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AWS re:Invent 2017 - Tales From The Future Of Cloud

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In the weeks leading to the AWS re:Invent 2017, we have seen many speculations about the nature of the announcements that Amazon would do during its annual event. The first few days have maintained, if not exceeded, the expectations.

There is a constant element behind all the news emerging about Amazon's Cloud: a significant shift towards the 'applications' side of the technology. Follow us as we unveil the future of Amazon Web Services and the entire Cloud world.

The general trend sees Amazon more and more focused on providing companies with technologies that increase the engagement and improve the customer experience. From this point of view, we could even dare to say that AWS is becoming more ‘customer-centric’.

This broader trend translates into a specific attention to the technologies that affect the customer behaviors online and offline (and are affected by them in return). It is easy to see that video content and AR, VR, and mixed reality have taken the center stage in the last couple of years.

Many companies are trying to take advantage of the potential of these immersive technologies, which so far have proved to be too complex and expensive for general use. The great players - Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and now Amazon - are trying to close this gap, providing affordable tools (in terms of costs and complexity) available for a broader audience.

AWS Elemental MediaConvert is the way Amazon wants to capitalize on the obsession that both customers and Brands have for video contents. The new suite, formed largely on the back of the acquisition of Elemental Technologies in 2015, is a file-based video transcoding service with broadcast-grade features:

It allows you to easily create video-on-demand (VOD) content for broadcast and multiscreen delivery at scale. The service combines advanced video and audio capabilities with a simple web services interface and pay-as-you-go pricing. With AWS Elemental MediaConvert, you can focus on delivering compelling media experiences without having to worry about the complexity of building and operating your own video processing infrastructure.

While we do not have more than the announcement right now - even though Elemental has been around for a while - there is a major strength in the proposition: the ability to create high-quality, end-to-end video processing workflows in the cloud without upfront investment for video processing infrastructure (you pay based on the duration of video that is processed and the features you use).

If you read the description carefully, you will see how Amazon is now “into competition to some extent with the likes of Google’s YouTube and its efforts to work with media companies and other creators to build and host live streams and ad-based videos. Interesting timing, given all the negative press YouTube has had over the kind of content that it’s been hosting over the years.” (TechCrunch)

The second product launched at the AWS re:Invent 2017 - this one entirely new - is called Amazon Sumerian and is, in some extent, a straightforward response to the announcements made by Mark Zuckerberg during the last Facebook’s F8 event. The topic is, of course, virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality.

Amazon Sumerian lets you create highly immersive and interactive scenes on VR, AR, and 3D applications without requiring any specialized programming or 3D graphics expertise. The scenes can then run on different hardware - Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and iOS mobile devices, while the support for Android ARCore will come soon. All this starting from the libraries of pre-built objects that make the creation effortless and less expensive.

If you look at the bigger picture, it is easy to understand where Amazon is heading: In a world where the new wave of technology has a lot of time-consuming processes behind it, Amazon aims at becoming the one who can modernize and simplify that — thereby becoming the default platform for creating applications on that new tech. Elemental and Sumerian score two points. And now the ball goes to the opponents.

For a deeper coverage live from the AWS re:Invent, you can also follow Luca Bianchi, CTO of Neosperience, on Medium.

Download The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty to define the foundations on which to build your engagement and loyalty strategy, create innovative experiences and establish a lasting and valuable relationship with your customers.

The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty

Topics: aws developers development customer engagement Innovation

Soft Skills are the New Core Skills - and Technology Can Hire Them

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Mark Murphy, the author of Hiring For Attitude, leadership trainer and CEO of Leadership IQ, has trained companies like Microsoft and IBM. In one of his research he tracked 20,000 new hires, and found that 46% of them failed within 18 months.

Even more shocking than the failure rate was the fact that 89% of the time it happened for attitudinal problems towards work and colleagues, and only 11% for lack of expertise. The attitudinal deficits included low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation, and temperament.

In today's fluid and interpersonal workplaces, skills such listening and learning from criticism, collaborating with others, working under pressure, presenting ideas effectively, and a having a positive, flexible attitude become all vital qualities for career success.

And while studying takes us on a path towards acquiring those hard, technical skills that we need to manage our job operationally, soft skills have little to do with knowledge or expertise. They are closely linked with our character.

As a combination of social competences, communication abilities, and emotional intelligence, soft skills are the spearhead of our inner nature and a direct result of our personal inclinations, which can strengthen or weaken them.

Some personality traits, in particular, have proven to be strong predictors of career success, leading to superior performances in general people’s working lives and within different jobs.  

Let’s look at two important - yet not so well-known - personality traits: Internal Locus of Control, the key to success in any work environment; Need for Closure, which can have a different impact in various job functions.

Locus of Control

Locus of Control is our tendency to believe that 'control' resides internally within us, or externally, with others or the situation.

Individuals with an internal Locus of Control (called "internals") feel that they are in charge of their life and have primary responsibility for their actions, whether they are successes or failures.

Individuals with an external Locus of Control (called "externals") tend to feel more vulnerable and view themselves as victims of circumstances, fate, luck, and the influence of other people. They are more likely to make excuses or blame other people, events, or things, rather than taking responsibilities.

Having an internal Locus of Control is a source of energy, motivation, and confidence, which represents an advantage at all levels within an organization in many areas and situations. For example:

Effective Leadership. An "internal" leader is more likely to be favored by group members. One reason is that "internals" are perceived as more influential than "externals" because they take responsibility for events, emphasizing that they can change unfavorable conditions.

Taking the Initiative. Effective managers demonstrate a strong self-efficacy and an internal Locus of Control when they take steps to circumvent obstacles, actively seek information to solve problems, and usually initiate action, rather than waiting for things to happen.

Occupational Well-being. Amongst other things, Locus of Control is found to be a strong predictor of occupational health, and 'internal' employees show higher levels of job satisfaction and lower levels of job insecurity.

Need for Closure

Need for Closure (NFC) describes people's desire for a firm answer to a question or an issue and an aversion toward ambiguity.  

A person with a high NFC prefers order and predictability and, in uncertain situations, tends to seek closure urgently. In contrast, a person with a low NFC tends to tolerate more, or even to look for the fluidity of uncertain situations.

In business and management, this personality trait has significant implications. For example:

Decision Making. Employees' level of NFC can serve as a useful criterion to select decision makers in organizations, by identifying the decision-making style that fits better with a job function. People with a high NFC prefer to think about black-or-white solutions and simplified dichotomization. They are more willing to make instant decisions, whereas people with a low need for closure prefer to postpone decisions and carry out a more in-depth evaluation, even if it takes extra time.

Leadership Behavior. Experimental findings have highlighted that individual differences in the desire to reduce uncertainty affect people's leadership style. For example, supervisors that are high on NFC tend to show an autocratic leadership and a preference for 'hard power' tactics of social influence, whereas 'soft power' tactics are those that managers with a low NFC value most.

Coping with Change. Because of their desire for stability and permanence, people with a high NFC feel uncomfortable with change. They are also more resistant to changing their minds and yielding to persuasion attempts. For example, high NFC levels are associated with political conservatism, an ideology whose core definition involves resistance to change.

Personality assessments have always been a common practice amongst large companies, to identify peoples' strengths and weaknesses and help HR managers decide whether or not an employee is a good organizational fit. To this end, traditional paper-based and web-based questionnaires are still today the primary tool used by companies.

Technology, however, is changing the face of the HR world by progressively, but rapidly, automating processes on previously unimaginable scales. Today's softwares can do much more than grade multiple-choice questions to measure people's technical skills.

With natural language processing and machine learning algorithms analyzing things like keywords, intonation, and body language, it becomes possible to capture more intangible human qualities. This data can then be used to create a psychological profile that allows HR managers to predict whether a person's attitudes fit with the company’s culture, values, and desired behaviors.

For the past year, the consumer-goods giant Unilever - for which about 170,000 employees work worldwide - has been using artificial intelligence to screen all its entry-level employees, and neuroscience-based games to measure their inherent traits. The company needed to renew itself, and transforming new talent recruitment by digitizing the first steps of the hiring process was a great way to do so, says Mike Clementi, VP of human resources for North America.

More and more, it has become clear that Artificial Intelligence not only improves the work processes of employees by automating time-consuming daily tasks; it is revolutionizing the HR world at all stages. Let’s look at some of them:

Hiring Process. By scanning resumes, machine learning algorithms can do initial screenings to identify the best candidates, eliminate unqualified prospects, and then create shortlists that can be organized based on specific skills, keywords or employment history.  

Training Methods. By recording how an employee is responding to an ongoing training program, AI can help HR managers to better tailor future training sessions to each worker.

Performance Evaluation. By analyzing productivity data, AI can help to measure how well an employee is performing, thus becoming a supplemental tool to management decisions.

Turnover Prediction. By analyzing employee engagement data, gathered from quantitative surveys or qualitative methods, AI can determine an employee’s level of commitment or satisfaction, and better predict if he or she is at risk of leaving. That allows HR managers to decide whether to adopt some backup retention measures or provide new growth opportunities.

There have been great strides in the HR world, since technology was usually seen simply as a tool to streamline technical procedures. A turning point comes when AI applications are increasingly expanding from specific standardized, low cognitive demand tasks, to typically human jobs, such as discovering the human side of employees, from their temporary feelings and emotions to their stable personality traits.   

We cannot predict the future of HR with a 100 percent certainty, but what we can see is undoubtedly a world where technology will embrace more and more the human side of people.

Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

Download The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty to define the foundations on which to build your engagement and loyalty strategy, create innovative experiences and establish a lasting and valuable relationship with your customers.

The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty

Topics: Artificial Intelligence Human Capital Management Employee Engagement Machine Learning psychographics