The Latest

24 May 2022: ActiveCampaign has acquired email delivery service Postmark and email authentication DMARC Digest to improve its sales and marketing communications features. With the integration of Postmark, ActiveCampaign users can send transactional emails through a drag-and-drop tool to engage more non-technical users. On the other hand, with the DMARC Digests feature, users can easily identify sources that are sending unauthenticated emails that result in DMARC failures. 

Why it’s Important

Email marketing tools are evolving rapidly, with platform features that support greater usability. In addition, allowing recipients to reply to transactional emails, such as Postmark’s feature, can help improve recipients’ engagement with the organisation.  

Similar to other Cloud analytics vendors, IBRS expects more mergers and acquisitions among customer experience automation firms. It projects more features using no-code technology to be integrated for a streamlined email building process. This will help marketers and non-developer teams to create, maintain and analyse their marketing campaigns while simplifying their workflows.

However, these drivers also mean that more email automation is on the way. In turn, this means more scrutiny of email quality, trust and delivery.

Who’s impacted

  • CMO
  • Sales and marketing teams

What’s Next?

Organisations should look at how their digital marketing can improve customer engagement. No-code/low-code platforms help cut down the time to build campaigns and also create better analysis of marketing initiatives. However, they must not only leverage new technologies and integrations that optimise each customer’s touchpoint, but also consider compliance regulations, customer analytics and engagement to accelerate return on investment (ROI) in lead conversion.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Reduce Email Overload to See a New World Order
  2. Measuring Marketing return on investment

The Latest

24 May 2022: Oracle has recently been recognised by the Digital Transformation Agency as a certified strategic hosting provider, the highest level of assurance which permits the Australian government to specify strict ownership and control conditions. The company now joins other accredited Cloud providers in Australia such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Sliced Tech, AUCloud, and Vault Cloud. The Australian government has mandated that its agencies will only host accredited partners starting July 2022, to better manage supply chain issues.

Oracle partnered with Australian Data Centre (ADC) in 2021 to offer public Cloud services to government agencies. 

Why it’s Important

For organisations with existing investments in Oracle platforms, the company’s Cloud offering is considered a low-risk, quick and easy way to obtain the benefits of hyperscale Cloud. Through the accreditation, government agencies can now use Oracle as a government-ready Cloud services provider (CSP).

For Oracle’s other clients, the company’s regulatory compliance means that the services its users receive follow critical best practices in the areas of procedures, policies and designs. It also offers assurance that their security requirements are met by Oracle since it is more difficult to obtain government accreditation owing to practices that need to be demonstrated to conform to stringent standards.

While Oracle's Cloud platform does not have the breadth of a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) compared to its hyperscale Cloud rivals, it may have all the services its existing clients need. Organisations looking to retain Oracle's products should evaluate the Oracle Cloud platform from a financial perspective, as part of their multi-Cloud strategy. For instance, Oracle Cloud includes automated database tuning administration, so enterprises need to consider the costs associated with having trained staff to monitor the database, which could result in higher overheads.

Who’s impacted

  • CISO
  • Security teams
  • ICT strategy leads
  • Infrastructure architects

What’s Next?

Over the last three years, IBRS has noticed a significant mind shift in how organisations think about database infrastructure and, in particular, the Cloud. Many IBRS clients have reported that they are actively looking to embrace Cloud-native data platforms. The Oracle Cloud provides not only a 'stepping stone' for Oracle database customers, and those with Oracle's enterprise solutions, but a potential platform for running containers.

A New Program for New Programmers

Appian, a low-code vendor, recently launched a LowCode4All, a scholarship program that will cater to developing the low-code skills of marginalised individuals. The program will be launched in stages, with an initial focus on people with a background in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) or that have outdated coding skills.

Initially, eligible participants will include current undergraduate and graduate students, students who have paused their education, unemployed individuals, career-changers, and military veterans. As the program progresses, additional target groups will be added, such as single mothers, women returning to the workforce and disenfranchised groups. Low-code platforms represent a particularly powerful option for bringing people into the technology industry, and providing education and certification to disenfranchised citizens is both a socially sound policy and a way to directly address the skill shortage in software development.

This round of the program includes distributing 1,000 scholarships to provide training and certification to marginalised communities, teaching them low-code development practices. This not only benefits the individuals receiving the training, but also addresses the critical scarcity of skilled software professionals. Obviously, it also benefits Appian by ensuring a ready supply of Appian-skilled staff.

In short, the program aims at helping people that have historically seen employment opportunities limited to the lowest paying jobs, or who have experienced generational poverty, which may have hindered them from entering the technology workforce.

The fully-funded program includes a training program, trial examinations, mentoring and employment opportunities through the Appian network. Applicants will need to pass a final examination before becoming an Appian Certified Associate Developer.

Importantly, the program also includes post-certification mentorship with the vendor’s engineering and professional services teams to ensure they are ready for employment.

In an interview with IBRS and Appian’s executive, Appian described the plan as a way of ‘democratising access to a low-code career by reducing financial barriers’. Aside from supporting the scholarship recipients’ low-code platform certification, it will also assist them with job placement. IBRS notes that starting rates for low-code specialists average around US$70,000, which is significant, even life-changing for some candidates targeted by the program, but still very cost-effective application development (which is one reason why low-code is gaining such traction). Given that the people being targeted for the program may have been at poverty level wages, such employment opportunities are genuinely life-changing.

Other tech companies have also launched similar corporate initiatives for low-income learners to earn their certifications. For instance, Microsoft offers the Women at Microsoft Scholarship for high-school women and non-binary applicants, while Salesforce has established the Salesforce Foundation that supports global educational initiatives.

IBRS believes that these programs can help improve diversity by nurturing qualified developers. Women returning to work and young women are both targets for these types of programs. In addition, the programs can help address underemployment within the ageing population and low-income communities. They have real economic and social benefits.

Observations and Lessons from Appian’s Proposed Model

During IBRS’s discussion with Appian’s executives, several contentious issues were raised about the structure of the program. While the intentions of the Appian scholarship program are to support vulnerable members of society, especially those whose income opportunities are limited, IBRS raised the following:

 1. Educational Mentorship is Different from Career Mentorship

Appian’s mentorship program commences once the applicant gets certified after the final exam. However, a true educational mentorship program fosters prioritising first the development of the individual over his or her identity as a certified skilled worker. This means that the mentorship has to be set right during the practice exams instead of leaving them to figure out coding exercises on their own until they experience burnout prior to the final certification test. 

Appian has taken this advice on board and will be expanding mentorship within the program over time.

 2. Mental Health Concerns Among Learners

The target scholarship recipients are individuals with stressful backgrounds compared to typical university scholarship applicants. For instance, U.S. army veterans or service members who were recently discharged and intend to go back to the civilian workforce may still have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or simply be facing severe financial stress. Many academic and clinical literature has shown that such stressors manifest in dysfunctions when transitioning to student life. 

In addition, the pandemic has affected the mental health of employees who initially took their retrenchment in their stride but have become more distressed by the situation. Anxiety is high among this group of individuals.

IBRS recommends that a combination of tutoring and mentorship, with a special consideration on mental health issues, be instituted to ensure that the trainees can remain committed to fulfilling the requirements of the program. Most educational networks (TAFEs, universities, K12 schools) have mental health professionals that support students in need. Vendor-driven programs - especially those targeting marginalised individuals - will need similar support.

3. Time Flexible

Many of the marginalised individuals targeted by these types of programs will be time poor, or have commitments well outside of their control. For example, low-income, single parents may not be able to fully commit to the training in a given time period. Many of them have inflexible schedules and would have to balance their jobs and training while making time for their children because they cannot afford daycare facilities. 

Any programs that aim to support the marginalised will need to accommodate a great deal of flexibility in how and when training is conducted, timing and approach to trial exams, and even the certification exam. This means any mentors involved in the program will also need sufficient training and freedom to work with students at sometimes inconsistent times. A balance must be struck - but exactly what that balance looks like will depend upon the type of training and subject matter.

 4. One-Time Examination

In relation to the points raised above, the drawback to an all-or-nothing certification exam is highly concerning given that these students have to deal with non-academic issues and mental health problems. A pass-or-fail mentality can be demotivating since not everyone can be at the same pace in terms of building their low-code skills.

In these situations, the exam may likely have a poor predictive quality if the performance of all examinees are considered on their first attempt, due to anxiety and lack of focus initially, even if students had engaged with practice exams prior to the final test.

IBRS recommends that vendors implementing such programs establish a ‘safety net’ for their students. In its simplest form, students can be assured that they can retake the final examination a number of times to prevent further anxiety around whether they can pass or not. This can be done by requiring them to do some or all of the curriculum again before being allowed to retake the test.

5. Forward-Looking Approach

Such programs need to be evaluated at least annually to assess the quality and success of the program over time. Without formal evaluation, such programs can be dangerous - actually harming marginalised individuals - and the vendors cannot identify areas for improvement.

Conclusion

Appian is engaged in what should be a powerful win-win-win program:

  • a win for society by creating new employment pathways for marginalised people, in a way that government programs rarely provides
  • a win for the ICT industry that is critically short of developers
  • a win for Appian, as it expands the availability of workforce ready talent

IBRSiQ is a database of client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

This month, discussions regarding the continued growth of the managed service provider sector have been prominent. There has also been an emphasis on innovative business and service delivery models to slot in with customer needs and internal processes. While providers continue to establish a more stable presence in the industry, allowing for necessary change and consolidation, the service and customer landscape constantly evolves. Customers demand targeted solutions with ongoing vendor support that can integrate with a business’ strategic priorities, adapt to change in a company, or allow for responses when difficulties arise.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

Hyperscale Cloud migrations involve complexities such as separate domains, multiple operating systems, support security, and enterprise agility, among others. Organisations, therefore, need to conduct an enterprise readiness assessment prior to initiating any project. Two of the best practices in Cloud readiness include hyperscale Cloud migration evaluation and hyperscale Cloud migration planning. These two practices combine to deliver a Cloud migration practical project management framework.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

Biases in artificial intelligence (AI) often lead to discrimination at the expense of particular segments of society. When organisations leverage new technologies that demonstrate inequality and inaccuracy from AI and machine learning, the impact of under-representation and human prejudice – once detected or uncovered when a faulty decision is realised – can result in financial losses and reputational damage. Furthermore, bias in algorithms can result in less effective automation by further reinforcing flawed assumptions and processes.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

Security concerns within enterprise hybrid Cloud environments continue to challenge many organisations despite the consistent innovation in security tools to manage vulnerabilities. By putting in place shared responsibility between the Cloud service provider and the client organisation, efforts to secure the entire Cloud architecture are possible through more holistic visibility, governance, and compliance. This enables workload to be moved more freely between public and private Cloud environments, and helps better protect data, infrastructure, and applications.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

Most organisations are actively developing and implementing substantial cyber security programs. Many of these programs are externally focused and aimed at identifying, defending, and responding to cyber attacks. The internal threats posed by an organisation’s employees, malicious or inadvertent, are often given relatively minor emphasis in programs that are reviewed by IBRS.

Part of an effective cyber security response is creating a culture where security is the responsibility of everyone in the organisation. A cyber security policy is a cornerstone of this promoting an employee cyber-aware culture. If organisations do not enact a cyber security policy, they will likely be leaving themselves open to be cyber compromised. This paper sets out to assist organisations in creating a cyber security policy to protect and respond in case of an incident and is based on recommendations by the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

A successful low-code Centre of Excellence (CoE) is composed of people across multiple disciplines in the organisation, each with assigned roles and responsibilities based on domain expertise. The CoE team structure supports effective collaboration that champions continuous improvement1 in the enterprise. However, roles and responsibilities vary depending on an organisation’s budget, and needs as it eventually grows into a matured CoE.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

As the low-code market consolidates, robotic process automation (RPA) is becoming integrated within the low-code application development tools, low-code integration tools, and pre-built AI services. Together, these tools form the spectrum of services that make up an operational fabric for fourth-wave ICT – what IBRS refers to as the low-code spectrum.

Since RPA enables new automations and processes to be built, it quickly becomes a critical part of an organisation’s enterprise software architecture. Even when an RPA tool is purchased just to solve one specific task, it typically becomes reused for other automation tasks.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

The challenges of delivering good IT in the modern marketplace1 has resulted in a shortage of key skills in the market, greater mobility in the workforce between employers, and an environment where the cost of sufficient IT servicing is unaffordable for many. Permanent employees are hard to retain, and investment in skills uplift of staff can be seen as a risk. Organisations are finding it harder to recruit and retain the right skills, not only for resourcing of projects, but also for resources needed to support business as usual.

The 2022 workforce market has resulted in many organisations reassessing how they recruit, manage, and remunerate their workforce. The concept of an organisation developing a workforce plan based on a permanent workforce for business as usual, with contract resources for surge capability to run projects, seems to no longer work. Do organisations need to pay above the market to attract skills, or is there an option to change how skills are acquired such that productivity, not the hourly rate, is key.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

For IT departments who see no difference in the way they operate now under IT infrastructure library (ITIL) 3 vs ITIL 4, there should be an immediate scrutiny of the documented process and methodology of addressing customer requirements. ITIL 4 practices need to become part of the fabric when engaging the business on digital solutions as best practice can easily come from, or be influenced by, vendors outside the business. The outcome for IT is routinely playing catchup when it comes to selecting the best value IT solutions for the business and customer application.

ITIL 4 moves the conversation from simply an IT solution to a holistic framework that aligns service to business requirements. The framework incorporates the guiding principles, four dimensions of service management practices that can evolve and adapt to the increasingly digital landscape now expected by customers in a mobile, 24/7 world. Business requirements, when analysed through the ITIL 4 lens, can create responses with a supportable and reliable business case for change.

Read more ...

The Latest

10 May 2022: Microsoft Research has introduced an advanced prototype of PeopleLens for young learners with visual impairment at the University of Bristol. 

The solution uses augmented reality eyeglasses tethered to a mobile device to identify people and track their direction and distance from the user. Using artificial intelligence (AI), the solution registers people in the system through facial recognition and alerts the wearer in real-time by identifying the person and their distance and direction through spatialised audio. To protect privacy, facial images in the system are not stored as photographs but as vector numbers to represent identities. The technology is not yet commercially available, but does provide hints at what the near future will

Why it’s Important

Education is something of a laggard in the application of AI, especially in Western economies. 

However, innovations such as PeopleLens provide a glimpse (pun intended) of what is possible. Using AI in education is expected to grow quickly, but where and how it will be applied is as much a matter of economics as it is technology. 

The cost of AI at scale can be a prominent issue in this case. AI computation may be inexpensive in cases where requests are relatively small, but costs can quickly add up for applications that require millions or even billions of transactions. In addition, releasing new AI algorithms is still relatively expensive, due to the high cost of investment in research and design, as well as expenditures for the development of prototypes, complementary equipment and software. Hyperscale Cloud computing helps reduce these initial expenditures, but training is still required. 

Therefore, the business cases for an AI initiative must be carefully weighed against the potential future scale versus the value to individuals. In short, does it scale economically?

In a recent IBRS interview with an Australian Microsoft Azure specialist who developed an AI model to detect improper Microsoft Teams usage among students - such as cyberbullying, aberrant behaviour and inappropriate content sharing platforms - the transactional cost was not feasible, even with the aggregate value of securing children from harassment online. Since the Teams environment hosted hundreds-of-thousands of users, each producing scores if not hundreds of messages daily, the total cost of running the solution was not a viable commercial option.

In the case of PeopleLens, on the other hand, the number of transactions per individual may be relatively high, but the number of transactions as an aggregate is relatively low. As such, it is potentially an example of where the value returned is acceptable when compared against the cost. 

Who’s impacted

  • CEO
  • Innovation managers
  • Education policy strategists
  • AI solution development teams
  • Product research teams

What’s Next?

Industries that are planning to leverage AI effectively and at scale should ask for examples of how different AI-powered solutions are being justified.  

For most organisations, AI will be leveraged as features from within SaaS solutions, such as SalesForce's Einstein and Microsoft's use of GPT3 inside the PowerPlatform. 

However, for those looking to create new applications that leverage Cloud and ML capabilities, transactional volume should be carefully considered early in the planning stage to accrue the most value from the investments in research, design, development and production in the long run.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. All Together Now! Hybrid Work, Technology, Diversity & Inclusion
  2. Innovation: Taking action in 2018

The Latest

10 May 2022: Microsoft has integrated the Z-code Mixture of Experts (MoE) models to Translator and other Azure AI services to improve the quality and accuracy of its translation capabilities. Through the Z-code MoE, the models can speed up language translations on Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and PDF files. 107 languages are currently supported. 

Why it’s Important

Pretrained ML models now produce faster translations with consistency and help human translators reduce their workload, especially for repetitive writing and translation tasks. IBRS has observed that hyperscale machine translation has already progressed in terms of computational efficiency. Capabilities such as Z-code save runtime costs by using parameters that are only relevant for specific translation tasks.

However, to match (or sometimes surpass) the quality of human translators, genre-specific translation engines trained specifically on different types of content must be employed. The generic models offered by the hyperscale Cloud vendors are often insufficient. 

Genre-specific machine translation engines involve training highly nuanced models. Solutions such as those from Omniscien Technologies, for instance, provide far more accurate models that can be curated. In addition, these specialised models also allow for the translations to run on an organisation's own infrastructure, which is a consideration for organisations that need to translate sensitive or private content without digressing from the context of the original text.

Who’s impacted

  • CEO
  • Corporate communications teams

What’s Next?

Machine translation services will eventually make their way into the daily life of most people, much like how global positioning systems (GPS) have been integrated into mobile devices. 

Currently, free machine translation tools such as Google Translate and Bing Translator are not nuanced and far less accurate when compared to the output of human translators. Translation apps such as SayHi, allow speech-to-text translation in real-time while Papago and Waygo feature image recognition that automatically translates text on pages, signs and screen. However, these still cannot produce highly accurate translations based on context and language registers.

As such, translation at a basic level (word-for-word, literal) is not good enough for all use cases. For example, translating medical information, patents, user manuals or outputs for e-discovery requests requires a much higher fidelity of translation that must include referential, cohesive and natural-sounding output. For these cases, consider specialised machine translation solutions alongside (and possibly complementing) the more general offerings from the hyperscale Cloud vendors.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Can IBRS provide information on the establishment and maintenance of multi-lingual Web sites?
  2. Software Agents Maturity Model
  3. Managing cultural diversity

The Latest

12 April 2022: IT consulting firm, Atos, has partnered with low-code enterprise software developer Mendix to expand the former’s low-code application service offerings. According to the press release, the collaboration will also enable Atos to promote its commitment to lowering enterprises' carbon footprints through digital modernisation tools.

Why it’s Important

Atos’s partnership with Mendix is one of the many collaborations between tech consulting firms and vendors that were forged to respond to the surge in demand for low-code solutions. IBRS has observed that major service partners are increasingly using low-code tools to deliver results more quickly, while simultaneously opening up new opportunities for other more sophisticated and profitable IT projects. 

This is a result of the growing market for low-code being a fundamental component of Fourth Wave ICT (or the low-code everything era), and the benefits of adopting such a culture for many organisations as discussed in our Special Report

In addition, many vendors are touting their sustainability credentials: all the hyperscale Cloud vendors and many of the major SaaS vendors all now report their progress towards zero or negative carbon footprints.

However, IBRS has previously pointed out that technology vendors with no credible approach to transparency are highly likely to leverage energy and carbon efficiencies to promote themselves, but diverge towards greenwashing – claiming benefits for the climate but without actually changing anything. 

Unfortunately, the agreement between Atos and Mendix appears to be no exception. By claiming that organisations can build applications to assist with decarbonisation, it does not necessarily translate for Mendix or Atos (or for any low-code for that matter) to produce viable carbon emissions reductions. This is because emission reductions are attributed solely to organisations that are actively involved in energy consumption or those that have a carbon footprint. For a software developer to overstate such claims, it is at best double-counting, and at worst blatantly committing cynical greenwashing.

Vendors will stretch their claims regarding sustainability, especially how products can impact carbon footprints. Without clear accountability and metrics, this is often little more than posturing. 

As more consumers are becoming aware of corporate disinformation, enterprise compliance on emission reduction claims in procurement policies for technologies needs to conform to proper sustainability reporting such as the Global Reporting Initiative Standards while incorporating the Oxford Offsetting Principles. Greenwashing will backfire. Proper reporting must include demonstrating a real and measurable commitment to contributing to environmental campaigns.

Who’s impacted

  • CEO
  • Procurement teams
  • IT teams

What’s Next?

  • Familiarise the concepts of allocating and reporting on carbon emissions within your industry. Include what standards exist, and which are likely to be mandated by regulatory institutions in the coming four to five years. 
  • Apply reporting standards to hold vendors accountable when claiming decarbonisation and emissions reductions. 
  • Prevent greenwashing from detracting from the very real business benefits of reducing carbon emissions, such as reduced costs, adoption of elastic ICT provisioning where needed, and meeting staff and public expectations. 
  • Ensure there is transparency in every claim by demonstrating how such green declarations were achieved through reliable accounting methods that gauge emission reductions more accurately.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Considerations for Selecting Modern Low-Code Platforms

  2. Think green IT: Think saving money

  3. Greening your ICT purchases

Is your organisation losing focus on getting project management right? With so much discussion around Agile and Waterfall - how does agile impact the project management framework for your organisation? And what is the difference between project program and portfolio maturity anyway?

We wrap up the advisory series on Programme and Project Maturity with a webinar and ebook. IBRS advisor Michael Mitchelmore takes us through how to establish a successful project culture. View the full webinar, access the ebook, and download the webinar slide deck.

Read more ...

Securing an environment can be a challenging task. What framework to select, NIST Cyber Security Framework, ISO27000 or others? The Center for Internet Security’s CIS Controls provide an approachable solution to that challenge.

Following on from his 'Use Security Principles to Guide Security Strategy' advisory paper, IBRS advisor Peter Sandilands conducted a webinar where he shares a simpler starting point to securing a security strategy:

CIS Controls are a pragmatic, measurable and scalable path to better security. This session will walk through the controls and show how an organisation can use them as a tactical pathway. Built around real world experience in deploying the controls the session will demonstrate usable approaches to prioritise control selection, leverage staffing and measure the impact. Log in or register to view the full webinar.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

As organisations strive to digitise more of their processes and services, several new roles are emerging alongside the traditional CIO role. A number of organisations are now considering implementing new CXO roles such as Chief Digital Officer, Chief Innovation Officer or Chief Technology Officer in order to accelerate the move to digital. Implementation of a CXO role alongside a CIO role presents multiple challenges, including role clarity and scope as the roles require strong collaboration, and can often overlap in a number of areas of responsibility. The CXO roles depend in many ways on the size and type of organisation as well as the strategic intent of the organisation with respect to digital. Careful consideration and design of the CXO roles are required to avoid confusion and conflict and to ensure that organisations deliver on their digital programs. This presentation will focus on the role of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). It is intended to prepare CIOs to lead the discussion which may take place in their organisation.

Read more ...

IBRSiQ is a database of client inquiries and is designed to get you talking to our advisors about these topics in the context of your organisation in order to provide tailored advice for your needs.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

This month, discussions regarding significant technology industry growth in 2022, particularly the second half of the year, have been prevalent. An increase in sales, design, and implementation projects has been flagged, as well as recurring revenue streams. As customers begin to pull out of uncertainties, there has been a focus on building solutions that are sufficiently scalable, robust, and secure to withstand future unforeseen issues. There has also been an emphasis on increasing value by managing the cost base of projects and promoting business growth. In order to support this type of demand, vendors must take into account customer preferences for building their own solutions that can be integrated into existing products and services, followed by how to assist customers when utilising solutions to generate demonstrable value for organisations.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

Many organisations that were maintaining legacy file-sharing solutions (file share S: drives, etc) together with other less sophisticated technologies such as FTP services and VPNs, were compelled to rethink their file-sharing practices when the pandemic forced employees to work from home.

Retiring such outdated tools is just one of the many steps that can reduce the complexity of accessing files and subsequently reduce the chance of security breaches through more secured platforms.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

Australia was one of the fastest markets in the world to transition from Microsoft’s persistence licensing of Office and related services, to the subscription-based Office 365 (launched in 2017). More recently, Microsoft introduced Microsoft 365, which bundles Windows OS and related services into the subscription licensing. In most cases, organisations selected to migrate into the Office 365 enterprise plan 3 (E3) licensing, as this offered the closest like-for-like offering for the Office suite.

However, organisations are now looking at their 365 licensing and realising they have not realised all the benefits of Microsoft’s 365 offerings. In addition, Microsoft is evolving its licensing bundles to entice clients to adopt higher levels – currently this is largely via the additional security features that are bundled into higher-end 365 enterprise plan 5 (E5) licensing.

With licensing costs disproportionately impacting small to medium-sized businesses, concerns on the platform’s value remain crucial as these pain points impact their investment in this suite of services.

IBRS recently hosted a roundtable discussion with members of the Australian IT community to uncover some pressing challenges users have encountered with Microsoft 365. The key findings and recommendations from this peer event are detailed in this paper.

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Conclusion:

Low-code platforms have the potential to fast-track process digitisation. In addition to making coding faster and easier, low-code can also bolster collaboration between developers, business analysts, and general staff on digital transformation. Yet many organisations still find it challenging to democratise digital processes and automation.

A low-code culture does not just happen with the introduction of low-code tools.

To create a low-code culture, organisations must follow a strategic approach to reduce legacy dependencies, adopt iterative problem-solving, institute robust data governance, and sustain a centre of excellence (CoE) that includes IT teams, business analysts, and general staff (citizen developers).

Read more ...

Conclusion:

Consumers are increasingly sceptical of how organisations – both in the public and private sector – use and secure their personal information. At the same time, organisations are realising that data has the potential to drive significant gains in customer service efficiency and new business opportunities. Balancing consumers’ expectations and emerging legislative requirements against actionable opportunities is essential.

Unfortunately, such a balance is not possible where there is insufficient leadership to develop clarity, alignment, and urgency in data culture initiatives.

Without a robust data culture initiative that can provide focus, leadership, clarity, and commitment, organisations may not achieve a suitable balance, and therefore face consumer backlash.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

The Demand for Skilled Talent Report highlights that many Australian businesses have fast-tracked digital transformation efforts over the past two years, and that the skills that employees need are not only evolving, but are also resulting in new look job descriptions.1

There are three tactics that organisations employ to increase the quality and success of their ICT and digital recruitment efforts: increasing the use of remote workforces, expanding technical into generalist skills, and broadening the industries in which candidates can have developed their skills.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

As the use of video meetings and online calls has skyrocketed, so too has the use of call recording solutions. However, there is an urgent need to implement stronger security controls over these solutions and implement policies over the use of recording solutions procured by staff as shadow IT. Most importantly, organisations should ban any recording solutions that do not support multifactor authentication.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

Information asset categorisation (IAC) builds the capabilities of an organisation to establish guardrails for more efficient data governance practice. It is at the heart of addressing the changing risks of information management due to the rapid update of collaboration tools and hybrid working.

However, poor acceptance by stakeholders can be an issue, eventually putting information trustworthiness and security at risk. It takes more than just a change of organisational culture or management practises to entrench IAC. Clearly defined roles among the ICT groups and other members of the organisation are needed to achieve the security, privacy, and information governance benefits that IAC can deliver.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

A low-code Centre of Excellence (CoE) is not just about getting people to use low-code platforms. Rather, it provides leadership, support, training, and best practices that address innovation and continuous success within the organisation. It is crucial for an organisation to establish a CoE, especially when the need to concentrate expertise is fundamental to reduce operational and knowledge silos in the workplace.

A CoE provides recognition and authority as the centre of management competency in the organisation. By delivering best-practice methodologies, standards, and tools to enable teams to effectively deliver projects, it can best support business outcomes (sales, services, etc.) as well as ensure compliance and business integrity. By aligning the CoE’s goals with that of the organisation’s, processes can be more easily improved or changed to meet the demands of a post-COVID-19 environment, where agility, compliance, and business integrity are essential.

Read more ...

It is a mistake to view Office 365 as simply a move to subscription licensing and Cloud-based services. Organisations that simply view Office 365 in this way fail to obtain value from the technology, and continue with business as usual, albeit with an increase in cost and licensing.

Read more ...

The Latest

12 April 2022: Research by risk consulting firm Kroll revealed a 356 per cent surge in common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) or zero-day vulnerabilities (also known as freshly announced threats) in the last three months of 2021 compared to the previous quarter. By December, an increase in new ransomware variants was detected in ManageEngine, ProxyShell, VMWare, and SonicWal pushed CVE logs to an all-time high.

Kroll’s industry survey revealed that while phishing remained the most popular initial access infection vector, at 39 per cent in the fourth quarter, CVE increased from 6 per cent to 27 per cent in the same period.

 

Source: Q4 2021 Threat Landscape: Software Exploits Abound

 

Why it’s Important

Many incidents of ransomware continue to impact Australian organisations who are considered prime targets due to (a) their capacity to pay and (b) their relatively immature (from a global perspective) cyber-defence and cyber-response capabilities of a larger number of mid-sized enterprises. Many of these organisations struggle to close common vulnerabilities, let alone zero-day exploits, quickly enough to avoid intrusions due to their weak defence postures.

Organisations need to address their ability to defend against such attacks and respond appropriately to limit any impact caused by breaches. More effort is required across industries to contain the likelihood of attacks impacting productivity, reputation and financial resources, rather than just within individual businesses. This will support sharing of intelligence and the growth of cyber-defence nationally.

Who’s impacted

  • CMO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

  • Cyber-defence can no longer be left to a 'best effort' basis by ICT groups. Organisations that lack a dedicated cyber security specialist, must seek out specialist services, peer groups and forums, and actively leverage better practices from these groups.
  • Evaluate the status of your enterprise’s ransomware defence and look into the strengths and weaknesses of your current security posture.
  • Create a dedicated team that will develop a roadmap to improve the organisation’s stance against ransomware.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The Security Impact of Remote Working: Find the Gaps in (Zero) Trust
  2. Use Security Principles to Guide Security Strategy
  3. Reducing the Risk of a Successful Ransomware Attack

The Latest

12 April 2022: Low-code enterprise software developer OutSystems announced Integration Builder’s (IB) support for Generic PostgreSQL version 13, Aurora PostgreSQL version 12, as well as non-relational database MongoDB. Prior to the announcement, OutSystems only supported a limited number of platforms including MySQL, Oracle, Azure SQL and SQL Server. With more connection options for infrastructure servers, users can now better develop applications where data resides in Cloud-based, high-capacity, elastic databases.

Why it’s Important
As low-code plays an increasing role in application delivery, the adoption of open-source databases will become increasingly common for several reasons. First, it opens up low-code applications to existing solutions as well as allowing existing applications built upon these databases to be extended by low-code developers. Second, it has the potential to reduce the overall cost of low-code architecture. Finally, the inclusion of elastic databases allows low-code to be used for massive scale data applications.

Therefore, for organisations that are considering purchasing a new low-code platform with connected services from different sources, look into how the vendor caters to the evolving hyperscale Cloud computing market to support the scalability and high-performance needs of clients. As previously noted by IBRS, the most successful ones will require minimal changes in enterprises' existing SQL Server application code, speed of migration, and ease of switching to other tools post-migration.

Who’s impacted

  • CTO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts
  • Low-code centre of excellence

What’s Next?

Review the low-code spectrum to determine which types of low-code capabilities your organisation needs in the near and midterm, and which are most likely to be needed in the longer-term.
In addition, it is imperative to assess risks associated with adopting a new operating model and platform before investing in any low-code platform.

 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Considerations for Selecting Modern Low-Code Platforms
  2. VENDORiQ: AWS Babelfish Brings PostgreSQL to its Hyperscale Database

The Latest

5 April 2022: Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched AWS Billing Conductor for customisation of Cloud cost reporting and more accurate monthly billing data. Organisations can now organise accounts into billing groups, apply specific pricing packages, assess and edit pro forma expenses and reports, and compare rates between those applied to groups and current AWS rates.

Why it’s Important

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted 92 per cent of organisations to exceed their Cloud spend forecasts in the last 12 months, according to a recent report. As a result, many ICT groups are being asked to justify their increasing spend on Cloud services to optimise the enterprise’s purchase decisions.

Although Cloud can reduce overall costs in some areas of ICT's business as usual (BAU) expenditure (operational costs that are part of standard daily work), the increase in demand for computing and storage generally makes it appear that promised costs of savings from Cloud are not materialising. By allocating costs to specific business units’ consumption, deployment projects, use cases and new digital transformation initiatives, enterprises can identify which efforts drive the most Cloud spend. This goes a long way to clarifying why Cloud investments are worthwhile (or not, as the case may be).

Therefore, it is no longer sufficient to consider Cloud budgets as simply part of BAU, nor treated in the same way software costs have been treated in the past. These old approaches will mean that justifying Cloud spend will only ever be short-lived.

Cloud cost management tools that enable not just Cloud cost identification, but also allocation back to business benefits will be vital for identifying profitable technologies and projects within the Cloud. While there are other third party solutions in this space (such as VMWare’s CloudHealth, Cloudability and Densify), the AWS Billing Conductor will assist mid-sized organisations who cannot afford such services, or lack the skills needed to implement Cloud spend budgeting with better accuracy.

Who’s impacted

  • CMO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

IBRS has observed that many less mature organisations have a ‘sprawl’ of Cloud services that need to first be identified and then reined in, before cost optimisation products can be fully effective. Therefore, consider how Cloud business cases and ongoing budgets need to be communicated, and to whom, within your organisation. In addition, look into how you can set up a billing responsibility model and cost dashboard, designed for cost efficiency. Ideally, decisions around this should be made by the Cloud centre of excellence.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: Aussie Cloud-cost Specialist GorillaStack Expands What it Watches
  2. Cloud Financial Management is Optimised with Cloud Certified Partners
  3. How to get on top of Cloud billing

The Latest

22 March 2022: Knowledge management application software developer Objective Corporation (Objective) has acquired US Cloud-based content management system firm Simflofy. With the acquisition, Objective’s governance extends beyond a focus on regulated and public sectors to accommodate organisations struggling to govern Microsoft365 suite. Through a combined enterprise federated governance and single source of truth (SSOT), users can expect the features of the integration to be introduced in its newest tool, Objective 3Sixty.

Why it’s Important

The Australian public sector’s content management solution vendors are dominated by Micro Focus Content Manager (formerly known as TRIM) and Objective. However, both solutions providers lack the technology to fully address the demand for federated knowledge management due to the effect of disruptive collaboration, and the adoption of Microsoft Office 365 by many enterprises. 

However, the acquisition of Simflofy will be a game changer for Objective.” to avoid it seeming like Simflofy has acquired Objective. The integration of Simpflofy’s federated information management capabilities to Objective’s strength in knowledge management in compliance rich environments, has the potential to balance a unified view of organisation wide content from disparate sources of information, with rigorous information lifecycle management.

At the very least, the acquisition signals that Objective is now committed to federated knowledge management, instead of the traditional record-keeping system that it is known for.

Who’s impacted

  • CMO
  • Sales/marketing teams

What’s Next?

Objective customers should monitor the vendor’s progress with Objective 3Sixty’s features such as SSOT through consolidating various sources across multiple information repositories and managing it all in one place.

In addition, public sector organisations that use Objective as well as SharePoint without appropriate governance and compliance add-on solutions (such as RecordPoint’s Records365), should start exploring how the new Objective plans and acquisition may impact discussions on where and how knowledge is stored in a compliant manner.

Likewise, Micro Focus Content Manager’s customers must raise inquiries to the vendor on the progress of the service provider’s plans for filling in the gaps of federated content management capabilities for Content Manager, in particular Control Point. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The Challenge of Disruptive Collaboration and the Future of Enterprise Knowledge Management Solutions
  2. Does IBRS have a framework which describes the capabilities of Knowledge Management?

The Latest

22 March 2022: Virtual application delivery (VAD) service provider Cameyo joins Citrix and VMWare as certified Google Chrome Enterprise Recommended solutions for virtualisation. Cameyo’s features, combined with the Chrome operating system (OS), provides Cloud-based desktops’ with Windows apps. This extends Google’s virtualisation features by running fewer servers at higher capacity with centralised infrastructure, security and data management. 

Why it’s Important

Application virtualisation services expand users’ access through a secure ecosystem that supports legacy systems on Chrome (and other devices). This approach may reduce operating costs relative to traditional desktop virtualisation infrastructure.

In addition, Cloud VDI does not limit users into a single device when accessing data and applications and does not compromise security or reduce the capacity of endpoint management. Enterprises likewise can save on the costs of acquisition and maintenance of devices, resorting to lower-code (and lower-cost to support) Chromebooks. 

Cameyo’s recognition by Google marks a turning point in the move towards wider acceptance of application virtualisation, as opposed to full VDI.

Who’s impacted

  • Desktop / digital workspace teams
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts 

What’s Next?

Organisations re-evaluating their VDI investments - especially in light of Citrix’s request acquisition,  should consider the potential of application virtualisation, and perform a detailed RIO that includes not just the licensing and hardware, but also the operational costs over an extended period - say five years. 

It should also be noted that, with Citrix being acquired, many organisations have started to be less optimistic about new innovation coming from the platform. IBRS reiterates that users should not expect any revolutionary new Citrix features to be released in the near future. Instead, IBRS expects a gradual acceleration of the shift towards application virtualisation services, regardless of a vendor’s existing popularity in the industry.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: Citrix to be Acquired by Vista Equity Partners and Evergreen Coast Capital
  2. VENDORiQ: Windows 365 - The New Hotness, or Same Stuff in a New Can?

We all know data is important and its usage is often the difference in highly competitive markets and behind efficient business operations. Regardless of the importance, many organisations struggle to get started using their data holdings, either due to the overwhelming complexity of the environment or the security concerns that come with the data domain and discipline.

Following on from his 'Data Management Maturity Framework' advisory paper, IBRS advisor David Beal conducted a webinar where he shares his approach to the data journey across six data streams:

  • Systems and resources
  • Governance and compliance
  • Master data
  • Data security
  • Data quality
  • Data visualisation and BI

In the webinar, David takes a practical and informative look at data management. Please find below a full video of the webinar. 

Read more ...

The Latest

15 March 2022: Snowflake announced its planned acquisition of data applications builder Streamlit. Snowflake’s goal is to integrate app building into its Warehouse-as-a-Service platform with simplified data access and governance features. 

Why it’s Important

There has been a growing trend in the acquisitions of analytics platform developers to boost product features and improve capabilities of data science tools.

IBRS expects more mergers and acquisitions among leading Cloud analytics vendors that will commence the initial stages of consolidating the hyperscale, elastic analytics market. It projects more integration of key components of the data analytics system in the next three years. In particular, data catalogues or data sharing solutions will become increasingly integrated with Cloud data lakes and data warehouses.

However, it is the use of centralised data repositories - data lakes and warehouses - to simplify the development of low-code apps that has been overlooked. One of the biggest challenges and costs for low-code apps development is integration. However, data analytics platforms have already integrated and normalised data from multiple systems. As a result, using these centralised data resources for low-code application development could be very attractive. 

Microsoft’s Dataverse is essentially this concept - albeit within the Microsoft world. Snowflake’s investments in Streamlit are an indication that there is a growing market for this use case.

Who’s impacted

  • COO, CIO, CTO
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Organisations should look at how their low-code initiatives tie into data analytics initiatives. Low-code platforms generate not only data captured from forms, but also metrics on how processes are performing - data which will likely end up being reported upon via analytics platforms. But there are also opportunities to leverage the analytics platforms to act as engines for low-code and rapid application development environments. Bringing the people involved in each of these areas together can reveal new opportunities to ‘streamline the process of streamlining processes’.

Related IBRS Advisory

1. VENDORiQ: AWS Accelerates Cloud Analytics with Custom Hardware

The Latest

15 March 2022: Google announced general availability of Dataplex, a ‘dash fabric’ (aka, data mesh) solution that allows enterprises to centrally manage and control data across data lakes, databases and data warehouses. Google claims that the product can mesh Google Cloud with open source technology for analytics professionals to better govern data. Dataplex was launched together with Datastream and Analytics Hub that make up Google Cloud’s database services in its analytics portfolio.

Why it’s Important

Since it was introduced in 2019 by its creator Zhamak Dehghani, the concept of data mesh is becoming hyped. Similar to service oriented architecture (SOA), it is misunderstood by vendors and buyers alike who believe that it is all about technology. Instead, data mesh is as much a philosophical shift, from viewing data being centralised in data lakes or warehouses, to managing data close to where it is created, through a domain-oriented design with a self-serve data infrastructure.

Google, on the other hand, identifies Dataplex as a data fabric, which provides a technology layer over disparate data sources for better access, discovery, integration, governance and security. Data fabric focuses on existing multiple centralised technologies that consolidate data. Data mesh, on the other hand, promises a fully domain-oriented, decentralised approach, since it considers all enterprise data as a set of different repositories, preventing any loss in domain expertise during translation, unlike with a data lake. Thus, in a pure data mesh platform, different groups can manage data as they see fit, sharing some common governance measures while maintaining their domain knowledge on the data.

IBRS has observed that data catalogue vendors are leveraging data mesh rhetoric to market their products. However, most of these do not truly align with the philosophy of data mesh, which is fine for the near term, as few organisations are prepared for the changes involved when adopting such a democratised approach to data management.

Who’s impacted

  • CTO
  • Analytics teams

What’s Next?

Organisations that want to explore data mesh concepts must carefully consider shifts in data team structures, roles, responsibilities and skills before looking at technical solutions.Some changes brought by such a data architecture approach will impact domain-specific variations in data across departments, domain ownership, data product self-containment, and governance architecture to preserve global controls.

Related IBRS Advisory
1. Business First Data Analytics - Webinar and Q&A

Conclusion: This month, discussions regarding partner-led growth through alliances and acquisitions have been prominent. Being selective with these types of relationships can allow for increased access to clients, service providers, and an expanded skills base. However, the rapid deployment of new resources through partnerships and acquisitions can add complexities, reduce visibility and increase security risks when consolidating internal business processes, or products and services. Challenges associated with conflicts and vulnerabilities when bringing organisations together, in any way, must be addressed with ongoing skills growth, as well as resources and management structures to support complex and changing environments.

Read more ...

Conclusion:Salesforce’s Einstein Automate uses a number of AI algorithms to automate high-volume, manual, and repetitive tasks. The Flow Orchestrator tool applies AI to the building of workflows, recommending steps to improve workflows and spot process bottlenecks. The application of AI to the development of workflows will become increasingly common, with vendors such as Appian and Nintex having such capabilities. The result will be the acceleration of process digitisation by citizen developers.

Read more ...

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