Priorities for 2020: Out with the old and in with the new
The end of 2019 marks the close of a decade that has seen technology advances soar. Since 2010 we’ve witnessed the development and adoption of technologies like the iPad, Amazon Alexa, driverless cars and near-field communication (NFC) to name just a few, all of which allow for a wealth of possibilities. Meanwhile the behind-the-scenes tech has been on just as impressive a journey. As we approach 2020, we spoke with 15 IT experts to hear their thoughts on what technologies businesses should prioritise in the coming year, and the impact of the advancements made over this past year.
Keeping data on track
In today’s data-driven world, Rob Mellor, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at WhereScape, explains that businesses are prioritising time to value: “Further eliminating the manual, repetitive elements within the development process will be even more of a priority this year. As the speed of business continues to increase, organisations must shorten the time it takes to unlock the value of data. Automation does just that, and additionally enables companies to redeploy valuable developer resources away from routine data infrastructure management processes and onto value-add tasks, such as delivering new solutions and services that will better guide the business.”
Looking at it from a data science perspective, Rich Pugh, Chief Data Scientist and Co-Founder at Mango Solutions, says: “Data as a way of doing business is not yet engrained in the DNA of most organisations. So, in our view, the key disruptor will be the inevitable broadening of the remit of analytic impact, which can only come when the business-at-large understands the possibilities of data and new ways of driving informed decision making. We believe that in the coming year, leading organisations will have cultural change high on the list of priorities of their data-driven transformation.”
Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise, suggests that edge computing is the way forward for data management.
“Edge buildout is already happening, and its pace is accelerating with trends like Internet-of-Things (IoT), self-driving cars, and biometrics. More apps are generating tons of data at the edge, raising the question of why data should not be better understood and managed directly at the edge. Imagine if you could analyse data, figure out what data is useful and needs to be brought back to the data centre, and directly process the rest of the data at the edge itself without having to first move it all?”
Being prepared for anything
Businesses must go into 2020 fully aware of the risks that they are facing. Tim Bandos, Vice President of Cybersecurity at Digital Guardian, suggests that events outside of technology have been creating some obstacles.
“I think geopolitical relationships around the world have increasingly become strained and uncertain with direction and I believe we'll see state-sponsored attacks being carried out much more; possibly even against critical infrastructure. There have been a number of attempts and even successful attacks against these types of systems but for the most part they've all been isolated incidents. The security in these environments needs to be fully assessed and controls need to be put in place as soon as possible in order to mitigate against future attacks.”
Anurag Kahol, CTO at Bitglass, agrees that preventing cyber threats is crucial, and say that “one technique that will continue to gain traction in 2020 is lateral phishing. Even the savviest security-minded folks can be lulled into a false sense of security when they receive an email asking for sensitive information from an internal source – particularly from a C-level executive. As we will continue to see cybercriminals refining their attack methods in 2020, companies must be prepared.”
Businesses will need to prioritise their security as we move into the new year, as Steve Moore, Chief Security Strategist at Exabeam, advises: “In 2020, I recommend a combined focus for CISOs on three distinct disciplines: friendliness, relevance and firm accountability. The ‘friendly CISO’ will never allow his/her program to prohibit future conversations about solutions or risks; the ‘relevant CISO’ will ensure they’ve built a program that ‘trains like it fights’ and doesn’t allow compliance to deter security; and finally, an ‘accountable CISO’ holds others accountable too – starting at the top of the org chart. This approach means the CISO cannot be a proverbial punching bag. Instead, they can articulate how they intend to run a program, for example, as a business leader first, with all the associated accountability for themselves and others, and a security leader second.”
This is supported by the CISO at ConnectWise, John Ford, who comments how MSPs in particular need to keep on top of the risks from cyber threats. “When we share details of an attack, we are essentially creating a community that can act as one when it comes to detecting and responding to the overwhelming number of attacks that are available. I believe MSPs are coming around to the value of threat intelligence along with the realisation that the more their communities share, the less likely they themselves will be unprepared to adequately detect and respond to the event. Will the use and sharing of threat intelligence become ubiquitous in 2020? Probably not, but it will likely become so within the next few years.”
Driving digital transformation
Digital transformation has been a hot topic in recent years, but Josh Flinn, Director of Product Strategy and Innovation at Cybera, predicts that “2020 will be the year that we see digital transformation move from being a widely used marketing term, to becoming something that makes a tangible impact on business. The IoT is the chief driver of this. Businesses will increasingly take advantage of the wide array of connected devices, super-fast connectivity speeds and seamless security to deliver personalised and optimised experiences for their customers.”
Bob Davis, CMO at Plutora, agrees that the efforts spent on digital transformation will only increase, and in the DevOps industry specifically.
“In 2019, we’ve seen growing urgency around digital transformation, and I fully expect that to continue into 2020. As we move into the 11th year since DevOps was ‘born,’ the need to take agile methodologies to the next level – to scale them to support the largest enterprises – is paramount. 2020 will be the year that Value Stream Management (VSM) will serve as the platform that provides predictive insight and visibility for the entire process from idea to cash.
“The benefit will be the ability to optimise software delivery processes to ensure the highest quality applications are delivered on time and at the most efficient cost and resource allocation possible. The success at achieving this will be a critical success factor for the very survival of those enterprises.”
Making smart investments
As we embark on a new year, businesses should invest in the technology that is most valuable to them – be that management, security, or any other area of IT.
Ziv Kedem, CEO at Zerto, highlights why IT resilience should be a key consideration as we are “seeing an increased focus on infrastructure stability. This increased focus usually involves looking into the solidity of roads, bridges, dams, hospitals, water systems and more, but in today’s digital world, network and technology infrastructure resilience needs to be a major part of the conversation as well. Internet access and data centre operations are critical to community recovery efforts, and ensuring resilience on the IT side of infrastructure also has the added benefit of protecting against damaging effects of other digital disasters, like ransomware.”
Meanwhile Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO and Co-Founder at Content Guru, emphasises why AI is only just gaining momentum in many industries.
“Around a quarter of customer interactions are already handled through an automated chatbot, and the customer engagement technology sector is constantly expanding the very definition of what AI is and what it can do. As it becomes the key business differentiator, organisations that stay ahead of the curve are seeing happy, loyal and engaged customers and higher profits, by turning AI hype into tangible business success. Moving beyond the hype and towards result-driven applications of AI will be critical to the success of any company wanting to survive in this competitive landscape in 2020.”
“As the drive for reducing energy consumption to benefit the environment reaches an all-time high,” explains Eltjo Hofstee, Managing Director at Leaseweb UK, “we predict that an increased demand for virtualisation will be a key route to achieving sustainability in data centre operations. Virtual servers use far less energy than their physical counterparts as they share a lot of resources, yet enable IT teams to fully utilise the capacity of a physical server to run the same environment virtually, and in many cases without compromising performance.”
For more niche industries, choosing the right technology is just as crucial, no matter what the specialty.
Surya Varanasi, CTO of StorCentric, parent company of Drobo & Retrospect, says: “In the Professional Consumer (i.e. Prosumer) and SMB space, data storage and protection has always been a priority, but cost has been a roadblock for those seeking to employ comprehensive end-to-end data management and protection solutions.
“In 2020, Prosumers and SMBs will demand solutions that enable them to seamlessly and affordably layer features and functionality onto their on-site storage, such as integration with off-site cloud and SaaS backup and recovery solutions, with flexible cross-platform support for all major platforms.”
For businesses that rely on wireless networks, Ken Hosac, VP of IoT Strategy and Business Development at Cradlepoint reveals: “Enterprises have a variety of use cases that benefit from having private wireless networks across a large area. However, WiFi isn’t always the answer, especially in large, crowded areas with lots of interference. Increasingly, enterprises are considering using LTE instead of WiFi for these ‘wide-area, local networks.’
“Enterprise-deployed Private LTE networks will become a reality in 2020. The FCC recently approved a swath of shared spectrum that was commercially launched this fall. A variety of companies, including Cradlepoint, have formed a broad ecosystem of interoperable Private LTE solutions that enables those commercial deployments. Keep an eye on Private LTE – it’s set to explode in 2020.”
- Currensea: the UK’s first travel money card linked to your bank
- How you and your business can reduce your carbon flight footprint
- Team Satchel's top-tips for scaling your business successfully
- Read the latest edition of Business Chief Europe edition, here
To conclude, Kleopatra Kivrakidou, Channel Marketing Manager EMEA at Ergotron, encourages businesses to prioritise not just their technology but also the welfare of their employees.
“Even more so than their predecessors, Gen-Z workers are highly health conscious, both physically and mentally. Organisations will therefore be facing a much higher demand from these young workers to provide office environments that are both functional and agile, while meeting their stricter health and wellbeing requirements.
“This free-thinking cohort of workers also wants greater control over their environment and value flexible work arrangements that incorporate task-oriented features that enable to them to curate how, and with whom, they work. Less accepting of the limitations of the physical spaces they inhabit, they’ll expect to find adjustable desks and mobile furniture that makes it possible to dynamically transform their working spaces as they see fit.”
For more information on all business in Europe, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief Europe.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”