The algorithms behind future executive decisions

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By Ken Mark

At the recent Teradata Universe annual conference in Denver CO, Erik Brynjolfsson attributed IT‘s role in revolutionizing today’s business practices to three major trends: corporations switching from minds to machines, shifting from being product developers to becoming delivery platforms and seeking innovation not from the core but from the crowd.

He is the Director of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy and co-author with Andrew McAfee of the book Machine|Platform|Crowd Harnessing our Digital Future (2017).

Artificial intelligence (AI), aka Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Big Data, have now emerged as the most efficient and effective ways to manage the endless streams of data flooding into corporate IT networks.

Brynjolfsson believes that as algorithms become smarter, they will one day enable executives to make decisions based on algorithms and the latest, real-world data rather than on the highest-paid person’s opinions or HiPPOs as they do now.

As well, corporations are quickly turning themselves into platforms offering new products and services to customers from various external sources rather than simply exclusively those developed in-house. Besides eliminating the NIH (not invented here) bias, it also enables firms to meet their clients’ changing needs more quickly without the added costs and delays of in-house development.

Speed counts since their clients are under relentless pressure to stay ahead of the competition.

On the supply side, entrepreneurial start-ups are flooding the market with new digital tools and solutions. But such early-stage developers often lack the experience and contacts to market their discoveries. At the same time,  many major corporative executives now realize that their in-house R&D may lack the capacity and brain power to develop in-house solutions to stay ahead of the competition. Cloud-based computing has emerged as the ideal digital medium to link the two together.

For example, Teradata’s recent launch of Vantage, its revolutionary online tool kit, is a perfect example of this new strategy. More on this later.

The third leg of the IT revolution-core to the crowd- is the people side of business. Historically, successful companies sought to attract and keep the brightest and the best to ensure the firm stayed ahead of the competition by developing market-dominating innovations. But in today ‘s world, the domination of such breakthroughs is often measured in months, not years.

Executives now realize that they can energize innovation while reducing overhead by reaching out globally to the brightest and the best innovators, entrepreneurs and researchers whenever they are needed.

Linking this scattered digital community together are more powerful cell phones, the internet of things (IOT) and emerging 5G networks – which will offer 1-2 millisecond latency or about 100 times faster than existing 4G networks. Stalwart firms such as General Electric, (GE) one of the original firms listed on the New York Stock Exchange, are being swept aside by smaller, more adept entrepreneurial firms that are exploiting the advantages of today’s digitized business environment.

Amid such revolutionary changes, Niall O’Doherty, Teradata’s Practice Leader, Industry Consulting invokes the supply chain management chestnut that in logistics, data is often more valuable than the goods being moved. He believes that is the emerging digital toolbox that can handle the challenges of today’s global supply chain which he calls “gray space”.

To him, these digital resources have become the new face of ERP (enterprise management planning). He points out that manufacturers such as German auto automaker BMW have production plants and dealers’ showrooms scattered around the world. As a result, it has to juggle the latest data of where parts are stored, where production plants are located as well as when and where to deliver vehicles to buyers. If production plants in China are short critical  parts,  how do they move them to where they are needed, how will they be shipped in time to meet deadlines? Now, more than ever, managers need to see everything in their global supply chain in real time. Digitization has the power to provide critical data and analysis to managers to keep their customers happy while boosting the firm’s productivity, efficiency and profitability.

Algorithms now exist to calculate the profit margins involved in meeting the production deadlines, especially if they have to be shipped by air from Europe to China, and to analyze and recalculate in real time the actual costs involved. Dynamic real-time inventory management now includes calculating the bottom-line impact of success and failure of delivering finished goods on time. 

Teradata’s new online cloud-based service platform, Vantage, will introduce the latest IT solution packages to enable clients to access data wherever it is stored. To do so, Teradata executives realized that they could not keep up with client data access demands with in-house developed solutions. Vantage replaces the traditional “one-hammer, one-nail” approach of accessing data with a totally new toolbox for accessing the almost infinite store of global data which may soon reach one yottabyte or 280 bytes.  

In Brynjolfsson’s terms, Teradata has shifted from relying on core (in-house) expertise to crowd sourcing it from outsiders. This new paradigm will ensure that Teradata stays ahead of its competitors by delivering next-generation data management solutions more quickly to its client base.

About Ken Mark:

Ken is a veteran journalist who has attended international trade and logistics shows and visited major cargo handling sites across Canada and the US, Western Europe, East and South-East Asia as well as Latin America. He has a York U. MBA.