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Transforming the World Through Quality
Transforming the World Through Quality

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Adapt or die – why the manufacturing sector must adopt technology to ensure future success

We are in the midst of the new industrial revolution. The Internet of Things and connected devices are driving unprecedented innovation across the world and consumer expectations are evolving towards more complex and customised products, a change that is now shifting towards industry – especially manufacturing.

As manufacturers try to keep up with this shift in expectation and the demand for more complex products, communication across the organisation and its supply chain and the extraction of business-critical data has become more important than ever. However, with IT systems under immense pressure and information in silos, manufacturers are missing out on new revenue streams, opportunities and value-added processes. As an example, imagine a wind turbine in the North Sea. Today, expensive preventative maintenance routines allow businesses to keep them in optimum working order, however with sensors and predictive analysis telling them when something needs replacing this is becoming more predictive. With the digital thread however, you will also know the exact configuration of the turbine, its last maintenance tasks and even what tools and processes are needed to fix it.

Information silos vs. the digital thread
Manufacturers today have more data than ever before, but with different departments using disjointed software applications, vendor solutions and databases, many are finding that their data is stuck in silos, despite it being vital to future business success. To combat this issue, it’s vital for manufacturers to weave a digital thread of information across the entire business and its extended enterprise.

But what is a digital thread? In short, it is ensuring data flows smoothly across the manufacturing enterprise through software that enables the business and its supply chain to communicate seamlessly. Forming the backbone for digitalisation, this digital thread allows organisations to better understand their data and is the enabler to improved efficiency, product quality and financial performance. It also allows organisations to extract data to analyse and predict consumer behaviours in real-time and the agility to rapidly react accordingly, such as amending product specs in line with demand, and adapting processes to better meet these demands.

Why then are so many manufacturers reluctant to embrace this technology?

The answer lies in the lack of quality in their past systems. Traditionally, IT change at scale and pace has been too daunting, disruptive and costly for manufacturers which has led to the C-suite having an inherent distrust in it. Management however are now finding themselves in the position of ‘adapt or die’, where it has become vital to adopt these technologies if the future of a business is to be secured.

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Moving blockchain beyond the finance industry

he rise of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies dominated the news agenda and captured imaginations in the latter half of 2017, as the value of the market soared. With this came renewed interest in blockchain technology, which first gained popularity in the finance industry during the emergence of cryptocurrencies. However, blockchain is more than cryptocurrency and the fact this technology has grown from one of the most conservative industries could potentially hamstring its development. In the world of finance, where consumer trust is key, the risks of implementing blockchain beyond cryptocurrency is just too high. Despite the potential and hype surrounding cryptocurrencies, financial services organisations have started to distance themselves from blockchain technology due to the lack of compelling business use cases and cost [2]

To really unlock blockchain’s full potential, risks will need to be taken and failure accepted on the journey. This requires a different way of thinking and an innovative and agile approach. Rather than pigeonholing the technology to only apply to financial transactions, business leaders can exploit the inherent characteristics of blockchain to their advantage. This includes the security conferred from the inability of any of the content to be altered once it has been validated and stored in a block, as well as the decentralised processing that facilitates collaboration and transparency.

Blockchain technology can extend beyond organisations to include partners, customers and supply chains, offering transparency and more opportunities for collaboration. The distributed ledger means that a single version of the document is used and can help ensure that everyone can see activity. Equal access is enjoyed by each party, so that there is a reduced chance of data being hidden or manipulated, as no one party has full control over the database. This will be a highly valuable system for many industries, not just finance.

The manufacturing industry is in a prime position to utilise blockchain technology to transform business models and processes. The digital transformation of this industry has historically lagged other sectors, but manufacturers are starting to realise the benefits that digitisation brings in terms of efficiency, productivity and agility. They are leveraging the data collected from devices and machinery to yield critical insights into current processes and production to make significant improvements and savings. This ultimately helps manufacturers provide a better service to customers and partners, allowing them to pull ahead of their competitors. The emergence of the ‘Outcome Economy’, will need manufacturers to shift from building products and parts with a volume focus, to creating valuable outcomes, and will rely on an ecosystem of partners and will really change business models across the industry. Blockchain could be an answer to facilitating this shift.

Incorporating blockchain technology will add another dimension to the ongoing digital transformation, as it will support efforts to break down internal siloes and aid collaboration across companies. In the future, manufacturers will move to a business model that allows them to improve their own cost effectiveness and agility. This is where blockchain can enable expensive machinery to become pay-per-use on the completion of value added work, therefore organisations can adapt quickly by avoiding the initial investment and large capital expense. The equipment providers will earn additional revenues through continuous use in the factories they have equipment deployed.

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Decoding robotic process automation (RPA)

Earlier this month, 20 senior-level professionals from Fortune 500 companies attended an interactive workshop event, hosted by SQS, at the prestigious Ned Hotel in London.

The event allowed a group of our SQS experts and the guests to come together and share ideas, answer questions, explore real-world examples, and gain a holistic understanding of Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

Attendees came to learn about how automating business processes using robots can lower costs, reduce time-on-task, and improve customer experiences for their businesses, regardless of the industry or market they operate within.

But what exactly is RPA?
RPA is a cutting-edge type technology, within clerical process automation, which allows software, known as ‘robots,’ to mimic any interactions a human may have with an existing system or application.

Basically, robots are built to remove employees from time-consuming, desk-based manual processes. This automation provides the business with an agile, scalable, and highly efficient digital workforce in place of humans.

A meeting of like minded innovators

The event was organised by Abigail Rogerson, Marketing Manager for the UK, and run by a talented team of specialists from within SQS, led by Melanie Byrne, Head of BA for SQS in Ireland.

Rebecca Keenan, our RPA Practice Lead, supported Melanie by giving in-depth presentations on the topic, as well as answering any questions from the practitioners in attendance throughout the day.

Attendees included leading organisations such as from LV=, Lloyds Banking Group, Haven Power, HSBC, Post-Office, Gazprom, Canada Life, UBS and more.

RPA is gathering huge interest in the current business landscape, but is still in its infancy when it comes to investment and widely accepted use cases, so people are very eager to learn more.

But SQS has already seen the value of RPA in practice for a number of its more forward-thinking clients. This technology is becoming more relevant than ever before, due to the growing volumes of data which must be analysed in any decision making process, and the difficulty of achieving that manually.

Sectors such as telecoms, law, investment and retail banking, and the insurance sector are already reaping the benefits of automating processes with robotics, in our experience. However, many more verticals are beginning to express similar interest in RPA, keen to be able to spot opportunities for processes which can benefit from automation. As a result, RPA is set to explode in the coming years, and these statistics only support that:

Currently, by the year 2024, the RPA market is projected to grow to reach a value of $8.75bn
And “69% of senior executives expect the meaning of the term ‘workforce’ to soon evolve into a combination of humans and intelligent machines.” (MarketForce)
The event was structured quite literally around the need to decode the concept of RPA for attendees, by following an agenda built to lead them through a clever acronym:

Discover Educate Change Operate Deliver Enhance

These six steps reflect the best practice for introducing robotics into an organisation, and will help anyone who intends to set off on an RPA journey.

These best practices will be explored in more detail in a follow up post, and covered at length in a forthcoming RPA report, so keep an eye open for more content coming soon.

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We are very excited to announce our acquisition of +Moorhouse Consulting. Diederik (Dik) Vos CEO of SQS says ‘"The acquisition of Moorhouse Consulting, an organisation which already has an outstanding and established reputation in the UK, gives us the capability to support companies’ urgent need to transform from strategy through to delivery, quickly responding to market changes without sacrificing quality.’
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To compete in a digital world, utilities must drive quality throughout the lifecycle

Perhaps when you’ve made as much money as Warren Buffett you can afford to prioritise a few things above profit. More likely, his financial success is a result of an acute understanding of what good business looks like. In a 2014 note [1] to colleagues, the US investor and philanthropist wrote: “We can afford to lose money – even a lot of money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation – even a shred of reputation.”

Reputation rests on how business treats its customers. Fail to satisfy the customer and reputation is soon lost. Buffett’s philosophy can be applied to most, if not all, businesses and all industry sectors. Consider, for example, the role of reputation in the utilities market.

Increasing competition, a need to drive down operational costs and the opportunity (and expectations) presented by digital means utility and energy companies can no longer simply pay lip service to the quality of their products and services. To deliver, utilities must increase business agility and drive quality right through the delivery lifecycle. Or to put it another way – they must bake quality assurance into how and what they build.

Let’s unpack the challenge and the opportunity in more detail.
Utilities has gone from a monopoly to a highly competitive market within a generation. There are now an ever increasing number of suppliers in the UK contesting the same consumer and corporate customers. Gone are the days when an incumbent supplier considered a quarterly meter reading and a bill through the post once a year as a decent approximation to good customer service.

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The approach of the automated age

The world is on the verge of a technological revolution and almost every company is facing the most extreme disruption of its history with digital transformation. Today’s customer experience and security requirements are more complex than ever and the role of automation is at the heart of the solutions that technology is offering to drive competitive differentiation, innovation and market leadership.

The success of a company in this digital era is often dictated by the ability to adapt to the changing needs of its customers and deliver effective solutions. The recent migration towards digital offerings has placed pressure on IT departments to get their systems up-to-speed with their competitors, meet the needs of regulators and meet the fast changing consumer demands. However, updating legacy systems or acquiring new software can pose lead to potential issues of quality, security and data integrity. The failure to consider a comprehensive quality assurance strategy that underpins digital transformation can expose vulnerabilities whilst directly affecting the bottom line of a business.

With the recent explosion in data protection, especially personal data from customers and employees, ensuring the security and accessibility of IT systems is now business critical and therefore quality assurance has emerged as one of the cornerstones of digital transformation success. Imagine loading sensitive data onto an application of questionable security or performance: to most people this would ring alarm bells but it is exactly what a large proportion of businesses are doing when they fail to consider the importance of testing the robustness of their technology architecture.

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Automotive CxOs: Thinking S/4 HANA Migration? Think First About Assessing Risk

According to SAP, S/4 HANA migration is the fastest upgrade cycle in their history. Just over one third of its customers have concrete plans to migrate to S/4 HANA and another third are currently discussing it. A majority of customers are convinced about its benefits and the automotive industry appears to be no exception.

However, fear of business disruption is one of the biggest challenges and prohibitors of adoption for auto industry executives. For example, with four layers of SAP architecture that impact the business for more than the popular cloud version of S/4 HANA, there will inevitably be a multitude of changes that can profoundly impact business processes during migration to the SAP S/4 HANA solution.

Regardless of industry, CxOs and SAP leaders must understand the role and importance of impact assessment and QA testing in order to minimize disruption during and immediately after S/4 HANA migration. If your company is embarking on a minor EhP upgrade or a full S/4 HANA major migration or re-implementation of S/4 HANA, keep in mind that staying ahead of disruption requires proactive planning, communication and collaboration.

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What Digital Transformation means to the Developing World

If you have access to this post then most likely you are living in the developed world, are digitally connected and are economically active. For those of us lucky enough to be in this position, when we think about digital transformation, we can probably distill it down to being about mass customization – selling to the “market of one”.

Modern business development is driven by data, so it follows that the more data-driven a business can be, the more they are ripe for disruption by the likes of a Google or Facebook, for example, who have vast amounts of data on us. In a natural follow-on from the financial sector, insurance is a key area for such disruptors to gain a foothold.

They are the keepers and the scientists of our digital DNA. They can mine this deep, wide and highly granular information to provide a specific insurance premium, uniquely tailored for each individual based on their actual data, without basing calculations on industry averages.

If you look at any number of examples such as retail, or banking and financial services, digital transformation is allowing corporations, suppliers and institutions to create a mass-customised service, but of course only to the connected world.

Those of us that are at the leading-edge of technology only make up a small percentage of the global population while a great number of the world’s population do not have the luxury of such recent advances. However, this is changing with 46% of the global population having internet access in 2016, 28% owning a smartphone and a further 37% having a regular mobile phone.

So how can digital transformation also be meaningful for those in the developing world that don’t have access to disposable income and technology?

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Embracing DevOps Takes Nerve: 5 Tips for Making the Transition

Sometimes a new way of working grows out of the lower ranks of an organization. Sometimes a new approach can spread organically, catching on with little direction or formalization. Transitioning to DevOps, however, cannot work this way. My experience in building IT teams and strategies has shown me that DevOps will not succeed without robust executive team oversight and engagement. It may not be what you want to hear, but DevOps is an approach that has to be boldly pushed from the top (I am looking at you CIOs) down. Dabbling in DevOps is not going to get an IT organization anywhere.

For interested CIOs (and peers of similar title and remit), I offer up the following five DevOps transition tips. Together they offer a high-level road map designed to help you lead this change with both rigor and the precision to make it stick.

#1 Choose Your Starting Place with Care
While DevOps may use development and operations in its name, it does not mean the DevOps program should grow out of either of these two groups. The right starting point for DevOps is where the strongest automation capabilities currently exist within the organization. That could be in quality assurance (QA), release or configuration management or it could be in development or operations. The key to finding the best starting place is to identify where automation is succeeding and where automation processes, skills and results are most advanced and effective. When you have identified that group in the organization, you have your starting point.

The only thing left to do is choose your starting application or system. My advice is to always begin your DevOps approach with the most complex and far-reaching application or system. Many leaders prefer to choose a much smaller place to start, a little used app or tool, in order to reduce risk to business performance. That cautious approach limits the visibility and impact of DevOps and risks its ability to win new supporters. If team members do not feel the improvements and see the benefits of DevOps, why would they be persuaded to embrace it? Instead, make a bolder, bigger choice that requires the best performance from those leading the transition and provides the best opportunity to showcase the many business benefits of DevOps.

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Estimation and risky shift

Estimating a project may well make it more risky, not less so.
Suppose you need to estimate the height of the Empire States Building, how would you go about this?
You might start with the height of the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, which stands at 2717 feet (828m) and adjust your estimate downwards. Alternately, you might start with the Chrysler Building, which was the world’s tallest tower until beaten by the Empire State Building. In this case, you would start with an initial value of 1046 feet (318.9m) and adjust upwards.
In both cases, this initial value influences your final estimate. This value is known as an anchor and the influence it exerts was named the anchoring effect by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.
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