May 19, 2020

Phase 1 in 1995, Phase 2 in 2007: Where will AI and Phase 3 of the Digital Evolution lead?

Prof. Steven Van Belleghem
3 min
Phase 1 in 1995, Phase 2 in 2007: Where will AI and Phase 3 of the Digital Evolution lead?

When we think about the first two phases of digital evolution, we now have enough distance to analyse and draw conclusions. The third phase – which we are currently undergoing – is too close for us to be sure about yet, but we can make some well-founded predictions.

Starting in 1995, Phase 1 of digital evolution was about information, released to everyone via access to the internet that was generally available from that date. Google, the search engine that became the interface between us and all that information, transpired to be the winner of this phase.

From 2007, with the advent of the smartphone, Phase 2 was about mobile technology and social media. As we all, more or less slowly, adopted the smartphone and tablet and set up our profiles, in the Western world Apple and Facebook won this phase.

Since 2016, when it became clear that the Artificial Intelligence phase of evolution had begun, we’ve been in Phase 3. So far, it’s unclear who the winners will be. But this phase will be a totally different experience both for consumers and for the companies attempting to find their places in it.

The Artificial Intelligence phase will mainly involve Invisible Technologies – behind-the-scenes technologies that work to anticipate human needs and to make experiences magical. With this new form of back-office support, and as levels of service get higher, Phase 3 will reach to the core of customer service. Companies who want to succeed in this fast-changing field will need to get on board with AI quickly, or risk falling far behind.

During Phase 1, a company website was by no means seen as an essential asset; opting out of the internet was perhaps short-sighted, but didn’t mean you would go out of business. By Phase 2, people had woken up to the importance of the internet, and having a website was seen as essential, in terms of marketing, sales, and customer experience.

During Phase 2, as social media rose in popularity and was harnessed as a tool for promotion and profit, larger numbers listened to the hype and people were more aware of the internet’s potential to carry a business upwards; but still, businesses could continue to operate profitably without using social media.

In Phase 3, however, adoption of the new technologies by both consumers and businesses will be much faster. Companies that are agile and either already engaged or prepared to engage with AI immediately will have a huge market advantage over those that are holding back.

The big technology companies are already working with AI uppermost in their minds. Having spent the last couple of years adopting AI technologies gradually, they are now speeding up. They know that 70–80 percent of the time the average consumer spends on his or her smartphone is spent with digital superhero companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and YouTube.

As consumers, we’ve become used to adopting new technologies, and now everything we need to use the Phase 3 AI technology is already in our hands. We already have the smartphones, the fibre internet. We will simply see an upturn in the quality of the services we already use.

In this context it is crucial for non-digital companies to move faster in the domain of AI, because service levels will be extremely high and the competition will quickly move up a few notches. It’s the first time in this digital phase that new technology will lead to the core of both service and product.

A company that hopes to emerge as a winner in this phase needs to think fast about their AI strategy, in the back office and the front office, to get a step ahead of the competition.

Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is an expert in customer focus in the digital world and author of the award-winning book When Digital Becomes Human. 

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Jun 18, 2021

GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud

3 min
VMware has been walking GfK along its path through digital transformation to the cloud for over a decade.

GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.  

In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade. 

“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.

Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.

By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.

One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.

“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.

Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs. 

“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.

The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment. 

The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.

One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.

“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.

“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client. 

“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”

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