Europe's edition of Business Chief - February issue now available!
The February issue of the Europe edition of Business Chief, packed with interviews and insight, is now live!
Few retailers are able to match the mighty Alibaba for its customer-base, but how exactly can businesses in Europe take advantage of its huge reach in China?
In our cover interview this month, Tom Wadlow speaks to David Lloyd, Alibaba’s Managing Director for the UK, Ireland the Nordics, who reveals the avenues companies can explore to showcase their products to the e-commerce giant’s 488mn active consumers.
"Our mission globally is to make it easy to do business anywhere," says Lloyd. Read the full, exclusive Q&A on page six.
- Amazon to build new UK fulfilment centre, investment in the country hits £6.4bn
- RELX Group to acquire fraud detection specialists ThreatMetrix for £580mn
- Davos 2018: Fujitsu's Duncan Tait on making artificial intelligence work
Elsewhere in this edition, Conrad Fritzsch, Mercedes-Benz’s Director of Digitalisation, Marketing & Sales, outlines the theory and practice behind a digital transformation while Stuart Hodge assesses the challenges businesses face in retaining their most valuable talent.
Recent trends in operational risk management are also analysed, Paris is the European hub profiled in our regular City Focus feature and February’s top 10 ranks the biggest IPOs on the continent in 2017.
Finally, our exclusive digital reports feature interviews with the DVLA, NFU Mutual, the NHS Business Services Authority and Universal Electric Corp – all involving in-depth discussions with top executives and industry experts.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”