Crisis – A Transformation Opportunity

I know this sounds a bit odd, but in reality, this could be the beginning and driver for digital transformation in many business sectors.

As the virus spreads, we are seeing more and more mandates for people to remain isolated and suggestions that employees work from home. While working from home may not be an option for everyone (hospitality, restaurants, healthcare, trades, etc.), it does pave the way for office workers, knowledge workers, customer service representatives, and many others to continue down this path once the current viral crisis has passed.

In My View

As businesses adapt the way the operate to address the need of providing viable, safe options for their employees as protection from the virus, they should also consider how to extend this beyond the crisis as a means to continue and improve their remote worker capabilities. In order to address the current situation, access to information, interaction in business processes, and collaboration will be conducted using tools that are most likely in place now, but little used.

The focus right now is the safety and well being of employees, as it should be. Second, businesses are focusing on how they can remain functional to meet the needs of their clients in order to keep the business running. Third, this is an opportunity to also think strategically about the future and how the business could operate by increasing the capability of employees working from home using a virtual business model.

It is my hope that this crisis ends quickly with minimal fatality and illness for all. It is my belief that this is an opportunity for businesses to realize the potential it presents to digitally transform their operations in the near future.

Driverless Delivery Services – A New Reality

According to a report by NBC Montana, the U.S. Department of Transportation has temporarily approved the use of low-speed driverless delivery vehicles.

The vehicles known as “R2” and produced by NURO based in California, has teamed with Walmart to deliver groceries in Houston, and Kroger to deliver groceries in both Houston and in various locations in Arizona.

R2, not only has no driver, there is no steering wheel, brake or accelerator pedal, mirrors, and other items typically found on a car and not required for low speed vehicles designed for top speeds less than 25 MPH.

Pictured here is the R2 by Nuro

The concept is simple. The customer places an order which is filled by the supplier and loaded into R2. Delivery information is provided to R2, an access code is provided to the customer, and R2 departs on a deliver route. Once at the delivery location, R2 parks curbside, the customer is notified and goes to R2. The access code is entered, the door opens on R2, and the customer removes the ordered supplies, closing the door and R2 makes its way along the assigned route.

In My View

This is the beginning of autonomous vehicle use in our society. Where we are now experiencing the use of driverless cars for delivery, it will not be long before we see them in use by ride share services and other modes of transportation. Imagine you need a ride. Like Uber and Lyft, you use your app to enter pick up and destination. An autonomous vehicle arrives, you enter it, and are driven to your destination, all without a driver or the stress of driving yourself.

For now it may be focused on short distances, but in the future, it is quite possible you could arrange for long range transportation, perhaps even with the ability to relax, take a nap, or even sleep during an overnight trip. Given these will be vehicles using electric drive systems, it will also eliminate the use of fossil fuels.

The question now is not one of the technology, but human acceptance. Are we ready to accept that autonomous vehicles are real, they are here, and we are facing a potential revolutionary shift and digital disruption in transportation?

Governance, Process, and Technology – Iowa

This week the Iowa Democratic Caucus proved once again what I have been teaching and talking about for decades. Organizations seeking to improve operations and incorporate technology must establish and adhere to governance over every aspect of a project and the information and processes related to that project.

In this case, it is the voting and selection of a candidate to represent the party in the Presidential Election. When all was said and done with the caucus, results could not be released to a lack of confidence in the integrity and accuracy of the data. The underlying reason seems to be an error in the coding of the report software application according to an ABC News report titled, “Iowa Caucus: What we know about what went wrong”

In my view

This article points out the need for governance over testing of the new application, information collected, processes to capture the information, and means by which to report the results. While it may be possible that these were in place, the fact it failed demonstrates either the lack of governance to test the application, or a lack of performing the application testing to ensure failure would not occur.

Thankfully, there was a fall back process for the various divisions to manually review the results using a paper back-up copy, and report the results but this too failed as calls were dropped, slowing the process even more. As of the time of this writing, the results are still unknown with nearly 18 hours passing since the final reports were due to be released.

In any project of this type, it is imperative that project, information, process, and technology governance be established and strictly followed. Had this been the case, we would have known the outcome as it was recorded, in realtime. Use this as an example for your projects, lest you set yourself up for failure.

Printing – The Future of Construction

You read it right, 3D printing just may be the future of construction, not only for housing and bridges which I have written and talked about before, but now there is potential to pring nuclear reactors.

In an article from the Chattanooga Times Free Press titled “Oak Ridge advanced manufacturing facility develops technologies for new methods of production“, we are presented with the concept that a nuclear reactor could in fact be printed using specialized 3D printers with special materials and additives that allow the creation of micro and mini nuclear reactors capable of generating power for up to 1,000 homes.

In My View

Photo from 3DNatives.com

When 3D printing first hit the scene, many looked at it as a great tool to manufacture small toys and simple replacement parts. As I typically say, you never know the true potential of new technologies until many have been exposed to and use the technology – taking it to new application levels and breaking perceived barriers to new uses.

If you are my age – I will not disclose that here – to remember the cartoon show the Jetsons, buildings were demolished using lasers and new buildings printed to replace them. We are in the Jetsonian age. The only question now is how soon will construction projects become print jobs run by Master Architectural Printers? Time will tell and show us.

Technology Application Gone Awry? You Decide.

I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write about this one. I read an article today about Russian Farmers using Virtual Reality to help their cows be more content, less stressed, and happier, in an effort to improve the quality of their milk production.

In the article titled “Russian dairy farmers gave cows VR goggles with hopes they would be happier and make better milk“, custom VR glasses are being used on cows at a farm located just outside of Moscow.

A special team of veterinarians, developers, and dairy production consultants developed these custom VR glasses for the cows and provide them with the experience of being in a sun filled field. Apparently to deliver a sense of calm for the cows.

While the results on milk production have not yet been conclusive, the team – according to the article – revealed a decrease in anxiety and a better emotional state of the cows. (Not sure how they tested that.)

In My View

I am not saying that the use of VR technology for this purpose is unreasonable, as I do believe there are many applications for technology yet to be explored. I know of farmers who play music in the milking areas as a means to calm their cows, but I a not sure the world is ready for herds of cows standing in a field wearing VR glasses projecting a field – in an effort to enhance nature itself.

The question I must ask is this, have we now placed so much emphasis on creating custom virtual environments to replace our real environment, that we must now include other animal species in the mix, rather than focusing on replenishing and maintaining our natural environment to provide naturally induced peace, tranquility and harmony back into our lives and the lives of other planetary species?

There are so many more questions I could ask, but I will let you decide for yourself.

Social Media Impact: A Hallucinogenic Reality

Hmm.. What is Bob up to? Or, what is he taking? The real question is what am I using? The answer to that is technology. I have technology of all types at my disposal and expectations to go along with them, based on promises made by the suppliers peddling them. (Isn’t it interesting how drug dealers and technology suppliers both refer to their clients as users and how the users get hooked on the suppliers products?)

Technology as we know, is embedded in each of our daily lives, both personally and at work. It grabs hold of you, enticing you to search for more, whether it be through social media, news streams, or video and music streams.

The power it places in our hands is strong and provides a force with which we can interact at all levels with minimal effort. According to an article published by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic titled ” Is it Possible to Become Addicted to Social Media?” the force can be so great that people can become addicted to it in the same ways they become addicted to alcohol and drug use.

In My View

Social media is a fantastic communications vehicle connecting family, friends, business acquaintances, etc. around the globe. It has rapidly become a platform of choice for news media, marketing and sales campaigns, and political campaigns.

Online shopping has been made simple, convenient, and many times, more affordable than traditional shopping methods, so it stands to reason, we humans would become so attached to using it. But do not let it become your hallucinogenic reality.

Just because you have 4,000 friends in Facebook, does not mean they are your friends, they are acquaintances. Just because something is the sale of the day, doesn’t mean you should buy it just because of the sale. Ask yourself if you really need it or is it simply an impulse purchase.

Are you addicted? I cannot answer that but if you cannot sit through a meal without looking at your phone for the latest news story, Facebook or Instagram post, or to answer a text message, and there are people who have physically come to enjoy your company, you just might be addicted and living in a hallucinogenic reality. If the first thing you do when you wake up – before you even leave your bed – is to check your phone, you just might be addicted.

Take a challenge of allotting time to interact on social media and read the news. Just as in the early days of email when the temptation was to immediately respond, set aside time for this as well. If you are out with friends and family, focus on them as they are the ones who are there with you in person seeking to interact with you live, not digitally.

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Where Have All the Humans Gone?

Each day I see and hear more talk about businesses automating using both hardware and software robotics. Manufacturing robots, logistics robots, transactional robots, and so many more applications are evolving to replace human dependencies in business.

While I typically favor technology advancement, I also tend to ask questions about the impact technology will have in relation to business operations as well as the worker population. From a business perspective, there are many advantages like improved consistency, efficiency, profitability, and the ability for robots to perform their tasks with little to no down time. There are even opportunities for robotic use in emergency response to aid in addressing human casualties, search and rescue, and situational assessment.

On the human side, what happens to those displaced by such automation, and what happens to our economy when humans are replaced by automation, there is no plan in place to retrain for other positions, and the potential that no other positions are available?

In My View

I see many benefits of robotics and automation in the workplace. I also see many challenges for both humans and the economy as a whole. If humans are to be replaced over time by automation, what employment opportunities exist for displaced human employees, and what training is available to prepare these individuals to be employed in fields where living wages can be earned?

Society must look ahead to prepare for the inevitable time where humans are faced with employment challenges due to corporate automation. Training and focus should be on the trades, technical service and support for hardware robotics, Helpdesk support for software robots, and more including areas rapidly advancing in #d printing of vehicles, building, bridges, etc.

Embrace technology but at the same time, we must look to the future and prepare humans in these areas.

Community or Battleground

I had an interesting conversation with a friend about social media and how it has changed the world as we know it.

For many, social media serves as a channel of communication for family, friends, and colleagues to keep in touch, share ideas, and exchange pleasantries. For others, it has become the pulpit from which political, religious, racial, and other points of view are distributed.

I am not saying this is a bad thing, as we all have our perspectives on life, and the freedom to share our views in this country more than most. I welcome differing viewpoints shared in a civil manner. (Isn’t this what we once did sitting with friends in a social gathering while enjoying a beverage of some sort?)

I think the thing I find most difficult in all of this is how social media has evolved and continues to evolve into just another communication channel for mass media, politicians, etc., provoking outrage, hatred, and discontent throughout our society.

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets originally created to bring people together, are now the cause of splits between friends, families, communities, and society as a whole. Not because of the technology, but by the way this technology is used by we humans.

In My View

The thing that is lacking, and seldom taught anymore, is social etiquette and soft skills like acceptance, personal interaction, respect for others opinions, and the ability to communicate without taking everything as a personal attack.

This needs to be taught by example from parents, leaders, the media, and educators. In our society, we have the right to an opinion and to voice that opinion. We also have a responsibility to respect there are other opinions without taking things personally and immediately attacking those who do not see the world as we do.

Use the social technologies and embrace that we can now communicate with each other in more ways than ever imagined, but do so with respect as this is one of the most basic freedoms we have – Freedom of Speech – something which many around the world are denied.

Don’t let our social communities devolve into yet another battleground.

Social Networks and Societal Meltdowns

I was reading an article this morning in The Atlantic titled “The Dark Psychology of Social Networks – Why it feels like everything is going haywire” by Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell.

In this article, Haidt and Stockwell likened the impact of social networking to a doubling in the gravitational constant of our universe. If this were to occur, the change would be so great as to move the Earth closer to the sun, increase gravitational pull on people, buildings, etc. causing collapse and devastation never before seen.

In relation to social networks and modern day technology, while the intent was to bring humans closer together using social networking as the common agent of communication. While this is mostly true, the other side of this is increased societal polarization, release and acceptance of disinformation, and the rise of what philosophers Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke termed “moral grandstanding”.

In other words, humans posturing to enhance perceptions of themselves in the eyes of others, in order to gain acceptance and even leadership recognition among their peer groups and beyond.

In My View

Haidt and Stockwell have hit on an area we should raise concern and an awareness that we live in an age where more information/disinformation is created, shared, and used to generate acceptance or controversy than any other time in history.

Once again, I see this as not the technology at fault, but the human element using it in ways it was not originally intended to be used. Jut look at Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms and how they devolved from a way to keep connected with friends, into communication tolls to reach the masses with one’s own views/opinions regardless of factual realities presented in the content.

Technology is a wonderful thing benefiting many, yet as with most things, it is also a tool that can be used to distract and disrupt society. We see this everyday where dissemination of opinions and views once discussed civilly, are now the impetus of disruption and societal breakdowns, even among families and life-long friends.

As humans, we control how we choose to use technology and how we react to its use. If there is a controversial message that runs across your desk, an opinion you do not agree with, the question to ask is one of engagement, or discarding it, and if you engage, what is the message you will send?

We must take control of the technology in our lives and not let technology take control of us by not letting our social networks become the beginning of a social meltdown.

10 Years + $31B = An Unholy Mess

Or at least that is what an investigation by Fortune and Kaiser Health News reported in an article titled: “Death by a Thousand Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong“.

The article focuses on healthcare where the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of February 2009 was supposed to make information management in healthcare a more streamlined by making patient records more accessible and give more time back to clinicians to focus on their patients.

This led to a surge in electronic healthcare records (EHR) software solutions with poor user interfaces, lack of standards, and little to no interoperability between them. In this regards, the article points out that “Instead of reducing costs, many say EHRs, which were originally optimized for billing rather than for patient care, have instead made it easier to engage in “up-coding” or bill inflation (though some say the systems also make such fraud easier to catch)”.

While the concept of the ARRA is sound, and with good intent, the execution of it was poorly planned if planned at all, and certainly the rush to provide EHR solutions missed the mark on usability, quality control, and adaptability. According to an American Journal of Medicine study, an ER Doctor will make approximately 4,000 computer clicks during a single shift and the Annals of Family Medicine cites that out of an 11.4 hour day, Doctors are spending more than 5.9 hours of time working in an EHR applications as opposed to 5.1 hours with patients.

In My View

This is a prime example of well intentioned legislation gone afoul. In order to legislate something of this magnitude, there should be an awareness of what the impact will be overall, guidance on the intent and a base set of requirements that can be considered standards, and emphasis on usability at the user level.

When government – or C-Level management for that matter – decide to move forward with an overarching mandate like ARRA, it is their responsibility to at minimum, understand the reality of what is in place, what it will take to reach their goal, and the impact it will have within the user community.

It is not a bad thing to initiate efforts to simplify and standardize but it is a bad thing to shoot in the dark with hopes of hitting the mark.