Beyond the buzz:

The new face of integration

To make the most of agility, speed, and experimentation of a digital enterprise, leaders need to find new technologies and ways to evolve their capabilities.

 

The Digital AirportBuilt With Virtual Lego

Digital Airport Experience
I’m sitting at an airport gate waiting to board my flight when a customer services robot approaches me. The robot greets me and presents me my favorite bottle of wine and the wrist watch that I’ve been thinking of buying since I checked-in!

Unbeknown to me the airport has managed to gain insight into my purchasing history from my previous flights, identified what I almost bought online today, located me to a precise spot in the airport, and then sent a retail robot to sell me personalized products - wow!

This vision of the digital airport may sound a little far-fetched, yet isn’t too far from reality. To get there multiple technologies will have to be adopted, integrated, and orchestrated for this revolutionary customer experience of tomorrow. This presents new challenges. Integrated systems introduce complications of complexity, scalability, and agility - all of which can be addressed through Virtual Lego, a critical piece of the Invisible Infostructure.

Enabling the Vision
So how did this happen? Through the perfect integration of systems that record my credit card purchases, my e-commerce history (captured via the airport Wi-Fi), and my public wish-lists from online retailers. A data record is created, linked to my user profile, and then updated on a real-time basis. Analytics are applied, providing valuable insight into my personal tastes which in turn are further integrated with data from identification and positioning systems that are transmitted to a geo-tracking robot that locates me in the airport.

This is clearly a complex layering of systems, leveraging technology that isn’t yet mature enough for mass adoption - although it shouldn’t stop us from working towards it and building new business models that can take full advantage of the technology once it is in place. Early adopters of such business opportunities can then start to grab market presence as soon as demand starts to flow. This is where the risk-takers can define and develop new markets and dominate through early market-share. The integration of different systems is key to achieving this vision as well as the actual data itself. We must enable access to data so that it may be stored, analyzed, and acted upon without worrying about underlying scalability, agility, and security concerns - Virtual Lego can successfully support our integration and data needs.

Integrate with Virtual Lego
Visualize the digital infrastructure of Virtual Lego that you plug-and-play to create the system you desire. You can of course follow the manual, or you can innovate and create something new. Either way, the pieces fit together so that you may successfully realize your vision through robust design. Virtual Lego thrives on the ‘Invisible Infostructure’ principle of digital-first: a platform that can integrate new disruptive technology with ease. To build this powerful integrated ecosystem we can no longer accept the old world of isolated and disparate systems. The power of the many, are definitely greater than the few.

Considerations for Integrations
Virtual Lego can break down information and functionality silos to maximize organizational agility, balancing the legacy whilst integrating the new. This can directly translate to reduced time-to-value for new business solutions and an ability to support evolving requirements. CIOs are under increased pressure to enhance services and drive innovation often with flat budgets. Appropriately, Virtual Lego caters to ecosystems that can incorporate changes quickly, without having to rip up existing infrastructure each time a new system is introduced.

There is no panacea for the journey to the new face of integration. Reaching a state of highly-integrated systems in the enterprise is challenging but the business benefits are plentiful. To realize your own vision you can start by:

  • Embracing open standards and open source - The future of integrated systems are interoperable. They will communicate with one another with ease. Break down your silo’d systems today so you too can “plug n’ play” tomorrow.
  • Optimizing your access to data - Data is truly the new oil. Investigate an analytics platform and start refining your oil (data) today for tomorrow’s insight and improved forecasting.
  • Standardizing technologies - Reduce additional complexity wherever you can, standardize on hardware, tools, and protocols as much as possible, and stick to it.

Plug n’ Play In this world of integrated systems, Virtual Lego alleviates the mounting complexity of divergent technology and supports the business need to increase speed-to-value and time-to-insights. It enables businesses to become more agile and respond to changing requirements faster than ever before.

Your vision doesn’t need to be a pipe-dream, embrace Virtual Lego for your systems integration and realize the steps towards your new business opportunities today.

Virtual Lego for the New Face of Integration - Simple building blocks, unlimited possibilities.

Read about Virtual Lego from the TechnoVison 2015 series here

David Blackwood
Global CTO, Capgemini Infrastructure Services

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How CXOs are underhyping the Internet of Things

Every second there are 127 new items connected to the internet. The items can be as diverse as ‘connected’ cars to thermostats to nuclear plants. This comes down to roughly 11.7 million items a day, 82 million items per week, and 328 million per month.

328.000.000...

From start-ups to industry leaders, most companies are still clueless with what to do with this connection explosion. It’s no surprise that a lot of companies reverse engineer from technology to company rather than the other way around.

First decide what your company’s value strategy is and identify how connected items fit that strategy. Whether your strategy is around product leadership, customer intimacy, or operational excellence, the Internet of Things can provide the insights you need, according to Treacy and Wiersema (need link).

CXO’s can’t personally follow every technology trend. They need people who inspire them. Once inspired, CXOs must decide which technology supports the company goals like the ones above. The question is, what scenarios can you think of which your company can help to stay a market leader. To be an innovator in your segment.

The next time you are defining company goals you should think of IoT as a way to combine the three value strategies of Treacy and Wiersema:

Thinking back to the start of this article, IoT can combine those three values into one IoT related value strategy.
“Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the collective noun for the general idea of connecting the physical to the digital via embedded technology. To receive data from all kinds of smart objects from the past, present, and future to communicate, sense, or interact with their internal state or the external environment to simplify and facilitate human life, improve business processes, reduce costs and risks, and raise efficiency.“

Now relate this thought to the model. Does it make sense?

The internet of (right) things can combine different value strategies to blow your competitors away. It offers you the possibility to sail away to the Blue Ocean you always wanted. Totally different products, totally new services offer better solutions to your customers.
Say that it took you five minutes to read this post. The eleventrillion dollar question is, what could you have done with 38.100 connected items in your value chain?

At the end of the day, nothing really differs from yesterday -- beside those millions and millions items which can sense, collect, analyse, and report insights which gain you the competitive advantage you need. With an opportunity this large, is it possible to over-hype the Internet of Things?

Rick Bouter
International PMO, Capgemini University

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Platforms: More prototypes, please!

A long time ago I studied industrial design engineering. In engineering, building models are central within the design process. These models can be 3D mock-ups.

Aren't we all excited to see a futuristic concept car at an auto show? These models won’t hit the market, but still we get an idea for the future will bring.

Let me start by defining what a prototype is:
“A prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from.”
“A prototype typically simulates only a few aspects of, and may be completely different from, the final product.”

In IT, I've always wondered why we don't use models more when designing new IT systems. User interface designers use prototypes to test their ideas. Everyone that participates in user interface labs during the design process can see how useful obtaining feedback can be. The prototypes tested can even be very primitive, like sketches on paper. They’re still valid enough to steer the design process in order to get the most effective design.

In IT the most common use for prototypes is to get user feedback. The proof is in the pudding.

Paper documents like functional designs, use cases, and class diagrams are difficult to understand for novice users. Making a prototype bridges the gap between IT and users. Seeing the system work, however limited creates a common understanding of the product -- leading to more fruitful discussions on the design.

When to use prototypes

I know lots of project managers who don't like prototypes. The clunky and primitive models might scare customers away. "Is this all what we'll get?" (No, it's a prototype.)

Industrial design engineers also work closely with their users and customers. But designers seem to be able to communicate that prototypes are models about ideas to be discussed, not instruments for setting promises about the final product.

Many people see prototypes as test models. Yes, prototypes can be tested -- tested in the sense of evaluating all relevant requirements in order to determine whether the prototype fulfills its purpose and can be taken into production (after some minor alterations). But that's a rather limited view. Designers make prototypes to illustrate their design that will never be taken into production, like concept cars:

Prototypes are not meant to be perfect versions of the designed products. It is often impossible to use the same materials that will be put in the actual product, and there may be no factory process to build it yet. (…) This results in a prototype that is not exactly what the final design will contain, but that is close enough to let the designers see if it will work or not.”

So prototypes can be used for testing, but also for things like gathering new requirements (or eliminating existing ones), generating new ideas, visualizing ideas and concepts, or even predicting the soundness of a solution. Why aren't we using more prototypes in our IT design methods? Why don't we model the most critical parts of our design to see if it will work in real life?

Prototyping and Big Data

So if we take a broad view on prototyping and the use of models in the design process, how are we're going to tackle Big Data projects?

Large IT firms like IBM and Capgemini use “innovation labs” to educate users about what new tools and data, and what they can tell us about how it's different from existing reports.

These laboratory-like environments let users work with Big Data systems even before any final solution is conceived:
“Rather than developing requirements first, as you would for a traditional BI project, then building a business case for the tools and data needed to fulfill them, it makes more sense to let users experiment.”

In all the projects I've been in, there were always issues around communicating requirements and designs with users. They could not understand them in full scope. But project management expected the users to understand.

How can project managers gain consent if the users can’t really understand what's going on? Frankly, the problem becomes more eminent when the project introduces new technology, ways-of-working, or forms of interaction with the system. It's hard for non-experts to see what the consequences of the design will be.

Big data analytics projects are new – and disruptive – by nature. You can’t expect future users to see every consequence of using Big Data systems in their business’ context. Prototypes help determine what users want, how Big Data functions will work in their business, and most importantly create a common understanding between IT and users to start discussions on requirements and objectives.

Prototyping also fits in with agile development. Capgemini offers the Big Data Analytics Sandbox for Financial Services. This sandbox lets clients try ideas and deploy to production in a very short time. It also offers fast track analytical Big Data proof of concepts – or prototypes – in a contained environment before committing to a full scale solution. (A prototypes is a model "that tries to simulate the full system or at least a material part of it." A Proof of Concept (POC), however, is "a small exercise to test a discrete design idea or assumption".) Capgemini’s Big Data Analytics Sandbox can help your firm implement unique case-applications based on existing accelerators and already-developed proofs of concept.

Another approach is using tools like IBM Watson Analytics. The computing power of Watson will offer instantaneous insight into a data set. IBM suggests clients use Watson Analytics to analyze raw or partial data sets first, see what interesting insights come out, and which areas to explore further. Based on those insights, a traditional BI project can be started to dive deeper into areas of interest. When the data is cleaned, prepared, and reported on they then re-start Watson to explore the data further.

Both methods create prototypes first. But they don’t give exact results or give a complete truth. They will however, show users what Big Data can offer, the insights it will discover, and the way you can explore and present the data.

Believe me, while some users may nag about non-representative results, most will be excited about the preview of your Big Data analytics project they will produce. More prototypes, please!

Reinoud Kaasschieter
Solution Architect & ECM Consultant, Capgemini

Catch up on other hot topics on insights and data

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Enabling IoT in different sectors

Examples of how enterprises in different sectors can integrate the Internet of Things

 

Uber may soon be delivering you packages too

Consumers’ online shopping experience is only as good as the delivery and returns process which, thankfully, is now the focus for innovation.

No part of the e-retail supply chain can have missed the seismic shift currently shaking the industry to its core. After 10-15 years of online store evolution, further e-commerce growth opportunities are being hampered by an inconsistent and often frustrating delivery and returns experience. Next-day shipments may be fast becoming the norm but, unless they succeed first time (and in at least 5% of carrier shipments they do not), fast-track guarantees are worthless.

The possibility of having to chase goods that have been rerouted back to the depot is a barrier to shopping online. Market analysts believe that until the industry can remove the final friction from last-mile services (including much convenient handling of returns) online retail will fail to reach its full potential.

The key is to form new dynamic value networks, centered round the consumer and enabled by technology: multiple, diverse ‘plug and play’ relationships between retailers, brand manufacturers, logistics service providers, suppliers and organizations from other sectors (eg local government authorities and public services).

Innovation starts with new thinking. Success relies on identifying partners that can help make it happen.

Find out how to create a ‘pull’ supply chain driven by consumer demand

Read how Audi, DHL and Amazon plan to deliver packages to consumers’ cars rather than their homes

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Becoming Fast Digital

Three things every enterprise should consider to speed up its digital transformation

1. Fast vision

No digital transformation can happen without the right strategic vision to set the journey on the right path.

2. Fast design

Taking a Lean Start-up approach can stimulate collaboration between teams and generate new ideas. Put user experience at the forefront to prioritize the solutions to develop first.

3. Fast delivery

Gather data insights and measure the outputs to keep improving the user experience or pivoting when needed.

Meet the authors

 

Fernando Alvarez Global CDO, Capgemini Consulting

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David Blackwood Global CTO,
Capgemini Infrastructure Services

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Rick Bouter International PMO,
Capgemini University

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Reinoud Kaasschieter Solution Architect & ECM Consultant,
Capgemini

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Darshan Shankavaram VP & Global Digital CoE Leader
DCX & Mobile Solutions

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