Archive for Business

How Much Code Does It Take?

How Much Code Does It Take?David McCandless from Information is Beautiful tries to answer the question how many millions of lines of code does it take to? For reference, the Visual Capitalist calculates that a million lines of code (MLOC), if printed, would be about 18,000 pages of text. That’s 14x the length of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The total lines of code to run systems varies widely as Mr. McCandless shows in the infographic.

  • pages of textIt took less than a million lines of code to run the NASA Space Shuttle.
    • It takes less than 5 million lines of code to run the Mars Rover Curiosity.
    • The latest version of the Firefox web browser includes just under 10 million lines of code.
    General Motors’ (GM) Chevy Volt requires just over 10 million lines of code.
    Microsoft (MSFT) Office 2008 for the Apple (AAPL) Mac consists of over 35 million lines of code
    • And it took 50 million lines of code to bring us Microsoft Vista.
    • Finally, all Google (GOOG) services combine for a whopping 2 billion lines – that means it would take 36 million pages to “print out” all of the code behind all Google services. That would be a stack of paper 2.2 miles high!
Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for a while and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Chatbots Are Evolving

Chatbots Are EvolvingThe momentum behind chatbots is growing. American Banker reports that major banks are actively experimenting with chatbots. Chatbots is short for chat robot, a computer program that simulates human conversation, or chat, through artificial intelligence. Typically, a chatbot will communicate with a real person, but applications are being developed in which two chatbots can communicate with each other. Chatbots are used in applications such as ecommerce customer service and call centers.

Banks trying to decide how to use chatbots Banks trying to decide how to use chatbots include: Ally, BBVA, Bank of America, Barclays, Capital One, Societe Generale, and USAA.  A survey conducted by Personetics found that 87% of bankers say they plan to do something with chatbots by 2020.

Penny Crosman, the author reports that a growing numberof vendors are offering prefab chatbots that have been trained with documents, data and conversations about financial products and topics. Some are intended to replicate the interaction with a human, while others are styled more like workhorses. The author describes four types of chatbots being used today.

AI as the simulation of human intelligence processes by machinesThe conversationalistKai is the Chatbot from Kasisto. Kasisto is a spinoff of the research lab SRI International. SRI developed the first public Artificial Intelligence (AI) Siri, which Apple purchased in 2010 for use in the iPhone.

SearchCIO defines AI as the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. These processes include learning, reasoning, and self-correction. Particular applications of AI include expert systems, speech recognition and machine vision.

Siri knows a lot — it’s very broad but very shallow,” Zor Gorelov, CEO and co-founder of Kasisto. A group of SRI researchers realized a financial services chatbot would have to be narrow and deep and started working on one. Around 2009, the group was approached by BBVA, which was seeking human-like interactions from a chatbot, and the two organizations partnered to create a virtual banking assistant. Mr. Gorelov said the SRI researchers “interviewed people across the banking universe at BBVA … transcribed tens of thousands of calls.”

KasistoA staff of full-time writers called “artificial intelligence interaction designers” produces dialogues for Kai. American Banker say they also constantly monitor behavior and user interactions. General banking knowledge has also been embedded. “You can ask Kai questions about CDs, IRAs, credit scores — it’s the smartest banker you can imagine from a customer onboarding point of view: how do I open an account, what document do I need?” Kasisto’s Gorelov says there are 10 to 11 messages exchanged between Kai and users during an average session,

The article noted that Kai is used by digibank, a mobile-only bank launched in India by DBS Bank in Singapore, and it’s being piloted by Royal Bank of Canada.

chatbot technology has been fed financial services information for five yearsThe DoerPersonetics has built a library of customer insights for its chatbots. The chatbot technology has been fed financial services information for five years and fueled with unsupervised and supervised machine learning, natural language understanding, logic inference, and associative knowledge according to AB.

While other chatbots might aim to simulate a real conversation, Personetics tries to make it clear the customer is not dealing with a human to avoid potential confusion.

PersoneticsEran Livneh, vice president of Personetics explained the chatbot is akin to an employee who understands banking and serving customers really well. The chatbots can walk customers through steps, provide predictive messages and behavior insights, and automatically perform tasks like money management.

So though they can “chat” with customers, they’re primarily designed to actually do things for them. Personetics chatbots are used by Ally Bank and Societe Generale.

North Side chatbot, VerbalAccessThe linguist – Montreal based a software company North Side, specializes in giving its chatbot, VerbalAccess, a precise understanding of language, whether spoken or typed, through natural language processing technology.

The article notes that North Side didn’t start out in banking. Originally it created a video game that lets players communicate with characters. “That’s how we made our natural language understanding pipeline robust,” said Eugene Joseph, North Side’s CEO.

North Side doesn’t try to glean insights from analyzing customer behavior. Instead, it takes commands and acts on them, such making a payment or displaying a transaction.  If a user asks, “What have I spent on coffee in the last month?” North Side’s chatbot will understand the question and translate it to an API call that will extract the answer automatically. It would make the same calls that might be made by a mobile banking app or online banking site, but with the added ability to translate from the imprecise way a human might ask something to language the software can understand..

The chatbot is trained to clarify users’ questions. “If what is said is incomplete, it will elicit the missing information,” Mr.Joseph said. “That’s very important because people speak in an incomplete way. We know what to ask for.”

Teller chatbotThe Teller – Sidharth Garg began working on his chatbot, Teller, while at Columbia Business School. He told AB,I wanted to use the recent advances in natural language processing and the opening of messaging platforms to help people learn the basics of personal finance.

To feed Teller the information to answer customers’ questions, he went through blogs and personal finance books, attempting to answer every general personal finance question he could think of. Mr. Garg explained goal was to make retirement options easy to understand. He “…put together Buzzfeed-style graphics that explain the different types of retirement accounts into something someone could understand on their mobile device.

He decided to focus on the business-to-consumer market. “People are more inclined to chat with a banking assistant that comes from an institution they already trust,” Mr. Garg told the author. “They already have a captive audience of customers and they would also allow for easy integration with their bank accounts.

Recently, he’s been running a pilot program with Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union that has provided additional real-world data to train the chatbot. For now the bot is answering only the most general questions for the credit union’s customers. Eventually, the plan is to integrate the chatbot with the credit union’s back-end system, to let it answer questions specific to customers’ accounts.

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I have written about chatbots a couple of times on the Bach Seat. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and even Pizza Hut are experimenting with bot-to-human interactions.  Chatbots will get smarter as more people keep using them, and as developers perfect the tools to turn the software into what people want and need. Like Personetics’ Livneh said, “Customers generally like things that help them with the day-to-day activities.”  Chatbots will also cost jobs.

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Blockchain Basics

Blockchain BasicsThis is the season for predictions. Many tech prognosticators say that 2017 will be the year for Blockchain. As an emerging technology, Blockchain is approaching what Gartner (IT) calls the Peak of Inflated Expectations – a period the analyst refers to as “when early publicity produces a number of success stories — often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.”

BlockchainJust to prove the point, Business Insider claims blockchain has the capability to transform the world of digital banking and finance — and beyond. The author suggests that the complex technical nature of blockchain makes it difficult for people to fully grasp how the technology works. BI helps blockchain novices understand exactly what blockchain is and how it works.

Blockchain is a distributed database or ledger that allows companies to initiate trade digitally without the need for approval from a central authority. Because blockchains are distributed, an industry or a marketplace can use them without the risk of a single point of failure.

Blockchain ledgerThe ledger is the central part of a blockchain. The ledger is publicly available and shared among all parties within the network. It can’t be changed or tampered with, making it secure. The ledger keeps track of all the details of a transaction, including time, date, parties involved and the transaction amount.

The article examines how the most common blockchain application, a bitcoin transaction, works.

  1. Alice decides to buy bobbles from Bob’s Bead Boutique online.
  2. Bob’s Bead Boutique accepts bitcoin.
  3. Alice has a 3rd party bitcoin wallet set up to hold her digital funds.
  4. Bob at Bob’s Bead Boutique shares his unique numerical bitcoin address with Alice.
  5. Alice makes her payment to Bob’s Bead Boutique by signing it with her private key of her own address. The transaction is called a block.
  6. The block is broadcast to everyone within the peer-to-peer network.
  7. Users who verify the buyers block via a process called “mining” will be rewarded with bitcoins.
  8. To verify and validate the block, miners take information from the block and run it though an algorithm.
    The approved block is attached to the previous transaction in the network.
  9. Collectively all the transactions form a blockchain which cannot be altered making it permanent and transparent
  10. The transaction is verified and completed.

disruptive technologyBI claims that the most important aspect of blockchain is its versatility. The author claims that the disruptive technology has implications far beyond bitcoin. The article points out there are more than 100 blockchain projects spread across many different industries. Here are some industries blockchain could disrupt.

Banking and Financial Services – Blockchains is more secure and efficient so financial processes powered by blockchain could save banks up to $20 billion dollars annually by 2022.

Healtcare – Blockchains could allow patients to securely share their health records across a vast network of healthcare providers more securely. Preventing many of the recent healthcare data breaches.

Music –  Blockchain could potentially be used to help prevent piracy in music while also increasing sales.

Insurance – Blockchain could allow wholesale insurers to overcome complex transactions that involve a large number of participants and increase efficiency in areas like documentation and claims management.

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The Brookings Institute correctly argues that Blockchain is a foundational technology, like TCP/IP, which enables the Internet. And much like the Internet in the late 1990s, we don’t know exactly how the Blockchain will evolve, but evolve it will.

Blockchain is a foundational technologySimilar to the Internet, the Blockchain must also be allowed to grow unencumbered. This will need careful handling that recognizes the difference between the platform and the applications that run on it. TCP/IP empowers many financial applications that are regulated, but TCP/IP is not regulated as a financial instrument.

Disruptive technologies rarely fit neatly into existing regulatory considerations, but rigid regulatory frameworks have repeatedly stifled innovation.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

IT Pros Stressed Out This Holiday

IT Pros Stressed Out This HolidayIt’s the holidays and nearly one-third (29%) of IT Pro’s will be too busy to take time off according to unified security management vendor AlienVault. Infosecurity Magazine reports that industry skills shortages will have a major impact on IT professionals this Christmas.

AlienVaultThe AlienVault study polled over 400 IT pros to better understand their workplace stresses. The firm found that half of those that can afford to take time off this festive period will spend it worrying about work.

Other factors adding to IT Pro’s holiday stress included:

  • 53% said they thought their colleagues are overworked and overstretched,
  • 41% claimed to have had unfilled vacancies in their teams for a month or more in 2016.

AlienVault security advocate, Javvad Malik, argued that shortages are not always down to a lack of available talent in the jobs market. He told Infosecurity:

On the other side of the coin is the willingness of companies to invest into more staff … Particularly in small, but growing companies where we often see a company’s infrastructure may grow rapidly, yet the IT team doesn’t scale at the same rate.

Data breachAnother reason leading to holiday workplace stress cited in the article are data breaches. Almost a quarter (21%) of respondents said that when a security breach happens the IT teams are blamed. The author speculates that might explain why 14% said that would cover up a breach and not report it, as long as it didn’t involve regulated data.

IT teams are also increasingly ready to turn a blind eye to users bypassing security controls if it makes their job easier in the short-term.

AlienVault’s Malik explained that there could be several reasons why some IT staff turn a blind eye to employees bypassing these controls. He told Infosecurity:

It could very well be because controls may Working on Christmasbe too rigorous in the first place. Sometimes this is as a result of controls being implemented by those unfamiliar with the day to day operations, or even because of compliance regulations. In smaller companies, it is sometimes because of agreements they may have in place with larger companies who dictate stringent security controls as a condition of business.

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Stop Having These Meetings

Stop Having These MeetingsFollowers of the Bach Seat know that passwords suck. As a Project Manager, something that also sucks are bad meetings. Meetings that don’t have an agenda or a goal or a purpose will suck the motivation out of people coming to the meeting. In the interest of having fewer sucky meetings here are some meetings your team will thank you for eliminating or fixing.

The Monday Morning Staff MeetingsThe Monday Morning Staff Meetings – The problem with this meeting is that no one is ever ready for it. After all, it’s 8:00 a.m. on Monday morning—nothing has happened yet and whatever happened last week is mostly ancient history. The second problem with this meeting is that for anyone to be ready, they have to work Sunday night which is fine on occasion, but guaranteed to earn you some serious votes for “jerk of the year” from employees and the family members of employees. For a while I worked for an insomniac boss who would fire off emails off at 2:00AM on Sunday. She would expect answers at 8:00AM meetings. It was a happy day when she moved on.

A third problem with this meeting is that stuff happens on the weekends. And stuff needs to be addressed, especially in IT. Did you change your tapes? Did you check your logs? Did you walk your data center? Are there warning lights? How many tickets are there? Who has time for a meeting? The solution: if you must run a team meeting on Monday, push it to later in the morning or early in the afternoon. Better yet, push it to Tuesday morning.

The Round-the-Table Status Meeting The Round-the-Table Status Meeting We have all been there. It’s the meeting where focus moves around the room and everybody shares their latest updates, sagas, fantasies and dreams. Sit in the wrong place and you end up as the 19th person to offer an update to a group whose bladders are over-strained and brains numb from the politically oriented updates emanating from the mouths of colleagues in far-away functions.

The solution: meet if you must, but set some rules on the updates. Ask people to focus on important news that impacts everyone or to challenges that need help from across functions. Do anything to limit the painful march of gratuitous and self-serving status updates that undisciplined round-the-table meetings generate.

Recurring Meetings that Have Lost Their PurposeRecurring Meetings that Have Lost Their Purpose – Any recurring meeting where no one can remember why this meeting still takes place is a candidate for immediate elimination. The laws of physics transfer to meetings and a meeting on the schedule tends to stay on the schedule long after it has used up its usefulness in the workplace.

The solution: review all the recurring meetings that you subject your team to or that you are a participant in, and drop them from your life and the lives of your team members. If you are not the host of the meeting, tell the host of your intention and of your perspective on the utility of the meeting. If you are the host/sponsor, poll team members and give them a voice and a vote. A bit of draconian slicing of recurring meetings opens up valuable time for other more important activities.

Group Word-smithing MeetingsWordsmithing Meetings – This is any meeting where you pull together a group of people to work on the wording for something: a vision, a mission, a strategy statement, a scope statement in project management. The output of these sessions is typically a series of awkwardly constructed sentences reflecting compromises on the part of the person-in-charge. No one in the room agrees with the final product, but everyone nods their heads in assent as soon as the wording moves beyond ridiculous to just awful in trying to make the pain go away.

The solution: never relegate rough wording of anything to a committee. Take a stab at the item in question yourself, bounce it off a few colleagues and when you approach something that is beginning to work for you, very carefully ask for comments from a group. Ask clarifying questions, take great notes and then disappear and redraft the statement(s), repeating the process as necessary.

Death by PowerPointDeath by PowerPoint is a phenomenon that can make any meeting suck. The poor use of presentation software causes Death by PowerPoint (DBPP) according to TargetTech. Key contributors to DBPP include confusing graphics, slides with too much text and presenters whose idea of a good presentation is to read 40 slides out loud.

When an audience remains emotionally disconnected from the presentation, there is a good chance that the speaker has either not spent enough time and effort thinking about which key points he wants the audience to take away — or he has spent entirely too much time and effort setting up the presentation in PowerPoint. DBPP can be avoided if the speaker uses the technology as a visual aid to enhance what is being said, instead of relying on the technology to serve as the focus of the presentation. Don McMillan demonstrates what not to do with PowerPoint in his video “Life after Death by PowerPoint.”

Meetings are opportunities ripe for overuse and even abuse. Strive to be the manager that respects the power and importance of meetings. Use these forums to focus on key issues and solicit ideas. To keep your meetings constructive you need to start with respect.

Respect the time that everyone puts into the sessions. Start your meetings on time. If your meeting starts on time there are fewer chances to derail other productivity throughout the day. Starting on time also helps you to end on time. This is crucial, because once the time slot for the meeting is over, employees will start to mentally check out whether you’ve made it through the agenda.

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Bad meetings suck so much that the Project Management Institute (PMI) added a section to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) on meetings. that right – In version 5 of the PMBOK Integration Knowledge Area, there are four processes that have “Meetings” as a Tool & Techniques.

  • 4.3 Direct and Manage Project Work
  • 4.4 Monitor and Control Project Work
  • 4.5 Perform Integrated Change Control
  • 4.6 Close Project or Phase

Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.