Tag Archives: Business improvement

Staying Focused on the Big Picture

U.S. election-related uncertainty may persist a while longer, but the relatively optimistic longer-term economic outlook hasn’t changed.
By Lisa Shalet – Now that former Vice President Joseph Biden is President-Elect, much of the election uncertainty has dissipated. Markets have factored in Biden’s win as well as the apparent lack of a Congressional Democratic sweep, but headlines concerning the transition of power could contribute to volatility.

We encourage investors to ignore short-term price swings based on the headlines and stay focused on the bigger picture. We still believe that investors should emphasize global stocks over bonds. Morgan Stanley & Co. strategists forecast that the S&P 500 Index, a broad measure of the U.S. market that is now trading around 3500, may reach 3700 by the middle of next year.

Several key points in our economic outlook are unlikely to change due to election results. Here are three reasons why:

The V-shaped economic recovery is on solid ground. October’s nonfarm payroll data was a solid upside surprise, with the unemployment rate falling and the labor participation rate rising. Consumer sentiment is holding up, and manufacturing and services indicators continue to show expansion. Housing and durable goods orders support the capital spending narrative of the new business cycle. In 2021, U.S. GDP could grow at an annualized pace of 5% to 6%—in part because the recession this year enhances the year-over-year comparison, but also given the midyear return to growth. Such economic expansion could power double-digit increases in corporate profits.

The Federal Reserve remains ultra-dovish. The central bank has stayed firm on holding its key short-term fed funds rate near zero through December, 2023. Low interest rates can stimulate growth by facilitating more borrowing, allowing consumers and businesses to spend more. The Fed has yet to define metrics or time frames for “average inflation targeting,” which will likely allow inflation to trend higher without rate intervention to check its rise. Under a policy known as quantitative easing, the Fed also continues to buy government bonds at a significant pace, a direct injection of liquidity across fixed-income markets that can also contribute to economic growth.

The COVID-19 trajectory is unlikely to lead to national lockdowns. The recent surge in new infections is unfortunate and concerning, however, as was the case in the summer, the U.S. economy remains resilient in the face of localized shutdowns. We believe that public health measures and vaccine availability will drive the pandemic’s economic impact. Hopefully by January, we could be past the peak of new cases and closer to available vaccines. Drug development pipelines remain on track to deliver some scaled vaccine distribution by summer, 2021. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Unlocking value: Four lessons in cloud sourcing and consumption
Companies that are successful in sourcing and managing the consumption of cloud adopt a more dynamic, analytical, and demand-driven mindset.
By Abhi Bhatnagar, Will Forrest, Naufal Khan, and Abdallah Salami – Cloud adoption is no longer a question of “if” but of “how fast” and “to what extent.” Between 2015 and 2020, the revenue of the big-three public cloud providers (AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform) has quintupled, and they have more than tripled their capital-expenditures investment to meet increasing demand. And enterprises are ever more open to cloud platforms: more than 90 percent of enterprises reported using cloud technology in some way.

These trends reflect a world where enterprises increasingly “consume” infrastructure rather than own it. The benefits of this model are plentiful. Cloud adopters are attracted by the promise of flexible infrastructure capacity, rapid capacity deployment, and faster time to market for digital products. The COVID-19 crisis has accentuated the need for speed and agility, making these benefits even more important. From an infrastructure-economics perspective, perhaps the most attractive innovation of cloud is the ability to tailor the consumption of infrastructure to the needs of the organization. This promises greater economic flexibility by transforming underutilized capital expenditures into optimally allocated operations expenditures.

While this concept is attractive in theory, many enterprises are facing challenges in capturing the value in reality. Enterprises estimate that around 30 percent of their cloud spend is wasted. Furthermore, around 80 percent of enterprises consider managing cloud spend a challenge. Thus, even though more than 70 percent of enterprises cite optimizing cloud spend as a major goal, realizing value remains elusive.

In our experience, a major driver of value capture is transforming the approach to sourcing and consuming cloud. Enterprises that approach this task with a traditional sourcing and infrastructure-consumption mindset are likely to be surprised by the bill. The flexibility to consume cloud as needed and cost effectively places responsibility on enterprises to maintain a real-time view of their needs and continuously make deliberate decisions on how best to adjust consumption. more>

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Updates from ITU

G20: Call to action on international standards
ITU – Organizers of the Riyadh International Standards Summit held on 4 November 2020 issued a call to action for the recognition, support and adoption of international standards. This is the first ever summit on standardization held within G20-related activities.

The Riyadh International Standards Summit was initiated by Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO) and was organized with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Saudi Communications & Information Technology Commission (CITC), and Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA). The event was hosted by SASO and the G20 Saudi Secretariat as part of the International Conferences Programme honouring the G20 Saudi presidency year, 2020. It forms part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s efforts, during its presidency, to enhance cooperation between countries of the world in various fields.

Originally intended to take place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which currently holds the G20 Presidency, in light of the global pandemic, the Summit instead took place virtually and welcomed participants from all over the world.

The Riyadh International Standards Summit concluded with the call to action for “each country to recognize, support, and adopt international standards to accelerate digital transformation in all sectors of the economy to help overcome global crises, such as COVID-19, and contribute towards the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

Would you trust a machine to pick a vaccine?
Machine learning is being tasked with an increasing number of important decisions. But the answers it generates involve a degree of uncertainty.
By Emily Lambert – Back before COVID-19, Chicago Booth’s Sanjog Misra was on vacation in Italy with his son, who has a severe nut allergy. They were at a restaurant and couldn’t read the menu, so Misra opened an app that translates Italian to English, and pointed his phone at the menu to find out if one of the dishes was peanut free. The app said it was.

But as he prepared to order, Misra had a thought: Since the app was powered by machine learning, how much could he trust its response? The app didn’t indicate if the conclusion was 99 percent certain to be correct, or 80 percent certain, or just 51 percent. If the app was wrong, the consequences could be dire for his son.

Machine learning is increasingly ubiquitous. It’s inside your Amazon Alexa. It directs self-driving cars. It makes medical decisions and diagnoses. In the past few years, machine-learning methods have come to dominate data analysis in academia and industry. Some teachers are using ML to read students’ assignments and grade homework. There is evidence that machine learning outperforms dermatologists at diagnosing skin cancer. Researchers have used ML to mine research papers for information that could help speed the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

They’re also using ML to predict the shapes of proteins, an important factor in drug development. “All of our work begins in a computer, where we run hundreds of millions of simulations. That’s where machine learning helps us find things quickly,” says Ian Haydon, the scientific communications manager for the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington. Some scientists there are developing vaccines, and others are trying to develop a drug compound that would stop the novel coronavirus from replicating. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

Optimizing water treatment with online sensing and advanced analytics
Overlaying real-time advanced analytics on data from online sensing can help to stabilize operations and increase capacity in water-treatment facilities.
By Jay Agarwal, Lapo Mori, Fritz Nauck, Johnathan Oswalt, Dickon Pinner, Robert Samek, and Pasley Weeks – Metals and mining companies are adapting to an operating environment in which water is highly regulated, experiences unforeseen supply shocks, and carries substantial social value. By 2024, water-operating expenses for these businesses are estimated to increase by a 1 to 4 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), with a 4 to 7 percent CAGR expected for water-capital spending. Consequently, these metals and mining companies have made significant investments—an estimated $15 billion in 2019 alone—to reduce water withdrawal and increase water efficiency in operations, as well as mitigate reputational risk.

Digital tools can optimize water-management operations—offering stability, reduced costs, and deferred expenditures for new capacity. This article describes the application of such tools in water treatment (see, “The five domains of water management”).

Central to sustainable operations is water reuse, wherein water is reclaimed after processing and treatment (to remove metals, reagents, or suspended solids). Reuse obviates the need for additional fresh water; it significantly reduces water-operating expenses and is critical to addressing low water availability in stressed areas. Anglo-American, for instance, has pledged to adopt techniques that will allow for more than 80 percent water reuse at their mining facilities, saving an estimated $15 million per year. more>

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Updates from Ciena

What are the current challenges and opportunities for today’s submarine networks? What’s next? Find out what will be covered in our upcoming webinar with TeleGeography.
Current state of the global submarine network
By Brian Lavallée – Internet traffic patterns have shifted, and volumes have surged, as the telecom industry addresses the “new normal” where people are increasingly working, learning, and playing from home. Although the global network infrastructure has bent in certain parts of the network, it hasn’t broken. This is a testament to how reliability and availability is in the DNA of our industry and is more important than ever before.

According to TeleGeography, global Internet bandwidth rose last year by 35%, which was a major increase over the previous year’s 26% growth. This increase was driven largely in response to the global pandemic and represents the largest single-year increase since 2013. It also raised the most recent four-year CAGR to 29%. Being able to connect with each other, and to machines, has consistently increased in importance, but in 2020, this took on a whole new level of importance related to our social and economic well-being.

The pace of technology innovation in the telecom industry has accelerated over the past decade in response to growing demands related to our increasing affinity for always-on broadband connectivity. Even the once closed and proprietary world of submarine networks has evolved with the advent of Open Cables, programmable coherent modems, ROADMs, active branching units, C+L band, and more recently, open APIs, intelligent data-driven automation, and analytics. Together, these amazing technologies address challenges related to network scalability, availability, and flexibility during “normal” times. They’re even more important today as we’re mandated to increasingly work and play remotely. more>

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US presidential election: last call for the liberal world order?

Some might have taken for granted the liberal world order of postwar decades. Until Donald Trump trashed it.
By Valerio Alfonso Bruno and Vittorio Emanuele Parsi – The pre-eminent theorist of liberal internationalism, from its origins to its prospects, G John Ikenberry, recently wrote that spring 2020 might well be considered by historians as the end of the ‘liberal world order’—the moment ‘when the United States and its allies, facing the gravest public health threat and economic catastrophe of the postwar era, could not even agree on a simple communiqué of common cause’. For Ikenberry, ‘the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic engulfing the world these days is only exposing and accelerating what was already happening for years. On public health, trade, human rights, and the environment, governments seem to have lost faith in the value of working together.’

May November 2020 then represent the last call for the liberal world order? In recent history, the elections of the president of the United States have represented decisive moments, not only for the country but for the dynamics of the international order tout court. Coming in the middle of a pandemic and counterposing two incompatible Weltanschauungen, the 2020 election may be of unprecedented decisiveness.

The liberal world order was built around a set of principles and institutions governing the international system in the aftermath of World War II. It was based on US leadership and operated through five core institutions: the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

For all its limits and weaknesses, during the cold war it granted economic development and security to a significant part of the world. ‘Free-market’ societies, conditioned by strong welfare policies, produced a long-term, if fragile, balance between economic competition and social cohesion.

The dynamic worked well until the 1980s. Thereafter, the foresight required to preserve such a fragile balance—based on postwar hindsight—gradually vanished. Liberal premises, such as equality of opportunity, and liberal promises, of a more equal, peaceful and wealthy world, became subverted by regressively ideological economics. A neoliberal world order has almost replaced the liberal one. more>

4 Steps to Sustainable Investing

Morgan Stanley – For institutional asset owners, the case for incorporating sustainable investing into portfolio management is only getting stronger. As the wide-ranging implications of sustainability issues, such as public health, climate change and social justice, become more apparent, so too have they become essential to effectively assessing investment risks and opportunities.

Helping to make the case is evidence showing that incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in portfolios could aid investors in capturing above-market returns. While the coronavirus pandemic induced a global recession and market volatility in the first half of 2020, sustainable funds—across stocks and bonds—in general helped investors weather the period better than many of their traditional peers,* according to a recent study by the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing. During a longer time horizon, from 2004 to 2018, sustainable funds experienced 20% less downside risk compared with traditional funds,* according to another Institute report, and 4-in-5 asset owners agree that sustainable investing may be an effective risk-management strategy and lead to higher profitability. In addition to financial performance, asset owners see an opportunity to target positive social and environmental impact, avoid reputational risk and comply with regulations. more>

Testing a mysterious instrument

By Michael D. Allen – My first job after leaving school was that of an associate engineer. This meant that I was half technician and half engineer, and I would design something and then build and test it. Because of this position, I frequently got some odd and interesting jobs.

One day a cardboard box showed up on my bench with a test box, a bunch of blueprints, a test procedure, and an “angle of attack” aircraft instrument. Management told me to grab an inspector, perform a functional test on the instrument, and buy off on all of the steps. This was the first aircraft instrument that anyone had seen in our lab area.

There were no program identifiers on the blueprints, the test box, or the instrument itself. I had no way to compare the numbers on the blueprints to any program. If anyone knew what the associated program was, he wasn’t telling.

The instrument was connected to the test box and turned on. A given DC input was supposed to drive the needle to a certain location on the dial face. This worked to a certain extent; the needle would drive to the commanded location but overshoot, back up, and overshoot again. The needle would be a blur, oscillating around the commanded location.

The test box was checked and appeared to be working correctly. Because the instrument was not working correctly, I ask the inspector if it would be OK to open it up to see what was inside, and he agreed. The instrument had a can extending several inches beyond the back of the dial face. The can had a sealed connector and a purge port to refill it with nitrogen. The inside of the instrument looked like several pocket watches stacked together. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Reimagining the auto industry’s future: It’s now or never
Disruptions in the auto industry will result in billions lost, with recovery years away. Yet companies that reimagine their operations will perform best in the next normal.
By Thomas Hofstätter, Melanie Krawina, Bernhard Mühlreiter, Stefan Pöhler, and Andreas Tschiesner – Electric mobility, driverless cars, automated factories, and ridesharing—these are just a few of the major disruptions the auto industry faced even before the COVID-19 crisis. Now with travel deeply curtailed by the pandemic, and in the midst of worldwide factory closures, slumping car sales, and massive layoffs, it’s natural to wonder what the “next normal” for the auto sector will look like. Over the past few months, we’ve seen the first indicators of this automotive future becoming visible, with the biggest industry changes yet to come.

Many of the recent developments raise concern. For instance, the COVID-19 crisis has compelled about 95 percent of all German automotive-related companies to put their workforces on short-term work during the shutdown, a scheme whereby employees are temporarily laid off and receive a substantial amount of their pay through the government. Globally, the repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis are immense and unprecedented. In fact, many auto-retail stores have remained closed for a month or more. We estimate that the top 20 OEMs in the global auto sector will see profits decline by approximately $100 billion in 2020, a roughly six-percentage-point decrease from just two years ago. It might take years to recover from this plunge in profitability.

At the operational level, the pandemic has accelerated developments in the automotive industry that began several years ago. Many of these changes are largely positive, such as the growth of online traffic and the greater willingness of OEMs to cooperate with partners—automotive and otherwise—to address challenges. Others, however, can have negative effects, such as the tendency to focus on core activities, rather than exploring new areas. While OEMs may now be concentrating on the core to keep the lights on, the failure to investigate other opportunities could hurt them long term.

As they navigate this crisis, automotive leaders may gain an advantage by reimagining their organizational structures and operations. Five moves can help them during this process: radically focusing on digital channels, shifting to recurring revenue streams, optimizing asset deployment, embracing zero-based budgeting, and building a resilient supply chain. One guiding principle—the need to establish a strong decision-making cadence—will also help. We believe that the window of opportunity for making these changes will permanently close in a few months—and that means the time to act is now or never. more>