Tag Archives: team

Expanding Xbox Voice Commands to Hundreds of Millions of Smart Devices: Xbox Now Connects with Cortana and Alexa-Enabled Devices – Xbox Wire

Here at Team Xbox, we’ve had a long history in offering voice controls as a way to interact with your Xbox console through Kinect and headsets. Today, starting with select Xbox U.S. Insiders, we’re expanding voice support by introducing the Xbox Skill, which enables you to navigate and interact with Xbox One using voice commands through your Cortana and Alexa-enabled devices.

With the Xbox Skill, you can use voice commands to power your Xbox One console, adjust volume, launch games and apps, start and stop broadcasts on Mixer, capture screenshots, and more. It’s the fastest way to get into your games and one of the easiest ways to interact with your console for everyday tasks. For example, if you have the skill enabled on your Echo and you’re a part of the Insider preview, just say “Alexa, start Rocket League.” and this command will automatically turn on your console, sign you in, and launch your game.

The Xbox Skill integrates with your Cortana and Alexa-enabled device such as a Windows 10 PC, Amazon Echo, Harman Kardon Invoke, Sonos One, or Cortana and Alexa apps on iOS and Android, enabling voice commands to control your Xbox One console.

For Xbox Insiders* in the U.S. who want to try the Xbox Skill with Cortana or Alexa, here’s how to get started:

If you use Cortana:

  1. Sign into the Xbox you want to control.
  2. On your Windows 10 PC, click here and sign in with your Microsoft account to link the skill.
  3. Try your first command! “Hey Cortana, tell Xbox to open Netflix.”

If you use Alexa:

  1. Sign into the Xbox you want to control.
  2. Click here, sign in with your Amazon Account, and click Enable.
  3. Sign in with your Microsoft account to link the skill.
  4. Let Alexa discover your console, then follow the instructions to pair your console with Alexa.
  5. Try your first command! “Alexa, start Rocket League.”

Wondering what else the Xbox Skill can do? Just say “Ask Xbox what can I say?” to discover more commands for your console. For a full list of commands, troubleshooting assistance, and to give the team feedback and ideas, you can visit the Xbox Insider Subreddit.

As always, your feedback is important to us and our partners as we continue to evolve this experience and grow our voice integration across devices, digital assistants and voice services.

*Note to Xbox Insiders: We will be rolling the Xbox Skill out to Xbox Insider rings gradually. If the Digital Assistant setting is visible on your console in Settings -> Devices, then you are currently eligible to test the Xbox Skill. If it doesn’t appear, then please be patient as we are working quickly to add more Insider rings to the beta.

Green warriors from India receive Microsoft AI for Earth grants to enable a sustainable future – Microsoft News Center India

With a trained AI algorithm, the team hopes to classify the urban and rural areas, identify forest cover, river beds and other water bodies from satellite images, and create a precise grid map for the region. The team hopes to apply computer vision to create a comprehensive database of biodiversity in the region to help policymakers and local communities make better-informed economic, ecological, and infrastructure-related decisions.

“You can’t save an ecosystem if you don’t fully understand it,” exclaims Dr. Mariappan. “That’s where our data along with Microsoft’s AI resources can help.”

Tracking the monkey population in urban areas using AI-powered image recognition

A woman sitting on a table with a coffee cupThe monkey population in urban India has spiraled out of control in recent years. India’s capital city, New Delhi, alone reports at least five cases of monkey bites daily that can cause rabies and be fatal. It is estimated that 7,000 monkeys prowl the streets of the capital, damaging public property and attacking people. With their natural habitat shrinking owing to urbanization, authorities are struggling to avoid monkey attacks.

Managing the growth of the population is critical. Currently, there is no way to identify which monkeys have already been given birth control or sterilized without further handling such as tattooing a code or embedding a microchip in the monkeys. Ankita Shukla, a PhD student at Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology Delhi (IIIT Delhi), aims to use computer vision as a non-invasive alternative for identifying and tracking monkeys as it is safer and less stressful for the animals, as well as humans.

Shukla, a native of a small town near Lucknow, had earlier worked with the Wildlife Institute of India on a project to classify endangered tigers in a nature reserve with machine learning and distance-object recognition algorithms. She wants to combine this experience in wildlife monitoring with machine learning to create a tangible solution for the simian problem in cities.

She is creating an AI-enabled app that can help the community tag monkeys in photographs and upload it to a cloud where authorities can track the simian population’s growth, vaccination history, and movements. “With a bird’s eye view of the monkey population, we can deploy contraceptives more efficiently,” she says. “Training a deep neural network with image recognition to identify a monkey and its species, and whether it’s already been sterilized could go a long way towards solving this crisis,” Shukla adds.

Having teamed up with Saket Anand, a professor at IIIT Delhi, she pitched the idea to the AI for Earth panel earlier this year. The team plans to leverage the Microsoft Azure platform for the processing power required to train the AI model.

“The Microsoft resources and technical assistance helped us develop a genuinely useful app,” says Shukla. “We’re now trying to take things to the next level so that we can find a solution to the monkey menace in a scientific and humane manner.”

Join the Bing Maps APIs team at Microsoft Ignite 2018 in Orlando

The Bing Maps team will be at Microsoft Ignite 2018, in Orlando, Florida, September 24th through the 28th. If you are registered for the event, stop by the Bing Maps APIs for Enterprise booth in the Modern Workplace area of the Expo, to learn more about the latest features and updates to our Bing Maps platform, as well as attend our sessions.

Bing Maps APIs sessions details:

Theater session ID: THR1127

Microsoft Bing Maps APIs – Solutions Built for the Enterprise

The Microsoft Bing Maps APIs platform provides mapping services for the enterprise, with advanced data visualization, website and mobile application solutions, fleet and logistics management and more. In this session, we’ll provide an overview of the Bing Maps APIs platform (what it is and what’s new) and how it can add value to your business solution.

Theater session ID: THR1128

Cost effective, productivity solutions with fleet management tools from Microsoft Bing Maps APIs
The Bing Maps API platform includes advanced fleet and asset management solutions, such as the Distance Matrix, Truck Routing, Isochrone, and Snap-to-Road APIs that can help your business reduce costs and increase productivity. Come learn more about our fleet management solutions as well as see a short demo on how you can quickly set up and deploy a fleet tracking solution.

If you are not able to attend Microsoft Ignite 2018, we will share news and updates on the blog after the conference and post recordings of the Bing Maps APIs sessions on http://www.microsoft.com/maps.

For more information about the Bing Maps Platform, go to https://www.microsoft.com/maps/choose-your-bing-maps-API.aspx.

– Bing Maps Team

Meltdown and Spectre disclosure suffered “extraordinary miscommunication”

LAS VEGAS — Despite Google’s own Project Zero being part of the discovery team for the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, Google itself wasn’t notified until 45 days after the initial report was sent to Intel, AMD and ARM.

Speaking at a panel on Meltdown and Spectre disclosure at Black Hat 2018 Wednesday, Matt Linton, senior security engineer and self-described “chaos specialist” at Google’s incident response team, explained how his company surprisingly fell through the cracks when it came time for the chip makers to notify OS vendors about the vulnerabilities.

“The story of Google’s perspective on Meltdown begins with both an act of brilliance and an act of extraordinary miscommunication, which is a real part of how incident response works,” Linton said during the session, titled “Behind the Speculative Curtain: The True Story of Fighting Meltdown and Spectre.”

Even though Project Zero researcher Jann Horn was part of both the Meltdown and Spectre discovery teams, Linton said, Project Zero never notified Google directly. Instead, the Project Zero group followed strict guidelines for responsible vulnerability disclosure and only notified the “owners” of the bugs, namely the chip makers.

“They feel very strongly in PZ [Project Zero] about being consistent about who they notify and rebuffing criticism that Project Zero gives Google early heads up about bugs and things,” Linton said. “I assure they did not.”

Project Zero notified Intel and the other chip makers about the vulnerabilities on June 1, 2017. It had been previously reported that Google’s incident response team wasn’t looped into the Meltdown and Spectre disclosure process until July, but it wasn’t entirely clear why that was. Linton explained what happened.

“[Project Zero] notified Intel and the other CPU vendors of these speculative execution vulnerabilities and they said a third of the way through the email that ‘We found these, here are the proof of concepts, and by the way, we haven’t told anyone else about this including Google, and it’s now your responsibility to tell anyone you need to tell,’ and somewhere along the line they missed that piece of the email,” he told the audience.

Linton said the CPU vendors began the Meltdown and Spectre disclosure process and started notifying companies that needed to know such as Microsoft, but they apparently believed Google had already been informed because Project Zero was part of the discovery teams. As a result, Google was left out of early stage of the coordinated disclosure process.

“As an incident responder, I didn’t find out about this until mid-July, 45 days after [the chip vendors] discovered it,” Linton said.

The miscommunication regarding Google was just one of several issues that plagued the massive coordinated disclosure effort for Meltdown and Spectre. The panelists, which included Eric Doerr, general manager of the Microsoft Security Response Center, and Christopher Robinson, principal program manager and team lead of Red Hat Product Security Assurance, discussed the ups and down of the complex, seven-month process as well as advice for security researchers and vendors based on their shared experiences.

Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from this panel on the Meltdown and Spectre disclosure process.

The nine roles you need on your data science research team

It’s easy to focus too much on building a data science research team loaded with Ph.D.s to do machine learning at the expense of developing other data science skills needed to compete in today’s data-driven, digital economy. While high-end, specialty data science skills for machine learning are important, they can also get in the way of a more pragmatic and useful adoption of data science. That’s the view of Cassie Kozyrkov, chief decision scientist at Google and a proponent of the democratization of data-based organizational decision-making.

To start, CIOs need to expand their thinking about the types of roles involved in implementing data science programs, Kozyrkov said at the recent Rev Data Science Leaders Summit in San Francisco.

For example, it’s important to think about data science research as a specialty role developed to provide intelligence for important business decisions. “If an answer involves one or more important decisions, then you need to bring in the data scientists,” said Kozyrkov, who designed Google’s analytics program and trained more than 15,000 Google employees in statistics, decision-making and machine learning.

But other tasks related to data analytics, like making informational charts, testing out various algorithms and making better decisions, are best handled by other data science team members with entirely different skill sets.

Data science roles: The nine must-haves

There are a variety of data science research roles for an organization to consider and certain characteristics best suited for each. Most enterprises already have correctly filled several of these data science positions, but most will also have people with the wrong skills or motivations in certain data science roles. This mismatch can slow things down or demotivate others throughout the enterprise, so it’s important for CIOs to carefully consider who staffs these roles to get the most from their data science research.

Here is Kozyrkov’s rundown of the essential data science roles and the part each plays in helping organizations make more intelligent business decisions.

Data engineers are people who have the skills and ability to get data required for analysis at scale.

Basic analysts could be anyone in the organization with a willingness to explore data and plot relationships using various tools. Kozyrkov suggested it may be hard for data scientists to cede some responsibility for basic analysis to others. But, in the long run, the value of data scientists will grow, as more people throughout the company are already doing basic analytics.

Expert analysts, on the other hand, should be able to search through data sets quickly. You don’t want to put a software engineer or very methodical person in this role, because they are too slow.

“The expert software engineer will do something beautiful, but won’t look at much of your data sets,” Kozyrkov said. You want someone who is sloppy and will run around your data. Caution is warranted in buffering expert analysts from software developers inclined to complain about sloppy — yet quickly produced — code.

Statisticians are the spoilsports who will explain how your latest theory does not hold up for 20 different reasons. These people can kill motivation and excitement. But they are also important for coming to conclusions safely for important decisions.

A machine learning engineer is not a researcher who builds algorithms. Instead, these AI-focused computer programmers excel at moving a lot of data sets through a variety of software packages to decide if the output looks promising. The best person for this job is not a perfectionist who would slow things down by looking for the best algorithm.

A good machine learning engineer, in Kozyrkov’s view, is someone who doesn’t know what they are doing and will try out everything quickly. “The perfectionist needs to have the perfection encouraged out of them,” she said.

Too many businesses are trying to staff the team with a bunch of Ph.D. researchers. These folks want to do research, not solve a business problem.
Cassie Kozyrkovchief decision scientist at Google

A data scientist is an expert who is well-trained in statistics and also good at machine learning. They tend to be expensive, so Kozyrkov recommended using them strategically.

A data science manager is a data scientist who wakes up one day and decides he or she wants to do something different to benefit the bottom line. These folks can connect the decision-making side of business with the data science of big data. “If you find one of these, grab them and never let them go,” Kozyrkov said.

A qualitative expert is a social scientist who can assess decision-making. This person is good at helping decision-makers set up a problem in a way that can be solved with data science. They tend to have better business management training than some of the other roles.

A data science researcher has the skills to craft customized data science and machine learning algorithms. Data science researchers should not be an early hire. “Too many businesses are trying to staff the team with a bunch of Ph.D. researchers. These folks want to do research, not solve a business problem,” Kozyrkov said. “This is a hire you only need in a few cases.”

Prioritize data science research projects

For CIOs looking to build their data science research team, develop a strategy for prioritizing and assigning data science projects. (See the aforementioned advice on hiring data science researchers.)

Decisions about what to prioritize should involve front-line business managers, who can decide what data science projects are worth pursuing.

In the long run, some of the most valuable skills lie in learning how to bridge the gap between business decision-makers and other roles. Doing this in a pragmatic way requires training in statistics, neuroscience, psychology, economic management, social sciences and machine learning, Kozyrkov said. 

At the largest private hackathon on the planet, Microsoft employees fire up ideas by the thousands – Microsoft Life

On July 23, Mendez Gandica’s team will join thousands of other Microsoft employees and interns all over the world as they gather to form the largest private global hackathon. They’ll work across organizations and technologies, and some will collaborate with students, teachers, and people who work at nonprofits to solve problems and advance ideas.

Mendez Gandica might not have had the same opportunity to jump-start a passion project like this five years ago, on her own time and resources. An outlet for innovation and making a difference on this grand scale wasn’t yet available to Microsoft employees everywhere.

In 2014, the company had just embarked on a culture change: a quest to become a place where employees take risks to change their world for the better. Launched that July, Microsoft’s Hackathon was one way to help make that culture change happen: one place for everyone to come together, experience creative and fast-paced collaboration, make a difference, and drive the culture forward.

A hackathon is a mishmash of two terms: “hacking” and “marathon.” Typically known as a coding competition that happens over a few days and involves sleep-deprived engineers, Microsoft’s Hackathon is different. All employees, not just coders or makers, bring their unique skill sets to a project. While the technical motivation is still a driver, many teams won’t write a single line of code at all. Plus, they get to work on the project as much as they want to beforehand. And many projects continue well after Hackathon tents come down.

“Hackathon is special because all employees worldwide can spend time contemplating and executing in a learn-fast environment,” said Mendez Gandica. “Hackers don’t have to be engineers. Any employee can contribute with their own unique set of skills.”

Fueled by bottomless caffeinated beverages, buffets of energizing grub (bacon cupcakes!), the excitement of a deadline, and their own driving curiosity, employees experience a whirlwind break from their typical work days to do Hackathon.

“In the early days, Hackathon was an experiment,” said Jeff Ramos, who leads Microsoft Garage, the team that runs Hackathon. “Frankly, we weren’t even sure if people would come. But we had 11,550 people that first year. So we were like, ‘whoa, we’re onto something here.’”

Teleporting holograms, a belt for fetal health, and more at Microsoft’s Imagine Cup student contest

Team Pengram. From left to right: Bill Zhou, Will Huang, Vedant Saran. (Microsoft Photo)

Bill Zhou wanted to be able to help his mom fix the WiFi router when she called. The only problem? He was at school in Berkeley, Calif., and she was not.

“So I try to send her links online or send her videos or try to do a phone call with her, but it’s not really clear,” Zhou said. “And sometimes I wish I could just teleport my presence back home just for five minutes, show her what’s going on, and then teleport back to Berkeley to do whatever I’m doing.”

That personal desire was part of the inspiration for Pengram, an augmented reality tool for remotely assisting and collaborating on projects such as fixing equipment or assembling furniture. The Pengram team, made up of University of California, Berkeley graduate students Zhou, Vedant Saran, and Will Huang, will be one of 49 teams competing in the world finals of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup student competition starting Monday in the Seattle region. Imagine Cup brings together high school and college students who are “innovating and addressing some of humanity’s biggest problems.”

Pengram uses both augmented and virtual reality to “holographically teleport” an expert to assist on a task involving a physical object in another location. The expert, wearing a virtual reality device, can work in the virtual world on a virtual model of the object that needs fixing, such an engine. Whatever the expert does to that virtual engine will be reflected on the other person’s side, except in augmented reality, with an avatar representing the expert demonstrating on the physical object.

“The operator will be able to see the expert as if he was actually there,” Zhou said.

Saran said the platform uses Microsoft Azure to deliver the content via the HoloLens device. Pengram allows users to watch experts in real-time or in previously recorded videos.

Though personal use was one part of the team’s vision for Pengram, inspiration also came from what the team noticed businesses needed. Companies worked with much more complicated machines, like wind turbines or locomotive engines. Zhou said that often, to repair the machines, they would have to fly out an expert because field technicians wouldn’t know how to fix them.

“So what they’re looking for is actually a remote assistance solution where the expert can teleport their presence to the field to assist their technicians anywhere in the world,” Zhou said.

Pengram has worked with companies like smartphone maker HTC to explore the possible uses for the platform. Zhou explained that any company could use Pengram’s capabilities in a unique way suited to their needs. HTC, which supports trade schools in China, finds pre-recorded assistance helpful in training students.

Flashes of Pengram’s capability can be seen in Microsoft’s own Holoportation project, which Microsoft revealed in 2016. Holoportation, like Pengram, uses the HoloLens as a tool to holographically transport 3D models into a physical space in real time, as if all participants were in the same space. In another demonstration, Microsoft showed how someone using a tablet in one location could annotate the real world for someone using a HoloLens in another, such as a plumber showing a homeowner how to fix a sink.

The Pengram team, who have known each other for three years and met through the VR@Berkeley club when they were undergraduates, began the project at a Cal Hacks hackathon a year-and-a-half ago. Pengram won the Microsoft Imagine Cup U.S. Finals to advance to the world finals.

On the other side of the world in Pakistan, Iqra Irfan, Areeba Kamil, and Sami Ullah are developing a wearable belt that monitors fetal health. The team, named Fe Amaan, consists of three undergraduates in their last year at the National University of Sciences and Technology. They wanted to tackle Pakistan’s miscarriage and stillbirth problem, which they described as one of their home country’s biggest issues.

“One of the major issues we found in the healthcare facilities in our country is that there is not enough access to facilities for expecting women,” Kamil said. “And the women who have to suffer the most are women in rural areas, and then they become the target of stillbirths. Later on we also realized that this problem is not just confined to Pakistan, but it’s also a worldwide issue.”

Fe Amaan works as a remote fetal monitoring device, helping ease the consequences of a lack of access to medical facilities. The belt and corresponding Internet of Things sensor device, which sits on the mother’s abdomen, can monitor fetal movements and heart rate. It sends the data to a mobile app, which analyzes it and generate alerts if it detects any anomalies. The device uses Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform to host its applications and to predict the state of the fetus in advance, based on the data gathered.

The Fe Amaan team. From left to right: Areeba Kamil, Sami Ullah, and Iqra Irfan. (Microsoft Photo)

The hope is that precautionary measures can then be taken before it’s too late.

“We believe it’s the right of every woman to have good medical facilities and we want to make sure it’s our aim to eliminate the risk of having a stillbirth,” Irfan said.

The three have were friends prior to the project, and decided to work on Fe Amaan as part of their senior projects for university. Fe Amaan has gone through clinical trials, which the team cites as the most difficult part of the process. The team participated in the Pakistan national finals and won the Middle East and Africa finals to advance to the world finals.

The Microsoft Imagine Cup World Finals will take place in Seattle next week, from July 23 to 25. The annual student technology and innovation competition requires participants to submit their software, instructions, and give live presentations on the team, the project, the target market, and how the team plans to bring the project to market.

Forty-nine teams, including Pengram and Fe Amaan, will compete on the world stage after winning national and regional competitions throughout the year. The winning team will get $100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

This year’s Imagine Cup, the 16th annual competition, includes awards for projects in artificial intelligence, big data, and mixed reality. The judges include Microsoft executive vice president of business development Peggy Johnson, coding community Glitch CEO Anil Dash, and software package management company Bitnami co-founder and COO Erica Bresica. Snowboarder and Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim will also be a special invited guest at the competition.

Team collaboration secondary in Workplace by Facebook app

Facebook pitches Workplace as a team collaboration app, but businesses have found the product more useful as an intranet that helps build community across large workforces with many remote and part-time employees.

In recent months, Facebook has stepped up efforts to position its business platform as a competitor to cloud-based collaboration apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Recently, for example, the social media company added to Workplace by Facebook third-party business software and made it easier to deploy instant messaging.

But the Workplace users interviewed for this story do not have the platform integrated with many business apps and have not seen widespread adoption of Workplace Chat, the messaging tool.

Instead, most of those Workplace users continue to rely on platforms like Microsoft Skype for Business for unified communications (UC), while using Workplace primarily for companywide announcements and for promoting collaboration across departments.

Facebook arranged interviews with Weight Watchers, Farmers Insurance and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for this story. Heineken USA and Rooftop Housing Group, a 200-person nonprofit based in Evesham, England, were contacted independently. More than 30,000 organizations use the Workplace by Facebook app.

Workplace by Facebook app a better intranet

Only 10% of Weight Watchers employees work at a desk in an office. The World Wildlife Fund has 80 offices around the world. Two-thirds of Heineken workers in the United States are based out of regional offices, which they visit once or twice a week.

These organizations turned to the Workplace by Facebook app because it was a mobile-centric platform that most employees would intuitively know how to use based on the popularity of consumer Facebook.

“For someone who only works two hours a week for the company, we wanted them to be able to intuitively get what the platform was, understand how to use it and take to engage in it,” said Stacie Sherer, senior vice president of corporate communications at Weight Watchers.

Similar to consumer Facebook, Workplace lets users like, comment and share posts. Since deploying Workplace, employees engage with company news more frequently and are more likely to post updates about their own team’s work, the users said.

“Whether you’re in the field, or whether you’re working in finance, or whether you’re working in an administrative role, it has allowed [staff] to feel more part of WWF and our work,” said Kate Cooke, head of network communications at the World Wildlife Fund. (The platform is free for nonprofits.)

The tool has increased collaboration among teams and departments that would have otherwise never interacted. Weight Watchers employees based in different parts of the country have discussed best practices for helping clients. Recently, the Armenian branch of WWF posted about a communications campaign that other offices ended up copying.

Business integrations aren’t central to how companies use Workplace

In May, Facebook unveiled roughly 50 integrations with SaaS apps such as Jira, HubSpot and SurveyMonkey, following the lead of platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams. But for the most part, the organizations interviewed for this story haven’t begun taking advantage of those integrations.

The users, however, do have Workplace integrated with cloud storage apps, such as Box and Google Drive, and web conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, which can be used to live stream meetings and events to Workplace. Those integrations had been available before the May announcement.

Microsoft, Cisco and Slack have marketed their team collaboration apps as hubs for getting work done. Those apps let users, for example, approve expense reports and message with colleagues from the same interface.

The Workplace by Facebook app offers similar functionality, but users are not adopting the app primarily for that reason.

“We really focused it on that engagement perspective to start and really using it as a communication channel,” said Jacqueline Leahy, director of internal corporate communications at Heineken USA. “We have not started to really use it in terms of managing projects.”

Workplace Chat adoption lags

None of the Workplace users rely on the app as their primary instant messaging platform. Most have other UC clients deployed, such as Microsoft Skype for Business, and don’t view Workplace as a replacement for those tools.

At Weight Watchers, for example, the technology and product teams use Slack, integrated with Confluence and Jira, while others in the organization communicate through WhatsApp or text messaging. Sherer said the company was looking into boosting adoption of Workplace Chat.

In fact, Workplace may be inadvertently contributing to a communication channel overload within some organizations. Rooftop Housing Group, for example, now has three or four different ways to instant message, including Workplace Chat, Microsoft Skype for Business and a Mitel softphone client.

“We now need to find organizational defaults,” said John Rockley, the nonprofit’s head of communications and marketing. “Otherwise, we’ve got too many separate channels.”

Digital transformation process: Align business and IT, shake legacy

At the Strongbow Consulting Group, founder and managing partner Cathy Horst Forsyth and her team help large enterprises digitally transform — specifically around network and infrastructure. From her experience with Fortune 500 companies, legacy applications and systems and misalignment of technology and business strategies can cause significant setbacks in the digital transformation process.

In this SearchCIO interview from the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, Horst Forsyth details the trends and challenges that she’s seeing in enterprises that are going through the digital transformation process and what’s needed to be successful.

Editor’s note: This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

What parts of the enterprise are leading the charge in the digital transformation process?

Cathy Horst Forsyth: You see it all on the edges of the business where we have lines of business working directly with their customers, with their individual goals. I think where we see digital transformation being most progressive and most successful is when those lines of business — at the front end of the business — are working closely with their technology partners. What doesn’t seem to work well, or at least what can fall back and have negative consequences is when the lines of business are transforming and driving digital transformation that does not align with a corporate strategy and isn’t compliant with [an organization’s] technology strategy. So, where we see the most success, whether it’s marketing, sales or any particular functional area within the firm, is really that alignment with the business executive and the technology team to make sure the execution is both successful and compliant with the overall goals of the organization.

What parts of the enterprise are less far along in the digital transformation process?

You really can’t underestimate the [extent to which] legacy infrastructure systems and applications tether large companies down.
Cathy Horst Forsythfounder and managing partner, Strongbow Consulting Group

Horst Forsyth: Again, it’s kind of hard to generalize from my perspective. I can’t say one department or function is necessarily behind. But I would say that with organizations that are tethered to legacy applications, legacy infrastructure or legacy systems, it’s very difficult to dig themselves out of that. It’s probably not for lack of wanting to transform digitally, but you really can’t underestimate the [extent to which] legacy infrastructure systems and applications tether large companies down. Again, that’s one of the reasons [Strongbow] focuses specifically on the largest of enterprises. It is a lot easier to start ‘greenfield’ and to drive innovation when you haven’t been a classic Fortune 500 company for the past 50 or 100 years. Even though it’s about culture, leadership and many other things, the legacy infrastructure really can be an impediment. Where there are sunk costs or where it’s difficult to even understand where that infrastructure resides — which is an issue at times — we really see those organizations being hindered.

What kinds of strategies are effective in getting the entire enterprise to the same level of digital prowess?

Horst Forsyth: Once again, I go back to the top executives and the executive committee and [having the ability to] really understand and articulate business strategies. So, what are we trying to accomplish? Why are we trying to accomplish it? Anything can be framed in terms of opportunity or threat. Having everyone understand that simplistic business strategy is definitely a forerunner to then understanding how to leverage technology and achieving [digital transformation]. I think that, to some extent, technology strategy should be driven across the business — including on the front lines — but it needs to be monitored so that it’s consistent and compliant with corporate standards. And I think that the executives need to monitor and keep track of what’s going on, but allow it to go on and grow in a flexible fashion.