Updates from McKinsey

An on-demand revolution in customer-experience operations?
Whether relying mainly on in-house or external talent, gig-style staffing models—when managed carefully—could give customer care the horsepower and flexibility it needs for today’s increasingly volatile markets.
By Vinay Gupta, Raelyn Jacobson, Paul Kline, Manu Mehndiratta, and Julian Raabe – When businesses across the globe were forced to shutter in 2020, the leaders at one regional North American bank shifted to virtual mode. Anticipating that customer-call volumes would remain elevated through the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, bank leaders created a streamlined training module to cross-train sidelined branch workers. The extra support from branch colleagues helped the bank to manage the high volume of calls. Better still, because the supporting workers were branch personnel, their knowledge of the bank’s processes, products, and culture helped maintain the high level of customer satisfaction that the bank had worked so hard to achieve. Leaders learned that this internal “gig worker” approach could be a solution for managing future spikes in demand, whether from unforeseen events or seasonally based capacity increases. And, during a time of great uncertainty, it gave employees new opportunities—to work flexibly, learn new skills, and even find new career paths. That flexibility may give companies an edge now that many are fighting a “Great Attrition.” 

The COVID-19 lockdowns sparked a major scramble to move business to online and phone-based channels. Not every company, however, was prepared to handle the ensuing digital deluge; at this point, there are little data on how effectively companies coped. But the experiences of companies to date show that many organizations are now rethinking how they staff customer-care operations.

Flexible staffing—the use of external talent from outsourcing providers or independent freelancers—has been a staple of customer service for decades. But the pandemic may well be the first time that the redeployment of in-house talent from other departments has occurred on a relatively large scale.

Both approaches, externally and internally sourced, constitute the core of what we call “gig customer-experience operations,” or Gig CX. And it behooves companies from across the industry spectrum to consider making this strategy a part of their regular operations. In this article, we explore the pros and cons of Gig CX and identify four essential elements that must be in place to make it work. more>

Want to Try a New Ride Into Space? Fly a 3D Printed Rocket

3D printing may offer a way of building a rocket with a fast manufacturing turnaround and less cost than traditional manufacturing.
By Rob Spiegel – 3D printing may offer a way of building a rocket with a fast manufacturing turnaround and less cost than traditional manufacturing.

Soon, the quickest and cheapest ride into space may not be in the hands of SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, or Blue Origin. It may be in the hands of a 3D printing company.

3D printing may offer a way of building a rocket with a fast manufacturing turnaround and less cost than traditional manufacturing.

Soon, the quickest and cheapest ride into space may not be in the hands of SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, or Blue Origin. It may be in the hands of a 3D printing company.

Relativity Space is an L.A.-based American aerospace manufacturer founded in 2015 by Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone. Relativity Space is developing manufacturing technologies, launch vehicles, and rocket engines for commercial orbital launch services using 3D printing. more>

Master Bond

militaryaerospace.com – With a product line of over 3,000 formulations, Master Bond has been supplying aerospace and defense manufacturers with custom formulated compounds for structural bonding and a variety of electronic applications. Master Bond’s mission is to develop cutting edge adhesives, sealants, coatings and potting/encapsulation systems utilizing advanced technology for challenging applications.

Our expansive line of epoxies, silicones, UV curable and LED curable systems feature superior performance properties even in extreme conditions including:

  • High/low temperature resistance
  • Electrical conductivity/insulation
  • Thermal conductivity
  • High/low viscosity
  • Flexibility and toughness
  • Chemical resistance
  • Optical clarity

Our products feature superior long-term durability. They are used in a variety of industries and are designed to meet stringent industry standards and are certified for:

  • NASA low outgassing
  • Federal Aviation Regulations 25.853(a) for flame retardancy
  • UL 94V-0 and UL94V-1
  • U.S. MIL-STD 883J (Section 3.5.3) for thermal stability
  • U.S. MIL-STD 810G (Method 508.7) for fungus resistance.
  • Airbus testing for flame retardancy, smoke emission and toxicity
  • Boeing standards for low smoke and toxicity

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As Consumer Mood Sours, Are Investors Overlay Optimistic?

Why U.S. stock markets may reflect too much optimism about consumer spending, heading into what could be a subdued year-end shopping season.
By Lisa Shalett –  U.S. consumers have a lot on their minds recently, weighed down by the coronavirus Delta variant, a more-sluggish-than-expected jobs recovery, inflation worries and the spectacle of political wrangling in Washington, D.C. At the same time, financial markets seem to be “climbing a wall of worry,” confident that these growing anxieties about inflation, supply-chain disruptions and the economic drag from the pandemic will soon pass.

We believe the consumer perspective warrants attention. Negative sentiment, especially heading into the year-end holiday season, could presage market weakness, catalyzed by lower-than-expected spending and disappointing corporate earnings.

Let’s first consider that consumer confidence and stock market moves have historically been well correlated; any notable divergences tend to be short-lived. But today, the gap between the two remains uncharacteristically wide. On the consumer side, the Conference Board’s confidence index fell in September for the third straight month, with the gauges of current and future conditions at 5- and 10-month lows, amid lingering concerns over higher prices and a slow job-market recovery. Note that job growth stalled again in September, missing estimates and signaling that the forces holding back hiring or returning to the workforce may persist.

At the same time, investors’ “buy the dip” mentality, anchored by a belief that inflation is transitory and corporate margins will be sustainable, has bolstered the stock market. U.S. equities did hit a rough patch in the third quarter, but the downturn was contained to within 5% of the pre-Labor Day highs, and advances so far in October suggest that the third-quarter speedbumps may now be behind us. more>

Why Europe needs a climate-forward innovation policy

By Lee Beck and Eve Tamme – Orca, the largest direct air capture and storage facility to date, recently commenced operations in Iceland and is expected to suck some 4000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere annually. With increasing climate ambition and the new climate neutrality target, the role of technological carbon removal is emerging as one of the critical points of debate in the European Union. On the one hand, it is evident from mid-century net-zero pathways that steep and transformational emission reductions must be prioritized over carbon removals. On the other hand, it is also becoming clear that carbon removal technologies will likely be needed to balance out residual emissions and reduce the stock of CO2 already in the atmosphere. This begs the question – how can we get this technology to Gigaton scale, so it is available as a decarbonization option? History has taught us that scaling technologies takes decades – time we do not have as the clock is ticking while the climate crisis rages. We need to get the policy framework right today, and there are two significant gaps to fill: commercialization and accounting.

The EU is already a climate leader and policy pioneer. However, the current EU sectoral policies will likely drive investment in advanced decarbonization tech only once technology-specific innovation policy has commercialized them. Considering that it has taken on average more than 20 years for technologies to reach crucial inflection points in deployment, we do not have time to test current, widely adopted decarbonization technologies as the main mitigation strategies before deploying technologies that are not commercially available.

With increasing climate ambition and our emissions reduction timelines shortened, carbon removal technologies will also need to be available sooner. Having multiple available technology options also increases our chances for success and provides countries and regions with the opportunity to design decarbonization technology portfolios tailored to their social, economic and resource circumstances. Hence, it’s time for Europe to embrace an innovation-forward approach to climate. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Does mandatory health labeling lead to healthier choices?
By Brian Wallheimer – Obesity is a global epidemic, and the large amounts of calories, fat, sugar, and salt in fast-food and packaged products get much of the blame. In response, some countries, including the United States, mandate posting nutritional information on food packaging on the theory that it helps people make healthier choices.

Recent years have seen a new wave of food packaging reforms. One of the heaviest-handed such interventions is a 2016 Chilean law limiting TV advertising for offending foods. The measure also requires manufacturers to affix prominent black stop signs on the front of food packages warning that the contents are “high in sugar,” “high in saturated fats,” “high in salt,” or “high in calories.” The same or similar labels have since been adopted by many countries including Peru, Mexico, and Israel.

As intended, the warning labels suppressed demand for such foods, according to a study of breakfast cereals in Chile by Bar-Ilan University’s Jorge Alé-Chilet and Chicago Booth’s Sarah Moshary. But the labels affected both consumers and food manufacturers, which immediately started tweaking their product formulations to avoid the labeling requirements, the research finds.

Chile’s breakfast cereal purchases total $194 million a year, Alé-Chilet and Moshary note. Just before the law went into effect, about 13 percent of the cereals fell below the cutoff of 350 calories per 100 grams, which meant that the other 87 percent were required to post a high-calorie warning on their packaging, according to the study. Just after, 28 percent of the market squeaked under the cutoff, leaving 72 percent with the package warnings. more>

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Updates from Ciena

3 unique network provider perspectives on IP/Optical convergence
What are network providers thinking about IP/Optical Convergence? Representatives from Microsoft, Telia Carrier and Cox Communications recently participated in a panel “Evolution to Coherent WDM Integration in Routers” moderated by Ciena’s Helen Xenos to discuss this very topic. Helen shares some of the interesting insights she learned during the session.
By Helen Xenos – According to a recent Heavy Reading global service provider survey, 87 percent of providers view IP/Optical convergence as important for their next-generation networks.* This is consistent with what we are hearing from customers.  There is a lot of excitement in the industry to build networks differently and offer a richer quality of experience to end users by leveraging a combination of new technology innovations – coherent pluggable optics, modern IP protocols, programmable open interfaces, and centralized multi-layer, multi-vendor software control.

What are the advantages and opportunities tied to IP/Optical convergence?  What are the networking considerations and challenges yet to overcome? I was fortunate to moderate a panel at the recent OFC Conference on this topic, where important –and entertaining—insights were shared through three unique perspectives: cloud provider (Microsoft), service provider (Telia Carrier), and multi-service operator (Cox Communications).  Here are some of the key insights I took away from the sessions. more>

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Intellectual monopoly capitalism—challenge of our times

Unregulated capitalism has always tended to monopoly. But Big Tech represents a challenge antitrust tools can’t tame.
By Cédric Durand and Cecilia Rikap – Scientia potentia est—knowledge is power. The old adage has acquired a sinister connotation with the alarming dominance of Big Tech in the economy and society as a whole. Corporate Europe Observatory recently revealed that the sector is now by far the leading business lobbyist of European Union institutions.

But this is only the tip of the Iceberg of what the Italian economist Ugo Pagano calls ‘intellectual monopoly capitalism’. Knowledge, which should be a (non-rival, non-exclusive) public good, has been privately appropriated by top companies as capital: the share of intangible assets among S&P 500 corporations increased from 17 per cent in 1975 to 90 per cent in 2020.

For Pagano, the dramatic expansion of intellectual-property rights ‘involves the creation of a legal monopoly that can be potentially extended to the entire global economy’. His claim against a strict IP regime echoes the traditional position of economists treating knowledge as a gratuity.

Friedrich Hayek, for example, contended:

The growth of knowledge is of such special importance because, while the material resources will always remain scarce and will have to be reserved for limited purposes, the uses of new knowledge (where we do not make them artificially scarce by patents of monopoly) are unrestricted. Knowledge, once achieved, becomes gratuitously available for the benefit of all.

Recent calls for a patent waiver on Covid-19 vaccines graphically illustrate this broader principle: general progress requires that knowledge accrued through the experiments of some members of society be freely gifted. more>

The power of the European Central Bank

With inadequate fiscal policy, monetary policy labors to compensate, creating damaging economic distortions in the eurozone market.
By Bercan Begley – The pandemic has left millions of Europeans out of work and many underemployed, their businesses partly closed. Yet some are flourishing as never before. For European bourses, it has been marvelous. As the price of stocks has climbed, so has the wealth of those who own them.

Never have we seen such a disconnect between the real economy, the home of democracy, and the financial markets, the domicile for capitalists. And one institution has been at the centre of it all—the European Central Bank.

The ECB is perhaps the most powerful yet least understood institution in the eurozone. It has the power to engender economic, social and political change. Following the global financial crisis, the bank embarked on an epic experiment in monetary economics.

Two levers

There are two macroeconomic levers: fiscal and monetary policies. Before the introduction of the euro, both largely belonged to European Union member states. With monetary union, monetary policy moved to Frankfurt, centralized in the headquarters of the new ECB. Fiscal policy, such as tax-rate formulation, belonged to member states, but under the Maastricht treaty’s Stability and Growth Pact the European Commission supervised.

The lead-up to the crash saw profound capital misallocation in the eurozone. Pre-euro, ‘currency risk’ tempered financial venture-taking. A Munich-based bank would undertake due deliberation before converting Deutschmarks into Irish punts, due to the variability of exchange rates. Currency volatility played a risk-mitigating role, moderating investment allocation. Foolhardy owners of financial assets bore their losses and had no compensating recourse to the political domain. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Without cookies, online advertisers have to piece together crumbs
By Brian Wallheimer – Google announced this year that it would eliminate automatic third-party cookies on its Chrome browser. The company joins Apple and Mozilla, which earlier made users opt in to the technology on their browsers. While Google’s move may be positive for users who want privacy, it’s bad for companies that want to target ads to specific audiences.

Boston University’s Tesary Lin and Chicago Booth’s Sanjog Misra evaluated the alternatives for advertisers. Building an analytical framework and conducting an empirical experiment, they find that advertisers have few good options for constructing accurate user profiles.

“The system was already broken and imperfect,” Misra says. “Any time there is fragmentation, anything you want to measure is going to be off to some degree. Now the rules have changed, and it will exacerbate that fragmentation to a much greater degree.”

Cookies are tags from websites that live on a person’s computer or internet-capable device. When you search for shoes online, the search page and the sites you visit leave cookies that can be collected to tell a company such as Zappos that you’d be a good target for an ad.

Because people use more than one device, a third-party company can collect cookie data to see a person’s browsing history. These companies use a data-linking strategy to cross-reference cookies to see where names, email addresses, and other identifying features overlap and then stitch together a more complete user profile. Advertisers can track if an ad is effective, even if that ad is viewed on a smartphone by someone who bought the shoes on a laptop a day later. more>

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