What next for the digital revolution in Europe?
While the British government considers how best to navigate new political landscapes, at home and abroad, it has left an important question unanswered. High up on many business’s agendas is when the UK government will outline its digital strategy, the publication of which it had promised for the summer of 2016.
Chair of the Committee for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Iain Wright lamented the delay, warning that Britain will be "left behind" and have its advantage in the digital economy "eroded" in the "absence of clarity and strategic focus" in this regard.
These concerns are shared by many here in London’s FinTech community, but also further afield. The wider European business community is putting pressure on governments to put in place a viable pathway towards an agile and enabled digital future.
On the European Commission’s latest proposals around data, representative body Digital Europe has concerns that the rules put forward will “hamper European companies’ ability to benefit from data driven innovation” and therefore not achieve the Commission’s aim to build a thriving European data economy.
Despite such roadblocks the Fourth Industrial Revolution is gathering pace, characterised by a fusion of technologies blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. How, then, to navigate this emerging economy?
We might start by reflecting on the legacy systems and processes that encumber organisational efficiency. One example, dear to my heart, is the paper invoice.
Every day, businesses waste time and energy by manually checking invoice documents received from an increasingly global supply chain, when technology exists that can reject incorrect invoices before they even arrive. Later in the accounts payable process, masses of unanalysed procurement data lie stagnant in these paper invoices, instead of being quickly pulled to understand spending trends that can inform procurement decisions.
It's not only accounts payable that is suffering. Many business functions are currently being held back by legacy systems and attitudes causing problems and limiting growth. The back office is, pun intended, holding business back. Will 2017 be the year that digital automations and technical collaboration accelerate across the global supply chain?
This approach will strengthen global collaboration and revitalise economic growth, both things discussed recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos. There, Chinese president Xi Jinping championed economic globalisation, and challenged others in the business community to commit themselves to growing an “open global economy”.
This message was reiterated by Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, who aside from arguing that globalisation should not be blamed for the world’s problems shared his vision for the technological revolution.
Ma discussed the potential offered by small businesses across the world to spearhead an inclusive form of globalisation. He argued that growth over the next 30 years would be driven by smaller businesses joining the technological revolution, a development that will connect the unconnected.
In work streams like Procure to Pay – the implementation of a seamless process from point of order to payment – this is already becoming a reality, and more: small businesses are linking in partnership with large ones to innovate and grow. As a business that helps others with their digital transformation, and one that connects buyers and suppliers with streamlined e-invoicing and financial services capabilities, Tungsten Network sits at the heart of this global revolution.
From this position, we see time and again that businesses large and small who build their processes around digital possibilities save time and cost, reduce fraud and other risks, and assert greater control over their strategic outcomes. For 2017, the focus for both the public and private sectors should turn to technology-empowered growth strategies to help economies pick up pace. Pressingly, both should deliver agile back office work streams that better match their front end visions. Those that don’t may well get left behind.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
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.”