The Impact of IT on the Banking Industry

All industries are being heavily influenced by new changes in information technology, and this is certainly true for the banking industry. There has been a lot of discussion about the influence of IT in the banking industry, and how it might fundamentally change the manner in which a lot of people perform banking transactions.

The Rise of Blockchain Technology

As blockchain technology becomes more and more common, there won’t be as many centralized banking systems. Many of the specific banking transactions that people perform will be faster as a result of blockchain technology, so this is something that plenty of bank customers might support. The fact that this technology will get so much consumer support should only make it more economically viable.

Paper Checks May Become Obsolete

A lot of people have already dropped paper checks in favor of making online payments. This is starting to become enough of a trend that paper checks may eliminated in the near future. In some countries, paper checks have already become a thing of the past.

Cash might be used more frequently than paper checks in the near future, but people are still starting to rely on cash less and less as well. Online payments are becoming convenient enough that most of the advantages associated with cash payments are disappearing.

Bitcoin and Similar Currencies Will Become More Popular

It’s clear that Bitcoin isn’t going anywhere, even though some people in the industry were skeptical of Bitcoin initially. Given how useful Bitcoin is when it comes to international banking, increasing rates of globalization should only make Bitcoin more relevant.

Many of the new technological changes should be positive for customers overall. They will also certainly have a huge effect on the experience of customers in general.

College Degrees for IT Career Preparation

College-level curriculum in certain technical fields is useful preparation for an IT job. Several options exist for students, including associate and bachelor’s degrees. The major a student picks for their degree helps them either prepare for a specific IT job or get a broad background to prepare for many entry-level jobs.

Specialized IT Associate Degree (2-year)

A 2-year degree in a specific IT field, such as computer repair, system administration, web development or mobile development, is an ideal option for a student who already knows the area of IT in which they want to work. Detailed training in this field prepares them for a job soon after they graduate. 2-year degrees are less expensive than bachelor’s degrees and are typically available at a community college. While the starting pay a graduate receives at their first job is usually less than what someone with a 4-year degree would earn, the specific skills they learned about their field helps them advance fast and continue to learn.

Computer Science Associate Degree (2-year)

Many community colleges offer a general degree in computer science for students who want to prepare for a bachelor’s degree. This degree usually includes required math, introductory programming and general education requirements. After completing the degree, students can transfer many of these credits to a 4-year university program.

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science (4-year)

A 4-year computer science degree from a reputable university can provide considerable general knowledge about math, programming, software design, algorithms and computer systems. Further specialization can tailor the degree to include areas like networking, databases, web development, artificial intelligence, mobile development and IT security.

Often, computer science students do a co-op or internship with a company to get real work experience on their resume. Many computer science programs also offer a capstone course where teams of students work together on a semester-long project for a company. All of this is useful preparation for real IT work upon graduation. With a both broad and specific knowledge of IT, in addition to practical work experience, students are well prepared for most entry-level IT jobs when they graduate.

Conclusion

Both associate and bachelor’s degrees in IT are great options for career preparation. Colleges offer many paths students can take at both levels. The path a student chooses can help them prepare for a specific career or give them general computing knowledge and project experience that prepares them for a variety of IT jobs.

Students – top off your educational experience by earning certification. Learn more about earning Business Computing Associate certification.

IT in Manufacturing: 5 Benefits of ERP

The origins of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), a software system designed to meet a company’s needs by merging its operational processes in a single application, can be traced back to the 1960s when software engineers identified a need for companies to centralize their computing systems, which mainly involved automating their inventory management and control systems.

By the 1970s, the tech world gave birth to what would become ERP’s predecessor and prototype, Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP). A decade later, MRP became MRPII. Then in the 1990s MRPII evolved into ERP. Since manufacturing is ERP’s earliest beneficiary, the two are a natural fit. Manufacturing ERP software has also been used by other industries like transportation and automotive. Here are five ways ERP benefits manufacturing.

Streamlined Processes

An IDC Manufacturing Insights survey reported that 71 percent of manufacturers expect an escalation in market complexity, while 61 percent think it will lead to a jump in operational complexity. Manufacturing ERP systems seek to address the problems that come with an increasingly complex workplace by streamlining operations, improving functions like production, data entry and order fulfillment.

Cost Control

ERP software helps reduce operational and administrative costs using one source of real-time data. Knowing and understanding a company’s Key Performance Indicators, along with other pertinent information, is crucial to boosting manufacturing growth. Manufacturers with ERP solutions can proactively manage operations and prevent delays and disruptions.

Increased Flexibility

ERP systems also benefit the manufacturing industry because of their flexibility, their ability to adapt to a company’s individual needs. In fact, since manufacturing operations constantly evolve, ERP has a feature that allows for seamless adaptability.

Maintaining an Edge Over the Competition

Manufacturers often find themselves caught in a tug-of-war between two conflicting options: investing in an ERP system, which could require a major investment, and doing nothing while their competitors take advantage of the opportunity to improve their operations and remain at the front of the pack.

Inventory Reduction

Companies often call any excess inventory “safety stock“. Too much of it can lead to wasteful practices in such areas as warehouse employees, excessive paperwork, non-verbal communication, actual inventory counts and storage.

Opportunities in College-level IT Education

Many students today are interested in getting a college-level IT education, which makes perfect sense. Today’s college students are increasingly making practical career choices. They’re well aware of the fact that an IT education will give them job skills that they can use immediately, especially if they have the right education. Fortunately for them, an increasing number of schools do have information technology education programs.

IT Degrees

Many students will specifically work towards two-year associate degrees in information technology education programs. A two-year degree will prepare students for a career in computer programming, computer support or network administration. Some colleges will offer four-year degree programs in information technology as well. These will typically give students the opportunity to work in information systems technology and other particularly advanced fields.

Certificates

A number of people who are already working in the IT industry will pursue college-level IT education in order to enter credit certificate programs that will help them learn new skills. However, there are also students who will earn these vocational certificates while they are earning their associate degrees, so they will be adequately prepared for a high-level career in IT with a lot of available options.

IT Internships

It’s a good idea for students to get direct work experience in the field with IT internships. Some students will get the opportunity to earn course credit by participating in these internships. Other students will get small salaries, while other IT internships are unpaid. There are students who choose to complete IT internships after graduation, which might be allowed with some internships. The more experience, skills and qualifications that students can bring to the table, the better. Having educational qualifications, as well as industry experience through an internship, might be the ideal combination.

After completing your education, check out the COMMON Career Center for career opportunities.

Study Shows IBM i Has Big Cost Advantage Over Alternatives

According to an August 2017 study conducted by Quark + Lepton, an independent research and management consulting firm, IBM i on Power Systems servers provides a substantial TCO (total cost of ownership) advantage over equivalent Windows or Linux platforms.

For the study, which was funded by IBM, Quark + Lepton used three different server/database configurations: an IBM Power Systems server running IBM i Operating System V7.3 with DB2, an x86 server running Windows Server 2016 and SQL Server 2016 and an x86 with Linux and Oracle Database 12c. TCO estimates were based on the costs of hardware acquisition and maintenance, OS and database licenses and support, system and database admin personnel salaries and facilities expenses. Several different use cases were analyzed.

A Big TCO Advantage

The results of the study showed the projected three-year TCO for the three setups to be as follows:

  • Power Systems/IBM i/DB2 – $430,815
  • x86/Windows/SQL Server – $1.18 million
  • x86/Linux/Oracle – $1.27 million

The study concludes that “costs for use of IBM i on Power Systems are lower across the board”. For example, initial hardware and software acquisition costs for the IBM i systems averaged 8% less than the Windows systems, and fully 24 % less than the Linux systems.

Perhaps the most surprising factor in the stark differential between the IBM i solution and the others was in the cost of required support staff. Based on a 300-user scenario, IBM i required 0.3 FTE (full time equivalent) support personnel, compared to 0.5 FTE for the Windows setup and 0.55 FTE for Linux.

But the biggest differential in staff costs arose from the fact that IBM i admins could handle both the OS and the database. Those double-duty IBM i personnel commanded salaries of about $86,000, while Windows and Linux sysadmins were paid $71,564 and $86,843 respectively. However, the Windows and Linux setups also required the support of separate database admins, adding $100,699 (SQL Server) and $103,283 (Oracle) to the personnel costs for those solutions.

Simplicity

In its conclusion the report notes that while the industry is trending toward ever-greater complexity, the simplicity of IBM i makes it by far the most cost-effective platform on which to base an organization’s IT infrastructure.

What Is Cognitive Banking?

Cognitive banking is the use of advanced technology to make banks more effective. By using machine learning, AI and data science, financial institutions use data gathered from customers and internal sources to optimize processes.

How Does Cognitive Banking Work?

Banks already collect significant data on interactions and events. Cloud-based machines that understand natural language can learn from all of this data. A machine that has accumulated considerable knowledge can give evidence-based advice to both customers and bank employees. By using these techniques, a bank can provide more value to customers while improving its internal procedures.

Benefit to Customers

When a cognitive system analyzes real customer interaction data, it can gain insights from data by identifying patterns that lead to customer satisfaction. When banks allow it to interact directly with their clients, further learning continues with each new interaction. The system can learn how to provide a better user experience. It gives smart advice to users on how to optimize their finances using the products the bank offers. In this way, cognitive systems can provide true value to clients.

How Banks Benefit

Banks that adopt cognitive banking strategies are well prepared to adapt to a changing future. Hard-coding of procedures becomes unnecessary as they are constantly evolving to fit the needs of the bank. Smart machines are on the front line of customer interaction instead of human operators. This both saves money and has the potential to provide a more optimized experience for clients. Smart machines can also learn banking regulations and security protocols to determine in real-time how well the bank is meeting these requirements. Employees receive notifications if the system needs changes to meet regulations or improve security.

Conclusion

In the rapidly evolving banking industry, banks need strategies to stay competitive. The use of cognitive banking techniques improves customer satisfaction while allowing banks to run more efficiently. For more information on cognitive banking, check out this page from IBM.

The Role of IT in the Retail Industry – Adapting to Trends

IT has a substantial role to play in the modern retail industry. This has been the case for a long time. However, the world of information technology changes quickly enough that individuals working in retail have had to adapt to various trends.

Mobile Apps for Retail Stores

Many experts today are now urging all retailers to create apps that specifically pertain to their products and even their store locations themselves. This is one of the biggest trends with regards to IT in the retail industry. All of these apps are incredibly different, however.

RetailSome makeup stores will offer apps that enable users to test products in advance in a whole new way. Some of the apps will offer customers convenient discounts right at their fingertips.

People can use apps in order to get a sense of where different items are located and whether or not they’re currently available. As such, there are apps that will truly help people overcome some of the most frustrating parts of shopping in the first place.

Cloud Computing in Retail

Thanks to cloud computing, it is much easier for retailers to consistently monitor their inventory. They can quickly get a sense of what they have in stock and what’s going on with orders. Losing large amounts of data is much less likely in the era of cloud computing. While this makes the technical side of the equation easier, it also means that retail workers can place more emphasis on customer service.

IT helps improve efficiency in the retail industry. The retail industry may also be able to fulfill more of its primary objectives thanks to modern information technology trends.

IT Personnel Management Tips

IT personnel management is not easy. Even some of the most seasoned professionals in this field will struggle. However, if IT personnel managers keep a few things in mind, they can expect much better results from their team members.

Learn Flexibility

Many people are promoted into IT personnel management positions after they’ve excelled by working independently. When working with other people, it’s important to make sure that they have some control over the process. Working with subordinates means adapting to their needs, ideas, abilities, and suggestions. Managers who can be more flexible will be more successful in general.

Develop Conflict Resolution Skills

IT personnel managers will run into emotional and disordered conflicts no matter what they do, regardless of the intelligence and maturity of their subordinates. They cannot respond by avoiding the conflict or escalating the conflict by ridiculing the people involved. IT personnel managers must become experts at diffusing the conflict and trying to find a way to satisfy as many people as possible by keeping their concerns and abilities in mind.

Create Professional Relationships

Being a manager of any kind requires high-level social skills and the ability to develop solid working relationships. Managers who are able to do this will often find that everything else will fall into place as a result. Managers do have to avoid being too involved with what their subordinates are doing, of course. However, they also can’t be too distant. Striking a balance and caring about the needs of employees helps lead to good relationships between employees.

It isn’t easy to get promoted into IT personnel management. However, many people will learn the requisite skills in time.

Wanting to improve your management and people skills? Take a look at the 2017 Fall Conference & Expo Focused Education Roadmap – Developing Business Skills.

IT in Manufacturing: Industry 4.0

Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology have grown up side by side. Modern manufacturing equipment has been on a collision course with standard IT for decades as more computerization is added to the machine tools used in manufacturing. With the emergence of convergence between the technologies, the manufacturing sector is beginning to become more reliant on the same skills that have traditionally been used in IT. Along with the skill set of hardware technological support and programming support, IT leaders going forward will need to understand the operational mindset of the managers they interact with.

Metrics

Industry 4.0, an initiative that began in Germany in 2011, sometimes called Manufacturing 4.0, represents the convergence of activities. Manufacturing activities have always been metric centric. How many widgets can be made by a piece of equipment in a given time with what rate for rejected pieces is used to calculate the effective throughput of a given device. This calculation is added to the BOM (Bill of Material) and employed in planning calculations within MRP.

In the past, this information was manually determined and entered into the BOM. The Internet of Things (IOT) has created the means to provide this information electronically, allowing for better measurements and quicker reactions to variations than ever before.

Quality metrics based on the throughput and yield are also impacted by the ability to communicate this data in real-time. Sensors being built into systems that perform the SPC (Statistical Process Control) activity provide up to the minute data for analysis.

Production Line

Reporting

Still, this is only the beginning of the ways in which the data can be used. Data from these two areas can be used to create analytical studies for finance departments to better understand the depreciation and efficient use of capital investments. Engineers can design better more efficient processes and sales, forecasting and customer service departments can get more insightful information to provide customers better delivery dates, and inventory level information.

Operational leaders who are looking into or actively implementing robotic manufacturing depend heavily on interconnected systems with automated reporting to reduce cost and improve throughput in the manufacturing environment. Smart factories that practice Lean Manufacturing take advantage of the analytical reporting generated by the interconnected operations technology to shift labor and operational staff to areas to maximize their production staff and increase capacity.

Security

The adoption of IOT has resulted in more wired and wireless factory shopfloor connected devices, remote access, programming, and set-up operations. Manufacturing machines with embedded operating systems, usually have a “lite” version of the operating system with a limited capacity to configure and execute sophisticated commands. This lower technological threshold has resulted in security breaches which, if part of a fully connected network, lead major systems to be compromised. While it is IT Security’s responsibility to address these vulnerabilities, IT must also ensure that manufacturing can still continue to run on a 24X7 basis. This applies in particular as robotic devices replace manually administered equipment.

Production Support

As the manufacturing moves into the digital world, IT will increasingly be called upon to support production equipment at the same level that it supports end users. The data from this equipment will make its way to senior managers who make decisions on customer pricing, continuing existing relationships with suppliers and customers, the fate of manufacturing facilities and product lines. Our service delivery for software and infrastructure support as well as user education and assistance will need to encompass all levels within the organization from shop floor and assembly line staff to the C-suite.

IT Education – Preparing for a Career in Data Science

Data Science

Do you love mathematics? Do phrases like “data warehousing” and “v-lookups” bring out the inner nerd in you? If any of this sounds familiar, you might want to steer your direction toward a career in Data Science.

According to Patrick Circelli, a senior recruiter for the IT recruiting firm Mondo, “Data Science is all about mathematics, so having that type of degree — mathematics, information science, computer science, etc. — is especially key for these roles. Hiring managers really love that.” Circelli goes on to describe the must-haves for anyone preparing a resume for a career as a data scientist. His list includes:

  1. A degree in Information Science, Computer Science or Mathematics
  2. Microsoft Excel, specifically the use of pivot tables and v-lookups, and knowledge of SQL queries and stored procedures
  3. Programming skills in any of the following languages: C++, Java, Python, R, or SAS
  4. Concepts such as predictive analysis, visualization and pattern recognition, i.e. understanding how data operates, and skills that could come from data visualization tools like Tableau
  5. NoSQL database environments like MongoDB, CouchDB or HBase
  6. Data warehousing

Although there are many areas in IT that require data science skills, thanks to relentless cyber attacks, the growth rate in security data science specifically, is booming at 26%, with the security analytics market set to reach $8 billion by the year 2023. Anyone who can create a resume listing Circelli’s recommendations, along with a desire to focus pointedly on data security to combat hackers and cyber attacks, can probably write their own ticket in the tech world for decades to come.