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It’s not data science but this one surprised me a bit: on Golang

While quick and dirty Google Trends is definitely not data science it can be useful for a sniff test. I was working on a client project today, when I thought I would look at search interest over time. Rails- we’d expect to be tailing off a bit. Node.js – I actually expected to see more of an upward slope, after a it had felt like it was plateauing for a while. Node is definitely still growing strongly in adoption. But Golang – I was certainly not expecting this kind of sustained upward slope in interest, in terms of volume. Language interest can grow quickly, but tends to plateau pretty quickly too, as populations become saturated. Golang is showing sustained growth in interest over time though.

Derek Collison was right in 2012

But judging from the graph Go could end up doing something rather more interesting.

(Read this and other great posts  @ RedMonk)

Oracle and cloud: Success demands a customer-centric culture

Because Oracle is one of the most important players in enterprise software, I asked three top industry analysts to join me on Episode 261 of the CXOTalk series of conversations with innovators. Read on to learn how these analysts view Oracle, its position in the market, and its relationship to customers.

Oracle is a 40-year old company with almost $40 billion in annual revenue. Having survived and prospered over the course of this lengthy period, Oracle has certainly proven its ability to adapt and evolve. The company built its reputation as the world’s premier database, eventually becoming an enterprise applications powerhouse. Today, Oracle is undertaking one of the most important transitions in its history: moving its product lines to the cloud.

As part of an all-out push to the cloud, which has created rapid growth and high margins for that part of the business, Oracle is rewriting its software to be a complete suite of cloud-ready products. This includes enterprise applications such as ERP and CRM, infrastructure-as-a-service in direct competition with Amazon Web Services, and the new Oracle autonomous database.

Becoming more responsive to customer relationships is a key part of this move to the cloud, however, the company’s history has not been all sweetness and light.

Just as cloud computing really began to take off, in 2009, Oracle’s founder, Larry Ellison, famously dismissed the cloud as “water vapor” (despite his being an early investor in NetSuite). Oracle also became known for using attack dog-style tactics during customer audits. As a result, Oracle’s reputation suffered among some analysts and customers.

Today, two primary factors help explain the renewed focus on customers that seems to be part of Oracle’s cloud strategy.

First, the impact of Mark Hurd as CEO. Hurd is a sales guy, which means he really does care about meeting customer needs. Even back in 2014, during a video interview, I speculated that Mark Hurd might create a “warmer, friendlier, happier Oracle.”

Second, and even more important, the cloud-based subscription business model forces software vendors to create a culture oriented toward customer satisfaction. Unlike the on-premises software model, cloud customers usually pay for usage over time, making customer adoption and retention core imperatives for any cloud company. Successful cloud vendors monitor a variety of metrics to ensure customers are happy with the software and therefore use it to the fullest extent possible.

The great panel for this CXOTalk episode discusses all these issues and much more. The group consists of:

  • Mike Fauscette, Chief Research Officer at G2 Crowd and previously Group Vice President at IDC
  • Liz Herbert, VP and Principal Analyst Serving Application Development & Delivery Professionals, at Forrester Research
  • Neil Ward-Dutton, co-founder and Research Director at MWD Associates, where he covers digital transformation, IT infrastructure, and related topics

You can watch our entire conversation in the video embedded above and see an edited summary below. You should also read the full transcript.

Where does Oracle fit in the technology industry today?

Mike Fauscette: The industry itself has changed quite a bit over the last 20 years. In the 2000s, when we started to see a lot of consolidation, Oracle was one of the companies that led that charge of bringing other application companies in and expanding their application portfolio so that it became quite broad. Then, at some point, they started on this transition path building out solutions that would work in the cloud, all the way from the infrastructure and up the stack, all the way to applications.

For the last several years, they have focused on changing the relationship, changing the way they do business, in this ongoing subscription-based business around almost all the product lines that they sell.

Certainly, they still have a lot of legacy customers who have older applications that are still on-premises still, but the bulk of what they’re selling new now is cloud-based, from the database up through the application layer. It was definitely a company in transition, and they are pretty far down the path now.

Liz Herbert: They’re one of the largest technology suppliers, which sometimes means they’re not the fastest. They don’t necessarily take risks the way that some smaller and more startup-type companies do. For example, it’s well known that Oracle was a bit late to the overall cloud competition that we see looming large in today’s applications market, as well as platforms and infrastructure.

That said, when they invest, they go big. Something notable about Oracle is that, where they jump into a new area of customer demand, they put a significant amount of investment behind it. In fact, there’s something very unique about the company, which we haven’t talked much about yet. Because Larry Ellison owns such a substantial part of the overall company, they’re able to take decisions in a way that many other public companies of their size would not be able to. That’s had a strong influence on where they invest.

Cloud is an area where, though they were a bit late; they’re making significant investments. You can see that in the way they treat their salespeople, in the evolution of roles like customer success, as well as, of course, in the products showing where those investments are heading.

Then, similarly, we all see another wave of technology looming. Digital technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, automation, and Internet of Things. Oracle has been investing in that wave. Again, they weren’t the first, but they’ve certainly got deep pockets, and we see them put a lot of muscle behind that now.

Neil Ward-Dutton: On the platform side, Oracle’s strategy is defensive, but that’s not necessarily bad nor is it surprising. Its position and its strategy are fundamentally about realizing that the center of gravity for new investments, in the near future, is going to be cloud.

It’s all about being there when customers want them to be there, to minimize opportunities for customers to go anywhere else; to make sure they always have something that they can offer customers.

[Although] a defensive strategy, it makes sense when you consider that Oracle has 400,000 or 500,000 customers. It can do very a healthy business by just making sure that it takes its customers on the journey to the cloud and provides the services they need as they take that journey.

Also, Oracle has, for a long time, been pitching to mainstream, slightly conservative buyers. When Oracle talks about 6 Journeys to the Cloud, it’s really saying, “No matter how fast or how slow you want to go, we’ll be there for you, and we’ll hold your hand.” It is a trust and a safety message.

How has Oracle’s reputation among customers evolved?

Liz Herbert: I noticed a big shift this year at the Oracle OpenWorld event, putting that customer success story front and center, which is notable.

The shift to cloud means strategic partnering because, when you buy cloud, you’re not really buying features and functions. You’re buying a long-term partnership, in which you trust the vendor to invest in the features and functions you’re going to need in two years, three years, or four years. That’s a big shift from [on-premises software], when you would buy a large packaged software and use it for the next number of years, maybe doing upgrades here and there.

They’ve done a good job starting to change from a culture that made a lot of money selling software packages, that may cost tens of millions of dollars, to subscription-based or pay-as-you-go pricing, depending on what product you’re talking about. To do that, you need to renew deals, and you’re not going to do that if you’re not a [real] partner. That’s a market shift in their culture and in the types of roles that they’re prioritizing.

Neil Ward-Dutton: Oracle is changing its culture to focus on customer relationships and maintain those close relationships. Unless you have high renewal rates, you’re going to hurt yourself in the long-term.

We see a new wave of technologies enter people’s consciousness in leadership positions around AI, around robotics, around machine learning; all those things. Certainly, when you look at what it’s doing around chatbot-based channels, AI frameworks, machine learning, and even blockchain, it’s not just putting stickers on bits of paper. It’s pursuing these quite seriously and with quite a lot of thought. That’s an encouraging sign.

In the context of the platform business at OpenWorld, Oracle was not holding back. Oracle is pushing to go further than just good enough.I do think there’s a lot to be positive about.

Mike Fauscette: Technology in business [has become] much more of a competitive differentiator, a competitive advantage. Companies can leapfrog the competition by using technology and people in the right combinations.

We mentioned artificial intelligence, IoT, and blockchain. Those technologies are out there, and companies are starting to use them, but they don’t stand by themselves. They’re embedded in the digital infrastructure and platform and fiber of the company as it moves forward.

Having that [platform] is important. Customers may not use it yet, completely. They may not go there all the way yet, but they need to see that Oracle, Salesforce, or the others are a partner that is investing now and will continue to invest and evolve because technology and the use of that technology will evolve.

Digital business is a long journey, and businesses want a partner for that. I heard more this year than ever, from Oracle customers, that Oracle is stepping up to be that technology partner, as a part of the cultural and technical shift through which these customers are going.

Liz, say a few words about suite vs. best-of-breed software?

Liz Herbert: Oracle has made a significant investment towards cloud. Most of the core applications, like ERP, HCM, and CRM, supply chain, and other areas, they are now available in the cloud.

What’s notable about Oracle’s strategy as it relates to the applications moving to the cloud is they are a very comprehensive portfolio. While we might talk about giants in the cloud space, particularly pure plays, Oracle offers a very comprehensive suite available on the cloud.

A lot of the clients that I’m working with prefer fewer providers. Best-of-breed is certainly in fashion right now, but too much best-of-breed is a bad thing. There’s a cost of doing that regarding vendor management, overhead, and not getting great discounts because you’re buying small chunks of software from everybody.

CXOTalk brings together the most world’s top business and government leaders for in-depth conversations on digital disruption, AI, innovation, and related topics. Be sure to watch our many episodes! Disclosure: Oracle is consulting client.

(Cross-posted @ ZDNet | Beyond IT Failure)

What even is streaming data and Kafka? What is a message bus? Everything you ever wanted to know about modern event-driven architectures but were afraid to ask.

In case you missed it, we’ve been publishing videos from Thingmonk over the last couple of weeks. They are well worth checking out. Thanks so much for the sponsorship InfluxDB (time series platform for metrics and events). Thingmonk is a developer conference, but it’s also an inclusive tech conference, which covers a fair bit of ground in terms of Internet of Things (IoT) topics. We try not to assume too much knowledge, but don’t patronise people either, when it comes to learning new concepts and technology. So what even is a distributed commit log and how is it different from a message bus? This year we were really lucky to have a couple of brilliant talks to walk people, stepwise, through modern event-driven messaging architectures to help explain that question and more.

Ben Stopford works at Confluent as an Engineer and Systems Architect on Apache Kafka. Again – while he may work on a company that specialises in delivering Kafka for the enterprise, his talk was very much about education rather than sales. How does Kafka work, what is it, and what makes it so powerful? Kafka, originally developed by LinkedIn as its central data pipeline, has been getting a ton of attention from cloud companies and the customers they serve.

Clemens Vasters has form at Thingmonk. Last year he stepped in to give a presentation with nothing more than a whiteboard and about 10 minutes of preparation. This year though, he had a bit more time to work on his slides, and gave a really helpful primer on streaming analytics, event hubs, notification hubs, IoT hubs, and relays. Clemens may be lead architect on the Microsoft Azure cloud messaging team, but his talk is a long way from being a sales pitch.

If you watch these two talks you’ll certainly be a lot smarter by the end. Demystifying streaming data and more. Everything you ever wanted to know about this stuff but were afraid to ask.

 

(Read this and other great posts  @ RedMonk)

Since when did AI become the job creation antidote to automation’s job destruction? Time for an augmented reality check…

We seem to have suddenly shifted from the doom and gloom of robots taking our jobs to people proclaiming that AI is going to create millions of new jobs.  And if you haven’t endured this latest round of hype, I envy your unique skill in removing fake news from your life.

Suddenly AI is the antidote to automation!  Really?

Don’t we have a responsibility to inject some reality into this conversation?  Today’s business world is about removing physical touchpoints, about fixing our data, about running processes faster, smarter, more autonomously, and cheaper… So where are the real links between the universities, the politicians, and the businesses?  Why aren’t we really debating this stuff in the senates and parliaments if today’s organizations are on an inexorable drive to sub people for better data? Instead, we have academics and “analysts”, desperate for attention, making unsubstantiated predictions that are only fuelling the tech firms, desperate to sell their wares without this negative connotation that the real ROI of selling their products is tied to labor elimination.

Let’s just make the call – AI is indirectly and inextricably tied to the elimination of “unnecessary” labor, by nurturing systems that get smarter with each incident and transaction. The smarter and more autonomous your operations become, the more agile and efficient your business becomes. That’s not a terrible thing – in fact, you are doing your valued staff a huge favor by keeping them employed and keeping them relevant to your business.  But you are not creating a net influx of jobs into your organization, you are becoming more fluid and competitive.  Sure, you’ll probably look to add some Python and R developers, Machine Learning experts, serious data geeks and design thinkers – or you may just pay consultants to do it all for you – but the bottom-line, here, is that you’re going to be shedding a lot of your left-brained staff performing jobs that can be artificially automated, at a much faster rate than you’ll be adding the data-oriented people you need to digitize your business.  AI is about doing more with less, not more with even more – let’s get real.

Don’t get me wrong, the possibilities of faster, smarter, touchless data flows between the customer and the operations of the business, are critical to promote competitiveness and survival, but let’s stop sugar-coating the true purpose of data driven intelligence – the less businesses need to rely on people and the more autonomously they can run processes, the more nimble and profitable they will become.  Now if these businesses then choose to reinvest their new-found wealth hiring loads more people, I will tip my hat to these purveyors of job hope, but let’s fact facts, the companies of the future will be running a lot of smart technology with a smaller group of savvy people to manage it all.

Let’s take our much-loved services industry, which is pretty high up the tech-savvy ladder and comprises firms where efficiency and competitiveness are its very DNA

The global IT and BPO services industry employs 16 million workers today.  By 2022, our industry will employ 14.8 million – a likely decrease of 7.5% in total workers (see our research methodology and full blog here).  This isn’t devastating news – we’ll always lose this many people through natural attrition, but what this data signifies is this industry is now delivering more for less because of advances in automation and artificial intelligence technologies. The new data also shows how job roles are evolving from low skilled workers conducting simple entry level, process driven tasks that require little abstract thinking or autonomy, to medium and high skilled workers undertaking more complicated tasks that require experience, expertise, abstract thinking, ability to manage machine-learning tools and autonomy.

 

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All major service delivery locations are expected to be impacted at the low-end, but the higher the wage costs, the higher the expected role elimination (750,000 roles in India and a similar number in the US)

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Medium-skilled roles are picking up across the board, especially in roles that are customer/employee facing with the need for more customized support, the ability to handle basic customer and data queries, and more customized service work with virtual agent models in 2nd / 3rd tier escalations:

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When we look into the high-end, this is where we see most positive impact, in terms of job creation:

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As this data illustrates, the more we automate, and digitize, and the more we adopt human + machine technologies, such as machine learning and cognitive solutions, the more we need people to develop skills in managing automated workflows, Machine Learning mechanisms, being able to interpret data, and service increasingly complex customer and employee needs. So when we take into account the total impact of automation and AI on services jobs, the impact is not nearly as severe as so many of the hypesters and fear-mongerers are prophesizing, but the reality is we’re definitely not creating jobs faster than we are digitizing them out of existence:

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Philippines should actually increase its service delivery population due to its dominance in voice and capabilities to support increasingly complex and personalized customer models, the UK should be flat, especially with the challenges of Brexit and the slowdown in low cost worker immigration, while both India and the US will see a total worker reduction estimated at the 10% level between by 2022.  You can view the total impact on the global services industry – a worker population decline of 7.5% here:

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The Bottom-line: Many jobs that can be digitized are going to disappear, but there is time on our side to develop the new skills we need

The big narrative here isn’t about what’s going away, but more about what is emerging in its place. The next fives years we can manage, it’s the five after that when the impact on labor becomes much more challenging.  Transaction roles at the bottom of the value chain have been under threat for many years now – with the impact of low cost location delivery and better technology.  Now the emergence of RPA is eventually going to sound the death knell for most high-throughput, high-intensity jobs, as both service providers and enterprises master the ability to apply these technologies effectively.  The good news is this takes time and there is no huge burning platform to do this overnight from most enterprises.

So our message to all stakeholders of operations and services is simply to get out of your comfort zones, accept that new skills are replacing old ones, and it’s critical we have a plan to train, develop and invest in changing what we have.  I will leave you with six things to think about as you ponder your own value to this industry and your firm:

  1. Which customers have you delighted recently?
  2. What new relationships have you made that add value to our business?
  3. What work have you done that excited people inside and outside of the business?
  4. How are you helping energize your colleagues and exciting them with new ideas?
  5. How have you helped add value to new business wins?
  6. How have you contributed to new initiatives that improve productivity and effectiveness?

HfS subscribers can access the full report and research methodology by clicking here.

 

(Cross-posted @ Horses for Sources)

AI is bollocks… or is it?

Well someone actually said it – and it may not come as a complete shock that it’s come from everyone’s favorite RPA evangelist Guy Kirkwood, of UIPath fame. Even more impressive is guy’s beautiful command of the English language to describe the latest hyped term “AI”, now that most the hypesters have got bored touting the massively disruptive impacts of IoT and digital – and the automation conversations have just got a bit rinse and repeat.  Guy is saying that true AI is when we arrive at the “singularity” (which Ray Kurzweil predicts will happen in 2029), when machines will become smarter than humans, abruptly triggering runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.

Guy basically claims it’s incorrect that we are dubbing the conglomeration of tools, such as NLP, Machine Learning etc as “AI”.  While I agree with Guy that the inane use of the term AI is driving me (and many of my colleagues) to scream “Please just stop the bollocks!”, my point to him is: what else do we call tools which are all about “the simulation of human thought processes across enterprise operations, where the system makes autonomous decisions, using high-level policies, constantly monitoring and optimizing its performance and automatically adapting itself to changing conditions and evolving business rules and dynamics.”  So if this isn’t Artificial Intelligence, what is it?

And my further point, here, is that these tools are already here and being heavily piloted and evaluated, according to 400 major enterprises in our recent State of Automation and AI Study:

Sorry, Guy, but while we all want to scream “bollocks!” at all the bollocks, I think we’re stuck with AI until the next buzz term comes along =)

(Cross-posted @ Horses for Sources)