Creating an industry out of the unwanted tasks….

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I was re-reading the Fast Company article on the gig economy and the results of the Workforce for the Future report by the Aspen Institute when I came across this comment and had to stop and think for a minute. “According to 2016 Workforce for the Future Survey, having gig positions means they are able to onboard new talent and off-board unneeded skills without the burden of employment taxes and paperwork.” So if we are talking about only employing for the core competency of the business, then all the rest would be outsourced to contractors.  OK, but….

There is already a business model of outsourcing components of functional activities (bookkeeping, human resources elements such as getting work permits, etc) from enterprises to specialist firms.   As we create the gig economy, there is more than likely to be a market for unneeded skills as a commodity, perhaps as a Service (UNSaaS?).

What if someone would create a marketplace that consolidates all of the freelancers with those unneeded skills so that they could commoditize them and offer them as a bundled service with other elements, like the foresaid bookkeeping and permit acquisition? And this marketplace, based on the amount of work contracted through the marketplace (tiered model), could be the one to offer benefits for the contractors?

A thought.   I am always on the lookout for new business models, perhaps this one is an interesting structure……

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Transparent technology, but can I opt-out?

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A news article on wearable tech peaked my curiosity this afternoon with the first day of CES in Las Vegas.  Cruise ships that personalize your experience with a wearable medallion that share information on you to create ease of use and facilitates door opening, etc. This object can be worn as a necklace, clip or keychain – or carried in a passenger’s pocket. It will connect to onboard facilities, tracking meal orders or automatically unlocking guests’ cabins as they approach the door, as well as aid crew members by providing information on the guest to personalize the service.

But wait a minute — ease of use is great, but do I want all crew members to know things about me?  Is there an opt-out function?   What about guest privacy, can these be hacked? What if I do not want to be included in the ‘find the location of friends and family onboard the ship’ aspect, but I like the rest?

I have to say I liked the idea of the RFID band at the Disney parks for your hotel key, mobile wallet, etc as it is around your wrist and you control where you use it.    But when the object is disseminating info in a near field communications (NFC) manner, then I have to wonder if I can shut it off when I am in the public toilets, for example, vs. announcing my presences there if I am a celebrity onboard.

So I’d like to see a great user introductory set-up interface where you can customize what you opt-in and opt-out for in terms of services and information submission.  It would add even more value to the high end user who would be wearing it so they can control what is provided and how it is provided.

I have to say I am a bit sensitive to broadcasting data about myself in the public (or near public) spaces.   I just bought a new smart phone, and fairly stunned at the some of the permission requests of the new apps.    Only taking on board the minimum at present, cannot believe what they ask for!

But physical tokens for ease of service provisioning is becoming a hotter trend, so please to see a more sophisticated object vs a rubber wristband.

Thoughts of someone at the tail end of the Baby Boomers

This is not a piece about New Year’s resolutions, nor is it gloom and doom from a rather horrid 2016.  It is just my reflections on what it is like being at the tail end of the Baby Boomers, working mainly with millennials and generation X co-workers, and losing my reference points ahead of me. I can see why people in their 50s and 60s are suffering from health issues while those ahead and behind are not feeling the same stress. Because those of the Greatest generation have paid their dues, and the folks behind us have no idea what is coming, as they live for today’s experiences and quick wins, not tomorrow’s rewards.

Things that I took for granite, like the nightly news being reasonably unbiased and factual and that the government was generally there for beneficial reasons for society, have been fundamentally changed.

Business models have changed, some more fundamentally than others.  And more likely than not, I am now an information outlier, in that I do not want to offer bytes of myself to do mobile banking, selfies, live video feeds – I am looking to consume information, not involuntarily provide it. And although I am willing to pay for the consumption, things I thought should be free are no longer, and visa versa.  I am tired of people trying to put their hands in my wallet [or on my contacts list or on my agenda] for things that I am not willing to give.  So I can either become more analog and opt-out, which many of my peers are starting to do, or I can severely curtail my digital footprint to what is necessary.

As a society, I feel that we have gotten ruder and more homogeneous, as to be truly different invokes hate and mistrust.  Society now self-serves, and builds its own communities of exclusivity, not inclusivity.   Instead of building and celebrating individuality, we are all trying to be unique in the same way.’Look at me, look at my photos, read my blog, listen to my Vine commentary, watch my vlog’.  See how creative I am not.  See what I have plagiarized from others to sound intelligent and insightful.

I find the naïveté  of the generations behind me scary.   And I really hate the email trend they have started with the first line “I hope you are well” when they do not know me or my situation. It is the inability of the younger generation to start a conversation without the word “hey” that shows the digital decline of conversational skills.

So as I watch those ahead of me planning for imminent retirement, I face 2017 knowing that at the tail end of the Baby Boomers, I face some hard choices on how to move forward: existing in my own sphere and co-existing gracefully with the shifting tides, sharing the world of the younger generations with bemusement and amusement (looking like the granny in the vinyl bodycon dress), or going off the grid entirely.

 

 

In an extraordinary year….

The US election, for me, is an echo of the other things happening in my life and around me.   I am seeing talented people of my age and gender struggle to find balance, meaningful employment and peace of mind.  I am seeing people who have given their all to country and to company be sidelined and disenfranchised.  I am seeing what was my peer group change life status to consultant, retired  or perpetual traveler; all are rebuilding their lives outside of the mainstream milieu for their final era as they have given up on being part of the mainstream and have left for pastures calmer.   I am seeing my new peer group of 30 something co-workers compassionately boosting my spirits, helping support me as I have taken on too much, yet have too little.

I have found my world rocked not only by the cruelty of timing, but the callousness of the shallow selfish souls that are becoming the mainstream norm, regardless of political or religious beliefs.  Common decency is giving way to fatigue and wariness.

I do not see this election as a battle of good vs evil, but as an example of how out of balance the world is at present.   Not just my world, but the world of those around me.   I really have to search to find someone who is joyous and happy right now in any age group of my acquaintance. We are missing our sense of fun and fair play.

I am an optimist by nature, but a realist by profession.   And I think these next few weeks will be telling for us as global citizens in how we reach out to each other and create a society that can thrive, vs exist day to day, waiting for the next news item to drop….

Why we love the Olympics

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In two days time, many in the world will be watching the Opening Ceremonies and the Olympic sporting events in Rio.  There are some folks who basically take the time off to sit on the couch and watch, and there are some who leave their (host) country to get out of the way of it.  Broadcasters dedicate much time and resources to it. Some athletes dedicate a good portion of their career to it. Why do we feel the way we do about this event?

The Olympic movement is something many do not think about in their interest and spectatorship of the Games. The movement blends sport with culture to create a standard of friendship, solidarity and fair play.  But what you see and hear right now about doping, lawsuits, financial imbalances, etc misses the point of competing.  It is a special moment where you come together with others for the joy of a sport you love and the will to do the best you can with others striving for the same.

In my own life, I have experienced it in several ways.   My sister was a volunteer in the Games in Los Angeles when we were younger.   I had the pleasure of competing nine years after the Sydney 2000 Olympics in the same venue for the World Masters Games. And I was in the audience for the weightlifting in the last Summer Games in London 2012 with several friends competing and several friends  working as volunteers for that Games as well.   For the athletes, it can be an overwhelming experience with more people watching you compete than ever before in your life.   And it is life changing, and athletes use it as stepping stones to their next phase of their careers, regardless of the outcome.

I love watching it as an athlete, knowing how hard they have worked to get there and knowing it is more than about the medals (although damn it, everybody wants one!) but about getting there and showing your stuff.  I love it as a spectator, for sports that only see once every four years, that get me motivated to try it.  And as a marketer, I see many opportunities from it.

Are you going to watch?  Why do you watch?   Think about it, you might be surprised what your motivation is……

 

 

 

Why it is more than cultural differences for the millennials

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I read a BBC article yesterday on how millennial preferences are driving recruiting differences for graduate student hiring for firms such as KPMG, Goldman Sachs, and Deloitte.

These are folks that can be impatient and self-serving (require instant feedback and reassurance), yet they are also the fuel that drives the engines of firms that need their grunt work.   The question is: Can they do grunt work?  Will they stick around for the hours required to get them up to speed for what they did not learn in education?

I say this as universities make it far too easy for them these days to graduate with little or no empirical skills.  Firms now have to retrain these graduates to be the kind of workers they need, which is a larger investment than they have had to make in the past, because of the millennial expectations on how they work and what they do.

This article, also published on the BBC website,  gives part of the issue. I just taught a summer school class for a group of study abroad students visiting here in Belgium from the US.  They found two things difficult about doing an internship:  being in the workplace for a full workday and not being told exactly what to do. They also felt that they were not important enough to the organisation (as interns). One of them commented they felt irritated that they could have spent their time on something else personal when in a slow period in the office. And dressing for work, vs comfortable clothing, was something else they had to get used to.  Granted these were US students in an international environment, but it was more than a growing up issue, it was an expectation that work and personal life are one in the same thing. And that they have immediate value to the organisation on day one and should be properly cared for.   I have to admit that in an organisation, being welcomed on the first day and made to feel part of the organisation is important in adapting to the culture of the firm.

My point is that we do not teach students how to succeed in the workplace, we only teach them basic skills.   Doctors are trained in medical schools, but intern in hospitals. Lawyers come from law schools, but do initial stages with law firms.   So why don’t we have a transition programme for business students beyond trainee programmes for specific fields?  It is fairly clear to me that if we want the millennials to help us adapt the future of work for the next generation, we need to provide programmes to get them integrated and engaging so we can change the culture to suit both parties going forward.

Just my two Euro cents.

 

 

Can service and security co-exist? What is the Glue that brings them together?

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There are a number of pilot implementations on smart access for providing services for the last mile for eCommerce.   These include DHL having access to your vehicle by means of a smart access code to your car locks in order to leave a package you ordered in the trunk (boot for my British friends), working together with Audi and Amazon to create a trial service for Audi users. Volvo has also started addressing this area.

The audit ability of who has had access to your vehicle, particularly from an auto insurance perspective, would be a concern as to know who exactly has been in the vehicle in case of theft of personal objects of value.   However, there is a trend for your vehicle to be more of a storage facility than just a transport option, as discussed here.   Personally, while moving house recently, my car became a storage locker as well!

Those of us who are used to having house cleaning services know the dilemma of giving someone access to your home without your presence.   Anyone who has rented out part of their home for AirBnB has had to deal with this issue.

The latest pilot that caught my eye was in Sweden, where a combination of postal courier and grocery stores are testing a service that stocks your refrigerator while you are not home, so you can come home to a fully stocked kitchen.  PostNord is running this pilot with 20 homes in Sweden.

Here you would have to have a smart lock installed on your home which can be opened with the smart phone app of the courier service.   The company that has created this lock is called Glue AB and it allows residents to decide remotely who to give access to their homes.    You can see the video on the project here.

Is “in-fridge” delivery the next wave of on-demand commerce services?  Will this encourage people to think differently when it comes to opening up their homes (cars, or other personally owned objects) for convenience services?    Will access control to your home, intelligent alerts and secure encrypted technology give you greater peace of mind as Glue states on its homepage?

I think the audit ability (again insurance and theft/damage) with immutability would be useful, and could easily be tracked and audited not only for damage, but for performance (e.g. number of hours house cleaner worked, correlated to access to the home).  Can this be tied to the objects themselves, with an IoT component?

Smart access is a growing trend that I will continue to be examining and discussing in the coming months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IS COPPER GETTING OUT OF THE CONUNDRUM?

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Author: Bruno de Vuyst    Follow @b_devuyst on Twitter

While spot prices suffered from the Fed Minutes released yesterday and sank, looking more closely at LME quotes for later delivery may be of interest. The volumes are picking up, albeit slowly. Moreover, there appear to be increasing delta’s between offer and bid as one progresses in time of delivery. This may be interpreted as writing on the wall for a further bear market in 2017, which would be in line with general macroeconomic forecasts of a weakly recovering global economy, with lags in trade

But this might also be interpreted as pointing to results in restructuring by miners and smelters, and the very beginnings of a new, realistic, price setting, which would be less bearish.

Key is now to follow closely progress reports in the sector, so as to see which of the players are first in succeeding in their restructurations. Such progress may not reflect immediately in earnings and may be buried inside a report, but they may be the key indicators of success to come.

Is there hope outside of that town in Arkansas? Rather than investing in a marketing organization and hoping for its further inventiveness in producing gadgets we all want to have, it may be profitable to ride out the bear market and to be ready to pick up on profitably restructured market participants at increasingly interesting p/e ratios.

Webinar on securing IT assets

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Having secure IT assets should enhance the overall user experience by ensuring security is more effectively and more seamlessly embedded into everyday IT and IT services provisioning activities. But IT assets have a lifecycle, and they need to be protected differently during this lifecycle. Automation of the protection process allows the core competencies of the staff to be focused on more strategic aspects of asset security than patch management or stolen passwords.

I recently shared a webinar with Dell and Markit on IT asset management and information security, which you can listen to on InfoSecurity Magazine here.

Some of the points I was making in my presentation on IT asset management were:

  • The lifecycle cost of an IT asset begins with planning and design and continues through procurement, adoption, operations, maintenance, rehabilitation/renewal, and disposal/replacement.
  • IT asset management (ITAM) seeks to optimize costs through each stage of this lifecycle, while meeting established levels of service, reliability, and risk. In today’s enterprise, ITAM plays a dual role of asset management and risk protection.
  • Protection levels can be performance-related (critical value to the business), or customer/regulatory related (impacting response times, complaints, information availability, etc.).
  • Risk is the exposure and uncertainty assumed due to the opportunity for significant damages. And data from IDC had previously forecasted that by this year, 25% of large enterprises will make security-related spending decisions based on analytical determinations of risk.

But what kind of IT assets bring the most concern to the enterprise today? Half the world’s population will be on mobile Internet by 2020. And the key drivers behind the growth in the mobile worker population include the increasing affordability of smartphones and tablets combined with the growing acceptance of corporate bring your own device (BYOD) programs. In addition, innovations in mobile technology such as biometric readers, wearables, voice control, near-field communications (NFC), and augmented reality are enabling workers in completely new ways, increasing productivity by enhancing communications and business workflows.  And these devices need to be secured to protect the enterprise.  But it is not just about endpoints, but also the network and the physical assets of the enterprise that are impacted by IT asset management not being automated and hardwired into the organization.

So one of the key points I made was that the key to a successful IT asset management program is the legwork performed before selecting solutions, including evaluating your existing IT environment, gaining executive sponsorship, setting program goals, committing the appropriate human resources, and designing strong processes that support your organization’s business objectives. Before getting started with your asset management security program, it is important to achieve the following milestones to ensure not only that the right solution is selected, but that the processes are formally established, understood, and documented.

One of the discussion points between myself and my fellow presenters was the fact that older IT assets are not as well documented as the newer ones.  I mentioned in the conversation that I had a 10 year old Dell from previous employment that was still able to access that domain. ( I am not sure which was the more startling statement, then 10 year old Dell still worked or that it could still log on to the systems of my previous employer!)   We discussed the concept of good practices (ISF Standard of Good Practice) and the importance, not only from a risk perspective but also from a compliance agenda, to be able to reduce the risk of information security being compromised by weaknesses in hardware / software and protect assets against loss, as well as support development of contracts and meet compliance requirements for licensing.

One other point I made in the presentation was around encryption. It is necessary that an IT department have an encryption plan to provide reasonable assurance that all enterprise owned devices, such as laptops, can be identified and encrypted. Encryption is at the heart of a complete endpoint security solution. When you safeguard the data, you reduce the risk of compromising sensitive customer or employee information, confidential files, and your company’s reputation.  So you need to make it easier to identify and activate new devices as they come on the network for their usage of encryption.  And to find the older devices as they log back in for software updates into the network.

The CISO on our panel from Markit talked about the convergence of IT asset management (ITAM) and security.  His point was the security professional had a very different point of view in the past on what an asset is because their focus is information risk. IT managers focused instead on where physical hardware was at any time; from a software standpoint, the focus was on consolidating license negotiations.  Now this is coming together, not only due to cyber threats but for protection of the rest of the assets (data or otherwise) of the enterprise.  Another point he made was that decisions regarding procurement, deployment and management of technology are not made centrally and then there is a disconnect. There is no point in putting into place sophisticated network forensic tools (from the network team) if there is no basic patch management from the desktop team.

Our main point: There needs to be a holistic view of IT asset management throughout the lifecycle of the object in question, and throughout the entire IT team as to how to address the risk profile of the assets.

FOSSIL FACTS AND CONJECTURES

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By Bruno de Vuyst    Twitter: b_devuyst

The Rockefeller family is backing away from fossil fuel. Forget that the forebear built the family fortune on Standard Oil: the descendants want to invest in renewable energy.

For the time being, however, fossils will be needed. Nuclear energy has become a safety suspect, and wind, solar and water energy have not picked up sufficiently to meet energy demands. Moreover, the cost of these alternatives still leaves to be desired if one considers fossil fuel.

In the meanwhile, some fossil facts.

Or the lack thereof.

Venezuelan production numbers are shrouded in mist. Saudi Arabia has, in the last three years, lost market share in nine out of 15 of the most important client countries. All of this while volumes of production grew exponentially.

Crude oil prices hover today around USD 40/barrel, both for WTI and Brent (notice the lack of meaningful spread between the two).

No wonder. If prices go through 45 USD/barrel and sustain such a level, North American production of shale oil may activate again, causing a further oversupply and, ultimately, a price decline.

There is as much talk of higher crude oil prices than of the Fed raising rates. In both cases, there may be much ado about nothing. Indeed, as the supply/demand situation is not globally straightening itself out, there is no escape from a narrow price band. It may be until 2017, at best, that one may expect a price rise, and then it will likely be either a cautious one, not to awaken possible production entrants, or a brutal one, to take a temporary advantage of the lag between the decision to come on stream and the actual coming on stream, before the next price decline.

It is not unrealistic to expect some OPEC and some non-OPEC producers to choose the second scenario, as, apart from Kuwait, all are under budgetary pressure and any windfall may be appreciated.

This assumes that OPEC, and in particular Saudi Arabia, leaves caution – and market share. Giving in to other OPEC members, it would leave market growth to Iran in particular – not a happy thought for Saudi Arabia.

For that reason also, do not assume a production cut in reality. It may be pushed onto some more reluctant members; however, words may be words, and cheating might be rampant.

All of this may be the reality of 2016: a very brittle economic upturn in the US, possibly combined with an about ten per cent correction in the stock markets, Western Europe remaining in the doldrums, Asia attempting to climb out of a lack of export growth and China experimenting with an internal, consumption driven growth model, while at the same time dealing with a real estate bubble and with massive debt burdens in public companies and some municipalities.