Guest-blog: Patrick Bailey – Diversification vs. focus-driven

Patrick Bailey

Adversity of any magnitude should make us stronger and fill us with life’s wisdom, however, strength in any form is born from adversity – I wrote ‘Freedom after the Sharks’ from adversity and set up a business in the double-dip of 2008 and 2009, many people have done the same and it is almost a universal theme in the lives of many of the world’s most eminent minds.

As Michelle Obama once said:
‘You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.’

Determination, resilience, and persistence are the enabler for people to push past their adversities and prevail.
Overcoming adversity is one of our main challenges in life.
When we resolve to confront and overcome it, we become expert at dealing with it and consequently triumph over our day-to-day struggles.

Have you ever felt that your world is starting to fall apart because of how life tends to bombard you with seemingly impossible challenges?
Have you ever felt helpless and would rather spend your days feeling like a solitary zombie while the rest of the world doesn’t even care that you’re this close to almost losing your sanity?
Well, you’re not alone and the good news is, there are ways to properly deal with and overcome these obstacles.

Reality has a way of reminding us that no matter how hard you try and how good you treat people, you will always have those days, those times when you think the world is against you. During these moments, you often have the urge to either shut down or finally give up and think of the most foolish remedies available to you – both can have long-term damaging effects on you, emotionally and physically.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Patrick Bailey, who is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery.

He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoys writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. His website is: www.patrickbaileys.com

Patrick is going to discuss with us today “Diversification vs. Focus-Driven”

When the Tough gets going, remember this motto: ‘Hibernation is not Survival’

There’s a prevailing rule in a bear market, and that is to play dead when the stock prices are plunging.

After all, the market almost always corrects itself. Stocks operate on a cycle — sometimes up, sometimes down — except, of course, in cases when the economy is undergoing a recession.

Hibernation is different from inactivity, however. You just park your money in treasury bills or certificates of deposits for the moment.

But is hibernation a good tactic for your business during an economic slowdown?

Diversification vs. Focus-Driven

This has been the subject of debate.

Startups that manage to grow will often hit a fork in the road where they can no longer grow with their current set up.

Now, they have to make a choice: diversify their portfolio or bolster their product while they take a more focus-driven approach.

Instead of diversifying, they just ensure that their processes and workflow are more efficient, they automate to limit disruption and enhance the customer experience to guarantee client loyalty.

However, while you may see your bottom-line increase, it could just be temporary. That’s because you are not adding products or service value to your business.

Diversification doesn’t immediately produce results either. There’s no guarantee it will ever deliver the outcome you anticipate.

When the economy is in transition, you will find many competitors fighting over the scraps. This is a high-stakes game that could spell success or the end of your business. However, the alternative is no less disastrous.

The other option is not doing anything. When you pin the future of your company entirely on the hope that the economy will get better, you have the wrong strategy.

If you do decide to diversify, here are some quick tips to cut your risks:

  1. Don’t veer away too much from your core competency. Diversification doesn’t always mean being different. That’s oversimplifying its definition. Knowing your core competence will give you insight into how other capabilities tie together. Your main goal should be to create a new product or service that is still tied to your core competency in order to bring in new customers.
  2. Don’t forget your loyal customers. In fact, you need to align your strategies by boosting the value of your core business. You then retain the same customers and offer them another product that matches another — but still related — need.
  3. Put money into your marketing efforts. Ads and promotions are typically the first things to be sacrificed by companies that are scrimping on the budget. However, you need to make people aware that you have a new product. Even in an economic slowdown, people still buy. That’s consumer resiliency. You need to funnel these customers to your company by showing them that you are the answer to their most nagging questions.
  4. Timing is everything. Still aligning your diversification with your core competencies, you need to know when to change tack and when to sit it out. Before deciding to diversify, you need to bolster your core business to make sure you don’t lose focus. When the revenues have plateaued, then it’s time to shore up your business and add value by creating another product or service.
  5. Watch out for your cash flow. Revisit your inventory and your credit policies. When the times are tough, you may need to borrow in order to infuse new capital into your endeavors. However, no bank will offer you a lifeline when you have a shot credit and lousy financial prospects.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

There’s a saying in sports and even in war: The best defense is a good offense.

This strategy will allow you to take back control of the situation. Rather than wait for the next hammer to fall, you change your approach and bring the fight to the enemy.

This is a scary part, especially when the economic landscape is very fluid. However, there are numerous success stories of businesses that found some opportunities when they decided to go on the offensive rather than wait the economy out.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that this result in a better outcome, but it’s a lot better than playing dead while you wait for the economy to turn.

Here are some quick tips on how to go on offense from defense:

  1. Diversify. If you are putting all your eggs in one basket, chances are you will lose money if most of them crack. Businesses that rely only on one product will be badly hit during a slowdown.
  2. Think outside the box. It doesn’t even matter if you are earning less with your new business than you were with the old one. Expanding your network is the only way to learn and earn. Step out of your comfort zone and attend some industry trade shows.
  3. Reinforce relationships. This is a good way to let your clients know that you can be trusted even when the times are bleak. Don’t cut corners on the quality of your work, and don’t use the economy as an excuse for missing deliveries. In the same vein, get in touch with your suppliers to reassure them that work will continue (although the volume likely will be down).
  4. Cut fat. Sometimes the only way to take flight is if your business isn’t as heavy. This is a good opportunity to revisit your operations and trim the fat. You will find that your employees won’t be inflexible when you institute changes. They know that the market is very challenging, and they will be more apt to help.
  5. Form an advisory board. It seems paradoxical to suggest this when the item above tells you to cut fat. But if done correctly, the board can become a rich repository of ideas with which you can follow-through as you go about diversifying your products and services.
  6. Automation and analytics. Automating your workflow can boost your efficiency. Big data analytics are already being used by companies in order to improve customer experience. Analytics will give you insight into the minds and behaviors of your clients. This, in turn, will help you come up with a product that truly addresses their needs.
  7. Ask for help. If you are a member of any industry associations, this is the right time to touch base. The government also has some assistance to offer — in terms of technology transfer or financial assistance — to help you keep your head above water.

Lastly, you need to understand that there’s life beyond your business. Too often, you see CEOs with failed marriages and broken families because they prioritized their careers at the expense of spouses and children.

You hear of executives becoming addicted to the drug fentanyl, heroin, or alcohol to help them cope. They equate the failure of the business to their value as an individual.

However, there are more important things in life than being a successful CEO.

Life is all about challenges. Life will push you down if you refuse to push back. It doesn’t matter how many times you stumble. What’s important is how many times you get back up.

Take advantage of the economic slowdown to take stock of what’s important to you.
Bond with the kids, rekindle the romance with your spouse, visit your parents and siblings.
You just might realize that it doesn’t matter if you see yourself as a failure; you will be a hero in your kids’ eyes.

You can contact Patrick Bailey:

Email: bailey patrick780 @gmail.com (remove spaces)
Blog: http://patrickbaileys.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pat_Bailey80
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-bailey-writer

Not-for-Profit Directorships – It’s not a charity!

Roger Phare

Today, non-profit organisations in the United States control upward of $1.5 trillion in assets and are increasingly relied upon to help address society’s ills.

Corporations are not alone in focusing on governance; rigorous oversight of management and performance is increasingly important for non-profits too.

The corporate-governance debate globally is spreading from the for-profit to the non-profit world.

To improve the governance of non-profits, boards must venture beyond the traditional focus on raising funds, selecting CEOs, and setting high-level policy.

The litmus test of the chief executive’s leadership is not the ability to solve problems alone but the capacity to articulate key questions and guide a collaborative effort to formulate answers.

Theory and law dictate that the board of directors is responsible to govern your organization. Typically, new boards of directors in a new organization work hands-on, almost as partners — or as a “working board” — with the chief executive. A wise CEO will see Board members almost as strategic partners, rather than as a necessary evil that corporations must have.

It is important if you are building a board with the right set of tasks in mind. Boards have multiple roles, from fundraising to caretaking, governance, and oversight. Just like any company or corporation, it is important to do an assessment. Understand the skills that your particular non-profit needs to fulfil your mission.

Putting together an outstanding non-profit board is easier said than done, and it takes a lot of precision. Not everyone makes a great board member, so it’s acceptable to be picky when it comes to putting together a non-profit board.

Board challenges are something that many non-profits struggle with, and there’s no easy solution. We often hear horror stories of board takeovers—when the non-profit leadership is “overthrown” by its board of directors.

We welcome back Roger Phare as our guest blogger who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 38 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’.

Roger has been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about ‘Not-for-Profit Directorships – It’s not a charity!’

Thank you Geoff, the blog heading might seem like an oxymoron (or perhaps even a paradox for those of the literary-minded fraternity). After all, surely Not-for- Profit (NFP) organisations are charities; a fact that very few would dispute. At board level, however, the leadership, governance and compliance responsibilities are on at least an equal footing with commercial businesses of equivalent size and complexity.

I mentioned in a previous blog that that the term “Not-for-Profit” is a misnomer; in reality the correct term would be more likely “Not-for-Dividend”. In other words there is nothing at all wrong with, in fact commendable that, a charitable organisation makes an operational monetary surplus. The major difference is that the surplus is not distributed to external shareholders but channelled back into the organisation for ongoing initiatives. The governance and risk at board level is substantial and yet directors are often voluntary – pro-bono if you like.

The issue is not just one of payment but the value and importance placed upon such roles. At a recent business event I overheard a young professional discussing board opportunities. The individual was alluding to a recent application they had made to become a voluntary director on a NFP board. They went on to say that they hoped it would give them experience to apply for “proper” board positions in the future and – wait for it – if they made mistakes along it didn’t really matter because it was only voluntary! The concept of “free” having little or no “value” is the problem.

Now I am not proposing that Not-for-Profit Directors are necessarily paid at the highest commercial rates; there does need to be a good amount of desire and passion to be involved with the sector which means there is in-effect, a subsidised participation. I have long held the view that the NFP sector should consider the concept of “paid volunteers” (there’s that oxymoron thing again) for all roles within the organisation. What does this mean? Well – currently NFP’s have two types of staffing – paid and voluntary. Voluntary means no payment (other than direct expenses) and this leads to issues such as talent pool availability plus difficulties in selection of one candidate over another.

If, union rules permitting, all staff were paid volunteers i.e all paid but at say, 50% of market rates then this overcome a good number of the issues currently faced. At board level an experienced director could value the 50% subsidy as their pro-bono contribution, yet still be able to justify the time, effort and corporate responsibility required within their portfolio.

With this approach, charity could well begin at home….

We hope you enjoyed this blog!

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn: Roger Phare on LinkedIn
or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

Guest-blog: Roger Phare – A Nod to the NED – the key dynamic of the modern board

We welcome back Roger Phare as our guest-blogger, who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgment and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’.

Roger has been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market-driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organizations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

In the third of this series (view Part I and Part II ), we are going to look at the role of the Non-Executive Director (“NED”), which is a highly debated subject in today’s modern board.

To provide some background, before I hand you over to Roger, as an Independent Non-Executive Director and Executive Advisor on several companies, I talk with experience across the list of attributes required of a non-executive director, which is so long, precise and contradictory that there cannot be a single board member in the world who fully fits the criteria.

They need to be: supportive, intelligent, interesting, well-rounded and mature, funny, entrepreneurial, steady, objective yet passionate, independent, curious, challenging, and more. They also need to have a financial background and real-life business experience, a strong moral compass, and be first-class all-rounders with specific industry skills.

Chairmen and chief executives should use their NEDs to provide general counsel – and a different perspective – on matters of concern. They should also seek their guidance on particular issues before they are raised at board meetings.
Indeed, some of the main specialist roles of a non-executive director will be carried out in a board sub-committee (particularly the remuneration and audit committees), especially in listed companies.

The key responsibilities of NEDs can be said to include the following:
Strategic direction
As ‘an outsider’, the non-executive director may have a clearer or wider view of external factors affecting the company and its business environment than the executive directors.
The normal role of the NED in strategy formation is therefore to provide a creative and informed contribution and to act as a constructive critic in looking at the objectives and plans devised by the chief executive and the executive team.

Monitoring performance
Non-executive directors should take responsibility for monitoring the performance of executive management, especially with regard to the progress made towards achieving the determined company strategy and objectives. They have a prime role in appointing, and where necessary removing, executive directors and in succession planning.

Remuneration
Non-executive directors are also responsible for determining appropriate levels of remuneration of executive directors. In large companies, this is carried out by a remuneration committee, the objective of which is to ensure there is an independent process for setting the remuneration of executive directors.

Communication
The company and its board can benefit from outside contacts and opinions. An important function for NEDs, therefore, can be to help connect the business and board with networks of potentially useful people and organizations. In some cases, a NED will be called upon to represent the company externally.

Risk
NEDs should satisfy themselves on the integrity of financial information and that financial controls and systems of risk management are robust and defensible.

Audit
It is the duty of the whole board to ensure that the company accounts properly to its shareholders by presenting a true and fair reflection of its actions and financial performance and that the necessary internal control systems are put into place and monitored regularly and rigorously.
A NED has an important part to play in fulfilling this responsibility, whether or not a formal audit committee (composed of NEDs) of the board has been constituted.

Now I would like to hand over to Roger!

Thank you, Geoff, today I would like to discuss the role and ‘A Nod to the NED – the key dynamic of the modern board’.

Of all the Board positions the Non-Executive Director (NED) role is undoubtedly the most confusing. Not so much as to the expected outcomes of growth, compliance, shareholder returns and social responsibility but more as to the background and dynamics of the modern NED.

Why confusing?

Surely the NED role is the most historically formulated, culturally cultivated and legislatively defined of all board member roles.

Yet instead of being well defined and well-structured the NED requirement seems to be all over the place.

Part of the issue is that demand has rapidly increased due to factors such as legislation, compliance and business growth. This has spread the net further afield and created a demand over and above the previous norm.

The result of this demand there has seen “NED Membership” organizations springing up. I recently read as part of a membership promotion the following excerpt:

“If you have the right amount of experience to offer, you could become a Non-Executive Director. This could be an especially good option if you are approaching retirement because it can be a useful way to earn money without the pressures of being involved in the day-to-day decision making of a business.”

Whoa! This conjures up images of geriatric un-prepared old-boys rolling up for a four-hour board meeting; pontificating and story-telling before retiring to their local club for a large brandy and an afternoon nap in a dark leather padded armchair!

Nothing could be further from the truth for the modern NED. Guidance around “day to day” decision making is a critical part of the NED role. Four hours in the Boardroom can equate to four days spread pre and post-meeting guiding and assisting the CEO & executive team. It is serious business.

A related problem is that somehow a “one size fits all” approach to NED requirements has become the prevailing attitude. Other than “Chair” type roles it seems that there is little demarcation in the nature of the role nor organization in which the NED is required.

Contributing to this is the definition of organization types. Most understand the concept of listed or private organizations and the duties, responsibilities and remuneration levels required by and from the NED’s. When community organizations are brought into the mix then things really go off the rails.

It starts with the concept of “Not for Profit”, equating with the concept that NED roles being “Volunteer”. To start with, Not for Profit organizations should be re-branded “Not for Dividend”. In other words, they need to be governed and run the same way commercial organizations operate with a view to making a surplus; the only difference is that those surpluses are distributed to beneficiaries rather than shareholders.

This topic is probably the subject of a whole new thread but the point is that community organizations need directors with the same level of skill and due diligence as those in the commercial world.
The question is when an ad appears that asks for applications for a NED “Volunteer, expenses only”, who is going to apply?
Yes, there is a small percentage of experienced and talented individuals who are prepared to provide their time on a “pro bono” basis and these people are to be commended. Simply having time on one’s hands and looking for an activity is not necessarily a qualification for a board position.
Even worse, to a degree, is the concept of applying for volunteer positions to “gain experience” as a Board member. This can lead to frustration and disappointment for all parties.

Yet it is not all doom and gloom. Demand for high-quality Non-Executive Directors is increasing and it is generally acknowledged that the keys to success are the right recruitment, support, training and ongoing engagement. With these factors in place, NED’s can add significant value to all types and size of business.

So, here’s a nod to the new breed NED – exciting times ahead!

Roger Phare

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn: Roger Phare on LinkedIn
or by email:
roger phare @ gmail .com
(remove all spaces)

Guest-blog: Neil Cattermull – ‘A Guide to Machine Learning’

Neil Cattermull

Because of new computing technologies, machine learning today is not like machine learning of the past. It was born from pattern recognition and the theory that computers can learn without being programmed to perform specific tasks; researchers interested in Artificial Intelligence wanted to see if computers could learn from data.

The iterative aspect of machine learning is important because as models are exposed to new data, they are able to

They learn from previous computations to produce reliable, repeatable decisions and results. It’s a science that’s not new, “but one that has gained fresh momentum”.

While many machine learning algorithms have been around for a long time, the ability to automatically apply complex mathematical calculations to big data “over and over, faster and faster“ is a recent development. Here are a few widely publicized examples of machine learning applications you may be familiar with:

• The heavily hyped, self-driving Google car? The essence of machine learning.
• Online recommendation offers such as those from Amazon and Netflix? Machine learning applications for everyday life.
• Knowing what customers are saying about you on Twitter? Machine learning combined with linguistic rule creation.
• Fraud detection? One of the more obvious, important uses in our world today.

Resurging interest in machine learning is due to the same factors that have made data mining and Bayesian analysis more popular than ever.
Things like growing volumes and varieties of available data, computational processing that is cheaper and more powerful, and affordable data storage.

All of these things mean it’s possible to quickly and automatically produce models that can analyze bigger, more complex data and deliver faster, more accurate results – even on a very large scale. And by building precise models, an organization has a better chance of identifying profitable opportunities – or avoiding unknown risks.

In the second of a two series blog (“Digital-transformation“), we welcome back Neil Cattermull – Public Speaker and Commercial Director living in London, United Kingdom and a public figure in writing about technology, and entrepreneurship, he is considered a global Industry influencer and authority within the tech scene.

Neil has travelled around the world assisting small to large firms with business models. Ranked as a global business influencer and technical analyst.

Neil has held directorship positions within technology divisions within the financial services market, such as Merrill Lynch, WestLB, Thomson Financial and I have created many small to midsize organisations.

Neil is going to discuss ‘A guide to Machine Learning’.

Thank you Geoff,
Machine learning is one of the most innovative and interesting fields of modern science around today. Something that you probably associate with things such as Watson, Deep Blue, and even the infamous Netflix algorithm.

However, as sparkly as it is, machine learning isn’t exactly something totally new. In fact, the concept and science of machine learning has been around for much longer than you think.

The beginnings of machine learning
Considered to be the father of machine learning, Thomas Bayes’ theorem was pretty much left alone until the rockin 50’s when, in 1950, famed scientist Alan Turing managed to create and develop his imaginatively named ‘Alan Turing’s Learning Machine’.

The machine itself was capable of putting into practice what Thomas Bayes had conceptualised 187 years earlier. This was a huge breakthrough for the field and along with the acceleration of computer development, the next few decades saw a gigantic rise in development of machine learning techniques such as artificial neural networks, and explanation based learning.
These formed the basis of modern systems being managed by artificial intelligence. The latter being arguably the most integral to the development of systems management technology.

Explanation based learning was primarily developed by Gerald Dejong III at the Chicago Centre for Computer Science. He essentially managed to build upon previous methods and develop a new kind of algorithm, enter the “explanation based algorithm!”

Yes, the explanation based learning algorithm was fairly standard in that it created new business rules based on what had happened before. However, what sets this apart as a breakthrough is that Dejong III had managed to create something that would independently be able to disregard older rules once they had become unnecessary.
Explanation based learning was one of the key technologies behind chess playing AI’s such as IBM’s Deep Blue.

A cold AI Winter
However, there was a period during the 70’s when funding was disastrously reduced because people had started thinking that machine learning wasn’t living up to it’s original billing.
This was compounded when Sir James Lighthill released his independent report which stated that the grandiose expectations of what artificial intelligence and machine learning could achieve would never be fulfilled.

This report led to many projects being defunded or closed down. This was incredibly unfortunate timing as the UK was considered a market leader when it came to machine learning. This dark period of time was effectively known as the ‘AI Winter’ and bar a momentary slip in the early 90’s, was the only real time that the possibilities of machine learning were ever really discounted by the scientific community.

Who is pushing the technology forward now?
Machine learning has reached a level now where companies such as DataKinetics have the capability to transform legacy systems into business driven analytics.

DataKinetics are at the forefront of their field and have been entrusted by many blue-chip companies, such as Nissan and Prudential, to streamline and optimize complex technology environments. With the advancements within technology today IT professionals are now capable of achieving so much more due to new innovations in machine learning.
However, this is just the beginning – if funding and interest into machine learning and AI remains consistent, there’s no telling what can be achieved.

Machine learning algorithms that can predict future outcomes, giving us – the humans – to react accordingly.

In essence, the main idea behind machine learning is that it’s essentially where a computer or a system takes a set of data created previously, applies a set of rules to it and provides you with an output that in that is more efficient.

In much the same way, there’s a cycle between the innovators and forefathers of machine learning and with the companies and groups of people that are doing it today.

That’s why companies such as DataKinetics are proud to be associated with such a rich and storied period of human endeavour.
Innovators are equally as important as pioneers, without innovation we have static evolution that does not progress our species further and we are staring at a near constant change in the tech space.

Datakinetics are innovators within technology and have had the foresight to predict the evolution of mainframe, machine learning and analytics with a tech roadmap spanning for over 30 years!

You can contact Neil Cattermull:
– LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/neilcattermull
– Twitter: @NeilCattermull
– email: Neil.Cattermull@gmail.com

Guest-blog: Neil Cattermull – Digital Transformation and ‘Open source on steroids’

Neil Cattermull


The two words ‘Digital Transformation’ seem to be words that we hear and see everyday across internal discussions at main executive board and c-suite. But exactly why are these discussions important, and why should they be a priority?

Firstly, what is Digital Transformation and why is it so important?




Let’s start from the beginning. Heraclitus once said:
“The only thing that is constant is change,” – and this is very true and relevant today.

With major moves forward in technology and accessibility toward digital media in the past 10 years, people now view technology in a completely different way and also learn in a different way.
This has been a huge factor in creating a need for companies to evolve and stay relevant, transforming the way they run their business, and also train their staff.

With the general concentration span of millennials being much shorter than that of their predecessors, businesses must change the way they interact with millennial employees and customers.

If we look at this from an internal perspective too, we see everything from employee training to onboarding and productivity can be improved through digital transformation in the correct way.
It is important to remember though that digital transformation will generate some push back and resistance. This is very normal, and this is also why it is important to implement it in the right way.

Effectively, Digital Transformation is an ongoing effort to rewire all operations for the ever-evolving digital world, by adopting the latest technologies in order to improve processes, strategies, and the bottom line.

Digital transformation became a term, decades ago, and at that time largely meant digitising. But today, a company needs to leverage digital tools to be more competitive, not just more digital.

Going forward, companies will need to harness machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of things (IoT) to be pre-emptive in their business strategies, rather than reactive or presumptive.

And after that? We can only speculate. Technology is advancing at a faster pace than we can adapt to it. What is clear is that digital maturity is a moving target, which makes digital transformation ongoing.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Neil Cattermull – Neil is a Public Speaker and Commercial Director living in London, United Kingdom and a public figure in writing about technology, and entrepreneurship. He is considered a global Industry influencer and authority within the tech-scene.

Neil has travelled around the world assisting small to large firms with business models. Ranked as a global business influencer and technical analyst. He has held directorship positions within technology divisions within the financial services market, such as Merrill Lynch, WestLB, Thomson Financial and he has created many small to midsize organisations.

Neil is going to discuss ‘Open Source on Steroids’.

The words “digital transformation” are on the lips of every person in technology and tech media, as well as many business leaders – from company CIOs and CTOs to technology to business line managers to writers in news publications and tech blogs.

At its core, a digital transformation is the enablement of technologies and workplaces tuned to today’s digital economy. The beating heart of this digital economy is the API, and is being followed now by emerging technologies like IoT (Internet of things) and FinTech technologies like Blockchain.

Today the transformation of processes, IT services, database schemas and storage are proceeding at exponential rates with Cloud, AI and Big Data currently taking center stage as new ways of working in the enterprise.

The glue to the majority of developments in the technology world is the adoption, proliferation and acceptance of Open Source technologies. Community developments such as Hadoop, Apache Spark, MongoDB, Ubuntu and the Hyperledger project are some of the names that freely fall from any Open Source discussion.

The question is where do you run these workloads? How do you run these workloads? And in what form should these workloads take?

Most major companies will have mainframe systems at the core of their IT systems, so the question is really whether to run new workloads there, or on other platforms?

Any building architect will tell you that before tearing down the walls of an old house or doing any significant structural changes, you should always consult the original architectural plans. In the same way, any systems architect would look very closely at what a mainframe system is doing now before considering running workloads elsewhere.

However, it is imperative to understand the difference between mainframe and midrange server technology at a very high-level:

• Mainframe systems are designed to scale vertically not horizontally
• Input / Output is designed in mainframe systems to move processing away from the core and very fast I/O is built in to the core of a mainframe system, even at the hardware layer
• Centralized architecture is a key feature allowing mainframe systems to manage huge workloads extremley efficiently – catering for 100% utilisation without any degradation of perfromance
• Resilience is built in to every key component of a mainframe; redundancy at the core
• At a transactional level there is no other system that comes anywhere near the level of processing of data that a mainframe system can process.

An argument against the mainframe could be to decouple software systems onto commodity hardware or cloud systems; but this tends to create server and cost sprawl, particularly if an important goal is to mirror the mainframe’s performance, security, transaction throughput capacity, reliability, maintainability and flexibility.

But as we move further into the world of IoT, with databases and Big Data systems acquiring vast amounts of ingested social media and transactional data, how are we scoping the growth and security of these systems?
We are not if we simply just keep adding to existing IT infrastructures – we need to be able to scale access and throughput to manage, interigate and optimse the hottest commodity we have: data!

Data is becoming a currency in its own right but we need to secure this new currency in a way we do today with traditional moentary systems.
And perhaps the best way to leverage this valuable asset is via APIs that allow enterprises to take advantage of the mainframe investments already made – enter a LinuxOne Open Source ready mainframe that assists with creating a familiar Open Source tooling stack on steroids!

The argument here is that a digital transformation is more than just empty words and data thrown on cloud servers, it is a state of mind, and an architecture that should encompass current and future systems towards overall business goals.

At the heart of this goal is the end-user consumer, something that every system architect should be very mindful of; however, downtime and security are quite often understated when creating the initial framework for key infratsucture projects.

These key elements must be baked into every project and at the very core of future technology initiatives – something that the Open Source Ready LinuxOne infrastructure delivers extremely well.

You can contact Neil Cattermull:
– LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/neilcattermull
– Twitter: @NeilCattermull
– email: Neil.Cattermull@gmail.com

Guest-blog: Brad Borkan – Pivot from your goal for greater success

Brad Borkan

I have the fortune of meeting a fellow author recently, Brad Borkan, for a meeting of minds, to discuss our literature journeys, which I must say was incredibly enjoyable.

We discussed many subjects but importantly our personal thoughts and experiences across resilience and overcoming adversity.

Adversity of any magnitude should make us stronger and fill us with life’s wisdom, however, art in any form is born from adversity, I wrote ‘Freedom after the Sharks’ from adversity and set up a business in the double dip of 2008 and 2009, many people have done the same and it is almost a universal theme in the lives of many of the world’s most eminent creative minds.

For artists who have struggled with physical and mental illness, parental loss during childhood, social rejection, heartbreak, abandonment, abuse, and other forms of trauma, creativity often becomes an act of turning difficulty and challenge into opportunity.

As Eckhart Tolle once said:
Whenever something negative happens to you, there is a deep lesson concealed within it.

Much of the music we listen to, the plays we see, the books we read, and the paintings we look at among other forms of performing art are attempts to find meaning in human suffering.
Art seeks to make sense of everything from life’s potentially smallest moments of sadness to its most earth-shattering tragedies. You have heard the statement ‘there is a book in everyone’ we all experience and struggle with suffering.

Determination, resilience, and persistence are the enabler for people to push past their adversities and prevail. Overcoming adversity is one of our main challenges in life. When we resolve to confront and overcome it, we become expert at dealing with it and consequently triumph over our day-to-day struggles.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Brad Borkan, who works in SAP Strategic Partner Marketing. He has a graduate degree in Decision Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania. Brad co-authored the book, “When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme Decision Making Lessons from the Antarctic”. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and lectures internationally on early Antarctic exploration and its relevance to modern-day decision making. His website is: www.extreme-decisions.com.

Brad is going to discusses with us today “Pivot from Your Goal for Greater Success:”

One of the five key lessons from the early Antarctic Explorers

Have you ever been in a situation where you are so close to achieving your goal, you can almost taste it? With just a bit more effort, luck and perseverance you can get there, but there is high risk and danger along the way. At what point do you push through and at what point do you determine that the risk is too great and turn back?

This was the dilemma facing Ernest Shackleton on January 8th 1909. Shackleton was leading a team of three other men: Jameson Adams, Eric Marshall, and Frank Wild. Their aim: to be the first to get to the South Pole.

As described in my book, When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme Decision Making Lessons from the Antarctic, this was the first Antarctic expedition under Shackleton’s command. In the style at the time, Shackleton named it the Nimrod Expedition, using the name of the ship in which he and his men sailed to Antarctica. The Nimrod Expedition had taken years to plan and everything hinged on this one life-and-death decision.

By January 8th Shackleton, Adams, Marshall and Wild had been on the ice for two and a half months, man-hauling a heavy sledge containing all their equipment: food, cooking oil, tent, sleeping bags and other gear necessary for survival across 750 miles of dangerous terrain in sub-zero temperatures. They were totally on their own; the only communication was as far as they could shout. However they were nearing their goal.

In that era, there was no understanding of nutrition, calories, vitamins or the causes of scurvy. Shackleton and his men knew they were running desperately low of food and were subsisting on starvation rations. While there were some depots of food and supplies they could pick up on their return journey, there was a substantial risk they could die on the way back trying to reach one of those depots.

Yet the South Pole was tantalizingly close. One hundred and three miles to go to attain the biggest, unclaimed, land-based prize on Earth – the first to the South Pole. It would guarantee their names in the record books forever. A bit of luck with the weather and snow conditions, fewer rations, a bit more effort each day — surely goals this big deserved some risk. As goal-driven human beings, wouldn’t we all want to go for the goal, regardless of the consequences?

Yet, amazingly, Shackleton turned back.

What he did before turning back is one of the great lessons from the “Heroic Age” of Antarctic exploration. He told Adams, Marshall and Wild that on January 9th they would leave the tent, sleeping bags and all other supplies behind and walk South as far as they could in one day, plant the flag, and turn back to their camp. Then the next day they would begin the long and treacherous journey home. Why did Shackleton do this? Why not just turn and head back immediately? They all knew the return journey would be risky.

The answer is: Shackleton wanted to cross the 100 mile mark. He wanted to go back to England with a prize. Maybe not the prize, but getting to within 100 miles of the South Pole sounded a whole lot better than either: (1) achieving the South Pole and starving to death on the return journey or (2) getting back alive with only have reached the 103 mile mark. In a letter to his wife Emily about the decision, Shackleton wrote, “I thought you would rather have a live donkey than a dead lion.”

He and his team did almost starve to death on the return journey. Remarkably, they did survive and upon his return, Shackleton wrote a two-volume book about the expedition called, “The Heart of the Antarctic”. He didn’t dwell on failure. He celebrated success — pivoting from his initial goal, and achieving a memorable landmark — the farthest South.

So why is this an important lesson for today’s business leaders? Because it is exceedingly difficult to turn away from one’s goal. It is difficult for a business to do it, and even more difficult for goal-driven businessperson to do it.

Business schools teach us that:
“Goal attainment = Success”

&

“Success = Goal Attainment”

Yet, this is not always the case. Businesses can be so goal driven that they do not see the big obstacles in their way. Take the case of Blockbuster. Their goal was to dominate the high street of every US and UK city and town, and they were achieving that. They were on such a tear, that in 1989, a new Blockbuster video rental store was being opened every 17 hours! In the early 2000’s Netflix was offered to Blockbuster for $50 million. Why should Blockbuster turn away from their goal of high street dominance? Goal attainment was so tantalizingly close.

We all know what happened to Blockbuster and Netflix. Had Blockbuster taken the Shackleton goal-assessment approach – that survival is more important than goal attainment — they may have survived, just like Shackleton and his men did, to live to see another day.

Shackleton’s next expedition, the Endurance Expedition, also didn’t achieve its goals. Again he had to pivot from his primary goal. Yet it propelled Shackleton to even greater fame, success and glory. It also revealed compelling lessons for modern business decision making. We will save that story for the subject of another blog.

You can contact Brad Borkan on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/bradborkan or by email: brad.borkan@gmail.com or via his website: www.extreme-decisions.com

Guest-blog: Mike Johnson – The gig economy and 31 tips to get ahead of the competition

Mike Johnson

There are an estimated 1.3 million workers in the UK’s gig economy that means approximately 1.3 million people are engaged in ‘gig work’ according to ‘To gig or not to gig: Stories from the modern economy’ a new report from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development. The report is based on a survey of 400 gig economy workers and more than 2,000 other workers, as well as 15 in-depth interviews with gig economy workers, who, instead of a regular wage, get paid for the ‘gigs’ they perform, such as a taxi ride or food delivery. The rapid growth of the gig economy threatens to transform the way we work and make the traditional nine-to-five job with a single employer a relic of the past.

Readers may recall that in February 2016 I wrote a blog: ‘So exactly what is the gig economy’

Today, I would like to introduce Mike Johnson, Mike is a self-taught prepper that turned his passion for preparedness into an online survival guide: MikesGearReviews.com. Mike shares his experiences and knowledge with the main objective of teaching families how to get ready to survive pretty much everything and anything from civil unrest to natural disasters.

Mike is going to speak to us today on the gig economy and 31 tips for using the gig economy to get ahead of the competition.

Working under the so-called gig economy isn’t always easy. You get to choose your schedule, sometimes also your terms, and your commitment. You get paid for your work output and nothing else. The gig economy can be a great thing for you but can also be the worst decision for your career.

The pros and cons of the expanding gig economy are still up for discussion. Some analysts fear what it can mean for the future of the whole labor industry. But it doesn’t look like it is going any time soon. After all, freelance and contractual jobs aren’t a new concept; these have been around for a long time.

Some also prefer doing freelance work rather than commit to a full-time job. For all the cons of not having a regular work, there are those who feel that providing jobs on a contractual, temporary basis is the best choice for them. They have more freedom that way, and they have more control of their situation.

If you are convinced that working freelance is the right choice for you, prep yourself for some competition ahead. Because like any other labor setup, the gig economy is full of competitive individuals.

Read our infographic for more information about gig economy and how you can get ahead presented by MikesGearReviews
(click to expand in new tab):

Source: https://www.mikesgearreviews.com/gig-economy/

If you have any questions, you can contact Mike on mike @ mikesgearreviews. com (just remove all 3 spaces)

Guest-blog: Roger Phare – The Jekyll, Hyde and The Executive Director

Roger Phare

As an executive director, how do you powerfully lead your organisation through complex challenges? How do you align your organisation, staff, and board around impact and achieve financial sustainability? As daunting as these questions can seem, they are fundamental executive leadership responsibilities.

In spite of its institutional power, the position of an Executive Director remains an immensely demanding one, and not one that any qualified and capable man or woman will agree to lightly.

We welcome back Roger Phare as our guest blogger who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’. Roger have been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about ‘Jekyll, Hyde Associates and the Executive Director’

Thank you Geoff, today I would like to discuss the role of the Executive Director, which can arguably be the most individually challenging and changeable of all Board roles. Not that the responsibilities are any greater or less than Non- Executive counterparts, yet the concept of disassociating the “day job” with the Board role can be tricky and take some fortitude. The Executive director must possess or develop the ability to perform separate roles with separate mindsets; a veritable Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde (and maybe other) set of personas.

The majority of companies start from small beginnings. Friends, family or work colleagues decide to set up in business and likely form a limited liability company. Almost invariably they become shareholders, directors and employees overnight. Generally there will be a leader; a chief executive who, more often than not, will also be elected chairman of the board. The other board members are often generalists, providing input based upon their work role experience.

Confusion can set in as the company grows and more employees are taken on board. This is where the understanding of role demarcation is vital. I recall being an executive director on the board of a growing company some years ago when one of my colleagues, who was head of the technical department as well as an executive director/shareholder, threatened to fire the receptionist for an indiscretion.
The receptionist did not report to this individual but his view was that as a major shareholder and director he had the over-riding power and right to make such decisions. He clearly had confused the roles, effectively merging all three responsibilities into one.

In the board room the need to disassociate the individual roles becomes even more apparent. Recalling that a director’s duty is to represent the medium and long-term interests of the shareholders, the double or triple role can be a major challenge. Let’s say that within a growing goods and services company the head of development, one of the founders and a minority shareholder, also sits on the board as an executive director. As a manager doing his day-to-day job, he has put up a business case to employ a number of new staff members within the development team.

At a board meeting, the annual item regarding profit distribution by way of dividends is discussed. The head of development sees this as an ideal forum to lobby for the approval of the business case. This is not say the overall decision will necessarily be wrong; it is that he has unwittingly brought his managerial role into the boardroom.

Once a company goes public, then the appetite for executive director’s wanes considerably. Most Commonwealth countries operate a unitary system, indicating a balanced mix of executive and non-executive directors. Yet over the past twenty years there has been a push for greater board member independence, with a move towards more non-executive directors. The executive directors are often consigned to the roles of chief executive and possibly head of finance.

Yet are we about to see the return of the executive director on public boards? There is no doubt that the need for up to date subject matter knowledge of industry trends is as much a requirement as expertise around governance and compliance. The need for this has started show itself in the rise of the advisory board; yet this can never replace true in-house expertise.

Perhaps we are about to witness the return of our Henry’s and Edward’s; but this time around improved peer mentoring and coaching maybe the answer.

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn. Roger Phare on LinkedIn or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)

Guest-blog: David Priseman – The future of technology in home-care for the elderly

David Priseman

Technology is currently critical to home health care. Future advances in home health care technologies have the potential not only to facilitate the role of home health care within the overall health care system but also to help foster community-based independence for individuals.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, David Priseman, who is an accomplished Executive Director. David had a career in consultancy and banking, including spells abroad with two major European banks and has worked for several years in the field of private equity and alternative finance as well as an advisor to SMEs. He has considerable board experience and currently chairs a mid-sized care home group and is a non-executive director of a small but ambitious technology company. He has a particular interest in how technology can address the challenges of the care sector, which is often slow to adopt innovation.

David is going to discuss with us today the future of technology in home-care for the elderly.

Both councils and families strive to keep the elderly living in their own home for as long as possible. Councils see a simple cost advantage in doing so, whilst families also like the idea that mum (statistically, it is usually mum) can still live at home.

However the reality of a single elderly person living at home on her own can be far from the rosy ideal. There is an alternative image of a harassed care worker rushing into an elderly person’s home, quickly heating up a tin of baked beans then 15 minutes later rushing out of the door. Yet this might be the only contact the person has with anyone until the same or a different care worker rushes by the next day.

Domiciliary care, like residential care, is difficult to provide effectively and profitably. Companies are handing back council care contracts as they cannot operate at the fee levels on offer (1). Staff recruitment and retention is a permanent challenge.

Councils are reluctant or unable to pay more than £15/hour, which is not financially viable for home-care providers, who now have to pay employees a higher minimum wage as well as their travel costs. However it can be viable at £20/hour. With care home costs around the £1,000/week level, half this amount would buy 25 hours of home-care per week. As the number of residential care beds is in slight decline whilst the number of elderly people is projected to rise steeply, this implies that the number of elderly people living at home will also rise. With this could come a significant growth in the self-payer home-care market.

People living at home are exposed to the risk of physical vulnerability, slow and inappropriate care delivery and social isolation. However the recent development of new technologies may in combination significantly improve the social and care experience for such people.

The unpredictability of the number of hours worked together with the short term notice of rotas and sudden changes in rotas are a major cause of high home-care worker turnover (2) and a headache for domiciliary care providers. However a range of competing software and apps have now been developed to mitigate (though not remove) this challenge. This can improve the efficiency of staff scheduling from a provider’s view point, addressing one of the main sources of dissatisfaction of employees whilst also introducing flexibility for the elderly resident.

Many elderly people have traditionally had a regular, perhaps weekly, phone call with their children. Some now conduct this through Sype. In addition, some families have installed a videocam or webcam in their parent’s home, usually in the kitchen or lounge/dining room, so they can see mum. This helps to maintain social contact and give reassurances about mum’s safety and wellbeing.

The development of ‘wearable technology’ should become more widespread. Currently the dominant application is for fitness monitoring during exercise, however it will increasingly move over to healthcare monitoring. This can be a watch or a monitor which is worn as an arm panel or in the future may be embedded in clothing; in all cases it measures certain of the wearer’s vital signs.
At present, these are mostly used in hospitals to reduce the requirement of nurses, of whom there is a well-documented shortage, to conduct routine patient checks. Instead, the data are transmitted to a cloud-based server and if a vital sign reading crosses a warning threshold this immediately signals an alert. In time, these devices will migrate to the residential setting.
This will speed up the awareness and treatment of a wearer’s condition. Major medical devices companies such as Medtronics and GE are active in this area, which has also seen technology start ups enter the market, such as EarlySense and Snap40. (3)

The internet of things (IoT) is rapidly increasing the number of internet-connected devices in the home. This can be used in a number of ways to improve the safety of elderly people living at home. For example, many people get up, go to the toilet, have a cup of tea and open the curtains. Sensors can detect whether or not the toilet has been flushed, the kettle boiled and the curtains opened, and if any of these things has not happened by say 9am then an alert would be triggered. (4)

One of the main problems facing the elderly living alone is loneliness and the lack of contact with others. Here, a combination of technologies is emerging to provide at least a partial solution. Awareness has recently increased of Amazon’s Alexa voice-controlled system which can search the internet, answer questions and respond to simple commands. Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are similar and rival devices.
Owing to improvements in voice recognition and AI, it will increasingly be possible to have an interactive ‘conversation’ with such devices. At some point, it may be possible to combine this with the face of a person on a screen or even a hologram of a person in the room to create the impression that a human is having a conversation with and maybe even developing a relationship with an intelligent machine-based ‘person’.
This idea has been explored in television and film, for example the science-fiction drama Her when a man develops a romantic relationship with his computer’s feminised operating system (5). Soon, it may become reality and even commonplace.

Finally, more than one of these technologies may combine in a way that provides care monitoring, practical assistance and companionship. Developed countries all have aging populations so the need to find solutions is urgent and many companies and universities are conducting research into this area, such as robotics with AI (6). New market opportunities are emerging to integrate and package appropriate technology solutions.

The vulnerable elderly living on their own at home have often been poorly served to date. Yet the number of such people is poised to continue to rise steeply. However a number of technologies are now being developed in parallel to tackle the problems they face. The result may be an improved care environment for the elderly at home: safer, reliable, better supported and less isolated. Such a future could be with us sooner than we think.

You can contact David Priseman on LinkedIn or by email: davidpriseman @ btconnect.com (remove spaces).

References

1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39321579
2. http://timewise.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/1957-Timewise-Caring-by-Design-report-Under-200MB.pdf
3. http://www.earlysense.com/ and http://www.snap40.com/
4. https://www.ibm.com/blogs/internet-of-things/internet-caring/ and https://www.ibm.com/blogs/internet-of-things/elderly-independent-smart-home/
5. http://www.herthemovie.com/#/about
6. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39255244

Guest-blog: Roger Phare – The qualities and experience needed to getting the right advise on the Board

Roger Phare

In the small business world, there is a lot of talk about whether a company should have a Board of Advisors (Advisory Board), and if yes, what the composition of such a group should be. In my time in the small and medium enterprise (SME) world, I have been exposed to and worked with hundreds of companies, a small percentage of which have had a Board of Advisors. Whether having such an advisory group makes sense depends a lot on the business and more importantly, the CEO and senior management team of the business.

In my opinion and I state this with wisdom, one of the smartest growth initiatives a business owner can implement is an advisory board: a hand-selected group of advisors that believe in your leadership, are aligned with your culture and mission, and are committed to your success.

The vast majority of business owners who implement an advisory board fail to see a strong return on investment because they have not followed guidelines to recruiting the right advisors, and have not set them up for success.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Roger Phare, who is an accomplished Global Executive Director, equipped with a commanding track record over the past 37 years of bringing sound judgement and a strong commercial perspective to IT businesses, from ‘Mainframe to Mobile’. Roger have been fortunate to have been part of the commercial computing lifespan. With a market driven approach, which he has strategically supported, a number of organisations, both at significant Board, Executive and Regional Directorship and responsibilities. An expert in corporate governance and compliance and risk management; enjoying challenging the status quo and providing independent advice to Boards whilst maintaining sound judgment, impartiality and with integrity.

Roger is going to talk to us about the qualities and experience needed to getting the right advise on the Board.

Over recent years we have seen the rise of the Advisory Board concept, a trend that reflects the changing nature of modern organisational leadership and governance. Thinking further on this, the obvious question is why? What has changed in public and private Boardrooms to see such a demand for specialist knowledge and expertise?

The answer perhaps dates back some twenty or even thirty plus years. Up until the late eighties board members generally came with experience related to the company’s market or industry, together with all round leadership and business skills. This had largely been the post war formula, in other words Executive or Non-Executive Directors in 1958 had much the same attributes of those in 1988 – then everything changed.

We had Wall Street, Enron and the Sub-Prime less than twenty years apart. Not co-incidentally, this timeframe was paralleled with the rapid rise of business computing and the internet. Ironically, while technology was an enabler for business growth it became an inhibitor for effective all-round board performance. Directors became much more focussed on financial and legal due diligence as the regulators took control. Boards became largely the keepers of compliance and governance, with their members skilled and qualified in these disciplines. So what happened to the much needed advice in areas such organisational structure and market direction?

Enter the Advisory Board, bringing relevant expertise and experience in key strategic areas.

There is perhaps another reason for the rise of the advisor(s) in the boardroom. Casting the mind back to our pre-1988 Director, past industry experience was a key attribute for the senior board member. Being five to ten years away from a hands-on roles was not a major issue – as business and market fundamentals remained consistent. Today key industries are in rapid growth mode that did not even exist five to ten years ago, with “here and now” expertise required.

So Advisory Boards are most likely here to stay and ideally should complement our incumbent NEDs or Exec Directors; the key is find the right balance and consistency.

You can contact Roger Phare via LinkedIn. Roger Phare on LinkedIn or by email: roger phare @ gmail .com (remove all spaces)