing Services meeting SLAs (Service Level Agreements)
IT is delivering service to customers; these are internal to the business but can also be delivered external to the business’ client/customers directly. Are these services meeting required expectations and quality – in the eye of the customer? What can be done to improve.

3. IT Spend vs Plan/Budget
Budgets are set for a purpose – it is a financial guideline that indicates the route to success. How is IT performing against budget, against plans? Are you over-spending against the set plans? Why? Is it because of a problem in the planning cycle or something else? If you are over-spending/under-spending, in which areas do this occur?

Knowing this metrics give you the insight to take corrective actions and bring IT spend inline with budgets.

4. IT spend by business unit
IT service consumptione is driven by user demand. How is IT costs affected by the user demands by business unit – are business units responsible to cover their IT cost, hence owning up to the overall business efficiency. This metrics put the spotlight on the fact that IT is not free and give business unit manager visibility of their IT consumption and spend.

5. % Split of IT investment to Run, Grow, Transform the business
This is an interesting one for the CIO. Businesses usually expects IT to spend more money in growing the business but reality is that the IT cost of running the business is driven by the demand from IT users with an increased cost implication. Business transformation, now a key topic in every board meeting, needs a dedicated budget to succeed. How do these three investment compare in comparison with business strategic priorities.

6. Application & Service TCO (Total Cost of Ownership)
What is the real cost of delivering IT services and application. Understanding the facts behind what makes up the total cost of IT and which applications/services are the most expensive, can help to identify initiatives to improve.

7. Infrastructure Unit Cost vs Target & Benchmarks
How do you measure the efficiency of your IT infrastructure and how does this compare with the industry benchmark? This is a powerful metrics to justify ROI (Return on Investment), IT’s value proposition, IT strategy and the associated budget.

8. % Projects on Time, Budget & Spec
Is the project portfolio under control? Which projects need remediation to get back on track and what can be learned from projects that do run smoothly?

9. % Project spend on customer-facing initiatives
How much is invested in IT projects in the business for the business (affecting the bottom line) in comparison with customer-centric projects that impacts the business’ top line.

10. Customer satisfaction scores for business/customer facing services

Measure the satisfaction of not just the internal business units that consume IT services but also the business’ customer’s satisfaction with customer-facing IT services. Understand what the customer wants and make the needed changes to IT operations to continuously improve customer satisfaction.

KPI vs Vision

In the famous words of Peter Drucker “What gets measured gets improved”, KPIs give you the insight to understand:

  • your customer
  • your market
  • your financial performance
  • your internal process efficiency
  • your employee performance

Insight brings understanding that leads to actions driving continuously improve.