Tag Archives: President

Extending the power of Azure AI to business users

Today, Alysa Taylor, Corporate Vice President of Business Applications and Industry, announced several new AI-driven insights applications for Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Powered by Azure AI, these tightly integrated AI capabilities will empower every employee in an organization to make AI real for their business today. Millions of developers and data scientists around the world are already using Azure AI to build innovative applications and machine learning models for their organizations. Now business users will also be able to directly harness the power of Azure AI in their line of business applications.

What is Azure AI?

Azure AI is a set of AI services built on Microsoft’s breakthrough innovation from decades of world-class research in vision, speech, language processing, and custom machine learning. What I find particularly exciting is that Azure AI provides our customers with access to the same proven AI capabilities that power Xbox, HoloLens, Bing, and Office 365.

Azure AI helps organizations:

  • Develop machine learning models that can help with scenarios such as demand forecasting, recommendations, or fraud detection using Azure Machine Learning.
  • Incorporate vision, speech, and language understanding capabilities into AI applications and bots, with Azure Cognitive Services and Azure Bot Service.
  • Build knowledge-mining solutions to make better use of untapped information in their content and documents using Azure Search.

Bringing the power of AI to Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform

The release of the new Dynamics 365 insights apps, powered by Azure AI, will enable Dynamics 365 users to apply AI in their line of business workflows. Specifically, they benefit from the following built-in Azure AI services:

  • Azure Machine Learning which powers personalized customer recommendations in Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, analyzes product telemetry in Dynamics 365 Product Insights, and predicts potential failures in business-critical equipment in Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management.
  • Azure Cognitive Services and Azure Bot Service that enable natural interactions with customers across multiple touchpoints with Dynamics 365 Virtual Agent for Customer Service.
  • Azure Search which allows users to quickly find critical information in records such as accounts, contacts, and even in documents and attachments such as invoices and faxes in all Dynamics 365 insights apps.

Furthermore, since Dynamics 365 insights apps are built on top of Azure AI, business users can now work with their development teams using Azure AI to add custom AI capabilities to their Dynamics 365 apps.

The Power Platform, comprised of three services – Power BI, PowerApps, and Microsoft Flow, also benefits from Azure AI innovations. While each of these services is best-of-breed individually, their combination as the Power Platform is a game-changer for our customers.

Azure AI enables Power Platform users to uncover insights, develop AI applications, and automate workflows through low-code, point-and-click experiences. Azure Cognitive Services and Azure Machine Learning empower Power Platform users to:

  • Extract key phrases in documents, detect sentiment in content such as customer reviews, and build custom machine learning models in Power BI.
  • Build custom AI applications that can predict customer churn, automatically route customer requests, and simplify inventory management through advanced image processing with PowerApps.
  • Automate tedious tasks such as invoice processing with Microsoft Flow.

The tight integration between Azure AI, Dynamics 365, and the Power Platform will enable business users to collaborate effortlessly with data scientists and developers on a common AI platform that not only has industry leading AI capabilities but is also built on a strong foundation of trust. Microsoft is the only company that is truly democratizing AI for businesses today.

And we’re just getting started. You can expect even deeper integration and more great apps and experiences that are built on Azure AI as we continue this journey.

We’re excited to bring those to market and eager to tell you all about them!

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Oracle applications development EVP on Fusion, SaaS and what’s ahead

SAN FRANCISCO — Oracle executive vice president Steve Miranda has worked at the company since 1992 and leads all application development at the vendor. He was there well before Oracle made its acquisition-driven push against application rival SAP in the mid-2000s, with the purchases of PeopleSoft and Siebel.

In 2007, Oracle put Miranda in charge of Fusion Applications, the next-generation software suite that took a superset of earlier application functionality, added a modern user experience and embedded analytics, and offered both on-premises and cloud deployments. Fusion Applications became generally available in 2011, and since then the Oracle has continued to flesh out its portfolio with acquisitions and in-house development.

Of the three main flavors of cloud computing, SaaS has been by far the most successful for Oracle applications, as it draws in previously on-premises workloads and attracts new customers. The competition remains fierce, with Oracle jockeying not only with longtime rival SAP but also the likes of Salesforce and Workday.

Miranda spoke to TechTarget at Oracle’s OpenWorld conference in a conversation that covered Fusion’s legacy, the success of SaaS deployments compared with on-premises ones, Oracle’s app acquisitions of late and the road ahead.

Software project cost overruns and outright failures have been an unfortunate staple of the on-premises world. The same hasn’t happened in SaaS. Part of this is because SaaS is vendor-managed from the start, but issues like change management and training are still risk factors in the cloud. Explain what’s happening from your perspective.

We have a reasonably good track record, even in the on-premises days. The noticeable difference I’ve seen [with cloud] is as follows:

In on-premise, because you had a set version, and because you knew you’re going to move for years, you started the implementation, but you had to have everything, because there wasn’t another version coming [soon].

Now, inevitably, that meant it took a while. And then what that meant is your business sometimes changed. New requirements came in. That meant you had to change configuration, or buy a third-party [product] or customize. That meant the implementation pushed out. But [initially], you had this sort of one-time cliff, where you had to go or no-go. Because you weren’t going to touch the system, forever more, because that was sort of the way it was. Or maybe you look at years later. It put a tremendous amount of pressure [on customers].

Steve Miranda, executive vice president of applications,Oracle
Steve Miranda, executive vice president of Oracle applicationsdevelopment, addresses attendees Oracle OpenWorld last week.

So what happened was, while companies tried to control scope, because there wasn’t a second phase, or the second phase was way out, it was really hard to control scope.

In SaaS, the biggest shift that I’ve seen from customers is that mentality is all different, given that they know, by the nature of the product we’ve built, they’re going to get regular updates. Their mindset is “OK, we’re going to take advantage of new features. We’re going to continue more continually change our development process or our business process.”

Do last-minute things pop up? Sure. Do project difficulties pop up? Sure. But [you need] the willingness to say, “You know what? We’re going to keep phase one, the date’s not moving, which means your cost doesn’t move.”

In SaaS, projects aren’t perfect, sometimes there’s [a scope issue], but you have something live. You get some payback, and there’s some kind of finish line for that. That’s the biggest difference that I’ve seen.

The Fusion Applications portfolio and brand persists today and was a big focus at OpenWorld. But Fusion was announced in 2005, and became GA in 2011. That’s eight years ago. So in total, Fusion’s application architectural pattern is about 15 years old. How old is too old?

Are they old compared to on-premise products? Definitely not. Are they old compared to our largest SaaS competitor [Editor’s note: Salesforce]? No, that’s actually an older product.

Okay, now, just in a standalone way, is Fusion old? Well, I would say a lot of the technology is not old. We are updating to OCI, the latest infrastructure, we’ve moved our customers there. We are updating to the latest version of the Oracle database to an Autonomous Database. We’ve refreshed our UI once already, and in this conference, we announced the upcoming UI.

Now. If you go through every layer of the stack, and how it’s architected and how it’s built, you know, there’s some technical debt. It depends on what you mean by old.

We’re moving to more of a microservices architecture; we build that part a piece at a time. Once we get done with that, there’s going to be something else behind it. [Oracle CTO and chairman Larry Ellison] talked about serverless and elasticity of the cloud. We’re modifying the apps architecture to more fully leverage that.

So if the question is in hindsight, did we make mistakes? The biggest mistake for me personally is, look: We had a very large customer installed base across PeopleSoft Siebel, E-Business Suite, JD Edwards and the expectation from our customers, is when Oracle says we’ve got something, that they can move to it, and they can move to the cloud.

And so what we tried to do with Fusion V1, and one of the reasons it took us longer than anticipated is that we had this scope.

Any company now, it’s sort of cliche, they have this concept of minimum viable product. You introduce a product, and does it service all of the Oracle customer base? No. Will it serve a certain customer base? Sure, yeah. And then you get those customers and you add to it, you get more customers, you add to it, you improve it.

We had this vision of, let’s get a bigger and bigger scope. Had I done it over again? We’ve got a minimum viable product, we would announce it to a subset our customer and then some of this noise that you hear of like, oh, Oracle took too long, or Oracle’s late to markets or areas wouldn’t have been there.

I would argue in a lot of the areas, while it may have taken us longer to come to market, we came out with a lot more capabilities than our competitors right out the box, because we had a different mindset.

Oracle initially stressed how Fusion Applications could be run both on-premises and as SaaS, in part to ease customer concerns over the longer-term direction for Oracle applications. But most initial Fusion customers went with SaaS because running it on-premises was too complicated. Why did things play out that way?

While it may have taken us longer to come to market, we came out with a lot more capabilities than our competitors right out the box, because we had a different mindset.
Steve MirandaExecutive vice president of applications development, Oracle

I would take issue with the following: Let’s say we had the on-prem install, like, perfect. One button press, everything’s there. Do I think that we would have had a lot of uptake of Fusion on-premises as opposed SaaS? No. I think the SaaS model is better.

Did we optimize the on-premises install? No. We didn’t intentionally make it complicated. But, you know, we were focused on the SaaS market. We were [handling] the complexity. Was it perfect? No. Did that affect some customers? Yes. Did it affect the overall market? No, because I think SaaS was going to [win] anyway.

The classic debate for application customers and vendors is best-of-breed versus suites. Each approach has its own advantages and tradeoffs. Is this the status quo today, in SaaS? Has a third way emerged?

I don’t know if it’s a third way. We believe we have best-of-breed in many, many areas. Secondly, we believe in an integrated solution. Now let’s take that again. I view the customer as having three constituents they care about. They care about their own customers, they care about their employees and they care about their stakeholders, because public company, that’s shareholders, if it’s a private company, it’s different.

If you told me for any given company, there are two or five best-of-breed applications out for some niche feature that benefits one of those three audiences? OK. You go with it, no problem.

If you told me there were 20 or 50 best-of-breed options for a niche feature? It’s almost impossible for there to be that many niche features that matter to those three important people, particularly in areas where really we specialize in: ERP, supply chain, finance, HR, a lesser extent in CRM, slightly lesser in some parts of HR.

So this notion of “Oh, let’s best-of-breed everything.” Good luck. I mean, you could do it. But I don’t think you’re going to be happy because of the number of integrations. I don’t believe in that at all.

Let’s move forward to today. Apart from NetSuite in 2016, there haven’t been any mega-acquisitions in Oracle applications lately. Rather, it’s been around companies that play in the CX space, particularly ones focused on data collection and curation. What’s the thinking here?

Without data, you can automate a map, right? You can find out how to go from here to Palo Alto. No problem. You have in your phone, you can do directions, etc. But when you add data, and you turn on Waze, it gives you a different route, because you have real-time data, traffic alerts and road closures, it’s a lot more powerful.

And so we think real-time data matters, especially in CRM but also, frankly, in ERP. You might have a supplier and you have the other status, they go through an M&A, or other things. You want to have an ERP and CRM system that doesn’t ignore the outside world. You actually have data much more freely available today. You want to have a system that assumes that. So that’s our investment.

Oracle has recently drawn closer to Microsoft, forming a partnership around interoperability between Azure and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Microsoft is placing a big bet on Graph data connect, which pulls together information from its productivity software and customers’ internal business data. It seems like a place where your partnership could expand for mutual benefit.

I’m not going to answer that. I can’t comment on that. It’s a great question.

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HR execs and politicians eye student debt relief

Student debt relief is not only an election issue in the 2020 race for president, but a problem for HR managers. Some firms, including a hospital in New York, are doing something about it.

Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital began offering a student loan relief program this year for its non-union employees. It employs 1,500 people and provides employees 32 vacation days a year.

Most employees don’t take all that time off, said Dan Bengyak, vice president of administrative services at the not-for-profit medical center with hospitals in Newburgh and Cornwall. He oversees HR, IT and other administrative operations.

In February, the hospital detailed its plan to apply paid time off to student debt relief. Employees in the Parents Plus Loan program had the option as well. The hospital set two sign-up windows, the first in May. Forty employees signed up. The next window is in November.

The program “has been extremely well received and it definitely has offered us a real competitive advantage in the recruiting world,” Bengyak said. He believes it will help with retention as well.

The maximum employee contribution for student debt relief is $5,000. The hospital also provides tuition help. This combination “offers significant financial assistance,” to employees seeking advanced degrees, Bengyak said.

A SaaS platform handles payments

The hospital uses Tuition.io, a startup founded in 2013 and based in Santa Monica, Calif. The platform manages all of the payments to the loan services. Its users pay a lump sum to cover the cost of the assistance. The employer doesn’t know the amount of the employee’s debt. The platform notifies the employee when a payment is posted.

It definitely has offered us a real competitive advantage in the recruiting world.
Dan BengyakVP of administrative services, Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital

Payments can be made as a monthly contribution, a lump sum on an employment anniversary or other methods, according to Scott Thompson, CEO at Tuition.io.

Tuition.io also analyzes repayment data, which can show the program’s retention impact, according to Thompson.

“Those individuals who are participating in this benefit stay longer with the employer — they just do,” he said. 

About one in five students has over $100,000 in debt and is, by definition, broke, Thompson said. They can’t afford an employer’s 401K program or buy a house. Employees with a burdensome loan “are always looking for a new job that pays you more money because you simply have to,” he said.

Legislation in pipeline

The amount of student loan debt is in excess of $1.5 trillion and exceeds credit card and auto debt combined, said Robert Keach, a past president at the American Bankruptcy Institute, in testimony at a recent U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing on bankruptcy. More than a quarter of borrowers are in delinquency or default, he said. Student loan debt is expected to exceed $2 trillion by 2022.

“High levels of post-secondary education debt correlate with lower earnings, lower rates of home ownership, fewer automobile purchases, higher household financial distress, and delayed marriage and family formation, among other ripple effects,” Keach said.

Congress is considering legislation that may make it easier for firms to help employees with debt. One example is the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, a bill that has bipartisan support in both chambers. It would enable employers to give up to $5,250 annually per employee, tax free.

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Howard Dresner talks business intelligence trends

Howard Dresner, president and founder of Dresner Advisory Services, has seen business intelligence trends come and go.

Recently, there’s been a wave of consolidation with Salesforce acquiring Tableau, Google purchasing Looker, and Qlik buying up both Podium and Attunity. But consolidation is nothing new, according to Dresner, who noted that some companies start with the specific purpose of finding an eventual buyer and that a new cycle of mergers and acquisitions comes every few of years.

A veteran of three decades analyzing the analytics industry, Dresner spent 13 years at Gartner where he served as the advisory firm’s lead analyst for business intelligence, a time during which he helped popularize the term. He then moved on to Hyperion Solutions as chief strategy officer in 2005, but when the company was acquired by Oracle he left to form his own advisory company.

In this Q&A, Dresner discusses consolidation and other current business intelligence trends, and what still thrills him about BI after all these years.

With Salesforce’s acquisition of Tableau, Google’s purchase of Looker, and Qlik’s acquisitions of Podium and Attunity, consolidation is an obvious current business intelligence trend, but what does it all mean?

Howard Dresner: First of all, consolidation is not new. I’ve been covering this industry for 30 years now and I’ve watched multiple rounds of consolidation — you could do it almost in a five-year timeline. Most of the vendors would be gone every five or 10 years. A few stick around and can make it for the long haul. In fact, for many companies, that’s the business plan — if you were to read their business plan, there’s an exit strategy, and the exit strategy is usually acquisition, especially if they’re venture-capital funded. So none of this is a surprise. What is a surprise is the valuations. The valuations are very rich, and that simply says that the area of business intelligence and analytics is extremely well valued.

Why are companies paying so much for BI vendors?

Howard Dresner, president and founder of Dresner Advisory ServicesHoward Dresner

Dresner: There’s a real need for it because there’s more and more data. It’s just becoming more and more mainstream. Like I said, I’ve been covering this for 30 years and the notion of business intelligence was this sleepy backwater that no one really understood or cared about. There were a few nerds in the organization that focused on it, but it’s become mainstream. Everybody cares about this now, or if they don’t they should care about it. And of course there’s vastly more data than there ever was before, and so that obviously has the attention of these very large players. What happens with consolidation as you see it play out is that it puts pressure on some of the other vendors in the marketplace — and we won’t mention names — and it may force their hand. If we were to fast-forward five years from now the landscape will look very different than it does today. Clearly, the current consolidation has changed the market dynamics.

Are there vendors you view now as obvious buyers and others you see as obvious sellers?

Dresner: There’s an entire industry that focuses on M&A and potential buyers and potential sellers are always talking. There’s no such thing as an acquisition that comes out of the blue. People have meetings, and then maybe they go away for a while and have other meetings, but everyone is talking to everyone — that’s the reality. Do I think there are others that will get acquired, or that are out there shopping themselves, and do I think there are suitors out there? Absolutely, every day, all year long. The only thing that this latest round of very visible acquisitions does is that it might increase the pressure a little bit. It’s like musical chairs — there are a few less chairs now so it creates pressure. That’s just human nature.

What are some other important current business intelligence trends, and what do they mean for the industry?

The data — having so much more data out there, the diversity of data, and being able to build models that get so much closer to understanding reality, a really full perspective — that gets me juiced.
Howard DresnerPresident and founder, Dresner Advisory Services

Dresner: The important trends have less to do with technology, and more to do with execution on the part of the vendor. Everyone is looking for what is the next silver bullet — there is no silver bullet. Right now everyone is beating the drum about AI and machine learning, and that’s fine, but that’s not new. What’s different is our capacity to process lots of data quickly. AI and machine learning get better with tremendous amounts of data — more data, less errors. My point is, at the end of the day, the reason you invest in a vendor and technology is so that you don’t have to build it yourself. It comes down to how they serve you, and whether or not they can provide the requisite solutions to your organization and support you appropriately. You trust — and trust is a big word here — that they’re going to make the investment in the technology that’s going to propel you forward and keep your solution up to date, modern, relevant, etc. That’s what gives any vendor staying power — it’s not the shiny object.

As you look at the broad scope of the business intelligence market, what are you most excited about?

Dresner: The data — having so much more data out there, the diversity of data, and being able to build models that get so much closer to understanding reality, a really full perspective — that gets me juiced. We’re all about our data — we collect lots of data, so we’re a bunch of data geeks. Being able to get challenged in our understanding of what’s going on in the marketplace by the data is really exciting. Being able to learn new things about what’s going on in the marketplace in ways that we couldn’t do before — back in my Gartner days we talked to people and it was anecdotal, but it was not grounded in data — to paint a very different picture and more complete and representative picture of the marketplace, that’s what gets me excited. The other thing, from a market perspective, I love that there are so many more users out there, that the technology is so much more approachable than ever before.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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3 secret virtues of a great IT practitioner

What makes a great IT practitioner? Danny Brian, a Gartner vice president and fellow, suggested it’s the ability to embrace one’s vices.

At Gartner Catalyst 2018, Brian named laziness, impatience and hubris as the three secret virtues of a great IT practitioner — borrowing them from acclaimed programmer Larry Wall. In Wall’s 1991 book Programming Perl, the virtues were aimed at programmers. But Brian made the case they can help all IT practitioners succeed in today’s digital business age — and contribute to the bottom line.

Laziness

In Wall’s book, laziness is defined as “the quality that makes you go to great effort to reduce overall energy expenditure.” In other words, lazy IT practitioners continually seek out the easiest, most efficient ways to complete a task.

“If necessity is the mother of invention, then maybe laziness is the mother of innovation,” Brian said.

As an example, he pointed to computer programming pioneer Grace Hopper. The inventor of one of the first compiler tools — i.e., software that transforms computer code from one programming language into another — Hopper credited laziness as the impetus for her accomplishment.

Laziness, Brian said, also requires an enormous amount of planning and foresight.

“You don’t want to just be lazy now; you want to be lazy tomorrow and the day after that,” Brian said. “And if you want to enable other people to be lazy, it takes even more thought and preparation.”

He listed specific examples of what true laziness requires of an IT practitioner:

  • not repeating yourself;
  • not reinventing the wheel — utilizing the best frameworks and tools to save time and effort;
  • focusing on the most important problems;
  • knowledge and recognition of design patterns, which avoid solving the same or similar problems multiple times;
  • ensuring test-driven development in order to avoid hours spent later in panic mode trying to figure out what broke;
  • developing processes and procedures that actually help people short cut their tasks, rather than creating standards for standards’ sake; and
  • documenting everything — as close to the activity as possible — in a way that is easy for others and for your future self to understand.

Impatience

If necessity is the mother of invention, then maybe laziness is the mother of innovation.
Danny Brianvice president and fellow, Gartner

Every religious tradition in the world espouses patience as a virtue, Brian said, but the truth is the world is growing more impatient, in part, because of technology.

“If you think you want patient people working for you, I’d ask, ‘What about all that technology influence that’s creating more and more impatience in the world? Don’t you want people who recognize that and are ready and willing to respond to it?'” he said.

Indeed, patience could even pose a threat to organizational efficiency.

“Patience can lead to inaction, if you think about it. Patience can quickly become apathy or complacency — or at least appear to be those things,” he said.

The impatience Brian exalted is the general impatience that drives people to get things done and fix things that are broken or problematic. While laziness is about overall energy expenditure, impatience is all about the emotion — specifically anger at a slow program or process.

“It’s fixing a problem not because practitioners have to, but because it bugs them; not because there’s a ticket open, but because it’s really annoying and they’re impatient users,” Brian said.

This is where practices like continuous integration come in, Brian said. Along with having tests run on a regular basis so they can know as soon as a problem occurs, impatient IT practitioners are also continuously exploring — and integrating — new and better tools.

Impatience is also key to Agile development, Brian said.

“You should never hear the words from an Agile team, ‘We are waiting on X from X,'” Brian said. “They’re not Agile unless they can meet all of their dependencies and never be waiting on another team to get things done. And that’s what real impatience should look like.”

He listed specific examples of what true impatience requires of an IT practitioner:

  • a sense of urgency;
  • automating everything automatable;
  • constantly watching for better workflows, tools and methodologies;
  • continuously integrating so you never feel behind;
  • utilizing wikis, because we need to edit that right here and now;
  • empathizing with impatient end users;
  • having empowered teams with the resources necessary to push projects through to completion;
  • the ability to use cloud services, or any service that is the best tool for the job; and
  • strong communication skills from all contributors and sponsors.

Hubris

Wall defined hubris as “excessive pride — the sort of thing that Zeus zaps you for. [It’s] also the quality that makes you write and maintain programs that other people won’t want to say bad things about.”

In that vein, Brian refers to IT-practitioner hubris as the pride one takes in a well-crafted product and the drive to succeed where others have failed.

“[It’s] that total sense of ownership that doesn’t come without opening things up and allowing themselves to be impatient and lazy in this case,” he said. “It’s also knowing enough to know what you don’t know, which brings confidence with experience.”

This brand of hubris requires not only a conviction that one is right, but an ability to make the case to the CIO and the business, Brian said.

“A big part of this is for the technical folks to learn to not speak like coneheads,” he said.

Brian noted that novice IT practitioners can’t really have true hubris — yet.

“New practitioners can be lazy, and they can be impatient. But they can’t have hubris in the effective way,” Brian said. Hubris takes time, experience and success. “Real hubris is being an expert.”

He listed specific examples of what else true hubris requires of an IT practitioner:

  • pride in yourself and in your work;
  • zero fear of new technologies — the ability to dive in and emerge an expert;
  • attention to details, such as design, documentation and code formatting;
  • flexibility to adjust to changing requirements and user needs — a “we can do that” mentality;
  • owning the results of your work — releasing, maintaining and improving a service;
  • knowing what “good” looks like and how to get it;
  • going above and beyond, even when it is not requested;
  • constantly retraining yourself; staying abreast of new technology developments; reading technology books; attending conventions and workshops; and subscribing to training sites, like Lynda.com, Udemy, Pluralsight or Codecademy; and
  • a craftsmanship mentality — seeing your job as creating solutions for people and the business, rather than racking servers or writing code.

Brian ended with a warning to IT practitioners: Don’t let any one of these three qualities outweigh the others; they must coexist and balance each other out. Practitioners ruled by laziness — efficiency obsessives — will try to suss out and prematurely optimize any problems that might come in the future.

“If they’re too impatient, they’re going to be quick to adopt the wrong solutions … and just incur technical debt over time,” Brian said. “Too much hubris, and they are going to be perfectionists that can’t ever recognize when good is good enough and [the need to] sacrifice the good for the perfect.”

Cybersecurity and physical security: Key for ‘smart’ venues

When Boston Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy joined the organization in 2001, the team’s management was facing questions about the then-89-yearold Fenway Park.

There was a campaign to tear down Fenway and build a new baseball stadium elsewhere in the city — a plan that was quickly nixed by Red Sox management in favor of one to preserve, protect and enhance the Boston landmark. One big obstacle they had to consider was how to handle potential threats more dangerous than the New York Yankees.

“Our job is to anticipate threats — probably the biggest threat to the sports industry, in general, would be some type of massive security breach or failure,” Kennedy said. “It’s certainly something that keeps us up at night.”

Kennedy made his remarks during the Johnson Controls Smart Ready Panel last week at Fenway Park, where panelists discussed how venues, buildings and cities are striving to become smarter and more sustainable.

To upgrade the park for the 21st century, the Red Sox organization began a project called Fenway 2.0 that would improve the fan experience via technology upgrades, additional seating and renovations to the area surrounding the park.

Another big part of the Fenway 2.0 project was working closely with city officials to protect fans’ cybersecurity and physical security.

“We have incredible partners at the city of Boston,” Kennedy said. “We work very closely with those guys and the regional intelligence center to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can … to make sure that Fenway is safe.”

Cybersecurity a ‘smart’ priority

During the panel, Johnson Controls’ vice president of global sustainability and industry initiatives, Clay Nesler, pointed to a company-issued survey that showed cybersecurity capabilities were among the top technologies that respondents predicted would have the most influence on smart building and smart city development over the next five years.

Cities and large venues like Fenway Park certainly deliver many benefits to patrons through advanced technology, but these amenities also create potential risk, Nesler added. Several questions have to be answered, he said, before making upgrades to tech such as Wi-Fi capabilities: “Can systems be easily updated with the latest virus protection? Do you really limit user access in a very controllable way? Is the data encrypted?”

Our job is to anticipate threats — probably the biggest threat to the sports industry, in general, would be some type of massive security breach or failure.
Sam Kennedypresident and CEO, Boston Red Sox

Questions such as these are exactly why thinking ahead is essential to smart facility development, said panelist Elinor Klavens, senior analyst at Sports Innovation Lab, based in Boston.

“This is an open space that possibly could have Amazon drones flying over soon. What does that mean for the security of the people inside of it?” Klavens said. “We see venues really struggling to figure out how to secure themselves on that cyber level.”

Technology is certainly an enabler to get smarter about cybersecurity and physical security capabilities, Nesler said, but it’s still up to humans to interpret data. For example, new tech allows venues to create a 3D heat map of exactly how many people are in a 10-square-foot area to determine how fast they’re moving and find ways to avoid large groups slowing down during normal ingress and egress times. This information can also prove very valuable to prepare for emergency evacuations, Nesler said.

“We need to be clever about what’s really valuable to both the operations side and the fans and really be smart-ready in putting [in] place the systems and infrastructure to support things we haven’t even thought of yet,” Nesler said. 

The data access conundrum

The new technology offered by smart venues poses other concerns, as well, Kennedy said. For example, fans distracted by looking at their smartphones or digital screens could be putting themselves in danger of being hit by a foul ball at a baseball game, and ones watching events through smart glasses bring up potential legal questions regarding the event’s distribution rights. 

This goes back to the importance of communication for a smart venue to be successful, Kennedy said, with building management working together to ensure all of Fenway’s cybersecurity and physical security bases are covered.

“We need to be very, very careful in terms of providing fan safety,” Kennedy said.

And, of course, taking advantage of these technological advances often requires smart venues and cities to analyze a plethora of consumer-generated data. As a result, they must balance tapping into readily available data to improve amenities, cybersecurity and services with privacy concerns, Klavens said.

“Figuring out how to balance what is good for your fans and what is also your public’s appetite for giving up privacy in a public space is another way which we see venues really helping cities improve their understanding about how these new technologies will be deployed,” Klavens said.

Escaping the middle-income trap – Asia News Center

David Arnold, President, The Asia Foundation

With the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the rapid spread and adoption of cloud computing, cutting-edge technological solutions are now widely available around the world.

But to effectively tap this tech-driven potential, Asia’s emerging economies must pursue new ways of educating and training present and future workers – including women and girls who too often languish at the bottom of the employment pool with few educational opportunities.

“Ultimately it is the matter of human capital and developing relevant skills,” Arnold says. “That is currently a big constraint in many countries. So, we see this as an area of importance and priority.”

READ: Unlocking the Economic Impact of Digital Transformation in Asia Pacific

Breaking down and replacing long-held institutional and bureaucratic practices and barriers are high on the list of must-dos as well. It also happens to be a mantra that has been internalized by the Foundation, which has itself embraced technology to do its work better. Arnold sees the Foundation’s own internal digital transformation dividend as being a sort of microcosm of where the region should be heading.

Established by forward-thinking business people, academics, and U.S. government officials in 1954, The Asia Foundation is a non-profit international development organization committed to improving lives across the region. It works both at the high-end of public policymaking and at grassroots levels with local communities. It has an effective, integrated strategy to help Asian countries promote good governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, boost education, increase environmental resilience, and promote international cooperation. It fosters deep, long-term partnerships with local organizations and individuals and relies on support from governments and a myriad of donors.

The Asia Foundation

In short, its goals are high, its reach wide, its challenges big and complex, and its stakeholders demanding. So, to boost its impact it embraced change.

For most of its early life, the Foundation was a largely paper-based, administratively disjointed, highly siloed and decentralized operation that stretched from its headquarters in San Francisco across a network of offices in 18 Asian countries.

READ: Microsoft Philanthropies Asia – Advancing a future for everyone

Ken Krug joined its ranks in 2011 to become Vice President for Finance, Chief Financial Officer, and a champion for digital transformation. “We were in the Middle Ages as far as technology was concerned,” he recalls.

Previous attempts to create in-house IT solutions had been unsuccessful. But about five years ago, the Foundation adopted “OneTAF” – a cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 solution named for the abbreviation of The Asia Foundation.

Now all sorts of files and knowledge are linked and made accessible across the Foundation’s diverse geographic footprint. One can imagine the unique challenges of being stretched from Colombo to Kabul and from Ulaanbaatar to Jakarta, and how much freedom and ease can be derived from sharing information and materials in real time.

SHOWTIME, Amblin Television and 343 Industries Bring Halo to Television – Xbox Wire

It’s a big day for Halo – today, SHOWTIME president and CEO David Nevins announced the network has ordered a 10-episode season based on the legendary video game franchise!

In its adaptation for SHOWTIME, Halo (working title) will take place in the universe that first came to be in 2001, dramatizing an epic 26th-century conflict between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant. Kyle Killen (Awake) will serve as executive producer, writer and showrunner. Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) will direct multiple episodes and also executive produce the hour-long series which enters production in early 2019.

Halo is our most ambitious series ever, and we expect audiences who have been anticipating it for years to be thoroughly rewarded,” said Nevins. “In the history of television, there simply has never been enough great science fiction. Kyle Killen’s scripts are thrilling, expansive and provocative, Rupert Wyatt is a wonderful, world-building director, and their vision of Halo will enthrall fans of the game while also drawing the uninitiated into a world of complex characters that populate this unique universe.”

“This is a truly exciting moment for the Halo franchise,” stated Kiki Wolfkill, head of Halo Transmedia at 343 Industries. “Together with our creative and production partners at SHOWTIME and Amblin Television, the Halo television series will represent new and exciting way for fans to enter and engage with the Halo universe. We can’t wait to share more on what’s ahead.”

Halo will be executive produced by Killen, Wyatt and Scott Pennington, along with Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank for Amblin Television. The series will be distributed globally by CBS Studios International.

For all things Halo and the recently announced Halo Infinite, be sure to check out Halo Waypoint and stay tuned to Xbox Wire.

The 39 most powerful female engineers of 2018

Gwynne Shotwell is the president and COO of SpaceX and was inducted into the Space & Satellite Hall of Fame earlier this year.

She’s been at SpaceX since 2002, the year the company was founded, and became its president in 2008. By 2012, she’d helped SpaceX become the first privately funded company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station, forever changing the space industry.

Under her leadership, SpaceX was the first private company to send a satellite into geostationary orbit, too. Setting new standards is one of her favorite things about the job, with milestones like “landing a first-stage booster on a drone ship and on land, re-flying a rocket, launching Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket currently in operation,” she tells us.

Her path to becoming a powerful engineer all began with a smart, and smartly dressed, role model.

“I was inspired to become an engineer by a very smart, well-dressed mechanical engineer who I saw speak at a Society of Women Engineers event as a teenager,” Shotwell says.

“She was doing really critical work and I loved her suit. That’s what a 15-year-old girl connects with. I used to shy away from telling that story, but if that’s what caused me to be an engineer, I think we should talk about that.”

Correction: A previous version of this post misstated Shotwell’s starting date. She began working at SpaceX in 2002, not 2012.

The beauty that comes from nuance: to help their daughter, a Microsoft employee and a filmmaker became transgender allies – Microsoft Life

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Chadd Knowlton and filmmaker Vlada Knowlton underwent a “radical transformation” and then made a documentary to tell stories of families like theirs

By Natalie Singer-Velush

Chadd and Vlada Knowlton will never forget the day they most feared for their youngest child.

They were driving to school and from the back seat of the car piped a little voice, asking where babies came from. Vlada Knowlton, a filmmaker and former Microsoft employee, explained to her 4-year-old that babies grew in moms’ bellies and came out when they were ready.

“I want you to put me back in,” said the trembling voice. “I know I’m a girl. It’s not fair.”

The parents worried immediately that this was their preschooler’s way of saying that life didn’t feel worth living.

“I kept the car straight. I tried to keep driving. But it was terrifying,” Vlada Knowlton said.

The Knowltons’ youngest child had always been artistic, creative, curious, and intelligent—but also, lately, very unhappy.

“She was born with the body of a boy. Everybody assumed she was a boy. [In the beginning] we never in a million years imagined anything different,” Vlada Knowlton said. “But . . . from about the age of 2, she seemed frustrated, unsatisfied with her life.”

At home, the Knowltons, who also have an older son and daughter, had been allowing their youngest to wear dresses and play with more stereotypically girly toys, and things seemed better during those times. But in public, their preschooler was frustrated and angry when presenting as a boy, which was leading to depression and withdrawal.

“She couldn’t express herself the way she felt she wanted to,” Vlada Knowlton said.

The day in the car was the turning point for the parents. Their daughter felt she was a girl, and so she should be able to live that way, they decided.

“We had to go through a radical transformation to learn, to understand, and to accept. Our daughter didn’t really transition—she was the same before. We transitioned as parents.”

“It was a great moment of clarity,” said Chadd Knowlton, a corporate vice president at Microsoft. “We were coming from a place of total unknown. Once we did the research and we understood how gender is formed in the brain, we could accept it. Gender is what it is.

“We had to go through a radical transformation to learn, to understand, and to accept. Our daughter didn’t really transition—she was the same before. We transitioned as parents. And then we moved ahead into a new kind of personal activism that we had never had to call upon in our lives before.”

That activism includes making a documentary about LGBTQ+ rights and the movements that threaten them. The film, “The Most Dangerous Year,” recently had its world premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival. It tracks a wave of antitransgender legislation, including bathroom bills, and tells the story of a coalition of Washington State families who have transgender children who join together to fight it. Vlada Knowlton directed, wrote, edited, and produced the film; Chadd Knowlton served as the supervising sound editor and composed the score.

As they navigated their daughter’s and family’s journey, the Knowltons have been supported by many of their communities, including Microsoft.

“The environment is inclusive, accepting, and empowering for people to express themselves and to be allies,” Chadd Knowlton said of the company’s culture. “One of the first things I thought about was hey, maybe my daughter could get a job at Microsoft one day because I know it’ll be a great place for her to work.”

Their family’s journey has broadened their perspective in a way that now empowers them to be advocates and allies.

“We were new people after this, and honestly we’re thankful for that,” Chadd Knowlton said. “Gender is not binary. You could be anywhere on that spectrum. It’s one of the things I think people struggle with in our society. They really want things to be easily categorized and named. But the world is all nuance—and that’s the beauty of it.”

Meet more Microsoft employees who are changing hearts and minds and advancing human rights.
https://news.microsoft.com/life/topic/pride/

See how Microsoft is celebrating Pride 2018 and how you can be an ally.
https://www.microsoft.com/pride/

Learn how Microsoft and its LGBTQ+ employees push for change across borders.
https://news.microsoft.com/life/pride/