How To Build Digital Tools That Health Plan Members Will Use

According to recent Cognizant-sponsored research, to boost digital usage and member loyalty, healthcare payers need to prioritize investments in analytics, awareness, strategy and design, say Bill Shea and Jagan Ramachandran, leaders in Cognizant’s Healthcare practice.  

From our perspective, these lagging adoption rates are a result of payers underinvesting in awareness campaigns, analytics, strategy and design. Here are the steps payers can take to address these critical components of successful digital adoption.

1. Aggressively promote awareness of digital capabilities.

Our research over the last six years has shown increasing enthusiasm among members for conducting health plan transactions digitally. Yet even when health plans build desired digital features, members don’t use them. Our current survey shows that in 2020, when telehealth use was growing by 24%, 39% of plan members used telehealth capabilities — but from third-party service providers, not their health plans. At least one reason why is that 40% of members said they didn’t know their plans offered a telehealth option.

Payers must close these awareness gaps. Many do a poor job of promoting the tools they have and/or bury them several layers deep on their websites and don’t push them out to members when/where they need them most.

While payers often tell us, members don’t interact with them frequently enough to learn about their digital capabilities, the experience in the property and casualty insurance industry negates that excuse. The average consumer has far fewer property and auto claims in a year than they do healthcare claims. Yet P&C insurers enjoy much higher digital adoption rates than healthcare payers do, according to our research.

Why? P&C companies continually promote their apps and digital capabilities in their advertisements, websites, social feeds, etc. While they may use the apps infrequently, P&C customers do download them. Health insurers should similarly tout their digital capabilities in their marketing campaigns.

2. Make foundational investments in analytics.

Payers won’t get the value they expect from digital initiatives without strong analytics. Analytics and intelligence are prerequisites to anticipating member needs and prompting them to use a digital feature or other next best action in an app or on a website.

Analytics are also invaluable for learning about member needs. For example, most payers view call center deflection as a win. Analytics can help achieve that goal by learning from data about why and when members call for help so that payers can anticipate and proactively address those issues. If the data shows nine out of 10 members contacting the call center for updated deductible data after an emergency department visit, that function can be built into an app or website and advertised.

3. Adopt business-led strategy and design for each digital initiative.

Consumers today expect great digital experiences that payer tools don’t seem to deliver. However, health plan members reported unsatisfying experiences with payer tools, even when these tools offer self-service and other functions, they want most, such as provider search and cost estimation.

To avoid delivering disappointing member experiences, payers need to ensure the business, not IT, is leading these initiatives. In turn, the business must lead with in-depth strategy and design activities to ensure the digital capability meets actual member needs while creating business value.

Whereas business-led digital development follows a rigorous methodology that includes creating personas and journey maps and using outside-in analysis for examples of how other industries deliver similar solutions, IT-led development often starts with technology selection, and then fits processes to the technology’s capabilities. The business-led approach fully scopes out member needs first. These needs then drive the technology architecture design and technology selections so that the technology serves the business vision vs. defining it.

A large health plan we worked with took this approach to create new experiences for how brokers interact with members. We developed and designed personas, user journeys and eight future-state business processes before developing technology requirements.

4. Change funding mechanisms.

It’s accepted practice today to spend heavily on implementation while strategy and design efforts receive limited funds despite being prerequisites to successful outcomes. One organization we worked with was trying to build an industry-leading artificial intelligence model but lacked adequate budget to estimate ROI. Organizations must reallocate more budget to strategy and design efforts.

Advances in platform solutions that minimize customization needs support this funding shift. Organizations also must redefine how they identify OpEx and CapEx spend because many strategy and design efforts (e.g., journey maps, process models, business architecture, etc.) are critical to building required future capabilities and may be capitalized.

Our study revealed a number of immediate investment priorities for payers, including tools for estimating procedure costs, looking up benefits, searching for providers, finding plan options, reviews and features, checking on claims status, and calculating out-of-pocket expenses. But to realize high adoption and commensurate returns, payers must build these capabilities on a foundation of analytics and business-led strategy and design, followed by strong awareness campaigns.

By taking this approach, payers will set the stage for future member interactions that are more relational vs. transactional, such as health coaching, which will build loyalty and market share.

For more, read our report “Health Consumers Want Digital; It’s Time for Health Plans to Deliver,” produced in partnership with HFS Research.

Jagan Ramachandran is an Assistant Vice President and Partner in Cognizant’s Healthcare advisory practice. He leads Cognizant’s stakeholder experience management service line with over 20 years of experience at the intersection of healthcare business and technology. Jagan has executed a wide range of management consulting projects in the health plans space in the areas of digital strategy, member experience, broker experience, provider experience, establishing new lines of business, platform selection, M&A, and automation advisory. Jagan is a speaker on emerging trends in healthcare in several industry forums. He can be reached at Jagan.Ramachandran@cognizant.com

William “Bill” Shea is a Vice-President within Cognizant Consulting’s Healthcare Practice. He has over 20 years of experience in management consulting, practice development and project management in the health industry across the payer, purchaser and provider markets. Bill has significant experience in health plan strategy and operations in the areas of digital transformation, integrated health management and product development. Bill can be reached at William.Shea@cognizant.com

Source: How To Build Digital Tools That Health Plan Members Will Use

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4 Missteps For Banks To Avoid When Migrating Payment Services To The Cloud

4 Missteps for Banks to Avoid When Migrating Payment Services to the Cloud Cognizant

Banks and financial services providers can realize the efficiency and cost savings of cloud-based payments by taking proactive steps to guard against these common mistakes, notes Rustin Carpenter, a Global Payments Solution Leader for Cognizant’s Banking & Financial Services Industry Services Group.

The cloud’s lure of simplification is a powerful incentive for payment providers, as its role enabling modernization and permanently switching off legacy applications. Where banks struggle, however, is in shaping a strategy to get their payment services to the cloud. By understanding the common missteps, banks can create a plan for payment migration that maximizes benefits while minimizing risks.

The pandemic was a digital tipping point for banks, forcing them to implement in just a few months capabilities that otherwise would have taken several years. Research published in 2019 found that financial services firms lagged in adoption of public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS), with just 18% broadly implementing IaaS for production applications, compared to 25% of businesses overall.

Now many banking leaders we talk with are taking a serious look at cloud-based payment services, motivated by the age and complexity of their core payment applications as well as their business’s growing confidence in the security of cloud platforms such as Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS). As banks contemplate migrating payment services to the cloud, here are some common mistakes to avoid that will ensure a smoother journey:

1. Assuming the cloud is cheaper.

Cloud-based services are indeed less expensive to run — once applications and services have been migrated. To manage a successful payments migration, be aware of the costs along the journey. The cloud can be a heavy lift. While banks and financial services providers often consider themselves proficient at consolidation and rationalization, the extensiveness required for cloud migration frequently far exceeds the effort of previous initiatives. For example, we helped a bank reduce its infrastructure footprint by 25% and lower its total cost of ownership by migrating its applications to the cloud.

That outcome, however, required careful analysis of the bank’s application source code and development of a migration strategy and cloud deployment architecture, as well as assessing and migrating more than 800 applications over three years. Cloud-based services are more streamlined and less expensive to operate, but accurately budgeting for the upfront time and resources of a cloud payment migration is challenging due to the many unknowns. Careful attention to planning is critical for a realistic cost assessment.

2. Underestimating the amount of prework.

The cloud promises to reduce complexity but getting to that point takes a thoughtful migration plan that’s complete and doesn’t skimp on details. What steps will be taken to ensure there’s no disruption to clients? Which applications make sense to retain and manage in-house, and which can be leveraged as payments as a service? For instance, fund disbursements for a retail consumer bank that administers 529 plans are typically a low-volume service for which cloud automation is a great fit, replacing paper checks with significantly less costly cloud-based payments.

But when it comes to payments as a service, managing risk and ensuring value also come into play. Wire transfers might appear to be good candidates for migration to cloud payments, but if most of the bank’s transfers are for high net worth individuals with equally high customer lifetime value, then the transfers may require levels of personalized service best handled with an on-premise platform rather than in the cloud. A well thought out strategy that addresses all impacts and value opportunities helps bank leaders avoid the unintended consequences that keep them awake at night.

3. Failure to prioritize.

A payments migration needs to be phased in a way that provides strategic competitive advantage. Setting priorities is key. For example, a bank may choose to align its payments migration with a specific strategy, such as a planned de-emphasis on branch offices. Another approach is to migrate the costliest payment applications first. Some banks may reserve cloud adoption for when they’re ready to add new payments capabilities.

Each bank’s path to cloud payments is nuanced, yet there’s often a feeling among banking leaders that moving to the cloud is an all-or-nothing proposition. That is, payments are either entirely cloud-based or all on premise. A more realistic goal is to craft a migration roadmap for a hybrid environment that accommodates both types of infrastructure for the near future, and to then prioritize and phase the payments migration in a way that makes strategic sense.

4. Testing in a dissimilar environment.

Replicating legacy operating environments for testing is expensive, so it’s not uncommon for banks to settle on environments that are similar but not identical — though the variation often leads to production environment errors that can derail cloud migration efforts. Performance falls short of expectations, typically due to the tangle of payment applications resulting from years of mergers and acquisitions.

For example, post-merger banking platforms often utilize more than one legacy payment hub, and there’s little chance that a bank’s current IT staff fully understands or can predict the unintended consequences for the hubs when making changes to the platform. Don’t fret over creating the perfect testing environment. Rather, build an environment that’s as close as possible.

By avoiding these common missteps, payment providers can reap the benefits of a simplified, modern infrastructure and application environment and minimize the risks.

To learn more, please visit the digital payments section of our website or contact us.

Rustin “Rusty” Carpenter leads payments solutions within Cognizant’s Banking & Financial Services’ Commercial Industry Solutions Group (ISG). In this role, he works with group leaders and client-facing teams to elevate Cognizant’s client relevance, industry expertise and challenge-solving capabilities. Over his career, he has developed deep and broad expertise in payments and the emerging alternative and digital/mobile payments arenas. He is a frequent speaker on these topics at conferences worldwide and serves as a board advisor to fin-techs in all areas of payments and fraud prevention/mitigation.

Carpenter most recently was Head of Sales & Service, NA for ABCorp. Previously, he ran the Instant Issuance business for North America at Entrust Datacard; served as COO for Certegy Check Services, N.A.; was General Manager, NA for American Express Corporate Services; and completed multiple assignments at Andersen Worldwide and Dun & Bradstreet. Rustin has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Denison University and an MBA in finance from Rutgers Graduate School of Management. He can be reached at Rustin.Carpenter@cognizant.com

Source: 4 Missteps For Banks To Avoid When Migrating Payment Services To The Cloud

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The ٍٍEmpty Office: What We Lose When We Work From Home

For decades, anthropologists have been telling us that it’s often the informal, unplanned interactions and rituals that matter most in any work environment. So how much are we missing by giving them up?

n the summer of 2020, Daniel Beunza, a voluble Spanish social scientist who taught at Cass business school in London, organized a stream of video calls with a dozen senior bankers in the US and Europe. Beunza wanted to know how they had run a trading desk while working from home. Did finance require flesh-and-blood humans?

Beunza had studied bank trading floors for two decades, and had noticed a paradox. Digital technologies had entered finance in the late 20th century, pushing markets into cyberspace and enabling most financial work to be done outside the office – in theory. “For $1,400 a month you can have the [Bloomberg] machine at home.

You can have the best information, all the data at your disposal,” Beunza was told in 2000 by the head of one Wall Street trading desk, whom he called “Bob”. But the digital revolution had not caused banks’ offices and trading rooms to disappear. “The tendency is the reverse,” Bob said. “Banks are building bigger and bigger trading rooms.”

Why? Beunza had spent years watching financiers like Bob to find the answer. Now, during lockdown, many executives and HR departments found themselves dealing with the same issue: what is gained and what is lost when everyone is working from home? But while most finance companies focused on immediate questions such as whether employees working remotely would have still access to information, feel part of a team and be able to communicate with colleagues, Beunza thought more attention should be paid to different kinds of questions:

How do people act as groups? How do they use rituals and symbols to forge a common worldview? To address practical concerns about the costs and benefits of remote working, we first need to understand these deeper issues. Office workers make decisions not just by using models and manuals or rational, sequential logic – but by pulling in information, as groups, from multiple sources. That is why the rituals, symbols and space matter.

“What we do in offices is not usually what people think we do,” Beunza told me. “It is about how we navigate the world.” And these navigation practices are poorly understood by participants like financiers – especially in a digital age.The engineers who created the internet have always recognised that people and their rituals matter. Since it was founded in 1986, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has provided a place for people to meet and collectively design the architecture of the web.

Its members wanted to make design decisions using “rough consensus”, since they believed the internet should be an egalitarian community where anybody could participate, without hierarchies or coercion. “We reject: kings, presidents and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running code” was, and still is, one of its key mantras.

To cultivate “rough consensus”, IETF members devised a distinctive ritual: humming. When they needed to make a crucial decision, the group asked everyone to hum to indicate “yay” or “nay” – and proceeded on the basis of which was loudest. The engineers considered this less divisive than voting.

Some of the biggest decisions about how the internet works have been made using this ritual. In March 2018, in a bland room of the Hilton Metropole on London’s Edgware Road, representatives from Google, Intel, Amazon, Qualcomm and others were gathered for an IETF meeting. They were debating a controversial issue: whether or not to adopt the “draft-rhrd-tls-tls13-visibility-01” protocol. To anybody outside the room, it might sound like gobbledegook, but this protocol was important.

Measures were being introduced to make it harder for hackers to attack crucial infrastructure such as utility networks, healthcare systems and retail groups. This was a mounting concern at the time – a year or so earlier, hackers seemingly from Russia had shut down the Ukrainian power system. The proposed “visibility” protocol would signal to internet users whether or not anti-hacking tools had been installed.

For an hour the engineers debated the protocol. Some opposed telling users the tools had been installed; others insisted on it. “There are privacy issues,” one said. “It’s about nation states,” another argued. “We cannot do this without consensus.” So a man named Sean Turner – who looked like a garden gnome, with a long, snowy-white beard, bald head, glasses and checked lumberjack shirt – invoked the IETF ritual.

“We are going to hum,” he said. “Please hum now if you support adoption.” A moan rose up, akin to a Tibetan chant, bouncing off the walls of the Metropole. “Thanks. Please hum now if you oppose.” There was a much louder collective hum. “So at this point there is no consensus to adopt this,” Turner declared. The protocol was put on ice.

Most people do not even know that the IETF exists, much less that computer engineers design the web by humming. That is not because the IETF hides its work. On the contrary, its meetings are open to anyone and posted online. But phrases like “draft-rhrd-tls-tls1.3” mean most people instinctively look away, just as they did with derivatives before the 2008 financial crisis. And, as with finance, this lack of external scrutiny – and understanding – is alarming, particularly given the accelerating effects of innovations such as AI.

Many of the engineers who build the technologies on which we rely are well-meaning. But they – like financiers – are prone to tunnel vision, and often fail to see that others may not share their mentality. “In a community of technological producers, the very process of designing, crafting, manufacturing and maintaining technology acts as a template and makes technology itself the lens through which the world is seen and defined,” observes Jan English-Lueck, an anthropologist who has studied Silicon Valley.

When the IETF members use humming, they are reflecting and reinforcing a distinctive worldview – their desperate hope that the internet should remain egalitarian and inclusive. That is their creation myth. But they are also signalling that human contact and context matter deeply, even in a world of computing. Humming enables them to collectively demonstrate the power of that idea. It also helps them navigate the currents of shifting opinion in their tribe and make decisions by reading a range of signals.

Humming does not sit easily with the way we imagine technology, but it highlights a crucial truth about how humans navigate the world of work, in offices, online or anywhere else: even if we think we are rational, logical creatures, we make decisions in social groups by absorbing a wide range of signals. And perhaps the best way to understand this is to employ an idea popularised by anthropologists working at companies such as Xerox during the late 20th century, and since used by Beunza and others on Wall Street: “Sense-making”.

One of the first thinkers to develop the concept of sense-making was a man named John Seely Brown. JSB, as he was usually known, was not trained as an anthropologist. He studied maths and physics in the early 60s, and finished a PhD in computer science in 1970, just as the idea of the internet was emerging, and then taught advanced computing science at the University of California, with a particular interest in AI. Around this time, after meeting some sociologists and anthropologists, he became fascinated by the question of how social patterns influence the development of digital tools, too.

He applied for a research post at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (Parc), a research arm that the Connecticut-based company set up in Silicon Valley in 1969. Xerox was famous for developing the photocopier, but it also produced many other digital innovations. The authors of Fumbling the Future, a book about the history of the company, credits it with inventing “the first computer ever designed and built for the dedicated use of a single person … the first graphics-oriented monitor, the first handheld ‘mouse’ simple enough for a child, the first word-processing programme for non-expert users, the first local area communications network … and the first laser printer.”

During his application process to Parc, JSB met Jack Goldman, its chief scientist. The two men discussed Xerox’s research and development work, and its pioneering experiments with AI. Then JSB pointed to Goldman’s desk. “Jack, why two phones?” he asked. The desk contained both a “simple” phone and a newer, more sophisticated model.

“Oh my God, who the hell can use this phone?” Goldman said, referring to the new phone. “I have it on my desk because everyone has to have one, but when real work gets done I’ve got to use a regular one.”

That was exactly the kind of thing, Seely Brown said, that scientists at Xerox should also be researching: how humans were (or were not) using the dazzling innovations that Silicon Valley companies kept creating. Having started steeped in “hard” computing science, JSB realised that it paid to be a “softie” when looking at social science, or – to employ the buzzwords that were later popularised in Silicon Valley by the writer Scott Hartley – to be a techie and a “fuzzy”.

JSB joined Parc and put his new theories to work. Although the research centre had initially been dominated by scientists, by the time JSB arrived, a collection of anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists were also there. One of these anthropologists was a man named Julian Orr, who was studying the “tribe” of technical repair teams at Xerox.

By the late 20th century, copy machines were ubiquitous in offices. Work could collapse if one of these machines broke down. Xerox employed numerous people whose only job was to travel between offices, servicing and fixing machines. These technicians were routinely ignored, partly because the managers assumed that they knew what they did. But Orr and JSB suspected this was a big mistake, and that the technicians did not always think or behave as their bosses thought they should.

JSB first noticed it early in his time at Xerox, when he met a repairman known as “Mr Troubleshooter”, who said to him: “Well, Mr PhD, suppose this photocopier sitting here had an intermittent image quality fault, how would you go about troubleshooting it?”

JSB knew there was an “official” answer in the office handbook: technicians were supposed to “print out 1,000 copies, sort through the output, find a few bad ones, and compare them to the diagnostic”. It sounded logical – to an engineer.

“Here is what I do,” Mr Troubleshooter told JSB, with a “disgusted” look on his face. “I walk to the trash can, tip it upside down, and look at all the copies that have been thrown away. The trash can is a filter – people keep the good copies and throw the bad ones away. So just go to the trash can … and from scanning all the bad ones, interpret what connects them all.” In short, the engineers were ignoring protocols and using a solution that worked – but one that was “invisible … and outside [the] cognitive modelling lens” of the people running the company, JSB ruefully concluded.

How common was this kind of subversive approach? Orr set off to find out. He first enrolled in technical training school. Then he shadowed the repair teams out on service calls, at the parts depot, eating lunch and just hanging out when there was not much work to do. The fact that Orr had once worked as a technician himself helped in some respects: the repair crews welcomed him in. But it also created a trap: he sometimes had the same blind spots as the people he was studying. “I had a tendency to regard certain phenomena as unremarkable which are not really so to outsiders,” he later wrote in a report. He had to perform mental gymnastics to make “familiar” seem “strange”.

So, like many other anthropologists before him, he tried to get that sense of distance by looking at the group rituals, symbols and spatial patterns that the technicians used in their everyday life. Or quickly realized that many of the most important interactions took place in diners. “I drive to meet the members of the customer support team for breakfast at a chain restaurant in a small city on the east side,” Orr observed in one of his field notes. “Alice has a problem: her machine reports a self-test error, but she suspects there is some other problem … [so] we are going to lunch at a restaurant where many of [Alice’s] colleagues eat, to try to persuade Fred, the most experienced [technician], to go to look at the machine with her …

Fred tells her there is another component that she needs to change, according to his interpretation of the logs.” The repair teams were doing collective problem solving over coffee in those diners, using a rich body of shared narrative about the Xerox machines, and almost every other part of their lives. Their “gossip” was weaving a wide tapestry of group knowledge, and tapping into the collective views of the group – like the IETF humming.

This knowledge mattered. The company protocols assumed that “the work of technicians was the rote repair of identical broken machines,” as Lucy Suchman, another anthropologist at Parc, noted. But that was a fallacy: even if the machines seemed identical when they emerged from the Xerox factory, by the time repairmen encountered the machines they had histories shaped by humans. What engineers shared at the diner was this history and context. “Diagnosis is a narrative process,” Orr said.

The Xerox scientists eventually listened to the anthropologists – to some degree. After Orr issued his report on the technicians, the company introduced systems to make it easier for repair people to talk to one another in the field and share knowledge – even outside diners. A two-way radio system allowed tech reps in different regions to call on each other’s expertise. Xerox later supplemented these radios with a rudimentary messaging platform on the internet known as Eureka, where technicians could share tips. JSB viewed this as “an early model for social media platforms”.

Other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs became increasingly fascinated by what Parc was doing, and tried to emulate its ideas. Steve Jobs, a co-founder of Apple, toured Parc in 1979, saw the group’s efforts to build a personal computer, and then developed something similar at Apple, hiring away a key Parc researcher. Other Parc ideas were echoed at Apple and other Silicon Valley companies. But Xerox’s managers were not nearly as adept as Jobs in terms of turning brilliant ideas into lucrative gadgets, and in subsequent decades Xerox’s fortunes ailed.

That was partly because the company culture was conservative and slow-moving, but also because Parc was based on the west coast, while the main headquarters and manufacturing centres were on the other side of the country. Good ideas often fell between the cracks, to the frustration of Parc staff.

Still, as the years passed, Parc’s ideas had a big impact on social science and Silicon Valley. Their work helped to spawn the development of the “user experience” (UX) movement, prodding companies such as Microsoft and Intel to create similar teams. Their ideas about “sense-making” spread into the consumer goods world, and from there to an unlikely sphere: Wall Street.

A social scientist named Patricia Ensworth was one of the first to use sense-making in finance. Starting in the 80s, she decided to use social science to help explain why IT issues tended to generate such angst in finance. Her research quickly showed that the issues were social and cultural as much as technical. In one early project she found that American software coders were completely baffled as to why their internally developed software programmes kept malfunctioning – until she explained that office customs in other locations were different.

In the early 90s, Ensworth joined Moody’s Investors Service, and eventually became director of quality assurance for its IT systems. It sounded like a technical job. However, her key role was pulling together different tribes – software coders, IT infrastructure technicians, analysts, salespeople and external customers. Then she formed a consultancy to advise on “project management, risk analysis, quality assurance and other business issues”, combining cultural awareness with engineering.

In 2005, Ensworth received an urgent message from a managing director at a major investment bank. “We need a consultant to help us get some projects back on track!” the manager said. Ensworth was used to such appeals: she had spent more than a decade using techniques pioneered by the likes of Orr and Seely Brown in order to study how finance and tech intersected with humans.

The investment bank project was typical. Like many of its rivals, this bank had been racing to move its operations online. But by 2005 it was facing a crisis. Before 2000 it had outsourced much of its trading IT platform to India, since it was cheaper than hiring IT experts in the US. But while the Indian coders and testers were skilled at handling traditional investment products, they struggled to cope with a new derivatives business that the bank was building, since the Indian coders had formal, bureaucratic engineering methods. So the bank started to use other suppliers in Ukraine and Canada who had a more flexible style and were used to collaborating with creative mathematicians. But this made the problems even worse: deadlines were missed, defects emerged and expensive disputes erupted.

“In the New York office, tensions were running high between the onsite employees of rival outsourcing vendors,” Ensworth later wrote. “The pivot point occurred when a fight broke out: a male Canadian tester insulted a female Indian tester with X-rated profanity and she threw hot coffee in his face. Since this legally constituted a workplace assault, the female tester was immediately fired and deported. Debates about the fairness of the punishment divided the office … [and] at the same time auditors uncovered some serious operational and security violations in the outsourced IT infrastructures and processes.”

Many employees blamed the issues on inter-ethnic clashes. But Ensworth suspected another, more subtle problem. Almost all the coders at the bank, whether they were in India, Manhattan, Kyiv or Toronto, had been trained to think in one-directional sequences, driven by sequential logic, without much lateral vision. The binary nature of the software they developed also meant that they tended to have an “I’m-right-you’re-wrong” mentality. Although the coders could produce algorithms to solve specific problems, they struggled to see the whole picture or collaborate to adapt as conditions changed. “The [coders] document their research in the form of use cases, flowcharts and system architecture designs,” Ensworth observed. “These documents work well enough for version 1.0, because the cyberspace model matches the user community’s lived experience. But over time, the model and the reality increasingly diverge.”

The coders often seemed unaware of the gap between their initial plan and subsequent reality. Ensworth persuaded the suppliers in India to provide training about American office rules and customs, and tried to teach the suppliers in Ukraine and Canada about the dangers of taking an excessively freewheeling approach to IT. She showed coders videos of the noisy and chaotic conditions on bank trading floors; that was a shock, since coders typically toiled in library-like silence and calm. She explained to managers at the bank that coders felt angry that they could not access important proprietary databases and tools. The goal was to teach all “sides” to copy the most basic precept of anthropology: seeing the world from another point of view.

 Ensworth did not harbour any illusions about changing the bank’s overall culture. When the financial crisis erupted in 2008, the project was wound down and she moved on. However, she was thrilled to see that during the 18 months that she worked at the bank, some of the anthropology lessons stuck. “Delivery schedules and error rates were occasionally troublesome, but no longer a constant, pervasive worry,” she later wrote. Better still, the workers stopped throwing coffee around the office.


But what would happen to the business of sense-making at work if humans were suddenly prevented from working face to face? As he hovered like a fly on the wall of trading rooms on Wall Street and in the City of London in the early 2000s, Beunza often asked himself that question. Then, in the spring of 2020, he was unexpectedly presented with a natural experiment. As Covid-19 spread, financial institutions suddenly did what Bob had said they never would – they sent traders home with their Bloomberg terminals. So, over the course of the summer, Beunza contacted his old Wall Street contacts to ask a key question: what happened?

It was not easy to do the research. Anthropology is a discipline that prizes first-hand observations. Conducting research via video calls seemed to fly in the face of that. “A lot of my work depends on speaking to people face to face, understanding how they live their lives on their own terms and in their own spaces,” said Chloe Evans, an anthropologist at Spotify, to a conference convened in 2020 to discuss the challenge. “Being in the same space is vital for us to understand how people use products and services for the companies we work for.”

However, ethnographers realized there were benefits to the new world, too: they could reach people around the world on a more equal footing, and sometimes with more intimacy. “We see people in contexts not available to us in lab situations,” observed an ethnographer named Stuart Henshall, who was doing research among poor communities in India. Before the pandemic, most of the Indian people he interviewed were so ashamed of their domestic spaces that they preferred to meet in a research office, he explained. But after lockdown, his interviewees started talking to him via video calls from their homes and rickshaws, which enabled him to gain insight into a whole new aspect of their lives. “Participants are simply more comfortable at home in their environment. They feel more in control,” he observed. It was a new of type of ethnography.

When Beunza interviewed bankers remotely, he found echoes of this pattern: respondents were more eager to engage with him from home than in the office, and it felt more intimate. The financiers told him that they had found it relatively simple to do some parts of their job remotely, at least in the short term: working from home was easy if you were writing computer code or scanning legal documents. Teams that had already been working together for a long time also could interact well through video links.

The really big problem was incidental information exchange. “The bit that’s very hard to replicate is the information you didn’t know you needed,” observed Charles Bristow, a senior trader at JP Morgan. “[It’s] where you hear some noise from a desk a corridor away, or you hear a word that triggers a thought. If you’re working from home, you don’t know that you need that information.” Working from home also made it hard to teach younger bankers how to think and behave; physical experiences were crucial for conveying the habits of finance or being an apprentice.

Beunza was not surprised to hear that the financiers were eager to get traders back to the office as soon as they could; nor that most had quietly kept some teams working in the office throughout the crisis. Nor was he surprised that when banks such as JPMorgan started to bring some people back in – initially at 50% capacity – they spent a huge amount of time devising systems to “rotate” people; the trick seemed not to be bringing in entire teams, but people from different groups. This was the best way to get that all-important incidental information exchange when the office was half-full.

But one of the most revealing details from Beunza’s interviews concerned performance. When he asked the financiers at the biggest American and European banks how they had fared during the wild market turmoil of spring 2020, “the bankers said that their trading teams in the office did much, much better than those at home,” Beunza told me in the autumn of 2020. “The Wall Street banks kept more teams in the office, so they seem to have done a lot better than Europeans.” That may have been due to malfunctions on home-based tech platforms. But Beunza attributed it to something else: in-person teams had more incidental information exchange and sense-making, and at times of stress this seemed doubly important.

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The bankers that Beunza observed were not the only ones to realize the value of being together in the same physical space. The same pattern was playing out at the IETF. When the pandemic hit, the IETF organizers decided to replace in-person conventions with virtual summits. A few months later they polled about 600 members to see how they felt about this switch. More than half said they considered online meetings less productive than in-person, and only 7% preferred meeting online. Again, they missed the peripheral vision and incidental information exchange that happened with in-person meetings. “[Online] doesn’t work. In person is NOT just about the meeting sessions – it is about meeting people outside the meetings, at social events,” complained one member. “The lack of serendipitous meetings and chats is a significant difference,” said another. Or as one of them put it: “We need to meet in person to get meaningful work done.”

They also missed their humming rituals. As the meetings moved online, two-thirds of the respondents said they wanted to explore new ways to create rough consensus. “We need to figure out how to ‘hum’ online,” said one member. So the IETF organizers experimented with holding online polls. But members complained that virtual polls were too crude and one-dimensional; they crave a more nuanced, three-dimensional way to judge the mood of their tribe. “The most important thing to me about a hum is some idea of how many people present hummed at all, or how loudly. Exact numbers don’t matter, proportionality does,” said one.

By

Source: The empty office: what we lose when we work from home | Anthropology | The Guardian

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How an Ancient Design Technique Could Help Us Survive Extreme Heat

In late June, when temperatures climbed to 115 degrees in Portland, Oregon, homes and buildings throughout the Pacific Northwest had been caught method off guard. Most had been designed for a lot cooler temperatures, with insulation and air flow tuned to deal with reasonable highs and lows. Usually, even on sizzling days, the night lows can be chilly sufficient to deliver down the general temperature of buildings, protecting them from turning into roasting ovens. Air con was sometimes irrelevant, and buildings could often keep snug passively, or with out a lot intervention.

However that was earlier than. The warmth wave confirmed that temperatures can and possibly will proceed to be increased than in earlier a long time. The low- or no-effort temperature management that has been designed into the area’s houses seemingly gained’t have the ability to sustain, based on Mike Fowler, an architect at Seattle-based Mithun. “We’re going to part out of that by the tip of the last decade. And this has been eye-opening for lots of oldsters,” he says.

A brand new sort of constructing design might be wanted within the Pacific Northwest before most individuals anticipated, he says, however design approaches which are usually utilized in hotter, extra extreme climates provide some clues for a way structure might want to evolve.

Architects all over the world are designing options to rising temperatures and extra frequent warmth waves. New supplies, superior warmth modeling strategies, and a few longstanding design ideas are exhibiting that even when temperatures hit sudden peaks, our houses and buildings will have the ability to keep cool with out consuming enormous quantities of vitality.

One formal strategy is a constructing customary often known as Passive House. Initially developed in Germany within the Nineties and now modified for nations and climates all over the world, Passive Home is a performance-based customary that depends on creating tight and energy-efficient constructing “envelopes”—the partitions, roof, and home windows which have the next than regular stage of insulation and seal.

With triple-paned home windows, energy-efficient warmth pumps, and extremely insulated wall methods, Passive Home buildings are virtually air tight and scale back the quantity of temperature change inside when it’s extremely popular or very chilly, resulting in long-term financial savings on vitality prices. The concept of passive constructing goes back centuries throughout continents, and it’s an idea that’s taking up new relevance in locations just like the Pacific Northwest.

Fowler is a member and former president of Passive House Northwest, a regional group working to get extra architects and builders to use these ideas. “The pitch is that you simply’ve obtained one likelihood to put money into your constructing envelope—the home windows, roof, and partitions,” Fowler says. “Do it proper in order that one thing you construct now could be going to be resilient into the long run.”

He says the variety of Passive Home tasks within the area is rising. Mithun, the place Fowler is a senior affiliate, has 4 tasks within the works which are being designed to satisfy the U.S. Passive House standard. “There’s much more curiosity, there’s much more data,” he says. “Would like to see it go sooner, however it’s definitely trending upward.”

Even with out assembly the official customary, most of the concepts behind Passive Home are exhibiting up in locations the place extreme warmth is a matter of each day life. In Phoenix, the structure agency Studio Ma has specialised in designing parts into their buildings that passively maintain them cool, utilizing shading, overhangs, and cantilevers to protect them from the warmth of the desert.

Utilizing thermal-imaging software program, the agency has analyzed surfaces in Phoenix and located that present buildings with heavier supplies like stone and masonry on their exterior surfaces maintain way more warmth than buildings with lighter exteriors, akin to wooden. Through the use of lighter, higher insulated supplies on the skin of buildings and limiting the warmth that falls on them, buildings can have way more manageable inside temperatures, based on Christopher Alt, the agency’s co-founder.

“Some individuals name it ‘outsulation’ as a result of the insulation is on the skin, however it’s very depending on the local weather you’re in,” says Alt. “As individuals in Oregon are experiencing 115 levels, their options most likely look completely different than ours, however the identical form of pondering applies.”

They put these concepts into apply in a brand new 16-floor residence hall in Phoenix for Arizona State College. The agency used daylight and vitality evaluation instruments to optimize the orientation of the home windows, and added small aspects to the facade to permit a part of it to shade itself. This permits sufficient daylight to return in for the constructing to cut back its lighting wants whereas additionally minimizing how a lot the solar heats up the constructing.

Christiana Moss, the agency’s co-founder and managing accomplice, says that particularly for big buildings, architects might want to pay extra consideration to the warmth getting into buildings by means of their home windows. “At this level, it’s nearly obviously irresponsible to not contemplate your glazing ratios and scale back the glass in your facades,” she says.

These sorts of passive cooling ideas may also be inexpensive. Marlene Imirzian runs an architecture firm with places of work in Phoenix and Escondido, California, and she or he’s used passive cooling parts in lots of her tasks, together with methods that mix shading, low-lying operable home windows that pull cool air into buildings, and a photo voltaic chimney that vents sizzling air out on the prime.

Imirzian says these design parts can slash vitality use to a couple of quarter of what present houses use. “It’s not about extremely specialised methods. It’s about utilizing pure flows, defending the glazing from direct photo voltaic achieve and designing the [enclosed space] to permit for air motion,” she says.

Imirzian’s agency utilized this concept in its successful entry within the Metropolis of Phoenix’s internet zero vitality dwelling design competitors. They discovered that implementing these ideas right into a 2,100-square-foot dwelling would find yourself costing about the identical to construct as a typical air conditioned dwelling, with out the necessity to use the air conditioner almost as typically. “Value per sq. foot turns into a non issue. It’s actually about designing with this efficiency in thoughts from the start,” Imirzian says. “If we begin doing these single household houses effectively, we are able to considerably scale back vitality use.”

However there are nonetheless some hurdles to implementing these sorts of passive design strategies. Ben Caine is an architect in Perth, Australia, who designs houses to satisfy the Passive Home customary, and he says that a few of the lighter exterior and insulation supplies generally used on Passive Home tasks are nonetheless exhausting to get in Australia. For issues like wooden fiber and hemp insulation, he says, getting supplies despatched over from Europe can take 4 to 5 months, and be 4 to 5 instances as costly as typical supplies. “The availability chains and distribution channels for lots of those supplies simply don’t exist but,” he says.

He’s nonetheless been in a position to implement some passive cooling strategies in tasks, together with a home he’s now having constructed for himself. By specializing in protecting the constructing envelope tight, including excessive ceilings in some areas of the house and utilizing environment friendly ceiling followers, he says he’s been in a position to scale back warmth from entering into the house and likewise lower down on the necessity for air-con, although not fully.

Although air-con is condemned for losing vitality, Caine says that it’s not essentially evil; cooling a home down truly takes less energy than heating it up. That doesn’t imply he’s turning the A/C on full blast, although. By specializing in air-tightness and passive cooling strategies, even houses in sizzling environments like Australia can lower down on the period of time they want air-con to remain snug.

“What we’re seeking to do is enhance what’s referred to as part shift, that’s the time it takes for the extreme warmth on the skin to move by means of the constructing envelope and attain the within,” Caine says. “Even should you do have air-con put in as a backup, you’re utilizing it rather a lot much less by means of the usage of these supplies.”

With extra locations starting to see increased temperatures, these design ideas might quickly develop into extra of a mainstream a part of structure. Imirzian, who’s presently in talks with builders to develop her internet zero dwelling design for Phoenix, says that it’s solely a matter of time earlier than these sorts of design concepts unfold out past extremely popular climates. “I feel it’s very, very transferable all over the world,” she says.

By: Nate Berg

Source: How an ancient design technique could help us survive extreme heat, no

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Critics:

The history of construction embraces many other fields like structural engineering, Civil engineering, cities growing and Population growth that are relatives to branches of Technology science, history, and architecture to investigate the buildings conservation and recorded their accomplishments. Those fields permit use to analyze modern or Latest construction and prehistoric constructions, as their structures, building Materials, and tools used.

History of building is evolving by different trends in time, marked by few key principles : durability of the materials used, the increasing of height and span, the degree of control exercised over the interior environment and finally the energy available to the construction process.

With the Second Industrial Revolution in the early 20th century, elevators and cranes made high rise buildings and skyscrapers possible, while heavy equipment and power tools decreased the workforce needed. Other new technologies were prefabrication and computer-aided design.

Trade unions were formed to protect construction workers’ interests and occupational safety and health. Personal protective equipment such as hard hats and earmuffs also came into use, and have become mandatory at most sites.

From the 20th century, governmental construction projects were used as a part of macroeconomic stimulation policies, especially during the Great depression (see New Deal). For economy of scale, whole suburbs, towns and cities, including infrastructure, are often planned and constructed within the same project (called megaproject if the cost exceeds US$1 billion), such as Brasília in Brazil, and the Million Programme in Sweden.

By the end of the 20th century, ecology, energy conservation and sustainable development had become important issues of construction.

References

 

Organic Based EV Battery Turns To Ethanol For a Boost In Energy Density

While on the face of it, the lithium-batteries that power electric vehicles play an important role in our ongoing shift to sustainable transport, they aren’t without environmental problems of their own. Batteries that use organic, readily available materials in place of rare metals are seen as a promising part of the solution to this dilemma, and new research led by University of Houston scientists demonstrates how the performance of these eco-friendly devices might be brought up to speed.

As demand for electronic devices and vehicles continues to grow, so does the reliance on lithium-ion batteries that rely on scarce metals. Front and center of this dilemma is cobalt, the mining of which is not only associated with environmental degradation and pollution of water supplies, but plagued by ethical issues such as the exploitation of child labor. The use of these metals also makes recycling the batteries difficult at the end of their lives.

However, we are seeing some exciting advances being made in the development of batteries that do away with these types of materials and use organic ones instead. These have included organic-based batteries that can break down in acid for recycling, a heavier reliance on cheaper and more environmentally friendly nickel, and even one from IBM that uses materials found in seawater.

The new device marries this organic architecture with another promising branch of battery research focusing on the use of solid-state electrolytes. Typical batteries move their electrical charge between two electrodes, a cathode and anode, in a liquid electrolyte solution, but scientists are making great inroads into alternative designs that use a solid electrolyte instead. This type of architecture could also allow batteries to work with a lithium metal anode, which could store as much as 10 times the energy of current devices.

The scientists behind the new battery have solved what they say is a key limitation of organic-based, solid-state lithium batteries. Where cobalt-based cathodes afford these batteries a high energy density, ones made from organic materials suffer from limited energy density, which the team found to be because of microscopic structures within the cathode. “Cobalt-based cathodes are often favored because the microstructure is naturally ideal but forming the ideal microstructure in an organic-based solid-state battery is more challenging,” says study author Jibo Zhang.

Working with a cathode made from an organic material called pyrene-4,5,9,10-tetraone (PTO), the scientists used ethanol as a solvent to alter its microstructure. This treatment resulted in a new arrangement that allowed for better transport of ions within the cathode and boosted its energy density to 302 Wh/kg, which the team says is 83 percent higher than current state-of-the-art solid-state batteries with organic cathodes.

“We are developing low-cost, earth-abundant, cobalt-free organic-based cathode materials for a solid-state battery that will no longer require scarce transition metals found in mines,” says Yao. “This research is a step forward in increasing EV battery energy density using this more sustainable alternative.”

Nick Lavars

 

By: Nick Lavars

 

Source: Organic-based EV battery turns to ethanol for a boost in energy density

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