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WhereScape automation speeds up data-driven decision making for optimum business health

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WhereScape automation speeds up data-driven decision making for optimum business health
  • Simplyhealth selects WhereScape 3D and WhereScape Red to provide business users with efficient self service system

Benefits:

  • Enabled BI team to reduce headcount from 10 to 4, yet increase efficiency
  • Entire team able to maintain and support project removing reliance on one individual
  • Refresh times reduced from 8 hours to 1
  • Solution developed by one person in 4 weeks. This is compared to an entire team taking 18 months previously
  • Average change now takes just minutes, compared to 4-7 hours previously
  • Transparency of code
  • Documentation on data warehouse for the first time

With over 3 million customers and 145 years’ experience, Simplyhealth supports people with their everyday health through health cash plans, dental payment and pet health plans. Its roots are in the hospital funds set up in the Victorian era to help working people save for their medical care. With no shareholders it exists solely to serving its customers and supporting charitable causes.

Carl Richards is Business Intelligence Development Manager at Simplyhealth. He looks after a small team of Business Intelligence (BI) developers whose role is to develop data marts that provides Simplyhealth’s business users with data ‘self service.’ Using Tableau as a data visualisation tool and Microsoft SQL Server Reporting services for paginated style reports, self service users can access specific information, such as claims history, benefit entitlements as well as information on making a new claim.

However, Carl was looking to redeploy six out of the ten members of his team to work on more strategic projects elsewhere in the business, while still producing, and even extending, Simplyhealth’s BI estate. He needed a new technology solution that would help him achieve such efficiencies from streamlining, without any risk of a lesser service.

One of the challenges Carl had was the inherent inefficiency with the previous technology system. Using a number of PL/SQL procedures that were used to extract, transform and load data from existing operational systems – a mixture of SQL Server and Oracle on an Oracle database – was proving hugely time consuming, not to mention complex. The depth of complexity was such that, only the developer involved could support and maintain these projects, making it difficult for Carl to have other team members step in and pick up where one had left off.

In addition, Simplyhealth wanted to explore the option of reporting over specified periods of time in order to draw comparisons between current and historical time periods. Using the previous system, the process simply truncated the database and repopulated itself every time Carl’s team refreshed, which at the time was once per week. Making comparisons with previous time periods – an important element of business reporting – was not possible.

Carl embarked upon an extensive vendor evaluation process, looking at all major players in the BI field. With most vendors focusing on the transformation element, only WhereScape was able to automate from data source to data warehouse, and this sealed Simplyhealth’s decision. Explained Carl: “Another reason for feeling so comfortable with the WhereScape solution was the fact that it is a code generator and we were therefore able to read and understand the code that was being created, decreasing reliance on any one individual and instead meaning the whole team could support any single process developed.”

Simplyhealth chose WhereScape 3D to test designs and show prototypes to business users using real data before the data warehouse was built, saving the time and money that could have been lost from miscommunication or misunderstanding. 3D also enabled Simplyhealth’s developers to give a definitive answer on how long a build will take, which is almost impossible with hand coding. They then used WhereScape RED to automate the build, management and operation of data marts based on the approved designs. All of this meant shorter, iterative steps with closer communication between IT and the business.

Benefits:

Since implementing the WhereScape data warehouse automation solution, Simplyhealth has been successful in running an efficient BI team with a reduced headcount of 4. So successful, in fact, that rather than experiencing any set backs, the service has reported fewer issues than ever before and can now process its refreshes on a daily basis, with refresh times reduced from 8 hours to only one.

“We couldn’t be happier,” reported Carl. “The results in efficiency alone have been worth the investment several times over! Refresh times are now happening 87.5% faster, the solution only took one developer four weeks to set up, as opposed to an entire team taking 18 months previously and an average change now only taking minutes, as opposed to anything from four to seven hours previously!

“In addition, my reduced team of 4 is able to maintain and support all projects as all the code is developed within the WhereScape solution, leaving other team members free to work on other projects elsewhere in the business,” continued Carl.

“I would recommend WhereScape to anyone. For the first time, the business has documentation on our data warehouse and I have a lean, agile IT team working at maximum efficiency to serve our ever-developing business requirements!”

Future:

As a business built on data, Simplyhealth has always required access to as much data as possible, and is now looking at other areas that could benefit from the efficiencies of the WhereScape solution. Many of these were previously impossible due to the limitations of the system and, in addition, the lack of time available on Carl’s team to look at other projects that could benefit from data-driven insight. Now, using WhereScape, the firm has been able to move the business forward by delivering them the data they want.

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‘Spooky’ AI tool brings dead relatives’ photos to life

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'Spooky' AI tool brings dead relatives' photos to life 1

By Umberto Bacchi

(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Like the animated paintings that adorn the walls of Harry Potter’s school, a new online tool promises to bring portraits of dead relatives to life, stirring debate about the use of technology to impersonate people.

Genealogy company MyHeritage launched its “Deep Nostalgia” feature earlier this week, allowing users to turn stills into short videos showing the person in the photograph smiling, winking and nodding.

“Seeing our beloved ancestors’ faces come to life … lets us imagine how they might have been in reality, and provides a profound new way of connecting to our family history,” MyHeritage founder Gilad Japhet said in a statement.

Developed with Israeli computer vision firm D-ID, Deep Nostalgia uses deep learning algorithms to animate images with facial expressions that were based on those of MyHeritage employees.

Some of the company’s users took to Twitter on Friday to share the animated images of their deceased relatives, as well as moving depictions of historical figures, including Albert Einstein and Ancient Egypt’s lost Queen Nefertiti.

“Takes my breath away. This is my grandfather who died when I was eight. @MyHeritage brought him back to life. Absolutely crazy,” wrote Twitter user Jenny Hawran.

While most expressed amazement, others described the feature as “spooky” and said it raised ethical questions. “The photos are enough. The dead have no say in this,” tweeted user Erica Cervini.

From chatbots to virtual reality, the tool is the latest innovation seeking to bring the dead to life through technology.

Last year U.S. rapper Kanye West famously gifted his wife Kim Kardashian a hologram of her late father congratulating her on her birthday and on marrying “the most, most, most, most, most genius man in the whole world”.

‘ANIMATING THE PAST’

The trend has opened up all sorts of ethical and legal questions, particularly around consent and the opportunity to blur reality by recreating a virtual doppelganger of the living.

Elaine Kasket a psychology professor at the University of Wolverhampton in Britain who authored a book on the “digital afterlife”, said that while Deep Nostalgia was not necessarily “problematic”, it sat “at the top of a slippery slope”.

“When people start overwriting history or sort of animating the past … You wonder where that ends up,” she said.

MyHeritage acknowledges on its website that the technology can be “a bit uncanny” and its use “controversial”, but said steps have been taken to prevent abuses.

“The Deep Nostalgia feature includes hard-coded animations that are intentionally without any speech and therefore cannot be used to fake any content or deliver any message,” MyHeritage public relations director Rafi Mendelsohn said in a statement.

Yet, images alone can convey meaning, said Faheem Hussain, a clinical assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

“Imagine somebody took a picture of the Last Supper and Judas is now winking at Mary Magdalene – what kind of implications that can have,” Hussain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Similarly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) animations could be use to make someone appear as though they were doing things they might not be happy about, such as rolling their eyes or smiling at a funeral, he added.

Mendelsohn of MyHeritage said using photos of a living person without their consent was a breach of the company’s terms and conditions, adding that videos were clearly marked with AI symbols to differentiate them from authentic recordings.

“It is our ethical responsibility to mark such synthetic videos clearly and differentiate them from real videos,” he said.

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi in Milan; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

 

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Does your institution have operational resilience? Testing cyber resilience may be a good way to find out

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REMOTE WORKING STRATEGY REQUIRED TO STRENGTHEN CYBER RESILIENCE

By Callum Roxan, Head of Threat Intelligence, F-Secure

If ever 2020 had a lesson, it was that no organization can possibly prepare for every conceivable outcome. Yet building one particular skill will make any crisis easier to handle: operational resilience.

Many financial institutions have already devoted resources to building operational resilience. Unfortunately, this often takes what Miles Celic, Chief Executive Officer of TheCityUK, calls a “near death” experience for this conversion to occur. “Recent years have seen a number of cases of loss of reputation, reduced enterprise value and senior executive casualties from operational incidents that have been badly handled,” he wrote.

But it need not take a disaster to learn this vital lesson.

“Operational resilience means not only planning around specific, identified risks,” Charlotte Gerken, the executive director of the Bank of England, said in a 2017 speech on operational resilience. “We want firms to plan on the assumption that any part of their infrastructure could be impacted, whatever the reason.” Gerken noted that firms that had successfully achieved a level of resilience that survives a crisis had established the necessary mechanisms to bring the business together to respond where and when risks materialised, no matter why or how.

We’ll talk about the bit we know best here; by testing for cyber resilience, a company can do more than prepare for the worst sort of attacks it may face. This process can help any business get a clearer view of how it operates, and how well it is prepared for all kinds of surprises.

Assumptions and the mechanisms they should produce are the best way to prepare for the unknown. But, as the boxer Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” The aim of cyber resilience is to build an effective security posture that survives that first punch, and the several that are likely to follow. So how can an institution be confident that they’ve achieved genuine operational resilience?

This requires an organization to honestly assess itself through the motto inscribed at the front of the Temple of Delphi: “Know thyself.” And when it comes to cyber security, there is a way for an organization to test just how thoroughly it comprehends its own strengths and weaknesses.

Callum Roxan

Callum Roxan

The Bank of England was the first central bank to help develop the framework for institutions to test the integrity of their systems. CBEST is made up of controlled, bespoke, intelligence-led cyber security tests that replicate behaviours of those threat actors, and often have unforeseen or secondary benefits. Gerken notes that the “firms that did best in the testing tended to be those that really understood their organisations. They understood their own needs, strengths and weaknesses, and reflected this in the way they built resilience.”

In short, testing cyber resilience can provide clear insight into an institution’s operational resilience in general.

Gaining that specific knowledge without a “near-death” experience is obviously a significant win for any establishment. And testing for operational resilience throughout the industry can provide some reminders of the steps every organization should take so that testing provides unique insists about their institution, and not just a checklist of cyber defence basics.

The IIF/McKinsey Cyber Resilience Survey of the financial services industry released in March lasy year provided six sets of immediate actions that institutions could take to improve their cyber security posture. The toplines of these recommendations were:

  1. Do the basics, patch your vulnerabilities.
  2. Review your cloud architecture and security capabilities.
  3. Reduce your supply chain risk.
  4. Practice your incident response and recovery capabilities.
  5. Set aside a specific cyber security budget and prioritise it
  6. Build a skilled talent pool and optimize resources through automation.

But let’s be honest: If simply reading a solid list of recommendations created cyber resilience, cyber criminals would be out of business. Unfortunately, cyber crime as a business is booming and threat actors targeting essential financial institutions through cyber attacks are likely earning billions in the trillion dollar industry of financial crime.A list can’t reveal an institution’s unique weaknesses, those security failings and chokepoints that could shudder operations, not just during a successful cyber attack but during various other crises that challenge their operations. And the failings that lead to flaws in an institution’s cyber defence likely reverberate throughout the organization as liabilities that other crises would likely expose.

The best way to get a sense of operational resilience will always be to simulate the worst that attackers can summon. That’s why the time to test yourself is now, before someone else does.

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Thomson Reuters to stress AI, machine learning in a post-pandemic world

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gbaf1news

By Kenneth Li and Nick Zieminski

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Thomson Reuters Corp will streamline technology, close offices and rely more on machines to prepare for a post-pandemic world, the news and information group said on Tuesday, as it reported higher sales and operating profit.

The Toronto-headquartered company will spend $500 million to $600 million over two years to burnish its technology credentials, investing in AI and machine learning to get data faster to professional customers increasingly working from home during the coronavirus crisis.

It will transition from a content provider to a content-driven technology company, and from a holding company to an operational structure.

Thomson Reuters’ New York- and Toronto-listed shares each gained more than 8%.

It aims to cut annual operating expenses by $600 million through eliminating duplicate functions, modernizing and consolidating technology, as well as through attrition and shrinking its real estate footprint. Layoffs are not a focus of the cost cuts and there are no current plans to divest assets as part of this plan, the company said.

“We look at the changing behaviors as a result of COVID … on professionals working from home working remotely being much more reliant on 24-7, digital always-on, sort of real-time always available information, served through software and powered by AI and ML (machine learning),” Chief Executive Steve Hasker said in an interview.

Sales growth is forecast to accelerate in each of the next three years compared with 1.3% reported sales growth for 2020, the company said in its earnings release.

Thomson Reuters, which owns Reuters News, said revenues rose 2% to $1.62 billion, while its operating profit jumped more than 300% to $956 million, reflecting the sale of an investment and other items.

Its three main divisions, Legal Professionals, Tax & Accounting Professionals, and Corporates, all showed higher organic quarterly sales and adjusted profit. As part of the two-year change program, the corporate, legal and tax side will operate more as one customer-facing entity.

Adjusted earnings per share of 54 cents were ahead of the 46 cents expected, based on data from Refinitiv.

The company raised its annual dividend by 10 cents to $1.62 per share.

The Reuters News business showed lower revenue in the fourth quarter. In January, Stephen J. Adler, Reuters’ editor-in-chief for the past decade, said he would retire in April from the world’s largest international news provider.

Thomson Reuters also said its stake in The London Stock Exchange is now worth about $11.2 billion.

The LSE last month completed its $27-billion takeover of data and analytics business Refinitiv, 45%-owned by Thomson Reuters.

(Reporting by Ken Li, writing by Nick Zieminski in New York, editing by Louise Heavens and Jane Merriman)

 

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