Tag Archives: global

Global smartphone sales took sizable hit in Q1

Industry observers said a recent decline in global smartphone sales was caused by several factors, among them a mature enterprise mobility market and pandemic-related economic uncertainty.

Gartner reported this week that first-quarter 2020 global smartphone sales had dropped by 20.2% compared to the first quarter of 2019.

Anshul Gupta, senior research analyst at Gartner, said this was the worst-ever decline for the market. He attributed the decline to both supply chain disruptions and weaker demand — a function, he said, of shelter-in-place restrictions and COVID-19-related economic uncertainty.

Anshul GuptaAnshul Gupta

“There has been a drop in business spending on smartphones, though the drop in demand from business users was not as much as from customers,” he said.

Per Gartner, the top three phone manufacturers all saw a decline in the first quarter of 2020. Samsung, Huawei and Apple saw drops of 22.7%, 27.3% and 8.2%, respectively.

A mature market

Analyst opinion as to what caused the global smartphone sales decline varied, although they agreed that enterprise mobility challenges remain.

Holger MuellerHolger Mueller

Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said companies have slowed the rate at which they are purchasing new phone hardware. He cited a mature market as the primary driver of that trend.

“Growth can only come from the consumer side,” he said. “Workers who need a smartphone have one.”

Enterprise investment in mobility has moved away from smartphones and tablets and toward security, he said, pointing to the uptick in interest of device management software.

Ray WangRay Wang

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said the variety of mobile devices has grown and enterprises are beginning to branch out.

“We expect [companies] to go with devices other than mobile phones,” he said. “We see an increase of MiFi [portable broadband] cards [and] IoT devices … for mobility, which is cutting into the mobile market.”

Eric KleinEric Klein

Independent analyst Eric Klein said some of the most notable new features included in high-end phones — like cameras with ever-higher numbers of megapixels — aren’t driving enterprise purchasing decisions.

“In general, people are just holding onto their devices longer, because that need to upgrade isn’t quite there yet,” he said. “The features we’re seeing, and the innovation we’re seeing, have really plateaued.”

The future of the market

Experts said the market should recover somewhat over the near term. Gupta said Gartner was forecasting lower smartphone sales in 2020 than in 2019, but sales should trend higher as the year progresses and pandemic-related issues fade.

“Demand should pick up in the [second half of 2020], and we project positive growth in 2021,” he said.

Klein said that with little business reason to purchase high-end devices, manufacturers may look to pivot to lower-end phones.

“I think the majority of sales are going to be in the entry-level or mid-market space,” he said.

In time, Klein said, new features like 5G capability or foldable displays may drive sales, but the main reason for users and businesses to upgrade in the short term will be to keep pace with the latest iOS and Android OS updates.

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SAP: Partners are the key to customer success

Customer success was the main focus of the SAP Global Partner Summit Online, a virtual conference held this week.

SAP Global Partner Summit Online is a gathering of SAP executives, partners and customers who convene to discuss innovations and resources.

Partners are the key to customer success and happiness, said Karl Fahrbach, who was appointed SAP’s first chief partner officer about a year ago. Partners provide a variety of services for SAP customers, including consulting and implementing systems, as well developing and marketing applications built on platforms like SAP Cloud Platform, or extensions to systems like SAP SuccessFactors.

“Customer success means that we recognize that, in order to make our customers successful, we need to do it with our partners,” Fahrbach said. “The role of the partner has changed within SAP. It’s no longer about sales with our reselling partners or implementation with our services partners.”

He stressed that partners are key players in advancing SAP’s idea of the intelligent enterprise, a broad vision of advanced enterprise systems that allow companies to transform old business processes or develop new business models.

The initiative to rely on partners as the driving force for customer success comes from the top levels of SAP, a point SAP CEO Christian Klein emphasized in his streamed keynote address.

“Everyone at SAP has to understand that customer success is not about the point of sale,” Klein said. “It continues across the sales lifecycle, and partners play a vital role in that. So, we have to double down on that.”

Klein vowed that SAP would develop tools and programs to simplify and automate partner interactions.

“We owe our ecosystem a much better experience than in the past,” he said.

Focus on implementation quality

At the summit, SAP unveiled new initiatives and enhancements to existing programs that are designed to help partners better serve SAP customers.

For implementation partners, SAP debuted the new Partner Delivery Quality Framework (PDQF), an initiative designed to help partners implement higher-quality projects faster, Fahrbach said.

Karl Fahrbach, chief partner officer, SAPKarl Fahrbach

The PDQF consists of three components: project delivery, partner skills and post-sales management. The first component looks at project delivery quality and establishes feedback loops to ensure that an implementation is on track and adoption is successful.

“You can see in real time how the implementation is going, what’s being deployed, how the adoption is going, because this is key to see if this customer will be successful or not,” he said. “We’re going to share that information with the partner to make sure that we are transparent, and we support the partner in delivering that quality.”

The second component consists of investments in certifications and skills that partners can use to make sure the project quality is high. The third component focuses on the partner’s post-sales management. An SAP team of partner delivery managers will work with partners’ project managers to deliver quality standards and resolve escalations.

SAP partners will also now have free access to the same testing and demo systems that SAP uses internally to develop and demonstrate projects for customers.

This will enable partners to build applications that integrate various SAP platforms, like S/4HANA, SAP Ariba, SAP SuccessFactors, and SAP S/4HANA Cloud, in a test and demo environment that they previously had to pay for, Fahrbach said.

“They will be able to show end-to-end scenarios of the intelligent enterprise without having any additional costs,” he said. “The partners have been asking if they can get the same environments that SAP uses to do the demos, and now they have free access. This will improve the economics for the partners because it’s free, and the quality of the demos will improve as well.”

A quicker path to validated apps

For independent software vendor (ISV) partners that develop SAP-based applications and extensions, SAP unveiled the Partner Solution Progression framework. The initiative enables partners to quickly develop SAP validated products and make them available on the SAP App Center, an online marketplace for applications and SAP product extensions, according to SAP.

Having apps that are validated and well-supported by SAP can be vital to an ISV’s success, and the Partner Solution Progression framework allows ISVs to gradually advance the technical and business quality of their applications. Once a partner puts a validated app on the SAP App Center, it can grow into the Partner Spotlight program that includes more go-to-market support. If the partner’s strategy and app success continue to improve, the app is eligible to be invited to SAP Endorsed Apps, an SAP premium certification initiative.

Christian Klein, CEO, SAPChristian Klein

The idea is to make it much easier for partners to get applications on the SAP App Center and show that they are valuable innovative products, Klein said.

“Business on the SAP App Center has quadrupled, but it took way too long for partners to become a partner in the App Center and to onboard their solution until they make their first dollar in revenue,” Klein said. “We have significantly improved how you become a partner and how you publish in the App Center.”

COVID-19 concerns addressed

When the COVID-19 crisis began earlier in the year, SAP launched a virtual partner advisory council to examine how the crisis might affect the partners’ business and determine what they need to do to address it, Fahrbach said.

One result was a decision to help partners deal with cash-flow issues and credit access, he said. SAP postponed SAP PartnerEdge program fees until later in the year and will not raise annual maintenance fees. SAP PartnerEdge is a program for ISVs that provides resources to help design, develop and bring applications to market.

“We also launched credit service options to make sure that partners have access to credit and have revised commercial guidelines for the cloud,” Fahrbach said.

To that end, partners can now use a consumption-based pricing model that was previously available only for SAP’s direct salesforce with the Cloud Platform Enterprise Agreement (CPEA), which meters a customer’s use of SAP systems on the SAP Cloud Platform so that they’re charged only for what they use.

“This will provide our partners the ability to be flexible in the way customers consume our software, which is especially important these days with COVID-19, ” Fahrbach said.

Proof will be in the pudding

It’s important that SAP’s messaging on the role of partners is coming directly from recently installed CEO Christian Klein, said Shaun Syvertsen, CEO and managing partner of ConvergentIS, an SAP partner based in Calgary, Alta.

“The idea that Klein has recognized and reinforced with his teams that partners should not feel like SAP services is directly competing with them is important,” Syvertsen said. “Certainly for few years that was a dramatic trend as SAP was really doubling down on services and growing the services teams and sales positioning, so that’s a remarkable shift, and I think it’s a really healthy one.”

SAP partners would often see similar and competing products coming from SAP product management, and it will be interesting to see if this changes, Syvertsen said.

“The idea that an ecosystem matters is something that we’ve heard from Klein over several years, and there has been a tone of being more open to that. So, now we’ll see if some of those behaviors change within the organization to honor some of the investments the partners have made,” he said. “For example, there’s Sodales Solutions [an SAP partner that develops extensions to SAP SuccessFactors]. If SAP comes out with a new module for SuccessFactors that does what Sodales does, that’s not a good sign for anybody. Those are the kinds of things I’m watching for.”

SAP can do more to boost innovative partners

The partner program initiatives are a welcome development for SAP, but they could do even more to highlight smaller niche players that build emerging technology or industry expertise into their applications, said Jon Reed, analyst and co-founder of Diginomica.com, an enterprise applications news and analysis site.

Jon Reed, co-founder, Diginomica.comJon Reed

“This is a time when companies are largely pausing on major software upgrades, but they are eager to extend their platforms with impactful apps and analytics that can get up and running quickly,” Reed said.

Many of SAP’s partners have offerings that fit this bill but do not get enough exposure. Some, like Sodales Solutions, have gained visibility this year, but there needs to be more like that, he said.

Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting, agreed that the proof will be in the pudding for SAP’s partner relations.

Joshua Greenbaum, principal, Enterprise Applications ConsultingJoshua Greenbaum

“The spirit is willing in SAP at the top, and we’ll have to wait to see how everything goes,” Greenbaum said. “They are truly dedicated to the proposition that SAP can’t compete without a healthy and vigorous ecosystem, and I think they really mean that, but unfortunately the best practices have not been best for the partners. They’ve been best for SAP in the past, so this is going to be a real wait and see.”

The trajectory path for partners with the Partner Solution Progression framework is perhaps the best development, he said.

“It took a while to articulate the value of having that trajectory to follow to the partners,” he said. “The key is that SAP has to do good by existing partners, but also make it an enticing ecosystem for new partners — and their reputation isn’t that good. With Fahrbach in charge and Klein’s vision, the pieces are there, but these are complicated, inbred cultural behaviors that need to be modified, and that takes time.”

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Using data and IBM AI to make coronavirus economic predictions

Global digital marketing firm Wunderman Thompson launched its Risk, Readiness and Recovery map, an interactive platform that helps enterprises and governments make market-level decisions, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The platform, released May 21, uses Wunderman Thompson’s data, as well as machine learning technology from IBM Watson, to predict state and local government COVID-19 preparedness and estimated economic recovery timetables for businesses and governments.

Building a platform

The idea for the Risk, Readiness and Recovery map, a free version of which is available on Wunderman Thompson’s website, originated two months ago as the global pandemic accelerated, said Adam Woods, CTO at Wunderman Thompson Data.

“We were looking at some of the visualizations that were coming in around COVID-19, and we were inspired to really say, let’s look at the insight that we have and see if that can make a difference,” Woods said.

A global marketing subsidiary of British multinational communications firm WPP plc, Wunderman Thompson has collected thousands of data elements on 270 million people in the U.S, including transaction, demographic and health data. That data, which is anonymized, led the company to understand the potential economic impact of the coronavirus quickly.

“We’ve seen the economic damage that this has caused, and we see that because we have access into really deep transactional data,” Woods said. “We were able to watch the ball drop almost in real time.”

We’re focusing on “how do we help brands that we work with really understand the right response and the way they should reopen their operations,” he said.

Wunderman Thompson, Risk, Readiness, Recovery
Wunderman Thompson’s Risk, Readiness and Recovery tool uses IBM Watson.

Wunderman Thompson Data, the technology arm of the company, developed the interactive Risk, Readiness and Recovery platform using that data.

Machine learning technology from IBM Watson proved to be an integral part of the platform.

Two data-centered companies

Wunderman Thompson Data started working with IBM Watson about a year ago. Wunderman Thompson Data had a data lake and consolidated data did not have modern tools to build machine learning models, Woods said.

So, the firm looked at the products from several different data science and AI vendors before settling on IBM.

We were able to watch the ball drop almost in real time.
Adam WoodsCTO of Wunderman Thompson Data

IBM provided a scalable system to help with Wunderman Thompson’s data science problem using Watson Studio, a machine learning-as-a-service platform with tools for data preparation, drag-and-drop machine learning model building and data visualization.

“They are very confident in their ability to work a problem at this scale,” Woods said, adding that Wunderman Thompson Data has about 20,000 different features it can bring into a machine learning model.

“We can do really fast, high-quality model understanding with those tools,” he said.

Wunderman Thompson Data brought in IBM’s Data Science Elite Team, a consultancy that works with customers to tackle AI- and analytics-related use cases, to set up a rapid growth testing model.

“Organically, we knew these were the right things to do, but we just didn’t have a way to get the project done,” Woods said.

The IBM and Wunderman Thompson partnership eventually powered the Risk, Readiness and Recovery platform, which uses Wunderman Thompson’s data and machine learning models built with IBM Watson Studio.

Risk, Readiness and Recovery

The platform, as the name suggests, focuses on three areas:

  1. Risk. Health conditions, COVID-19 and census.
  2. Readiness. Health support within communities.
  3. Recovery. The impact of COVID-19 on the economy.

Risk identifies how much a given local government organization or zip code area in the U.S. is at risk from COVID-19. Readiness, meanwhile, identifies how prepared an area is by looking at its hospital and intensive care unit availability, and Recovery identifies how economically affected local areas are, how fast they might recover and when they might return to normal.

Wunderman Thompson Data is selling the tool to state and local governments, as well as to enterprise customers.

“We’ve been able to really quickly look at this [data] and bring it to a position …to help brands in a highly localized way,” Woods said.

As the economic fallout and, in some places, recovery from the worst of the pandemic continues, it’s going to be on a “vastly different county and county basis, and we can see that in the data,” Woods said.

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Fallout from HIMSS20 cancellation continues

It’s been two months since the annual HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition was canceled, but attendees and exhibitors are still expressing frustration over how the cancellation was handled.

HIMSS called off the event for the first time in 58 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That decision created a quick-fire controversy, as the nonprofit announced the news four days before the conference was to kick off and three days after President Donald Trump was announced as an event speaker.

But how HIMSS, an organization with 80,000 members that is closely linked with the health IT community, managed and communicated the cancellation cleanup has had more staying power. Attendees and exhibitors said they received few details from the organization and had to press HIMSS to provide clarity into how refunds would be handled. Along with poor communication, HIMSS did not provide exhibitors or attendees with the option for refunds.

“You have to pursue them and when you do, it’s an iron wall of legal policies,” said Ryan Plasch, vice president of growth and strategy at AI voice assistant company Saykara in Seattle. “For health tech companies like ours and other innovators, there was no reprieve. We asked for a refund, they cited their legal policy in the contract.” Saykara was scheduled to attend the event as an exhibitor.

When asked about the lack of communication and the lack of refund options, a HIMSS spokesperson said the organization had no comment at this time.

Lack of communication

Initially, HIMSS planned to offer no financial recourse, providing exhibitors with no contingency plan and providing attendees with an option of rolling over the cost of the HIMSS20 ticket to next year’s event. Eventually on April 8, HIMSS said it would give a partial credit to exhibitors dividing between HIMSS21 and HIMSS22.

Plasch said he was “extremely disappointed” in the poor communication from HIMSS on refund opportunities. He’s not alone: On Tuesday, 21 health IT companies that planned to exhibit at HIMSS20, including Saykara, sent HIMSS CEO Harold Wolf a letter expressing anger at how it handled the situation and requested a 100% refund of exhibitor fees.

“The decision to cancel due to COVID-19 was the right one to keep attendees and in particular our healthcare professionals safe in these unprecedented times,” the letter stated. “However, we take issue with the conduct of the HIMSS organization in the subsequent management of the finances related to this situation. Because of this, we decided to reach out to other similarly affected organizations, many of who have complained directly to you, but who have not felt listened to and we have joined together with them to send you this letter.”

You have to pursue them and when you do, it’s an iron wall of legal policies.
Ryan PlaschVice president of growth and strategy, Saykara

In its FAQ, HIMSS said that, when it comes to exhibitor booth and sponsorship refunds, it “must follow and honor the terms of exhibitor contracts, which include a force majeure clause. As a not-for-profit, and because of its obligations to other parties, HIMSS will honor its partners’ rights but, unfortunately, is not in a position to issue cash refunds beyond those provided in our contracts.”

HIMSS outlined the force majeure clause for exhibitors in the event’s terms and conditions stating, “In the event that the performance by HIMSS or the venue or any part of the exhibit area thereof is unavailable … HIMSS shall not be liable to refund, indemnify, or reimburse the Exhibitor in respect of any fees paid, damage or loss, direct or indirect, arising as a result thereof.”

In its letter, the 21 exhibitors rejected the explanation, stating, “All of us were shocked and angry that HIMSS took the decision to retain 100% of the money paid for exhibition space rental citing Force Majeure and the fact you are a Not for Profit; however, we fail to see why being a Not for Profit should exempt HIMSS from acting fairly, honourably and professionally.”

A media contact for HIMSS said she had not seen the letter and could not comment.

John Moore, founder and managing partner of Chilmark Research, a health IT consultancy in Boston, said he received minimal communication from HIMSS regarding refund opportunities. Moore has attended several HIMSS conferences.

“I had to hunt them down and, even then, they were very difficult to reach,” Moore said. “You couldn’t get ahold of anyone for a couple of months.”

Maree Beare, founder of symptom checker startup Wanngi in Australia, found communication from HIMSS regarding refunds to be lacking. Beare, who was attending HIMSS for the first time, said she expected a full refund for the cost of her ticket and had to reach out to HIMSS organizers directly to learn that wasn’t the case.

“I think people were not communicated to correctly at all,” she said.

Lack of refund options

It wasn’t until one month after the event was canceled that exhibitors received a consolation. HIMSS offered to split 25% of exhibitors’ “total spend from HIMSS20” between the next two years, with 15% applied to HIMSS21 and 10% applied to HIMSS22. Startups and “university row” exhibitors were given the opportunity to split 100% of their total spend evenly between HIMSS21 and HIMSS22.

Saykara’s Plasch said he felt “empty handed and almost brushed aside” by HIMSS. Plasch said HIMSS’ response was a stark contrast to another event the vendor was scheduled to attend just a couple of weeks later, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) annual meeting, which draws roughly 30,000 attendees or 15,000 fewer than HIMSS.

Within a week of canceling, Plasch said AAOS conference organizers provided Saykara with three refund options.

“You could get a 100% refund, you could apply credits to next year with some incentives, or you could elect to do some online virtual things with free advertisement,” Plasch said. “Without even asking, we got that.”

From HIMSS, Plasch said he’s received “curt” responses to inquiries and said his company is feeling “disenfranchised as a result of the experience.”

As an attendee, Chilmark’s Moore said the consultancy’s tickets to HIMSS20 weren’t eligible for a refund but were automatically made applicable to next year’s event. However, tickets aren’t transferable to other employees right now, meaning Moore could lose the value of that ticket if an employee that planned to attend HIMSS20 leaves the company before the HIMSS21 event.

Roughly 10 Chilmark employees were planning to attend HIMSS20, and at about $1,500 each, Moore hoped HIMSS would’ve offered more options to those affected by the cancellation.

“HIMSS was pretty amateurish to say the least,” Moore said. “The HIMSS conference brings in, I don’t know how many millions into HIMSS … and this is the best they can do? It’s a bit of a joke.”

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Trilio’s Kubernetes data protection enters early access

A global pandemic sidelined the drive for backup for containers, but at least one vendor expects the technology will make a complete recovery.

Trilio launched early access for its TrilioVault for Kubernetes, a platform that enables simple snapshotting, backup and recovery for applications and their associated data and metadata within Kubernetes containers. In beta since November 2019, TrilioVault for Kubernetes is now offered as a 30-day free trial, a free basic edition for up to ten nodes or an enterprise edition that charges on a per-node basis. General availability is planned for the end of May, and Trilio will add features such as advanced retention policies and backup script injection.

TrilioVault for Kubernetes is agentless, packaged as an Operator and deployed as a Custom Resource Definition in Kubernetes. It enables Kubernetes to natively perform snapshotting and recovery for use cases such as backup, disaster recovery and migration of backup data between clouds and test/dev environments. The platform is compatible with any storage, whether NFS, CSI or S3, and users can point to AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud or a private cloud as the backup target. It backs up applications provisioned by Labels, Helm or Operator within Kubernetes or Red Hat OpenShift. The product is OpenShift Operator certified and can be installed from OperatorHub.

There has been a growing number of organizations developing and deploying applications in the cloud, said Trilio CEO David Safaii. Trilio’s first offering, TrilioVault for OpenStack, went after the cloud-native data protection market, and Safaii said there’s now rising demand for a similar product for Kubernetes applications.

A report recently published by GigaOm found that Kubernetes adoption is on the rise, as enterprises are developing and testing applications in containers. This has led to more stateful applications living in containers, and a need to back them up.

Safaii said there are generally two ways companies protect Kubernetes environments, and both have flaws. Custom scripting can achieve backup and recovery, but requires a lot of maintenance and updates as cloud-native applications continually change. Legacy backup vendors deploy agents and focus on their own proprietary tools and storage. Both methods are missing what Safaii considers the two essential components of cloud data protection: an open, universal backup schema and infinite scalability.

“People are not happy with what’s out there now,” Safaii said.

Vendors such as Asigra, Storware, Cohesity and Storidge have products that can perform agentless backups for Kubernetes.

Data protection vendors had been getting into container backup before the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to switch focus to endpoint and remote backup. Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting, said there’s been movement on containers, both increased company adoption of containers and rising demand for protecting them, but nobody cares now because of COVID-19.

screenshot of TrilioVault for Kubernetesin OpenShift OperatorHub
TrilioVault for Kubernetes is OpenShift certified and can be installed from OperatorHub.

Staimer said before the pandemic, he would’ve seen this as Trilio going to market at the right time and addressing a market need just as momentum for it was picking up. Now, he’s not so sure. While he believes containers and container backup will see greater adoption in the future, everyone is more concerned about backing up their laptops right now.

“Containers have sort of taken a backseat for now,” Staimer said. “They would’ve been riding the beginning of the wave, but the wave’s been detoured.”

Christophe Bertrand, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, similarly said there was a bright future for containers. Containers are part of a trend toward agile development, and products that understand and protect container environments will be critical. Containers and Kubernetes will displace or replace some of the workloads virtualization and VMware do right now. However, Bertrand conceded that future may be delayed.

“It’s definitely a hot topic that’s been eclipsed right now,” Bertrand said.

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SAP Ariba Discovery now open to all buyers and suppliers

To help mitigate massive disruptions to the global supply chain, SAP is making it easier for buyers and suppliers to connect by providing free access to SAP Ariba Discovery.

The move was announced in conjunction with SAP Ariba Live, an annual conference that was recast as a virtual conference Wednesday due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Chris HaydonChris Haydon

SAP Ariba Discovery is a service that enables buyers and suppliers to connect on the SAP Ariba Network, which currently includes 4 million suppliers. Buyers have always been able to join the network for free, but suppliers must pay fees after they have made connections with buyers on the network. The supplier fees are being waived until at least June 30, 2020, at which point the situation will be reevaluated and the free access may be extended, said Chris Haydon, president of the SAP procurement solutions area.

The move was made to help alleviate global supply chain disruption because of the coronavirus outbreak crisis, Haydon said.

As the COVID-19 outbreak unfolded, SAP saw SAP Ariba Discovery as a useful tool that enables buyers to find supply sources, regardless if they were an existing SAP Ariba customer, Haydon said.

SAP Discovery Server enables buyers and suppliers to connect on the Ariba Network.

“We wanted to remove the barriers by making it free to any supplier for the next 90 days,” he said. “In many ways, it’s a custom-built tool for this dynamic sourcing of demand, and given the times we’re in, we just thought it was the right thing to do.”

The move was a positive step in a time of crisis, said Predrag Jakovljevic, principal industry analyst with Technology Evaluation Centers, a Montreal-based enterprise technology analysis firm.

Given the times we’re in, we just thought it was the right thing to do.
Chris HaydonPresident of procurement solutions area, SAP

“Opening up the [SAP Ariba Discovery] to all suppliers and buyers without any fees charged by Ariba Network is a nice gesture to help companies navigate during these trying times of disruption,” Jakovljevic said. “If your usual suppliers are unable to help you today, there might be some in regions still not — or less — affected by coronavirus, who are also begging for some business.”

Simple, intelligent procurement UI

At the virtual SAP Ariba Live conference, which happened in the form of a series of video presentations, SAP demonstrated the integrated procurement environment that it calls “intelligent spend management.”

SAP Ariba, SAP Fieldglass and S/4HANA operational procurement are now integrated under a single UI that runs on top of the HANA database, and is connected through SAP Cloud Platform.

The idea is to provide a simpler, common user experience, but intelligent spend management goes further than that, Haydon said.

“Intelligent spend management is a forward-looking way to think about procurement. It’s about using technology that focuses its power on the tasks that can and should be automated or eliminated so you can focus on the aspects of business that can and should have human expertise,” he said. “We need to get beyond focusing only on creating simple screens and UIs and, instead, power procurement to succeed amongst today’s known disruptions and the unknown disruptions of tomorrow.”

This integration of procurement applications and embedding of intelligence could make SAP stronger in the areas of direct procurement and sourcing by integrating data from S/4HANA ERP such as bills of materials (BOMs), routing and manufacturing planning into the process, Jakovljevic said.

“One thing to watch about all that integration with S/4HANA is whether [SAP Ariba] is becoming serious about direct procurement and sourcing, which is much more complicated than buying the office staples,” he said. “Ariba has always been strong in the indirect materials space and perhaps is now getting serious about catching up with the likes of Jaggaer or SourceDay.”

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ONC, CMS information blocking, interoperability rules finalized

The 2020 HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition may have been canceled Thursday due to coronavirus concerns, but federal regulators wasted no time in announcing that two long-awaited health IT rules finally have been released.

The finalized interoperability and information blocking rules from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will require healthcare organizations give patients access to data through standardized APIs within the next two years, said Don Rucker, national coordinator for ONC, during a media briefing Monday. The rules also focus on data sharing between health insurers, as well as exceptions to information blocking, or situations that do not constitute healthcare organizations keeping data from patients.

Both ONC’s information blocking and interoperability rule, and CMS’ patient data access rule, were finalized amid concerns about patient privacy. Organizations, including EHR vendor Epic, voiced concerns that there weren’t enough privacy protections in place to keep patient data safe.

Proposals for the two rules were unveiled at last year’s event and it was rumored they would drop in conjunction with President Trump’s last-minute addition to this year’s HIMSS speaker lineup, which was slated to start today.

ONC’s interoperability rule

ONC’s interoperability rule mandates that healthcare organizations use FHIR-based APIs to connect patient-facing and consumer-grade apps to patient EHRs. It’s part of the Trump administration’s push to consumerize healthcare.

At the start of the year, one of the biggest EHR vendors, Epic, publicly expressed concerns on sharing patient data with third-party apps because of the lack of outlined privacy protections. During the media briefing, Rucker addressed those concerns head on, saying that the apps will use the same, secure API technology used in banking apps. Additionally, Rucker said providers will be able to let patients know in a “deliberate, straight-forward way” what information they’re consenting to sharing through a patient authentication process.  

“That is not snuck in on the side,” Rucker said. “It’s central to the way that patients allow an app to get access to their information. We’ve empowered providers to communicate the privacy issues in that process.” 

Rucker said a second part of the finalized ONC rule identifies activities that do not constitute information blocking, which is the interference of a healthcare organization with the sharing of health data, and establishes new rules to prevent information blocking practices by healthcare providers, developers of certified health IT and health information exchange networks, as required by the 21st Century Cures Act.

The rule also requires health IT developers to meet certification requirements to ensure interoperability.  Health IT developers must comply with requirements such as assuring that they are not restricting communication about a product’s usability or security so that nurses and doctors are able to discuss safety and usability issues without being bound by what Rucker said has historically been called a “gag clause.”

The finalized ONC rule also replaces the Common Clinical Data Set (CCDS) data elements standard with the U.S. Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) data set for the exchange of data within APIs. The USCDI is a defined set of data that includes clinical notes such as allergies and medications. The data set will support data exchange, Rucker said.

“These are standardized sets of data classes and data elements … to help improve this flow of information,” he said.

CMS patient access rule

The ONC rule goes hand in hand with the CMS rule, which aims to open data sharing between the health insurance system and patients.

Starting in 2021, the CMS patient data access rule will require all health plans that do business with the federal government to share data with patients through a standards-based API. The push to make it easier for patients to access health data follows a model CMS implemented with Blue Button 2.0, an API which gives Medicare beneficiaries the ability to connect their claims data to apps of their choosing, such as research apps.

The rule also requires health plans to make their provider directory available through an API, so patients know if their physician is in their insurance network.

“This will allow innovative third parties to design apps that will help patients evaluate which plan networks are right for them and potentially avoid surprise billing by having a clear picture of which clinicians are in network,” CMS administrator Seema Verma said during Monday’s media briefing.

Starting in 2022, Verma said insurance plans will also be required to share patient information with each other, which will enable patients to take data with them as they move between plans.

Additionally, effective six months from today, CMS is changing the participation conditions for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals as part of the rule. To ensure they are supporting care coordination for patients, Verma said the rule requires the hospitals to send admission, discharge and transfer notifications so patients receive a “timelier follow-up supporting better care and better health outcomes.”

“The Trump administration is pushing the healthcare system forward,” Verma said. “We are breaking down barriers to a seamless, data-driven healthcare system. The result of these two rules will be a more intuitive and convenient experience for American patients.”  

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COVID-19 depresses 5G smartphone shipments

Technology research firm Omdia lowered by 20% its forecast for global shipments of 5G smartphones. The latest estimate reflects the disruption to component manufacturing caused by the Chinese government’s efforts to contain COVID-19, the disease caused by a new strain of the coronavirus.

Production delays for smartphone screens and, to a lesser extent, 5G antenna modules, will likely push back the availability of some new phones to the first quarter of 2021, Omdia reported. As a result, the research firm revised its forecast for 5G phone shipments in 2020 from 250 million to 200 million.

COVID-19 has spread to at least 86 countries since government health officials first identified the potentially deadly coronavirus strain in Wuhan, China, in late December. At its peak in China, the virus was infecting more than 3,000 people a day.

China’s aggressive tactics for containment has reduced the number of daily infections to 200. However, shutting down factories, imposing strict quarantines, and isolating areas of the disease has halted the production of active-matrix OLED (AMOLED) smartphone displays. A significant portion of display assembly takes place in the Wuhan area.

Display production dropped by 40% to 50% in the first quarter and will likely be down in the second quarter, Omdia senior analyst Kevin Anderson said. “And, it remains to be seen how quickly they can ramp back up going into Q3, which is a major production quarter.”

Impact on 5G antenna production

Slowing the spread of COVID-19 has also led to lower inventories of 5G antennas. However, the production drop in China was offset somewhat by manufacturers in Taiwan, where factories remained open, according to Omdia.

The component shortages could delay new 5G models from Chinese smartphone makers Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi, Anderson said.

“They were rolling out 5G quite aggressively,” he said. “They have quite aggressive plans for the year.”

Samsung, which has the largest share of the global smartphone market, was not affected by the problems in China because most of the production of its phones is in Vietnam.

Whether manufacturing slowdowns in China will affect Apple remains to be seen, Anderson said. Analysts expect the company to release a 5G iPhone this year, but Apple has not made an official announcement. Apple makes most of its iPhones in China.

Typically, smartphone manufacturers introduce models late in the third quarter, which drives the highest sales of the year in the fourth quarter. If they delay the unveiling of new phones, the sales cycle will likely extend into the first quarter of 2021.

Omdia, a unit of Informa Tech, is the latest market research firm to revise 5G smartphone predictions because of COVID-19. In late February, Strategy Analytics lowered its 2020 forecast to 199 million phones.

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Windows 7 sunset gives PC market a boost in 2019

Analysts reported this month that the global PC market did something in 2019 it had not accomplished in seven years: It grew.

The figures differ as to how much — IDC reported a 2.7% year-over-year growth in global shipments, while Gartner cited a 0.6% increase — but experts agree that the Windows 7 sunset helped to prompt a hardware refresh for the enterprise. Per Gartner, Lenovo, HP and Dell shipped the most PCs in 2019, seeing growth of 8%, 3% and 5%, respectively.

Whether the boost in growth will be a one-year blip is debatable, but there is consensus that, for the enterprise at least, the PC is here to stay.

Windows 7 sunset gives PCs a boost

Linn Huang, research vice president at IDC, attributed the increase to a confluence of factors. Companies found themselves in a unique position of having to migrate to a new OS amid the growing tensions of a trade war with China, where PC components are commonly manufactured.

“For starters, the January 2020 [end of support] of Windows 7 means businesses — large and small alike — [were] either completing or accelerating their Windows 10 migrations,” he said.

Huang also mentioned shortages and tariff issues may have affected the market as well. Intel faced CPU supply issues that eased during the course of 2019 and, in December, President Trump tweeted that “penalty tariffs” would “not be charged,” thanks to a new agreement with China.

Linn Huang, research vice president at IDCLinn Huang

Mikako Kitagawa, senior principal analyst at Gartner, said the shipment boost was not because of any renewed interest in using the PC, but almost solely because of the Windows 7 sunset, which occurred Jan. 14.

Mikako Kitagawa, senior principal analyst at GartnerMikako Kitagawa

Forrester Research analyst Andrew Hewitt acknowledged the effect of the Windows 7 sunset, but said it was only part of the story.

“I also believe that the PC is becoming more important as organizations try to improve employee experience,” he said. “We know from research that if people can’t make progress every day at work, they’re vulnerable to burnout and can contribute to higher attrition. The PC sits at the heart of productivity, so organizations see it as an important driver of [employee experience].”

Yev Pusin, director of strategy at data storage firm Backblaze, said the business’ clients — especially on the enterprise side — indeed had a need for something that could contribute more to productivity than a smartphone or tablet.

“I think a lot more folks … realized that, for the multi-tasking and flexibility they want, they need an actual computer — a Mac or PC,” he said.

Will PC market growth continue?

Kitagawa expects to see shipments dip in 2020 and 2021 due to a weak consumer market, as the smartphone has largely subsumed the PC’s role in daily life. Smartphones have made inroads in the enterprise as well, especially among younger workers.

Andrew Hewitt, analyst, Forrester ResearchAndrew Hewitt

“People used to carry a laptop or tablet to do work. Now, smartphone screens are bigger, so they are able to handle some tasks as well,” she said. “On the mentality side, many young people feel their smartphone is their primary work device.”

This is not to say that the PC will be disappearing from the workspace anytime soon.

Yev Pusin, director of strategy at Backblaze Yev Pusin

“It’s not the case that the PC is going away,” Kitagawa said. “The PC is a very important business tool.”

Huang likewise expected a decline of PC sales in the next couple of years but said a shift in the market might accompany that trend.

“Consumers and commercial users alike are demanding better and better with each generation,” he said. “Consequently, we expect to ship fewer PCs [in] 2020 and beyond, but the market will continue to churn toward more premium ends.”

Pusin said he did see a continued appetite for PCs in the future but agreed that customers interested in buying computers might focus on the higher end of performance.

According to Hewitt, the PC will retain its central place in the business world, although the form factor may differ.

“Our research actually shows that 30% of the most important factors for improving employee experience are technology-related, and the PC is a big part of that,” he said.

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How Genesys is personalizing the customer experience with Engage, Azure and AI | Transform

Microsoft and Genesys, a global provider of contact center software, recently announced a partnership to enable enterprises to run Genesys’ omnichannel customer experience solution, Genesys Engage, on Microsoft Azure. According to the two companies, this combination will provide a secure cloud environment to help companies more easily leverage AI to address customer needs on any channel.

Headquartered in Daly City, California, Genesys has more than 5,000 employees in nearly 60 offices worldwide. Every year, the company supports more than 70 billion customer experiences for organizations like Coca-Cola Business Services North America, eBay, Heineken, Lenovo, PayPal, BOSCH, Quicken and more.

Transform spoke with Barry O’Sullivan, executive vice president and general manager of Multicloud Solutions for Genesys, to explore how technology is reinventing the customer service experience.

TRANSFORM: How are technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and cloud transforming the customer service sector?

O’SULLIVAN: It’s broader than customer service. It’s the entire customer experience, which encompasses any point at which businesses engage with consumers, whether it’s in a marketing, sales or service context. What cloud, AI and machine learning enable is the ability to make every experience unique to each individual. Every consumer wants to feel like they’re the only customer that matters during each interaction with a brand. These technologies allow organizations to understand what customers are doing, predict what they will need next and then deliver it in real time.

Traditionally, companies haven’t been able to do that well, because it’s hard to get a fix on a consumer as they move between channels. Maybe they come to a physical store one day, then call the next day or engage via web chat. These technologies allow brands to stitch together every customer interaction, and then use the resulting data to personalize the experience.

TRANSFORM: Can you talk a little bit more about that customer journey and what customers will experience going forward?

O’SULLIVAN: Let’s use contacting the cable company to get internet service as an example. You check out their website, but maybe you get stuck and use web chat to interact with a customer service representative. Today’s technologies allow businesses to connect the dots to better understand the customer.

Before these technologies were available, interactions were disconnected, and important customer details and context didn’t move from one department or agent to the next. We all know what that’s like – just think about a customer service experience when you had to repeat your name and birthdate every time you were passed to a new agent.

Today’s technology can tie together a customer’s details, like their favored communication channel, past purchases, prior service requests and more, so the business really knows them. Then, using AI, it can match that customer with the contact center agent who has the best chance of successfully resolving the issue and achieving a specific business outcome, such as making a related sale.

TRANSFORM: All of those kinds of experiences seem to be present in some form today. Is there a change coming that’s going to take the consumer experience to the next level?

O’SULLIVAN: Personalized service is not a new concept, but very few businesses get it right. Today, it’s about so much more than targeting personas or market segments.

It’s really about enabling organizations to link together their customers’ and employees’ experiences to deliver truly memorable, one-of-a-kind interactions. When it’s done right, organizations already know who the customer is, what he or she wants and the best way to deliver it.

That means understanding customers so well that businesses know the best times to contact them, on which channel and even the best days for an appointment. It’s no longer one-size-fits-all service – it’s tailor-made customer care for each consumer.

TRANSFORM: Are your own customers ready to adopt the technologies to enable this kind of new experience?

O’SULLIVAN: When it comes to cloud, it’s not a question of if, but when and how. And that’s one of the reasons the announcement between Genesys and Microsoft is so exciting. We have a lot of customers, especially large enterprises, who love Genesys and love Azure and really want to see that combination come together. So, giving them that option and that choice is really going to accelerate the migration to cloud.

In terms of adopting AI and machine learning, many companies are in the early phases, but recognize the enormous potential of the technology. What makes AI truly compelling in the customer experience market is its ability to unlock data. Increasingly, businesses use digital channels, like web chat and text, to communicate with consumers, which combined with traditional voice interactions has resulted in copious amounts of data being produced daily. The key for organizations is figuring out how to harness and leverage it to more fully understand customers, their experiences and behaviors, as well as the needs of human agents. That’s where Genesys comes in.

TRANSFORM: How would you describe your experience working with Microsoft?

O’SULLIVAN: It’s a great partnership because we’ve got a common view of the customer and a very aligned vision on cloud. It’s all about delivering agility and innovation quickly and reliably to our joint customers. So, it really helps when we’re both all in on the cloud, all in on customer experience.

Our customers are really excited about this combination of Genesys and Azure. They can simplify their maintenance, reduce costs and streamline the buying process. We believe in the advantages of moving to cloud, and obviously Azure is a leader there.

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Author: Microsoft News Center