blue prism

It's a Kinda Magic

Gartners' Magic Quadrant

Last week Gartner released their Magic Quadrant for RPA and those vendors happy with the findings went crazy to celebrate the recognition of their success. While others quietly shuffled it under the carpet, hoping no one would notice.

If you'd like to read the full report it can be downloaded from Blue Prism on this link. The Magic Quadrant is your typical four-box grid, the x-axis tracking 'completeness of vision' and the y-axis 'ability to execute.' It's the y-axis that really sorts the wheat from the chaff, capabilities are no good if they are difficult to deliver!

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The report pulls no punches and no one really escaped completely free of some criticism, but as you fall lower down the y-axis, there were some harsh words and a sincere reality-check delivered. Credit to the Authors Derek Miers, Marc Kerremans, Saikat Ray and Cathy Tornbohm for not watering down their output. Anyone wanting to learn more about the RPA market should find a quiet hour and digest this report now.

The leaders - UiPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere - will probably come as no surprise to anyone. I'm pleased to see EdgeVeve and NICE sitting in the Challengers quadrant, worthy recognition in both cases for organisations that are sometimes overlooked by the hype around the big-3, despite a strong pedigree in this market. Personally, I was surprised to not see Pegasystems in this quadrant, a solution that seemed to have more in common with the Challengers than the Visionaries.

Visionaries is perhaps the most oddly named quadrant. It doesn't quite conjure the right impression of the vendors in this section; a complete vision but lacking in the ability to execute is too much theory and not enough practice in my mind.

Finally, we have the Niche Players, and this is a real mixed bag of results. Congratulations to Kofax, Servicetrace and Softomotive; they're still in the game and need to keep pushing forward. For the others, the battle is on, and there will be winners and losers!

With some visionary thinking of our own, The RPA Academy is a training partner with all of the Gartner RPA Leaders! Starting this week we have a new curriculum of Blue Prism Live Online training beginning so now is a good time to jump in for just $349 and begin your RPA journey.

Best,

Rob King

The RPA Academy



Low Code or RPA? (again)

Regular readers of my weekly newsletter will recognise that this is a topic I've discussed before. On our first outing, I concluded that both RPA and Low Code had its own place in a complementary way: Low-Code: Collaborator or Challenger for the RPA Crown?

Last week, I was speaking at a UK Mendix Event (Mendix on Tour) on the topic of Delivering Results with the AI Ecosystem. I enjoy discussing both principles and practice, and on this occasion, I was fortunate enough to share the stage with Simon Black, Mendix Guru, Evangelist and a kid in a candy shop when it comes to the opportunities afforded by the AI ecosystem. While I explained the principles, Simon demonstrated the practice live for everyone to see for themselves.

We both realised that there is still a lot of confusion about the different roles RPA and Low Code have to play, questions at the end focused more on this than on the opportunity provided by AI! As I have concluded before, they are different but complementary, but today I have a helpful summary of those differences and when you might select one over the other:

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Coincidentally, analysts Horses for Sources recently cited research which identified that the most significant barrier to change is an insufficient understanding of disruptive changes (blog link here). As we saw during Mendix on Tour, Businesses are simply unaware of the art of the possible. It's difficult to advance when there is a lack of education on the opportunities that technology can provide.

On this theme, we are just one week away from our webinar with Richard Hill and Gina Gray from Celaton; an Intelligent Process Automation solution that provides a one-stop shop for combining RPA and machine learning capabilities. Sign Up for the Webinar on 16th July here.

For anyone looking to advance their Blue Prism Skills, our next online instructor-led training begins on 16th July, sign up here for just $349. For corporate arrangements, contact be@therpaacademy.com for details.


Thanks Everyone.

Rob

Blue Prism acquires Thoughtonomy for $100M

The hot news this week is Blue Prism's purchase of Thoughtonomy for up to $100m. It follows SAP's purchase of Contextor at the end of last year, so you could wonder if RPA vendors are hot targets right now.

There are more similarities than differences in the two deals, SAP purchased Contextor to fill a clear gap in their product suite being filled by several of the RPA vendors. Similarly, Thoughtonomy fills a huge SaaS-based hole in the Blue Prism offering.

The annual Blue Prism conference earlier this year was a little worrying with all of Blue Prism's major competitors pulling ahead in the capabilities race. The roadmap offered was simply one of catching up with the competition and provided none of the market-defining innovation that gave RPA its name in the first place.

Thoughtonomy was there too. A most notable addition as it was their first appearance alongside Blue Prism in a formal setting despite licencing the Blue Prism technology for use within their own solution. The writing was on the wall, both companies were stronger together than apart, the question was when this deal would happen, not if.

Where Thoughtonomy lacked scale, Blue Prism lacked the SaaS capabilities, as a combined force Blue Prism could be back in the competition offering an enterprise-grade automation solution with a full range of automation, cloud and AI capabilities. Meanwhile, the competition isn't standing still either, and the race is on to move swiftly and create a clearly unified proposal.

The RPA Academy is an Authorised Blue Prism Training Partner, providing all levels of Blue Prism training, classroom or online. We can tailor our training to meet specific corporate needs, provide coaching and support, and accelerate the path to productive and efficient delivery. Our Blue Prism Unlimited Training is currently running allowing you to drop into live classes or watch previous lessons online for just $349/month and includes access to the Blue Prism software. Contact us for a free taster lesson.

Knowledge as a Service, Learning as a Skill

This week, we have been promoting our new subscription service:  RPA Unlimited. Providing unlimited access to our curriculum of RPA technical and business skills for $349/month. Training has evolved, it's now knowledge as a service.

Having a groundbreaking new service is one thing, but it's actually only half of a broader equation. Accessing continuous learning is really a state of mind, a receptiveness to new information.  

Students need to learn how to learn continuously, exercising their skills across increasingly broader domains. During the design of our RPA Unlimited service, we considered whether to specialise along the lines of specific technologies. It became very clear though that many RPA developers (who have the right mindset) are skilled in multiple disciplines. This influenced our final decision to provide access to the whole curriculum and continuously grow that curriculum to meet the demands of our community.

Knowledge is a service, Learning is a skill. Students who continuously challenge themselves to learn more will be in greater demand, learn faster, innovate more and stand out from the specialists by provides broader understanding over remembering facts.

For businesses or individuals, our RPA Unlimited Service provides:

  • Blue Prism Foundation

  • Automation Anywhere Basic and Advanced

  • UiPath Foundation and Advanced

  • RPA Knowledge for Analysts, Project Managers and Exec

Check Out Next Weeks classes ↓↓

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Edward Brooks
Founder of The RPA Academy

Bridging a Gap or Leaping the Chasm?

Last week the London RPA and AI meetup gathered together representatives from Automation Anywhere, Accenture and IBM to discuss how to bridge the gap from RPA to AI.

The collective experience of the panel immediately challenged that back-office automation is simply going too slow, giving examples of industrial robots with automation capabilities being around for over 30 years, why is RPA moving so slowly?

Another view cited consumer AI, where products like Alexa have become commonplace and the use of AI in our shopping, smartphones, or TV viewing is prevalent. If AI has moved so quickly at how, why is it so difficult for businesses to move at a similar pace?

Answers and excuses came thick and fast...some thought it was ignorance of the opportunity provided by RPA and AI, the misguided belief that automation was only for large businesses and doesn't apply to SMB's. Other cited change fatigue and no energy to look at another wave of technology change. All agreed that getting started was easy, but scaling up and sustaining the program is difficult.

The panel all agreed that the technology is mature, affordable and capable, whatever your needs, but warned that the technology alone will not solve your problems. Without a doubt, the new wave of Intelligent Automation (RPA + AI) is providing digital transformation opportunities for businesses but the success of these programs relies on the people and processes, not the technology.  

Processes need to be reimagined, the nature of work changed and this requires forward thinking skills not just technological ones. The panel referenced a study that suggested that 80% of the value of RPA came from businesses being forced to review and optimize their legacy processes!  

For many, this is not a gap to be bridged, but an impossible chasm to leap, but if businesses wait too long to start they will now be left in the dust.

If you're wondering where to begin with RPA, then check out our RPA Unlimited offer which provides both business and technical skills.


Rob King
VP Product at The RPA Academy

What is wrong with your RPA project? See your answers here...and the advice for your projects.

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Every week we get the chance to ask one simple question. And then sit back and watch all week as the questions come in. In fact, what really happens is that every question we ask makes us want to ask another 100 questions. But you are busy and we are not a research business, so you are probably just glad that we keep it simple.


The one thing I want to emphasise from last week’s results is this. You can choose to sit back and feel that expectations are wrong. That’s fine. But you have arrived at an incredible time for your personal development and your career. RPA is still relatively new - and has many years of evolution and growth. You can complain about the project you are working on, or you can step up and lead, taking your knowledge and perspective, and using it to really make a difference. And that difference will make a huge difference to your career path, in and around RPA.

This week’s absolute headlines are:

  • RPA projects are trying to do too much! 75% of you say that it was a significant issue; a further 17% said it was a bit of an issue!

    • Knowing that most of you are still in the early days of your RPA project, this is a major, major issue. You can blame the marketing that RPA is cheap, easy, fast and anyone can do it. But that doesn’t help you.

    • What we can advise on is that you apply your professional judgement and ensure that your voice is heard. One of our clients was recently reflecting on their first 6 months, and said that, at the start the leadership had said “we’ll deliver by November”. The developers had said “it will likely be February”. And guess who ended up being 100% correct!!!

    • In the early days, it is all about getting a few internal “stories” up and running. Processes that are real to your organisation, that you can use to say “hey, this stuff really works”, using language and examples that your internal audience can relate to and, fundamentally, believe.

  • Next up is not enough resources. 86% of you said that this was some kind of an issue. 

    • This is maybe just part of the market - there are not that many of you with RPA experience. If your organisation is in its early days of RPA, then chances are you’re doing the pioneering, and are unlikely to have a team or peers who know much more than you do.

    • Obviously, we’re going to recommend leveraging somewhere like The RPA Academy, where you can get expert-led training AND support. If not us, make sure you can find help. This problem is not going to be solved by throwing resources at it - because those resources don’t exist.

    • On the flip side, this is a huge opportunity for you to embed yourself as the expert, and carve out a space for yourself that will grow and evolve with your RPA platform and the ecosystem around it.

    • Inexperienced leadership and limited expertise really aren’t a surprise - don’t let these factors become excuses for you. It will be the same in almost all organisations around the globe, so the grass is not going to be greener on that. As I said above, take advantage of it to build your own leadership role, based on your growing expertise and the answers you can drive.

  • Hidden at the bottom of the results table are two gems - Scope Creep and Targets Not Clear.

    • This is absolutely project management 101. Certainly it opens up warning signs to anyone, at any stage in their journey. You need to have the team 100% clear on the objectives. I like the idea of pioneering, but that doesn’t mean just wandering around until you’ve done “something”.

    • Clear objectives, clear targets, and realistic but flexible timelines (this stuff is new to you, remember) should be the bedrock of anything you are doing. To repeat what I said above, if they are not there, it is your job to ensure that they are there. Simple. Don’t pass the buck to anyone. This is what leadership is made of, and leadership is as much your responsibility, at any level of the organisation, so don’t rely on someone with a bigger title for this.

  • ROI too high? Fascinating!

    • I wonder how many people actually know the financial targets of the project they work on. Certainly, from my personal experience, this is something that is usually vague and often kept pretty private. Great if you know the target ROI and then don’t agree with it - that’s a step in the right direction. Now you just have to influence it a bit.

The Half-Life of Knowledge ◐

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Since then, the amount of data is doubling each year.  From a learning perspective, this is creating two distinct problems:

  • The knowledge you have is much greater to do the job

  • The shelf-life of your knowledge is much shorter because it's changing so quickly

This is the Half-Life of Knowledge

Michael Simmons has looked more deeply at this problem and concluded:

"You probably need to devote at least five hours a week to learning just to keep up with your current field - ideally more if you want to get ahead."


It's a dilemma that the RPA Academy is here to help solve. Our new RPA Unlimited subscription provides the knowledge you require when you need it, but now as a service!  We run a regular curriculum of RPA courses online with live instructors able to translate the theory into the practice you need. Our experienced team of instructors are there to provide the coaching and support needed to ease the glide path from novice to experienced practitioner.

➤➤ Sign up now for only $349/month and have immediate access to over 200 hours of live lessons every month
 

Founder of the RPA Academy, Ed Brooks, had this to say about the new service:
"The idea to provide a radically different approach to learning has been a passion since founding the RPA Academy 3 years ago, our new service is the answer to the many challenges businesses and individuals face of accessing knowledge, skills and support on an ongoing basis."

“The world will never move this slowly again”

First, the great and exciting news. 

There has never been a more exciting time to be in technology - in fact, in business full stop.

On the one hand, the pace of innovation is so strong in every single area of the economy - from agriculture to space travel. We’ve got fruit being picked by machines and journeys to distant planets being actively pursued.

Maturing platforms, such as RPA, are growing arms and legs, either on their own, or with ecosystem partners plugging in to them.

As my favorite phrase goes - "the world will never move this slowly again”.

On the other hand, the big economies are strong and there is super-low general unemployment. Dig in to the technical niches that will deliver the innovation, and there really is almost no one available. 

So we can take risks and still know that there is a fall back. A start-up doesn’t work, and you can always get your old job back. A project doesn’t work and your employer will still keep you. 

Add to this all that there is increasing top-down demand for the application of technology - from Boards, Shareholders, Active Investors.

Top down, bottom up, sideways or whatever direction, none of this is going to do anything apart from speed up.

But. But. But…

With all this new “stuff”, workforce size limited by immigration policies and legacy low childbirth rates, who is going to do the work? 

Even if it is the existing workforce, how are they going to know:

  1. What to do?

  2. How to do it?

  3. And where to get help?

This is the biggest issue we see in the market. The one thing that can slow the pace of innovation - and certainly the pace of application of that innovation.

Skills are short.

Expertise is scarce (and busy - delivering projects or selling projects).

Knowledge (as much as there is) is fragmented.

There will always be some degree of pioneering, and that needs to be encouraged. 

How quickly we can can learn from pioneers and disseminate their knowledge will be the single biggest determinant in how fast we can all go.

Disseminated of knowledge - quickly and effectively. That’s the issue to be looking at - not the empty, unsolvable issues around “the future of work”. 

We just don’t know what is going to happen and when, so stop going on about an unknowable future. 

All we can do is ensure that we - you, me, our colleagues, our organizations - have access to the knowledge that they need, when they need it. There has to be a conduit for all of that. And the market can do the rest.

This is where we are focusing our next steps:

  • Easy access to new ideas and application of existing technologies

  • Active training on how to follow through and implement them at the coal face

  • And providing support, when it is needed, when you hit real problems/issues

Also, keeping the price at level that you or your organization can afford to invest and keep investing in this incredible, exciting, totally unknowable, and long road ahead.

We’re taking immediate steps to open up knowledge around RPA.

You can learn ALL the core RPA platforms (Blue PrismAutomation Anywhere, and UiPath - with more to come) for $349 a month (cancel any time).

It also includes the Business/Analyst training. No longer will there be a divide between the “technical knowledge” and the “business knowledge”. That in itself has been an unhelpful barrier to the deployment and ramp-up of RPA.

All of this is live, online and expert-led. Yes, the recording will be there if you miss a class.

The idea is that you can start immediately, access the on-demand training to get started, then join the next live classes. You can do one class or all the courses on all the platforms - all for $349.

But it revolves around connecting you with the experts - no matter where you are or at what level your RPA skills.

The full details are here

And spread the word!

Regards,
Edward Brooks - Founder, The RPA Academy

Digital Workforce for Hire

I've often described that your digital workforce has more similarities to your human workforce than it does to using a traditional piece of software. With computer software, you're typically all-in from the very beginning and little effort is needed to maintain after implementation. For your digital workforce, you have to consider whether using full-time, part-time or temporary digital workers is needed and ongoing maintenance and operations can be an unwelcome surprise.

There is a growing trend for businesses to look for 3rd parties for help when it comes to delivering and maintaining RPA. Some have managed to achieve a successful start but then struggle to scale up, others have simply struggled to get going when adopting a go-it-alone approach.

New terminology is appearing to describe the new business models: "Robots as a Service," "RPA as a Service," "Centre of excellence as a service." They are all describing roughly the same thing, an option to outsource the development and support of your robots to another company.

Robots as a Service (RaaS) provides a new option to consider; moving the responsibility for Design, Development and Support entirely to a third party.

The immediate advantage of this model is the reduced start-up costs, but more significant is the skills needed for ongoing maintenance and support, a crucial component that is often overlooked when preparing the business case and embarking on the initial pilot.

Another way to look at RaaS is as a fully managed RPA service. Pricing is flexible to meet client needs and can range from a price per minute, to a profit-sharing arrangement, or even a more traditional flat rate model.

Cloud computing and RPA have converged, providing new alternatives to deliver your RPA program.

Advances in operating models is just one topic on our Business Side of RPA online training running this month. May is a busy month for us with technical training, online and classroom, running for all three of main product areas: UiPathAutomation Anywhereand Blue PrismCheck out our home page for details.

-Rob King, The RPA Academy

RPA Is Dead

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How timely. 

Easter. A resurrection.

Done at a 21st century speed.

Who needs to wait 3 days nowadays?

Yesterday RPA was dead.

Today it is back to life.

I knew something was up when I woke to emails and LinkedIn messages saying, “Help! I am an RPA developer. I have been doing this for 2 years. Is RPA really dead? What does this mean for my career?” 

Obviously HFS sends out its newsletters at different times, according to your timezone. So by the time I was online in NY, most of the RPA world had seen this. 

But let’s be super, super clear. 

RPA is not dead. HFS did not say HFS is dead. They just worried a load of people.  And triggered lots of questions. Ultimately for the better. 

Dig deeper into the article.

It is 100% what we’ve been preaching for several years. RPA is not a standalone “thing”. It is one of many tools an organisation has at its disposal. It fits very nicely with Lean Six Sigma. It works really well alongside BPM. It helps you leverage your OCR investment. It facilitates some AI opportunities. And so on.

11/10 for this point alone. Successful organisations have, “a broad and ongoing change management program to enable the shift to a hybrid workforce”.

And 10/10 for calling out the Analytics opportunity. I’ve always believed that the data that RPA creates will be the defence mechanism that any old-economy business can use to beat off any new, legacy-system-free, competitor.

And if you want proof that RPA is not dead, have a look at the life going on here.

When you need some information, what do you do?

When you need some information, what do you do? For most people, the answer to this question is “Google it,” our new fountain of wisdom for everything from David Bowie trivia to the meaning of life.

There are 1.15 billion answers to the meaning of life, I’m glad we’ve sorted that one out.

When google works, it works great, and it should always be our first port of call, but when it doesn’t work, it includes lots of superfluous information that is not needed.

This is a signal to noise ratio: it’s difficult to hear the valuable signal because of the level of noise. This problem translates directly into our own RPA world, where there is a mountain of materials, but the quality varies greatly. At the RPA Academy, we curate well-researched knowledge to share with our members on the entire RPA ecosystem.

One size never fits all, and our flexible ‘learning path’ approach allows you to target the knowledge needed at the point of need for you and your team. The RPA Academy team have launched an innovative new brand called The Beacons, providing ongoing training for all your team. Our online subscription service starts from just $349 per month, contact our team to learn more.

The World of Connected RPA

Blue Prism World arrived in London last week and it was big! Really BIG! Claiming almost 3000 attendees at its peak, the two-day conference was undoubtedly the largest RPA event Europe has hosted so far.
The morning of day 1 focused on partners, providing advance information and a partner-only awards ceremony. The theme of connected-RPA is just another way of describing the growing importance of the partner ecosystem providing tailored capabilities not included in the core platform. Here are some of the highlights from across the two days:

The digital exchange (dx) which provides an open library of shared modules (or skills) features prominently at the centre of the growing community with plans to open it up app-store like in order for developers to sell their work.  

A new browser-based interface really gave the whole thing a new polish, and an updated architecture which now facilitates a centralized view of multiple environments is a welcome step for global operations.  

BP Decipher was announced, providing a new ML engine to convert unstructured data into structured, an overdue addition to the portfolio that disappointingly concluded with the reality that the product was still in development and an invitation to join the invoice processing trial would be coming soon.

A new Success Accelerator program has been soft-launched to help customers overcome the hurdles in scaling up and share good practices. This is a great step, but reading between the lines, it’s also a step to make sure customers stay in the fold and don’t stray to competitors. The market is getting tough and looking after existing customers is a positive step.

The announcement of a cloud-based trial version was a bit of a let down with many in the audience looking for a simpler set up for customers interested in dabbling for themselves that was more similar to community editions provided by other vendors. It's not entirely a surprise that they didn't go quite that far but we can dream.

In the end, it all comes back to the partners and the ecosystem, connected-RPA linked together almost every presentation, and it’s clear the future developments are going to come from the combination of core RPA and partner capabilities.

If you’re interested in learning more about the ecosystem look out for upcoming webinars as we introduce ecosystem training into our core curriculum. The RPA Academy is an accredited Blue Prism Training Partner; we continue to provide flexible, tailored and innovative approaches to learning. Check out The Beacons, for cost-effective training when you need it or contact the team to tailor an on-site course to your specific needs.

As Blue Prism would say: "Automate Together, Automate Better, Automate More"

4 Blue Prism Development Best Practices

1. Single Launch and Login Page

It is a common practice to create a single Launch and Login page.

However, these should be 2 different pages.

This gives us flexibility to recover when the Launch of an application fails.

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We generally retry Launch failures and never retry Login failures since a bot will never mistype the

credential unless it has wrong ones saved.

2. Not using Attach Action

Beginners tend to ignore the use of attach actions. One needs to call attach pages across the object

pages as soon as the start stage to help seamless switching between multiple applications running at the same time.

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3. Hard Coding timeouts

Newbies tend to hard code timeout stages of wait.

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Instead you need to use global data items which help you change the timeouts easily. Changing the

time outs on a single page would affect rest of the pages!!!

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Building all the logic on main page

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Break logic into multiple pages which help everyone one the team to understand the code and fix bugs in case of your unavailability.

4. Building huge objects

People tend to build huge objects. However, there are a lot of benefits when you break object into

smaller ones.

4.1 Multiple developers can work simultaneously.

4.2 Fewer items would break when changes are made.

4.3 Consumption of lower memory.

Good Naming convention: APP NAME + SCREEN NAME

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Training is least likely to help those most in need

The World Economic Forum emphasizes that it is crucial for employers to support their current workforces by training in order to address the skills gap.

Employers indicate that they are set to prioritize and focus their reskilling and upskilling efforts on employees currently performing high-value roles as a way of strengthening their enterprise’s strategic capacity, stating they intend to target employees in key roles and in frontline roles which will be using relevant new technologies.

Furthermore, 41% of employers are set to focus their reskilling provision on high-performing employees while a much smaller proportion of 33% stated that they would prioritize at-risk employees in roles expected to be most In other words, those most in need of reskilling and upskilling are least likely to receive such training.

See The Work Economic Forum: The Future of Jobs (http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2018.pdf) for more information.

Your best employees are made, not found

The World Economic Forum emphasizes that it is crucial for employers to support their current workforces through training in order to address the skills gap. Within the next five years, it is expected that over 50% of employees will require significant reskilling and upskilling.

Meeting this demand through traditional recruitment methods is simply impossible, there are insufficient skills on the market to tap-into in the first place. Developing your existing talent is the only option to keep up to date and achieve your business goals.

This will require some bold steps and new ideas.

The Skills Gap Threatens Progress

According to a survey by PwC, 77% of CEO’s see the availability of key skills as the biggest threat to their business.

Furthermore, 80% of business and IT Executives expect skills and knowledge in 10 years to have little resemblance to their organizations today; there is an urgent need to implement a continuous learning model into today’s operations simply to survive.

Successful enterprises of the future will become learning businesses, where lifelong learning is becoming part of the culture and the natural way of working within the organization.

The Rate of change continues to accelerate, keeping pace with the change requires a new model where knowledge is available at the point of demand and the point of need. A knowledge as a service model which delivers the company needs.