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Combining Strategies with Digital Technologies

Fingerspitzengefühl: A German word used to describe the ability to maintain attention to detail in an ever-changing operational and tactical environment by maintaining real-time situational awareness. The term is synonymous with the English expression of "keeping one's finger on the pulse".  The problem with fingerspitzengefühl traditionally, in addition to pronouncing it, has been it is hard for an individual to scale up. Today that is changing.  In a world of sensors, AI and mobile devices, having real-time situational awareness is far easier than ever before.  In fact, today the challenge is not how to do it, but what to do with the massive volume of data that can be provided.

Data comes from many different sources, especially considering field services where work is often mobile, remote and dynamic.  If more data can be captured and added to a typical GPS coordinate (i.e. longitude, latitude and altitude) which is 3D and identifies location, then why stop at a 3D view of our situation when we can add so much more:

  1. Arrival Time
  2. Start and stop tasks times
  3. Travel times
  4. Traffic conditions
  5. Available workforces and associated costs
  6. Available equipment
  7. Activities
  8. Events
  9. Business process steps
  10. Expenses
  11. Health, safety and security steps
  12. Transactions
  13. Compliance tasks
  14. Performances against KPIs (key performance indicators)
  15. Actors (customers, partners, suppliers, contractors, employees, etc.)
  16. Relationships
  17. Contract/Agreements
  18. Supplies, materials and equipment tracking
  19. Projected profits now for this service
  20. Projected profits over the lifetime of the customer for this service
  21. Etc.

All of these data points can be added together into an algorithm as Performance Impact Variables (PIVs).  PIVs is the information that can be used as inputs to algorithms that can be used by real-time artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to optimize and manage the performance of the business in real-time.

Each of these layers of information exponentially increase the complexity, decision-making options and possible combinations.  This enormous volume of real-time data would quickly overwhelm the average human.  That is why non-humans, AI and software robots, can be used to such great effect to maintain productive situational awareness and strategic advantages in complex environments demanding real-time, fast and logical decision-making and action.  This is the future of field services.

Now let's continue to build on our strategies.  During the period between WWI and WWII, all Western countries developed or acquired tanks and military aircraft to support their infantry.  The Germans, however, went three steps further by adding:

  1. New Communications: Radios and frequencies for communicating between forces (tanks, infantry and aircraft) in real-time
  2. New Strategies: Strategies for coordinated actions between the three groups
  3. New Organizational Command Structures: Mission oriented command structures - Commanders define the mission "intent", but the details of how to accomplish them were left to frontline officers.

In today's world, companies seeking strategic advantages in field services operations can learn from these three historical innovations. The digital transformation equivalent of "New Communications" is OILS (optimized information logistics systems) that sense, collect, securely and wirelessly transmit data, analyze and report on it, and support artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.

The digital transformation equivalent of "New Strategies" is the ability to think differently to exploit the values provided by digital technologies.  Sensors and mobile technologies enable us to collect vast quantities of real-time data, analytics, AI and algorithms can be used to automatically and dynamically manage, monitor and adjust a whole series of activities and events such as: schedules, resources, tasks, jobs, orders, transactions, etc., instantly.  Are we using them?

The digital transformation equivalent of "New Organizational Command Structures" is changing roles and responsibilities based on what humans do best, and what automation and the power of AI can bring to the table.

When massive amounts of real-time data are systematically collected and analyzed, they can feed algorithms and AI systems to optimize real-time activities and events and change the way the business operates.  The speed at which data can be processed through OILS and AI systems today far exceeds human decision-making capabilities - so automation that works in digital-time is required. That is where AI excels.  AI can analyze all the inbound data in nanoseconds and instantly adjust and optimize operations.

Digital technologies without digital strategies are wasted, just like having tanks without the appropriate communications, strategies and command structures to accompany them.  Or like having tanks, mobile infantry and aircraft, but no coherent plan for using them together in combined actions. In my recent report, 40 Months of Hyper-Digital Transformation, digital laggards were found lacking in their return on investments (ROIs) when compared to digital leaders.  The differences, I believe, were in their lack of strategies, and combinatorial building blocks.

In the book, Stray Voltage, War in the Information Age, published in 2003, author Wayne Michael Hall defines two more PIVs - cyberspace and cerebral that we need to pay attention to. Here is an excerpt, "Information superiority is firmly connected to making decisions that are superior to an adversary's and combines information technology and intellectual power to create conditions with which to make better decisions...human beings will need to improve their thinking capabilities to cope with the increasing complexities of the world." Improvements in our thinking capabilities today can be found in the computing power and speed of artificial intelligence, big data analytics and machine learning.

Visit the Center for Digital Intelligence's website at C4DIGI.com.

More Stories By Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict is an opinionated futurist, Principal Analyst at the Center for Digital Intelligence™, C4DIGI.com, emerging technologies analyst, and digital transformation and business strategy consultant. In the past 8 years he has taught workshops for large enterprises and government agencies in 18 different countries, and is a keynote speaker at conferences worldwide. He spent nearly 5 years working as a Senior Analyst at Cognizant (CTSH), and 2 years serving in Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work where he wrote many reports, hundreds of articles, interviewed technology experts, and produced videos on the future of digital technologies and their impact on industries. He has written articles published in The Guardian, wrote the Forward to SAP Press' book titled "Mobilizing Your Enterprise with SAP", published over 3,000 articles and was featured as thought leader and digital strategist in the Department of Defense's IQT intelligence journal. Kevin lectures and leads workshops, teaches and consults with companies and government agencies around the world to help develop digital transformation and business strategies. Visit his website at C4DIGI.com.

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