Archive for September 28th, 2016

  • Encouraging a future in data

    Companies must inspire and empower employees to continue learning and expanding their skill sets.

    By Juan Thomas, CIO of PBT Group.
    Johannesburg, 28 Sep 2016

    Being a data scientist is one of the hottest jobs in America right now. In fact, according to research, close to half of the 25 ‘best jobs in America’ named are tech-related – and of these, data scientists sit at the top of the list.

    However, when looking at the local landscape, is this reality mirrored here, especially when considering the growth of the digital world and its impact on South African businesses?

    The answer is a simple no – not because the need for data scientists is not there. In fact, it is the complete opposite. There is a very real need for these unique technical skills in the local business market, especially when considering the amount of data businesses find themselves dealing with, and this data continues to increase significantly year on year.

    Back to basics

    Businesses are realising that, if used correctly, data actually adds massive value to the bottom line and results in better business profitability. However, the data is often too complex and disparate, and thus requires a unique skill set of a data scientist if the business wants that data analysed to ensure it can actually add value.

    A data scientist is someone who has the ability to harness a wide range of skills to translate raw data into a meaningful end result for the business, as well as to communicate this result in a way that tells a story of interest to the audience. To do this, one usually possesses the following skills: technical IT, behavioural economics, statistics, visualisation, psychology and business knowledge.

    Yet, SA still finds itself in a rather dire situation when it comes to these needed ICT skills. The results of the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) skills survey reiterates this sentiment, confirming the local shortage in ICT is still massive. Couple this with the fact that, often, technically skilled individuals are recruited to work overseas, and the situation is compounded. The result, unfortunately, is a negative impact on the business environment, as companies struggle to find the specialised personnel they need.

    Given this, it is becoming clear that more in the way of skills development needs to be done. The JCSE survey is very clear about the fact that there is a need for industry and academia to step in and help SA build the skills needed to drive forward this new digital economy businesses find themselves operating in. Of course, it is great to see how schools and universities are starting to place a focus on programmes dedicated to IT skills development, but this alone is not enough.

    Empowering employees

    From a corporate point of view, more companies need to get involved and become part of the solution. This can be as simple as supporting ongoing programmes already active in the market, which encourage young employees to study further to develop their technical skills capabilities – based on what the market requires. Alternatively, businesses can develop their own programmes or encourage young employees to study further, eg, part-time graduate or diploma courses.

    Companies struggle to find the specialised personnel they need.

    Those already in the field should speak to the company where they are employed to see if it’s viable to create skills development programmes and technical cross-skilling sessions and workshops, to encourage continuous learning within this space. Data does not stop evolving, so neither should employee knowledge and skills. Continuous on-the-job training with strong mentorship is key to developing the crucial ICT skills needed locally.

    Furthermore, the public sector also has a great opportunity here – where it could provide facilities, like training centres and bursary schemes (over and above the current programmes, and ones specially focused on ICT) to assist young professionals in becoming better skilled before – and when – entering the job market in the ICT space.

    The need for specific ICT skills in the business world will likely not disappear anytime soon – rather, it will only grow as innovation in this space continues. As a result, a career in this path will serve an individual well.

    Corporations in SA should support the development of niche technical skills through IT education and by getting involved in programmes to assist and promote such ICT skills development. Without this commitment, industry cannot ensure the technical skills needed by businesses today will be there in the future – these skills have to be developed if the generations to come will be able to make an impact.

     

    Source : ITWeb.co.za

  • Incentive assertiveness

    Gamification is being used as a way to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.

    By Masindi Mabogo, director at PBT Group.
    Johannesburg, 31 Aug 2016

    The existence of games dates back to ‘human ancient days’. They were used as a channel for social interaction, knowledge sharing, developing mental skills, entertainment as well as teaching spiritual and ethical lessons.

    Common game tools were made of bones, sticks, shells, stones, fruit seeds and shapes drawn on the ground. Their features¹ included uncertainty of outcome, agreed rules, competition, and elements of fiction, elements of chance, prescribed goals and personal enjoyment. In competition games, the reward was the social status (sole bragging rights) within one community or the thrill of reaching higher levels.

    Games have always exhibited the psychological ability to 1) encourage participation through rewarding achievements, 2) influence behaviour through teaching, as well as 3) improve skill(s) through practical attempts. The progression of technology eradicated the limitation from ancient tools and provided infinite possibilities for gaming feature expansion. Over the years, the gaming world perfected and ascertained the effectiveness of these attributes, and the notion of gamification today is to draw the strength of these features into company activities.

    Badgeville², a company that offers an award-winning enterprise gamification and analytics solution, defines gamification as a concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals

    This concept taps into the basic desires and needs of the user’s impulses, which revolve around the idea of status and achievement. Many other narrations of this concept acquiesce that game elements such as points and rewards are linked to a goal/task as an incentive to encourage participation.

    Gartner³ further redefined the definition to explicitly indicate the engagements have to be digital, meaning participants interact with computers, smartphones, wearable monitors or other digital devices, rather than engaging with a person.

    Rules of engagement

    There are 10 game mechanics pulled from the world of video gaming that are commonly inherited into gamification solutions. These are fast feedback, transparency, goals, badges, levelling, onboarding, competition, collaboration, community and points. Rajat Paharia, founder and chief product officer of BunchBall, discussed these mechanics in detail in his book: Loyalty 3.0: Big Data and Gamification Revolutionizing Engagement (chapter 4).

    Gamification is gaining popularity due to its landscape that makes the hard stuff in life fun. Its addition to Gartner’s hype cycle in 2011 also propelled its popularity in the corporate world. In fact, Gartner* correctly predicted that by 2015, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay, or Amazon, and more than 70% of Global 2000 organisations will have at least one gamified application.

    Gamification is gaining popularity due to its landscape that makes the hard stuff in life fun.

    Many global organisations are already enjoying the competitive advantages derived from their gamification solutions. With more organisations coming on-board, major successes will be directly proportional to the value proposition of their incentives. Companies that have realised this are looking at innovative ways to make their incentives relevant and irresistible to their customers. A successful strategy adopted in recent times is to formulate partnerships that extend incentive permutations beyond the shorelines of the business.

    Win-win

    For example, South African health and insurance companies have already partnered with clothing stores, grocery stores, hotels, flights, computer stores, cinemas, car hires, florists and many others, to expand their rewarding permutations. Their customers are already enjoying an array of incentives through these mutual alliances, while these companies are greatly influencing customers to strive for a healthy lifestyle, and in turn, entrenching genuine customer loyalty.

    My everyday gamification experience is through the health insurance reward programme that tracks my active lifestyle and rewards me for reaching my goals, with yearly cashback (in currency) guarantees, free healthy consumables, shopping discounts and monetary savings for holidays.

    I am currently addicted to my mobile running application, which allows me to track and compare workouts, set personal goals, invite and motivate friends into group activities as well as periodic challenges. I find this motivating and it guarantees my participation due to its appeal to my natural desires for competition, achievement and improvement. I am sure everyone can identify with a few examples in their personal experiences.

    Generally speaking, the future success of gamification will largely depend on the assertiveness of the incentive to engage the participant in order to influence their behaviour, while meeting business objectives.

    Bunchball*, the first company to offer a technology platform (Nitro) to integrate game mechanics into non-game digital experiences, advocates that customers are hungry for reward, status, achievement, competition and self-expression, and they’ll go out of their way to engage with the businesses that gives it the best.

    ¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_games

    ² https://badgeville.com/wiki/Gamification