Disruptive & Emerging Technologies

Disruptive & Emerging Technologies
Biometric Authentication Methods.Biometric Authentication Methods.

Biometric authentication has emerged as an alternative to traditional passwords, but are tech leaders adopting it? Benchmark against your peers.

If you had a magic wand - what's the #1 daily business challenge you'd eliminate?

Top Answer: Without a doubt - Technical Debt! It's a ball and chain that creates an ever increasing drag on any organization, stifles innovation, and prevents transformation.

As a large enterprise, why do you engage with startups and how do you choose the right ones?

Top Answer: It's not a secret that engaging with startups and emerging technologies is crucial for every business. It's no longer about being good enough, it's about being the best and taking advantage of new products and innovations comes with the territory. My primary motivation to engage with startups is to deliver business value at Flex. My secondary motivation is to learn from people smarter than me (the entrepreneurs I meet) about the latest technologies, products, and solutions being created to shape the future of enterprises.

Our business priorities are very clear and we work as a team to figure out which technologies (and then companies) will help us drive our goals. This top-down approach is methodical - we have a budget and a structured approach on how to work with vendors (big or small) to select the right one. The bottom-up approach is equally important, and requires a team that is passionate about technology to make it work. One example for us is that, as a team, we spend a few hours every Friday morning learning about new technologies, products, and innovations that may be helpful for us. We then come together as a team and share our learnings. If one or more products stand out, we dig deeper and explore how we can leverage it at Flex.

Regardless of top-down or bottom-up, seeing a meaningful ROI is generally important to us. That doesn't always hold true, but these are rare exceptions, not the rule.
Startups we engage with have a few things in common:
  • We get to know the team before we get to know the product because we're betting on the people and the vision as much as the product. How strong is their technology, sales, and executive team?
  • Is the product easy to use and does it have an adoption strategy in place?
  • And finally, in return for us coming in as an early customer, are they willing to have us shape their product and roadmap to fit our needs?
With thousands of startups, it can be daunting to figure out the right ones to engage with, but a few channels have been helpful to curate the best — my peer network (we exchange emails on a weekly basis), curated online IT communities that go beyond what traditional analysts provide, and working with select VCs like a16z, Lightspeed, and others.

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Blockchain in BusinessBlockchain in Business

Blockchain technology is in the headlines but what’s the business case? Benchmark your opinions against your peers.

If you are a current SAP customer, when do you plan to migrate to SAP S/4HANA?

Top Answer: No plan to migrate soon.

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Mobile Development
What are some common obstacles to implementing new technologies?

Top Answer: At the places I've been, the biggest obstacles to adopting new technologies have been the IT staff themselves. IT’s role is to be the interpreter who understands both what the business unit or department wants, and how we can find a technological solution. There wasn't a shortage of interesting ideas happening in the market, and people were always aspiring to do something better or different. But looking back, whether it was cloud or anything else, the biggest obstacle was my own staff, not the college. I could sell the college on the romanticism of cloud and say, “It's great that you think our data centers are secure and compliant. I don't want to let you see behind the curtain, but trust me, these cloud-based providers are doing a much better job of being compliant and auditing.” To the campus, everything was in the cloud anyway, because the servers that they used weren't sitting in their office. On the other hand, my own staff posed problems that cost me opportunities to strike at the right time, when the price was low enough to make trying worthwhile. We missed opportunities to capitalize on clever ideas that would've helped propel us forward. In higher education, new technologies could have been applied in any department, or even administratively. And when it's our own teams who are problematic, I don't think it's because they're lazy. I think it might be because they have a hard time lifting their heads up above the walls of their box to see what else is out there, and that they can do other things.

What is best for full stack development? Please share your opinion in comments

Top Answer: JavaScript/TypeScript & Node JS for web dev, Python for data analytics/science/ML

Is it easier to get the business’s buy-in for a strategy rather than a specific product?

Top Answer: When I got hired, the first thing I was asked to do was put in a new ERP. We had a legacy system that was built by a consortium of Florida colleges and no group of schools should ever have been charged with designing their own ERP and student information system. As we started to move forward, it occurred to me that this was a good opportunity to talk about the architecture and technology that I wanted the board and others to understand, rather than discussing a particular solution, which is a one-time conversation. We talked to our executive team and board of trustees about why APIs and real-time analytics were important. That proved to be incredibly helpful because our president really clicked with these concepts and every acquisition of technology, not just by me, but across the college. And with every new acquisition, he began to ask, “How does it integrate with the other solutions we already have?” That led us to rethink and adopt technologies that were API-driven and easy to integrate, so that we could put pieces together to do things we couldn't do before, which was great during the pandemic. Talking about architecture and the qualities of technologies was more beneficial than trying to get the business sold on one product’s ability to do something, because it leveraged us more in the future. We've had some missteps too, but the architecture solution has proven to be good going forward.

What do you think about Industry 4.0? Another hype/buzzword or a genuine concept/idea?

Top Answer: Wheel Blockchain is the part for me that is the most promising of the industry 4.0 it will facilitate and secure a lot of processes in the industry.

Citizen Developers: On the Rise?Citizen Developers: On the Rise?

Are citizen developers active in your organization? Compare your thoughts with other peers.

Do new technologies increase staff engagement?

Top Answer: I was in a company that sold electronic components when it launched an e-commerce platform for the first time. We saw some competitors starting to set up these online platforms to execute transactions, so we decided to set up a work team. We sent them to a different site about 15 miles away from the corporate headquarters and told them, “You don't have to follow any of the rules. We've never done this before, so figure out what you want to do. You're not bound by anything that's going on here.” For team morale, they had a huge fish tank at this site and they would take turns feeding the fish. When it was time to come back to corporate headquarters, they wanted to bring the tank back with them. The facilities people said, “No way are we putting a fish tank in here. You can tell them no right now.” It became a cultural jousting match, but we didn't end up moving the tank and the team was pissed. It had become the symbol of their freedom and we were taking them back into the corporate fold. This e-commerce project wasn’t an IT-inspired idea. It was a competitive requirement and we recruited people from the IT group to support it. But the IT people that we put on that team had the greatest sense of job satisfaction that they’d ever experienced in their careers. Every morning they would have a scrum meeting where the marketing people would show them where sales were made on the e-commerce site the day before. The IT folks would then make coding changes to the site. They felt so viscerally engaged in the business process of selling the components, whereas the rest of the IT teams were three steps away from those transactions. The rest of the IT group was just in the background, helping the people that help the people that sell these products.

How should startups look to sell to CIOs?

Top Answer: First and foremost, really work on your messaging and positioning. It’s easy to get enamored with the technology how instead of the strategic why - why is this important to them and why should they listen to you. If you can’t articulate that in a couple of minutes, you don’t want to go talk to a CIO.

Once you have that, it’s about finding the right warm introductions, or reaching out to meet if you’ll be at the same conference/event and just having a conversation. Hard selling doesn’t work. Find out what they are working on, what their priorities are, and then if applicable work it in. Take a trusted advisor approach instead of a cold email or call, which may work sometimes but certainly doesn’t scale.

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Has your organization ever been quick to capitalize on an emerging technology? Which ones was it late to adopt?

Top Answer: When I was at Vassar college, we jumped into virtual worlds and Second Life very early on. We had some faculty who were interested in it, but not in the social aspects; we were interested in using it as a place to model things that you couldn't readily build in the real world. One member of my team recreated the entire Sistine Chapel in Second Life to scale, which got a lot of recognition. We had school kids from all over the U.S. and around the world visit it. Their teachers happened to be into virtual worlds, so they’d bring their kids and show them how to zoom in to see all the images up-close. But he also found that there are tapestries by Rafael that they display in the Sistine chapel very rarely because they're sensitive to light. He was able to find those and put them into the same space so that you'd be able to view them. I don't think it did much to our organization; it's not like Vassar needed name recognition to attract students or anything, but it did allow us to have some interesting conversations with other higher education institutions about the role of immersive virtual technologies. We discussed what experiences they could offer that schools couldn't provide in the real world. There were psychology faculty who did experiments, and there were other interesting ideas that never quite caught on, but remnants of them moved forward. It was an expensive time sink to do something clever that had a half-life of about three or four years, but it was something we looked at.