Industry: Accounting and Audit Automation Key Stakeholders: CIO, CFO, IT Controllers, Finance Managers, Accounting Managers On January 23rd, 2018, FloQast announced new visualization capabilities for its Close Analytics solution initially launched in April of 2017. These visualizations included views of retrospective and close trends, progress in entity management, and a filtered isolation of high risk…
Recommended Audience: CIOs, Enterprise Architects, Data Managers, Analytics Managers, Data Scientists, IT Managers Vendors Mentioned: Trifacta, Paxata, Datameer, Datawatch, Lavastorm, Alation, Tamr, Unifi, 1010Data, Podium Data, IBM, Domo, Microsoft, Information Builders, Board, Microstrategy, Cloudera, H20.ai, RapidMiner, Domino Data Lab, Dataiku, TIBCO, SAS, Amazon Web Services, Google, DataRobot. In case you missed it, I just finished…
Note: This blog contains excerpts from Amalgam’s Due Diligence Dossier on Calero. To get the full report, click here.
In January 2018, Calero announced two acquisitions, Comview and A&B Groep. These acquisitions have increased Calero’s headcount by over 70 employees, added geographic footprint, demonstrated a specific profile for acquisition, and demonstrates the willingness for new owners, Riverside Partners, to quickly take action within 120 days of acquiring Calero. This combination of acquisition, execution, and stated focus result in the need to re-evaluate Calero in context of these significant changes. Continue reading “Calero Purchases European TEM Leader A&B Groep: What to Expect?”
Companies Mentioned: Deloitte, Salesforce, SAP, Cornerstone, Saba, Skillsoft, Fivel, PageUp, PeopleFluent, Talentsoft, Oracle, SilkRoad, IBM, Lumesse, Litmos, D2L, LearnCore, and Lessonly
Soft skills are “people skills”, and they are extremely important in the commercial sector. They involve showing and feeling empathy, embracing diversity, and understanding that we all have biases that we need to be aware of and keep in check. They involve effective interpersonal interactions and real-time communication skills and are relevant at all corporate levels. Whether office staff who interface with clients, office managers who interface with employees and their superiors, or the C-suite who provide the leadership and vision for the company, effective soft skills matter. An individual with strong soft skills can be an effective collaborator, leader, and “good” citizen. They not only know “what” behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate, but they know “how” to generate those behaviors and do so in a highly effective manner.
As suggested by Deloitte, the movement toward increased automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace has led many in the C-suite to suggest that soft skills are going to become increasingly important in the workplace. The #metoo movement makes glaringly clear that effective soft skills training is lacking in many workplace environments, and in society in general.
Corporate approaches to soft skills training do a good job of teaching employees how to identify and define appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and even offering suggestions for how to behave appropriately, but they are lacking in the use of tools for effective behavior change.
Brain science suggests specific solutions to this problem and can drive innovation and success in the commercial sector. As applied to soft skills training the science is highly suggestive. Training tools targeted directly at behavior change and the systems in the brain that drive behavior are required.
Brain Science of Soft Skills Learning
The human brain has evolved in such a way that there exist two distinct learning systems. One system focuses on learning the “what”, and is referred to as the cognitive skills learning system in the brain. The cognitive skills learning system in the brain learns through passive observation, studying and mental repetition, and recruits the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal lobes. The second system focuses on learning the “how”, and is referred to as the behavioral skills learning system in the brain. Learning in the behavioral skills system in the brain is active, it involves learning by doing, and physical repetitions, and recruits the basal ganglia. A more detailed discussion of these two systems can be found here.
The most common approach to corporate soft skills training involves having learners read text, view slideshows, and watch videos of appropriate and inappropriate soft skills behaviors. Learners are trained on definitions, how to identify appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, and are given strategies for incorporating appropriate soft skills behavior into their repertoire. This is focused on the “what” and is an important first step in soft skills training.
Unfortunately, most soft skills training programs stop here. It is assumed that the learner will somehow take this “what” information and will convert this into behavior (the “how”). The brain science makes clear that this is highly unlikely, and our own experience reinforces this claim. As anyone who has ever tried to change their own behavior knows, it is much easier to know “what” to do, than it is to learn behaviorally “how” to do it.
Once the learner is well versed on definitions and has strategies in place for effective soft skills, the next step is to train behavior (the “how”). Behavior change occurs when the learner’s behavior is following in real-time, literally within 100s of milliseconds, by feedback that rewards correct behaviors and punishes incorrect behaviors. Thus, the training scenarios must be interactive. Although the detailed neurochemistry is beyond the scope of this article, suffice it to say that behavioral skills are learned gradually and incrementally via dopamine-mediated, error-correction learning in the basal ganglia of the brain. When rewarded, behaviors are more likely to occur in the future, and when punished behaviors are less likely to occur in the future.
Interactive Training Platforms
Traditional approaches train a cognitive understanding of soft skills. These need to be supplemented with interactive approaches that train behavior. Interactive computer-based training platforms, as well as immersive virtual reality (VR) platforms, are available and should be used to complement traditional soft skills training procedures.
The learner can be placed in situations in which they must interact with an individual or avatar who is poor in soft skills so that they learn how to deal with situations like those, or they can be placed in situations in which their behavior is responded to in a negative manner. In other words, they can learn how to affect change in another, or affect change in themselves. Regardless of the platform, whether VR or computer-based, the key is to target the behavioral skills learning system with realistic interpersonal interactions and real-time communication. Behavior change will follow.
Corporate training professions need to beware of platforms that claim interactivity that is not truly interactive. From a brain science of learning perspective, behavior change will only be effective if interactivity involves real-time feedback—that is, rewards and punishments that occur within a few hundred milliseconds of the behavior in question. Providing feedback even several seconds following the behavior will not lead to effective behavior change. Interactivity must occur in real time or it won’t be effective.
Corporate Training Platforms
A number of vendors offer corporate training including Salesforce, SAP, Cornerstone, Saba, Skillsoft, PageUp, PeopleFluent, Talentsoft, Oracle, SilkRoad, IBM, Lumesse, Fivel, Litmos, D2L, LearnCore, and Lessonly, to name a few.
All of these vendors offer soft skills training focused on the cognitive skills learning system in the brain. These vendors are urged to complement their current training platform with real-time interactive training that targets the behavioral skills learning system in the brain. In the end, effective soft skills are effective behaviors that are only learned by engaging the behavioral skills learning system in the brain.
At Amalgam Insights, we have been focused on the key 2018 trends that will change our ability to manage technology at scale. In Part 1 of this series, Tom Petrocelli provided his key Developer Operations and enterprise collaboration predictions for 2018 in mid-December. In part two, , Todd Maddox provided 5 key predictions that will shape enterprise learning in 2018. In the third and final set of predictions, I’m taking on key themes of cloud, mobility, telecom, and data management that will challenge IT in terms of management at scale.
- Cloud IaaS and SaaS Spend under formal management will double in 2018, but the total spend under formalized management still be under 25% of total business spend.
- The number of cellular-connected IoT devices will double to over one billion between now and 2020.
- Technology Lifecycle Management will start to emerge as a complex spend management strategy for medium and large enterprises.
- Ethical AI will emerge as a key practice for AI Governance.
Key takeaway: Todd Maddox, Ph.D. uses his background in the psychological and brain science of learning to show how sleep deprivation affects employees’ working memory and executive attention. Both work and training environments should take sleep into consideration in developing high-performance and high-retention environments. Otherwise, sleep deprivation can ruin even the best-designed training environments.
In 2007, Arianna Huffington collapsed from exhaustion. She broke her cheekbone and had several stitches on her head. That experience changed her forever. She knew that she was working too hard, all in the interest of increased productivity. She spoke with scientists and researchers, she read extensively and ultimately realized that she needed to make a significant change in her life. That change was more consistent and restful sleep.
In her book, The Sleep Revolution, Huffington makes a number of important points regarding sleep. Most importantly, she references the strong scientific literature showing that a consistent sleep duration and consistent sleep and wake time is critical for restful sleep. In addition, she argues for a sleep routine that involves a “winding down” period to cleanse the mind of one’s worries. Finally, she points out that too many of us sleep with our buzzing, vibrating and flashing smartphones within arm’s reach, which is highly disruptive.
In a brief, but wonderful TEDWomen talk from 2010, Ms. Huffington tells a story about a dinner meeting that she had with a gentleman. He boasted that he got only 4 hours of sleep the night before. She wondered to the audience, but not to her dinner guest, whether an additional 1 or 2 hours of sleep might have led to a more interesting dinner meeting.
This was a “tongue in cheek” comment, but it says it all. The power of a good night’s sleep should not be underestimated. Instead of bragging about being able to function on little sleep as if it is a badge of honor, we should close our eyes and sleep our way to increased productivity, and decision-making. Who knows we might even be happier in the end.
The Brain Science of Sleep and Learning
My expertise is in the psychological and brain science of learning. In the corporate world, this translates to training hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills include learning new software, learning a company’s rules and regulations, or memorizing the set of steps to take to complete a task. Soft skills are people skills and include behaving in ways that show empathy, embrace diversity, and minimize unconscious biases. Soft skills are critical for effective management, collaborative communication, customer service, and avoiding behavior that can be interpreted as harassment.
As outlined in a recent article, hard skills are best learned by engaging the cognitive skills learning system in the brain, whereas soft skills are best learned by engaging the behavioral skills learning system in the brain. Hard skill learning relies heavily on working memory and executive attentional processes, whereas soft skills learning relies on gradual, incremental behavior change and not on working memory and executive attention.
One obvious question to ask is whether sleep deprivation has differential effects on hard vs. soft skills training. In two research studies conducted in my Human Learning and Performance Laboratory1,2, and published in the leading peer-reviewed journal in sleep and circadian science, SLEEP, I address this question empirically. Given the heavy reliance of hard skill learning on working memory and executive attention, I predicted that hard skills learning would be more affected by sleep deprivation than soft skills learning and that the effect would be mediated by attentional and working memory processes. Individuals learned a hard or a soft skill twice, separated by a 24-hour period, with or without sleep. We found strong effects of sleep deprivation on hard skill learning, and smaller effects of sleep deprivation on soft skill learning. Although the details are beyond the scope of this article, we used computational modeling techniques to localize the cognitive process that led to the hard skills deficit. We found that working memory and attentional processes were operating sub-optimally, leading to poor hard skills learning.
These are only two studies and both used a 24-hour sleep deprivation technique. More common in everyday life is chronic sleep deprivation. Our participants were West Point cadets who are clearly a special population. Despite these disclaimers, these studies are highly suggestive that hard skill learning is more strongly affected by sleep deprivation than soft skill learning.
Corporate Training Implications
There are a number of implications of this work that could be immediately incorporated into corporate training settings to enhance learning. I can think of a half dozen off the top of my head. One obvious way forward would be to obtain some estimate of the quality of an employee’s previous night’s sleep. If their sleep was especially good, I would prioritize hard skills training for that day, as the cognitive skills learning system in their brain should be especially ready to learn. On the other hand, if their sleep was average or poor, I would prioritize soft skills training for that day, so as not to rely heavily on working memory and attentional processes.
How might one assess sleep? Nearly every smartphone includes an app that measures sleep quality. There are also some very short duration tasks that one can have the employee complete that are highly correlated with sleep quality. This is not an insurmountable problem, and even if a modest increase in performance was achieved, that would be significant across a large workforce.
A good night’s sleep is critical to productivity and many aspects of our work life. However, when a good night’s sleep cannot be obtained, change the priorities for that day to minimized reliance on working memory and executive attention.
1Maddox, W.T., Glass, B.D., Wolosin, S.M., Savarie, Z.R., Bowen, C., Matthews, M.D., & Schnyer, D.M. (2009). The effects of sleep deprivation on information-integration categorization performance. SLEEP, 32, 1439-1448.
2Maddox, W.T., Glass, B.D., Zeithamova, D., Savarie, Z.R., Bowen, C., Matthews, M.D., & Schnyer, D.M. (2011). The effects of sleep deprivation on dissociable prototype learning systems. SLEEP, 34, 253-260.
At Amalgam Insights, we have been focused on the key 2018 trends that will change our ability to manage technology at scale. Tom Petrocelli provided his key Developer Operations and enterprise collaboration predictions for 2018 in mid-December. To continue that trend, Todd Maddox provides 5 key predictions that will shape enterprise learning in 2018 as markets reach new heights, corporate training embraces new scientific principles, and retention replaces compliance as a key training driver.
- VR/AR Enterprise Application Budget to Surpass $1 Billion in 2018
- eLearning (Computer-Based Training) Market to Approach $180 billion in 2018
- Commercial Training Sector to Embrace Neuroscience of Optimized Learning
- Continued Exponential Growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a Driving Force Behind the User Interface (UI)
- Training for Retention: The Rule, Not the Exception in 2018
On December 29th, 2017, Calero Software acquired Comview, an experienced telecom expense management and call accounting software and services provider. Financial terms were not disclosed. From Amalgam’s perspective, this acquisition is important in demonstrating the plans of Calero under its new ownership, Riverside Partners, and in establishing Comview’s role in the Technology Expense Management market. With this acquisition, all Comview personnel other than Founder John Perri are expected to move to Calero. Calero has committed to supporting Comview’s solution for the immediate future. Comview is expected to run as “a Calero company” with independent development and operations in the short term.
Overall, Amalgam is bullish on this acquisition as it combines the strengths of a veteran TEM provider, Comview, with strong customer service and an integrated platform with the scale and breadth of Calero’s capabilities.
Effective training is critical in all business sectors. In 2017, over $360 billion was spent on training worldwide, with over $160 billion spent in the U.S. alone. Given the ever-changing nature of the corporate landscape, as new technologies are introduced (e.g., AI) or upgraded (e.g., constant software upgrades), and as new challenges arise (e.g., sexual harassment in the workplace) corporate training must evolve to meet the growing need.
Corporate training can be loosely classified into two categories: hard skills and soft skills. An extensive body of scientific and neuroscientific research (much of it from the author’s research laboratory) suggests that the human brain contains at least two distinct systems that are recruited during learning. One system is referred to as the cognitive skills learning system, which is optimized for hard skills learning. The other is referred to as the behavioral skills learning system, which is optimized for soft skills learning.
Cognitive Skills Learning System
The cognitive skills learning system in the brain is comprised of the prefrontal cortex and the medial temporal lobes. This system is optimally tuned to learn hard skills such as learning new software, learning a company’s rules and regulations, or memorizing the set of steps to take to complete a task. The neural architecture of this system determines the set of training procedures that optimize learning. The scientifically-validated best practices for optimized learning of hard skills are many, and will be outlined in subsequent articles, but suffice it to say that learning in this system is passive, it involves observing and learning by watching, and repeating information mentally. For example, suppose you are learning a new CRM. You might read the manual, watch a few slide shows, or watch a video of someone performing specific functions within the CRM. You might study this information multiple times and practice the tasks in your head. Eventually, you will launch the CRM software to try out some of the things that you learned.
Behavioral Skills Learning System
The behavioral skills learning system in the brain resides in the basal ganglia. This system is optimally tuned to learn soft skills (also called people skills, 21st Century skills or socio-emotional skills). Soft skills include showing empathy, embracing diversity, and minimizing unconscious biases. These are all reflected in one’s behavior such as active listening, making eye contact, praising employees and co-workers when appropriate, avoiding overt punishment, and showing respect. Soft skills are relevant in all aspects of the corporate world including management, collaborative communication, and customer service, to name a few. Soft skills have received significant attention in 2017 and likely will receive even more in 2018 as corporations work to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment. I have written extensively on this topic.
Like the cognitive skills learning system, the neural architecture of the behavioral skills learning system determines the set of training procedures that optimize learning. The scientifically-validated best practices for optimized learning of soft skills are many, and will be outlined in subsequent articles, but suffice it to say that learning in this system is active, it involves learning by doing, and physical repetition.
Without going into the detailed neuroanatomy, soft skill learning relies critically on interactivity in the form of real-time immediate corrective feedback. You generate a behavior and receive feedback (literally within a few hundred milliseconds, no more). If the behavior is rewarded with a smile or nod, then that behavior will be more likely to occur next time you are in the same situation. If the behavior is punished with a frown or head shake, then that behavior will be less likely to occur next time you are in the same situation. This interactive back-and-forth in real-time is what leads to behavior change.
Optimal Delivery System for Hard and Soft Skills Training
With a few exceptions, the most common delivery system for corporate training is computer-based. Whether hard or soft skills, the training content generally comes in the form of written text, slide shows, or perhaps video. Notice that all of these content media involve passive observation on the part of the learner. This suggests a strong bias in corporate training toward optimized hard skills training, but sub-optimal soft skills training. Given the growing recognition of the importance of soft skills training in the workplace (e.g., the #metoo phenomena), this is unacceptable. Corporate training must expand to include interactivity of the form outlined above, in order to optimize soft skills training.
Most Tasks Require a Mixture of Cognitive and Behavioral Skills Learning
Although I have described hard skill learning as being mediated by the cognitive skills learning system in the brain, and soft skill learning as being mediated by the behavioral skills learning system in the brain, the reality is that nearly all tasks involve a mixture of cognitive and behavioral skills. For example, learning a new CRM might begin with reading the manual, watching some slide shows, or watching videos of someone performing specific functions within the CRM, but ultimately you need to use your mouse, touchpad, tablet or arrow keys to navigate the CRM and the keyboard to enter data. These are all behaviors and with enough practice these behaviors will become habitized through behavioral skills learning in the brain. Analogously, when training to behave as an effective manager, it makes sense to begin by reading descriptions of appropriate and inappropriate leadership behaviors, and even passively observing video interactions that portray an array of appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. This will set the stage, and likely facilitate the subsequent training targeted directly at increasing effective leadership behaviors and decreasing ineffective leadership behaviors.
A number of vendors offer corporate training, including Salesforce, SAP, Cornerstone, Saba, Skillsoft, PageUp, Fivel, Halogen, PeopleFluent, Talentsoft, Haufe, Oracle, SilkRoad, Deltek, IBM, Lumesse, Cegid, and many more. All of these vendors offer hard and soft skills training within a single platform. In most cases, the same training procedures are used for hard and soft skills training, with only the content changing. As outlined above, this approach is disadvantageous for soft skills training.
API management is a necessary but boring practice. As developers make use of a mix of public cloud, purchased or open source libraries, and homegrown services, the number of APIs used by developers quickly renders pouring through documentation impractical.
Microservices, usually accessed via RESTFul APIs, cause API calls to rapidly proliferate. Even modest-sized microservices-based systems experience API overload quickly. Agile development can exacerbate the problem of understanding and using APIs. The rapid pace of Agile, especially Scrum, leaves little time for proper documentation of APIs. Documentation often takes a back seat to continuous deployment.
Continue reading “As API Management Problem Grows, Informatica Jumps into the Market”