VENDORiQ

The Latest

30 November 2021: Microsoft recently announced the release of Windows 11 SE in 2022, which is designed to support K-8 students’ blended learning needs in the classroom. The operating system (OS) will only be available on low-cost devices sold exclusively to educational institutions. Windows 11 SE was developed after consulting with teachers and students for 18 months, which resulted in removing the widgets section, adding an automatic backup of files to OneDrive, and launching apps in full screen mode. The new Surface Laptop SE for students as well as upcoming devices from Acer, ASUS, Dell, Dynabook, Fujitsu, HP, JK-IP, Lenovo and Positivo will carry the OS.

Why it’s Important

With the launch of Windows 11 SE, Microsoft hopes to influence educational technology teams to shy away from Chrome OS. Microsoft claims with this product, IT admins can take advantage of the simplified backend as well as bundled Microsoft and non-MS apps such as Minecraft for Education.

IBRS recently conducted a major study of the Australian education sector to explore issues relating to the transition to remote learning during the pandemic. IBRS discovered that it is not the OS, nor the device, that is the primary challenge. Rather, it is the identity, access and administration concerns safeguarding students' privacy that were the single biggest issue.

Microsoft Windows 11 SE markets itself as a student-friendly version to compete against Google Chrome OS. In Australia and New Zealand, it is unlikely to impact the relatively low (in comparison to international market) presence of Chrome OS.

Who’s impacted

  • Educational policymakers
  • CIOs
  • Educational ICT strategy leads 
  • Principals and senior leadership of higher education institutions
  • Digital workspace teams

What’s Next?

Based on IBRS’s series of consultations with the education sector, the group recommends educational institutions decide on robust or streamlined solutions based on their learners’ needs and not on the premise of fear of missing out (FOMO). Developers must continue to collaborate with their target market, allowing students to be exposed to professional tools that provide a headwind in accelerated learning. Likewise, stakeholders must constantly assess their technological devices and platforms and how these impact the learning styles of users.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Dr Sweeney on the Post-COVID Lessons for Education (Video Interview)
  2. Kids, Education and The Future of Work with Dr Joseph Sweeney - Potential Psychology - 25 July 2018
  3. Higher Education Technology Future State Vision
  4. BYOD in Education: A report for Australia and New Zealand

The Latest

30 November 2021: Enterprise automation software firm UiPath collaborates with business schools to support student training on robotic process automation (RPA). This is part of their program to develop students’ skills in automation technologies, especially for business and finance majors. The strategy is aimed at growing future demand for RPA among business (as opposed to technical) staff.

Why it’s Important

Microsoft successfully transformed MS Excel into a standard spreadsheet software program in universities and enterprises, and edged out Lotus 1-2-3 and Quattro Pro in the ‘80s. Having Excel built into the curriculum of most schools at that time solidified Excel’s adoption.

In a one-on-one executive interview with IBRS, UiPath’s executive revealed that while it is a relatively young vendor, it has donated millions of dollars to business schools as part of the company’s Academic Alliance partnerships. In the ANZ region, this includes:

  • University of Melbourne
  • Deakin University
  • Tower Australian College
  • University of Tasmania
  • Swinburne University of Technology
  • University of Wollongong
  • University of Auckland
  • Auckland University of Technology

UiPath’s goal is to train students early in using personal software robots to support the automation of manual processes, build smarter assistants, and create their startup similar to how Microsoft influenced developing spreadsheet skills in the ‘80s and ‘90s. In other words, the company is developing a new type of use case in the business and finance department where the launch of a non-IT version of the RPA will mean creating a domain for business majors, and not just for the IT department.

IBRS predicts that since RPA is rapidly becoming merged within the low-code everything ecosystem, it will play a vital role in business and finance even if it will take some more time for the technology to provide insights, predict outcomes and exercise self-healing. 

Who’s impacted

  • Educational policymakers
  • CIOs
  • Educational ICT strategy leads 
  • Principals and senior leadership of higher education institutions
  • Digital workspace teams

What’s Next?

IBRS recommends CIOs prepare for RPA to become a standard business staff tool over the next three to 10 years. Its accelerated adoption in universities will expand its scope of automating rule-based digital processes and advanced cognitive automation on unstructured data sources across industries. Furthermore, organisations need to recognise the shift in management approaches and process discovery by adopting more sophisticated solutions that will leverage no-code tools and AI-driven technology to achieve their target ROI.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Dr Sweeney on the Post-COVID Lessons for Education (Video Interview)
  2. Higher Education Technology Future State Vision
  3. Trends for 2021-2026: No new normal and preparing for the fourth-wave of ICT

The Latest

23 November 2021: SoftIron is developing an Australian facility to manufacture it’s high-performance data processing appliance. This is the company’s second facility after its California factory and they have plans to develop another centre in Berlin in the coming years. The planned edge manufacturing facility is expected to be the first component level computer manufacturing hub in Australia for several decades.

SoftIron’s New South Wales manufacturing facility is supported by a AU$1.5 million grant from the Department of Defence. The hardware provided by SoftIron will include open-source appliances for high performance data processing.

The vendor will leverage smaller-scale, automated ‘edge manufacturing’ systems and effectively side-step global supply chain bottlenecks.  

SoftIron claims that security-minded clients, such as the Australian Government, are increasingly concerned about the risks of supply chains that include foriegn entities suspected to have inserted spyware. Governments are already applying bans on foreign providers of communications and data processing hardware that power modern data centres. SoftIron claims the ability for clients to verify every aspect of a product - from the open source code to the supply chain of components and manufacturing cycle - is critical for trust in data centre appliance.

Why it’s Important

SoftIron’s entry into Australian tech manufacturing is welcome. Australia’s technology tech manufacturing was decimated by large-scale overseas production capabilities in the mid to late 80s, despite having some extraordinary world-leading products. For example, the world’s first battery-powered laptop, the Dulmont Magnum (aka the Kookaburra) designed and manufactured in Australia in 1984. Hartley Computers developed hardware and software locally in the same decade, before concentrating on supporting imported Wang minicomputers.

The SoftIron announcement raises several important considerations:

Supply Chain Risk

Procuring hardware from an foriegn manufacturing plants (such as POS and telecommunication systems) is now being flagged as a possible point of exposure to business espionage and spying. The complexity of international supply chains combined with the opaqueness of the firmware and code running on tech products, opens up many avenues for criminal and state actors to inject malware into products sold overseas. While China is a target of US suspicions, it should be noted that Australia's allies have engaged in similar activities in the past: in particular the US and Germany with encryption technologies, and the recent use of the ANoM phone app used to ensnare criminals.  

For Australian enterprises, the lack of visibility into the supply chain should be a growing concern. The only way to address this concern is to adopt a risk assessment policy that includes verifiability of the supply chain, and the firmware and code of products.

Support Chain

Edge manufacturing (aka micro-manufacturing) leverages the ever lowering costs of robotic manufacturing systems and (importantly) the lowering cost of programming such robots, to compete against the cost-efficiencies of huge factories in lower labor-cost countries. 

Technology manufacturing firms have traditionally driven costs down through economies of scale and labor savings. However, the global supply chain crunch due to the pandemic and slow-moving trade wars, coupled with rising labor costs globally, is causing a change in the equilibrium of manufacturing. 

Edge manufacturing employs robotic technologies and short-run production automation to deliver specialised products at a faster rate, at costs that are within the realm of those offered by large scale manufacturing, when transport, warehousing and related global supply chain costs are considered.  Edge manufacturing is less susceptible (though not immune) to global supply chain disruptions. 

Most importantly, edge manufacturing is highly agile and their entire manufacturing process is verifiable, making the model attractive for security conscious buyers. Finally, firms that locate their facilities here are covered by Australian laws and are therefore required to be certified to a compliance standard to ensure the level of data security is being met.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO
  • Procurement managers

What’s Next?

IBRS believes that the national economy has a solid potential to benefit from edge manufacturing.  Recent economic modelling by IBRS and Insight Economics noted a 10% increase in organisations buying Australian software (as opposed to US and European solutions) would return close to a $1.5 billion uplift in the economy within a decade. This economic benefit would be significantly magnified if hardware was added.

Organisations can examine the premium put on closer collaboration with suppliers and vendors through this business model by:

  • Running a hypothetical stress tests on their current supply chain to understand how it affects their financial standing
  • Utilising local vendors while considering a third party risk assessment and compliance program that will fit their cyber security strategy
  • Assessing a vendor’s governance framework using the IBRS Vendor Governance Maturity Model

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. How does your organisation manage cyber supply chain risk?
  2. Vendor governance framework (VGF): Evaluate maturity to manage growth and risks
  3. Strategic vendor management in government
  4. Challenges when conducting business impact analysis

The Latest

16 November 2021: Oracle recently launched the Oracle Industries Innovation Lab as part of its commitment to supporting the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference’s (COP26) climate goal of lowering global temperature by 1.5 degrees. The facility, located in Reading, UK, is set to open in the spring of 2022 and will become a sustainable town centre dedicated to creating solutions to fight against climate change. It will feature wind turbines, electric vehicles and a simulated train station with a railcar made from repurposed materials. Oracle’s first innovation lab was built in Chicago in 2018 to host tools and technology for testing in simulated worksite environments.  

Why it’s Important

Other new tech initiatives that were introduced during the conference include:

  • Salesforce announced its US$300 million investment in reforestation and ecosystem restoration over the next ten years. It will donate technology through its nonprofit program and commit 2.5 million volunteer hours to organisations that work on climate change initiatives.
  • Amazon pledged US$2 billion to transform inadequate food systems and restore landscapes. Its aviation unit, Amazon Air, which operates exclusively to cater to the business’s cargo operations, also vowed to use sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) together with other major US airlines.
  • Rolls Royce secured the backing of the British government to develop the country’s first small modular nuclear reactor to deploy low carbon energy and replace its aging nuclear plants.

In 2008, an IBRS study found that the majority (25% rating it as a high priority, 59% rating it as somewhat of a priority) of ANZ organisations had a strong mandate for the executive to reduce the environmental impact of IT. However, interest in sustainable computing has plummeted year on year, and by 2019, less than 5% of CIOs rated sustainable ICT as a high priority. 

Recent climate events, and shifting public opinions are now seeing the trend reverse sharply. Initial data from a 2020-2021 study (not yet complete) suggests that once again most private and public organisations are joining the call for immediate action on climate change, with 24% of respondents stating it is a high priority.

All hyperscale Cloud vendors are promoting their carbon footprint and energy consumption credentials.. 

CIOs should expect increased demand to balance success in terms of investment returns and the impact on the environment, especially when pledging their support for man-made carbon capture innovations. Transparency and clarity through specifics in planning and execution of net zero transitions are the keys to speeding up the progress of such initiatives.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO
  • Data centre leads
  • Infrastructure architects

What’s Next?

CIOs must revisit their Green IT strategies and consider revising areas that do not meet proactive and incremental operational eco-efficiencies as well as cleaner processes. This includes focusing on infrastructure efficiencies and implementing energy management that takes action out of boardroom discussions and into actual practice.

In addition, more gains will be realised in the coming years through cleantech, with Cloud computing being a major contributor to carbon emission reductions, as we concluded in our 2021 study. CIOs must consider benefits such as this when designing their Green IT strategy.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: Cloud Vendors will Push New Wave of Sustainable ICT Strategies
  2. Building your Green IT strategy
  3. VENDORiQ: More Evidence for Cloud Leading Sustainable ICT Charge

The Latest

16 November 2021: BlackLine launched its new accounts receivable (AR) tool, which it claims is the first unified platform for end-to-end cash flow optimisation in the industry. The software features intelligent optical character recognition (OCR) to eliminate manual work and reduce process errors. It also allows the predictability of customer payments when building cash flow forecasts. 

Why it’s Important

More organisations are adopting e-invoicing to take advantage of automation features, reduced printing costs, shorter payment delays and faster delivery times. As noted in our previous advisory The ERP: A critical IT application for the business, more Australian organisations are joining the trend of transforming their finance processes by replacing their ERP finance systems with a scalable Cloud-based ERP system that offers seamless integration to other business applications and streamlines backend business processes. 

Recently, IBRS conducted a study into the economics of ERP and Cloud solutions to find out the best ROI on their tech investments. A common answer among mid-size organisations and government agencies is the value of financial automation in relation to labour hours. On average, they reported productivity savings of between 0.5 and 3 full-time equivalent (FTE) roles when they switched to e-invoicing. Interestingly, the same benefit was cited by respondents in our 2019-2020 study on local governments in the country.

There are challenges to e-invoicing adoption, however. Apart from the perceived complexity and difficulty of most organisations in getting up to speed in their transition, employees worry about the threat of being made redundant in the near future.

IBRS discovered, however, that senior leadership teams transfer employees impacted by the reduction in labour hours to other roles where their skills are applicable. Organisations that go down this path gain more control in carefully managing their employee concerns. E-invoicing has become a foundational solution for better process management to establish digital relationships with their partners and internal staff.

Who’s impacted

  • CFO
  • CIO

What’s Next?

Before upgrading the financial platform, review the context of your current organisational and ICT strategy. Consider how the platform supports full ‘end-to-end’ processes that are integrated with other business software systems so that appropriate touchpoints are captured and understood. By doing so, the platform can meet its expected impact on your financial metrics and process requirements.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. A review of ERP finance systems
  2. The ERP: A critical IT application for the business
  3. Replace or reinvigorate today's ERP Solution now
  4. Turning data analysis from an art to a science

The Latest

09 November 2021: Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced the availability of Babelfish for Amazon Aurora. Babelfish enables its hyperscale Aurora relational database service to understand Microsoft SQL Server and PostgreSQL commands. This allows customers to run applications written for Microsoft SQL Server directly on Amazon Aurora with minimal modifications in the code. 

Why it’s Important.

This new feature in Amazon Aurora, means enterprises with legacy applications can migrate to the Cloud without the time, effort and huge costs involved in rewriting application codes. In addition, using Babelfish benefits organisations through:

  • Reduced migration costs and no expensive lock-in licensing terms, unlike in commercial-grade databases
  • No interruption in existing Microsoft SQL Server database use since Babelfish can handle the TDS network protocol
  • Availability of the open-source version of Babelfish for PostgreSQL on GitHub under the permissive Apache 2.0 and PostgreSQL licenses 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

More general availability of hyperscale Cloud computing to support scalability and high-performance needs is expected in the coming months from major vendors. 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.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: Google Next: Data - PostgreSQL Spanning the Globe
  2. VENDORiQ: Google introduces Database Migration Service

The Latest

28 October 2021: The US Senate voted unanimously to deny Huawei and ZTE from supplying equipment to US enterprises due to national security threats that would violate the Secure Equipment Act. Once approved by Pres. Joe Biden, the companies will not be granted equipment licenses by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under its ‘Covered Equipment or Services List’. A few days before, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided PAX Technology's Jacksonville warehouse after reports of alleged transmission of malware through the Chinese manufacturer's point-of-sale (PoS) terminals.

Why it’s Important.

As a member of Five Eyes (FVEY), an alliance of countries including Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, for joint cooperation in signals, military and human intelligence, Australia has previously followed the US in cutting off suspicious foreign tech companies' domestic presence due to national security concerns.

  • Australia blacklisted Huawei and ZTE in 2018 from selling 5G equipment. The two firms vehemently dismissed accusations over high-speed mobile network espionage, citing discriminatory tactics even with a no-backdoor agreement. 
  • In the same year, the Australian Defence Department banned messaging and payment app WeChat for failing to meet the organisation's standards for use on networks and mobile devices but not necessarily because of security and privacy issues.
  • In late October 2021, PoS terminals from PAX were detected sending anomalous network traffic, which has seen formal requests to replace the equipment due to security concerns. 

The fundamental issue here is supply chain security - the ability of nation state actors to inject spyware (or other malware) into equipment that is broadly used globally. Even where the security risks are not validated, the potential remains. It must also be noted that in the recent past, allies of Australia have engaged in such activities.

With the current geopolitics on global telecommunications being influenced by the US, sweeping impacts on the global supply chain and reduced competition in the market are likely.  

IBRS expects this technology supply spat will expand into areas outside of telecommunications, such as industrial control systems and PoS. Any widespread technology that can be used to impact or monitor aspects of national economies are likely targets.

Who’s impacted

  • Telecommunications procurement

What’s Next?

For organisations considering foreign-manufactured tech products and services, look more closely at the implications of selecting such equipment or platforms. While there is still no public evidence on the credibility of allegations against specific state actors, senior leaders must take security concerns in their organisation and assess the risks they are willing to take when selecting any vendor.

In addition to the security risks, there are also reputational risks, and risks associated with having to replace key solutions, such as is the case with the PAX PoS hardware.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Choosing Huawei could be risky - but not why you think
  2. Are you FRUSTRATED with procurement? Why procurement often goes off the rails

The Latest

02 November 2021: Snowflake recently released the Snowflake Media Data Cloud that allows access to real-time, ready-to-query data products, and services from more than 175 data providers. The data-sharing company announced that its product can combine consumer data across sectors to reduce data latency and improve accuracy.

Why it’s Important.

More Australian organisations now recognise that access to external data enables enterprises to create one-to-one or one-to-many relationships for more reliable insights into data. Since it is difficult for businesses to make sense of data they don’t generate themselves, sharing information between internal business units inside the same company or between outside organisations, has narrowed insight gaps aside from lowering the cost of data collection and research. Some recent developments in this area include the following institutions that have extended their data sharing:

  • In 2014, Coles revealed that its online shoppers using Flybuys would have their personal information shared with 30 companies under the same Coles umbrella as well as with third parties in more than 23 countries.
  • Woolworths first started granting access to its consumer shopping behaviour data with all of its suppliers in 2017 to support collaborative decision-making with a customer-centric approach. However, it remains obstinate against disclosing all companies that handle its data when asked to submit comments during the Privacy Act review in 2021.
  • In June 2021, Bunnings announced an upgrade of its tech platform to capture customer information to improve buyer experience. Its privacy policy page explicitly discusses how information is shared with third party businesses such as financial searches, security providers, market research firms, and payment collectors.
  • Likewise, Target Australia discloses customer information to its service providers based overseas and to external call centres, recruitment companies and external fulfilment businesses. 

Ensuring the rights of consumers whose data is being shared can be an issue and apprehensions about maintaining privacy and confidentiality are often raised. The government introduced open banking across the country to provide consumers greater control of their personal data, and with whom it is shared, when applying for banking services.

Enterprises in the data-sharing environment must also find ways to ensure fair and equitable advantage of the information by accessing the same level of data insights as their competitors do. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Enterprises need to address the challenges of sharing large scale datasets, such as adherence to legislative and ethical frameworks, using personally identifiable information (PII) for testing, defining the critical role of service providers and their limitations, and improving the overall context of each shared data environment. This can be achieved if policies, procedures and standards on data privacy and security are aligned with data ethics that engender trust among the myriad direct and indirect actors involved in data sharing. Whatever goals such practice entails (such as developing innovative ancillary products with business partners or improving customer care by analysing real-time dashboards for rapid issue resolution), making the best use of opportunities in the field needs to be secure, lawful, just and ethical to ensure that collaboration leads to better decision making when building upon the work of others and fostering a culture of trust. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Beyond privacy to trust: The need for enterprise data ethics
  2. Three ways to turn employee engagement results into actionable and achievable plans
  3. Data loss by the back door, slipping away unnoticed
  4. How Australia must use the PageUp data breach to become stronger - AFR - 18th June 2018

The Latest

2 November 2021: Two former Western Sydney TAFE (WSI TAFE) executives have been charged by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for allegedly engaging in illegal solicitation and acceptance of $450,000 from IT consultancy firm Oscillosoft. The three-year investigation published its findings in a public report that revealed how the executives failed to comply with the proper IT procurement processes when they acquired the iPlan software program on behalf of the institute.

Why it’s Important.

IT-related fraud and corruption have grabbed the headlines in the past years, including:

  • the payment of false invoices in 2015 by a former IT manager who worked at several Australian universities 
  • the 2016 corruption investigation involving $1.7 million in payments for the personal business of an ICT manager at TAFE NSW South Western Sydney Institute 
  • the 2012 illegal ICT contractor recruitment by the head of ICT projects at The University of Sydney 
  • and just recently in 2020, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) investigated fraud allegations concerning $2.8 billion worth of procurement contracts by government agencies made with IBM. 

While these headline grabbing examples are concerning, the reality is questionable contracting and programming in ICT is far more pervasive than most executives would like to admit.

IBRS has seen multiple examples of this problem. 

Sometimes these have been uncovered as part of ‘project rescue’ engagements where IBRS has been asked to review why a project is failing and recommend remediation. This is the worst time to discover that the consulting services being procured are more or less thin air, as it means significant budget has already been spent. In one case, IBRS identified a project to implement a major information system had burnt through $3.5 million over three years without a single delivery milestone being met and no code being available for review. There was a ‘friendship’ between the contracting company and the ICT executive.   

In another case, IBRS uncovered consulting being awarded to a family member of the person granting the contracts, and the organisation had an ‘over-reliance’ on contracting.   

Neither of these situations may warrant a corruption investigation. Though they certainly skirted the edges of the law.

At other times, IBRS has uncovered questionable contracting and procurement as part of project assurance reviews. This is the best time to reveal problematic procurement, since it occurs earlier in the project cycle and thus heads off significant losses. More importantly, when staff know that such activities are likely to be exposed as part of the regular due diligence of project assurance, the temptation to engage in such activities that just barely skirt corruption is far less likely to occur.

There is a great deal of financial and reputational savings to be accomplished by putting appropriate governance, such as formal gateway reviews and project assurance programs, in place. 

That said, not every project needs a top-down approach to procurement. Still, the industry needs a more careful process of choosing the right level of governance and assurance for the right projects, taking into consideration the context and culture of each organisation.  

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO
  • Procurement teams
  • Executive board

What’s Next?

For fraud and corruption to be prevented, better oversight by an institution's board should be extended to overriding controls, reviewing financial transactions and reporting processes, coupled with a program of project assurance.

Internal controls in payroll, procurement, inventory, sales and financial reporting must be proactive to prevent the manipulation of processes. 

Finally, organisations must review procurement processes regularly and amend sections that promote poor supervision and weak adherence to routine audits.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The difference between fraud and cybercrime
  2. Critical Controls for ERP Projects: The Human Factor
  3. Recognising cognitive biases for better decisions

The Latest

2 November 2021: The 2021 Australian Digital Inclusion Index indicates improvement in technology access, but many are still considered left out of the digital revolution.The recently published Index reports access to technology accelerated to 71.1 from 67.5 points the previous year, indicating significant improvement among middle-aged and senior Australians. It remains to be seen if this pace of progress can be sustained in the next year, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on online participation.

Why it’s Important

When planning digital engagement, service and marketing teams need to be aware that access to digital services is not ubiquitous. This is especially important for public sector organisations, where the failure of equitable delivery services may harm the most at-risk segments of society. However, it is also important for private sector organisations, as they plan multi and omnichannel services.

The Index provides important information that can help with planning digital services.

Some of the report's key findings necessary for policy implications include the following: 

  • The metro-regional gap has narrowed in different regional areas to 67.4 from 62.3 points
  • The national access score has improved to 70.0, but it is not shared evenly by all citizens, with 11 per cent of the population still being excluded
  • A slight boost in the digital ability score has been achieved at 64.4 points, although basic operational skills (setting passwords, connecting online, etc.) have dropped.
  • 14 per cent of Australians would need to pay more than 10 per cent of their income to afford a reliable internet connection
  • The gap between citizens with the lowest and highest income has slightly widened from 25.3 to 26.5 points.

These survey results indicate the need for solutions to remove barriers to inclusion, such as affordability of devices and lack of training for better digital literacy. In particular, the Index recommends improvement in network access and critical infrastructure through the ongoing pandemic, and provision of more affordable broadband connections across all regions and cities.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Managers
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

When planning digital services, look for qualified sources of information on the extent to which the new services will be accessible and, importantly, who may be excluded. Discuss the impact of any exclusion on both those being excluded and your organisation. What additional, non-digital channels will be needed, and how will these channels eventually find their way back into the multi or omnichannel strategy?

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Staff need data literacy – Here’s how to help them get it
  2. Trends for 2021-2026: No new normal and preparing for the fourth-wave of ICT

The Latest

22 October 2021: Google’s latest digital solutions, product features and partnerships were unveiled at Google Cloud Next ’21. In this three-day event, Google and Alphabet chief Sundar Pichai and Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian led the keynote sessions on Google Cloud’s improved customer ecosystem and security capabilities.

Possibly the most significant announcement at the event was around Google Distributed Cloud. The Google Distributed Cloud (GDC) platform allows deployment of Cloud-native architecture to private data centres. GDC Edge provides capabilities to run applications at the ‘far edge’ of organisations - IoT devices, AI enabled devices, and so on - via low-latency LTE, radio access network (RAN) networks, and newer 5G Core network technology.

Google Distributed Cloud does not require enterprises to connect to Google Cloud when using their APIs or managing network infrastructure. This is important for organisations (e.g. public sector, finance, health) needing to retain on-premises deployment for tighter control over security and compliance.

Why it’s Important

With GDC, all the top three hyperscale Cloud vendors now have options to run applications developed for public Cloud across private and semi-private infrastructure. Furthermore, all three vendors have approaches to ‘edge’ computing. This is a natural evolution of the operational practices, automation and management software, software defined networking and hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) that sees the Cloud seeping back into all areas of ICT. As this trend continues, and the lines between where ‘Cloud infrastructure’ sits, organisations will need to make decisions on the key automation and management platforms they will adopt across Clouds.

More organisations have started looking for better solutions to place their Cloud resources anywhere and in any geolocation. This offers considerable reductions in latency by eliminating the distance between users and their content to ensure highly available data while keeping costs low.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

All the hyperscale Cloud vendors are offering this type of flexibility and they are strongly expected to improve over time. It will further drive hyper converged infrastructure (HCI) investments driven by the demand for cost-effective scalable storage with strong durability and availability guarantee.

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

22 October 2021: At Google Cloud Next ’21, Google announced the general availability of a PostgreSQL interface to its hyperscale, global spanning Spanner relational database. In short, this means that organisations that have applications that are compatible with PostgreSQL can now migrate to a highly elastic database that is significantly less costly, more robust than running PostgreSQL instances on virtual machines.

Why it’s Important

Google’s highly scalable Cloud relational Spanner database provides high-velocity transactions, strong consistency, and horizontal partitioning across global deployments. Like other specialised, serverless Cloud databases, Spanner previously required legacy (on-premises) applications’ data access layers to be reworked. 

The addition of a PostgreSQL interface greatly reduces development teams’ workload for migrating applications to Spanner. This has several knock-on impacts when migrating applications to the Cloud, including: 

  • reducing training  / new skills development, and allowing existing skills to be fully leveraged
  • reducing the vector for new bugs to be introduced
  • simplifies testing

Overall, this significantly lowers the cost and risk of moving an app to the Cloud. 

As always, the devil is in the detail. Cloud Spanner Product Manager, Justin Makeig posted that the platform does not yet have universal compatibility for all PostgreSQL features, since the company’s goal was to focus on portability and familiarity. However, IBRS has determined that even with the current level of functionality, the PostgreSQL interface for Spanner presents good value for teams looking to migrate legacy applications to the Cloud.

Google is not the only hyperscale Cloud vendor that has enabled this type of operability. However, Cloud Spanner is more economical than competitive hyperscale Cloud database products at this time.

Who’s impacted

  • Development team leads
  • Cloud architecture teams

What’s Next?

Google announced that it is planning to expand its Spanner integration to additional database standards. Data portability and migration of legacy applications to hyperscale Cloud is now a focus for many ICT groups. The availability of open standard SQL interfaces to database PaaS (platform-as-a-Service)  is expected to be a trend for application and data migration, especially where the applications are complex.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: Google introduces Database Migration Service
  2. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) Part 5: Will automation of S/4HANA data migration make modernisation

The Latest

22 October 2021: Google introduced the Work Safer program at the Google Cloud Next ’21 event. The new program includes the Google Workspace suite of products, and adds several third party cyber security services for endpoint security and access to legacy solutions. In addition, Google unveiled upgraded devices, including new Chromebooks from HP.   

A new in-house Google Cyber security Action Team was also introduced in the event. The group will take the lead in developing cyber security and digital products by leveraging the capabilities of the Work Safer program and developing training and policy materials..

Interestingly, Google is offering a whopping 50% discount for the term of the initial contact for all products (its own and third parties) within the Work Safer program.

Why it’s Important

The aim of the Work Safer program is to reinvigorate interest in the Google Workspace ecosystem.  

Microsoft continues to have a near monopoly on the office productivity space, and is using that position to drive organisations towards its Azure Cloud ecosystem and its security ecosystem. Microsoft’s strength is its breadth of services, support for legacy solutions and resistance to change by both desktop teams and office staff.  Creating sufficient impetus for change to a light-touch, collaborative environment of the magnitude Google proposes is hard.

Google Workspaces has a far smaller attack vector compared to Microsoft. Its architecture has been firmly rooted in zero trust since its inception - from the devices all the way to the apps, storage and access controls. However, organisations that have not yet gone down the Google path retain a significant array of existing network investments, legacy solutions, mixed access controls and identity management, devices and so on. To meet these clients' needs, Google has partnered with CrowdStrike and Palo Alto Networks to come up with endpoint protection and threat detection solutions. The partnerships should not be viewed as “Google is backfilling weaknesses in its ecosystem” (which is something we expect to hear from Google’s competitors soon. Instead, these partnerships should be viewed as Google recognising its ecosystem will need to sit alongside ecosystems based on architectures that were conceived several decades ago and retain complexities that need to be addressed.

With more businesses shifting to a remote or hybrid work setup, the risks of ransomware attacks through phishing campaigns, malware infections and data leaks pose a threat to these companies’ data security practices. As such, Google easily benefits from its product’s value proposition already being consumed.   

Therefore, it would appear that Google’s messaging is on point. 

However, from roundtable discussions with digital workspace teams held this month, IBRS has confirmed that Australian organisations’ ICT groups and senior executives continue to resist a major step-change in the office productivity and device space. Rather, most organisations continue to look for ways to extract more value from their existing Microsoft contracts, increasingly looking to expand their investments into Microsoft’s E5 security offerings.  

In short, Google’s challenge is not convincing organisations they have a better, leaner security model. It is not even being less costly than Microsoft.  

It is literally resistance to change.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Even if an organisation is unlikely to switch to Google Workspace, it is beneficial to review Google’s architecture and which aspects can be applied to the existing architecture.

Organisations should also consider running Google Workspaces experiments with groups of remote / hybrid workers that have less connection with legacy solutions.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Deciding between Google G Suite and Microsoft Office 365
  2. Considering Chromebooks Part 1: Show me the money!
  3. Chrome OS: Follow the money

The Latest

22 October 2021: Microsoft recently unveiled the latest versions of its Surface line of devices with versatile form factors to cater to different use cases. Highlights include the redesigned 13-inch Surface Pro 8 tablet with 11th generation Intel processor, the portable Surface Go 3, the laptop/tablet Surface Pro 7+, the pocket-sized Surface Duo 2, and the highly anticipated Surface Laptop Studio.

Why it’s Important

Microsoft released its redesigned Surface lineup form factor alongside its rollout of Windows 11 earlier this month. While there are plenty of improvements in the new lineup, most are best described as evolutionary: more computing power, refinement of form factors, etc. 

However, two products stand out as potential new niche market makers: the Duo 2 and the Surface Laptop Studio.

The Duo 2: Win-Win or Double-Trouble?

IBRS has obtained a Surface Duo 2 and finds it fits somewhere between a smartphone and a tablet… yet not quite matching either role. While Samsung found some success with its Galaxy Z Fold device as a smartphone, the Duo 2 tends more towards the tablet end of the market.

If the Duo 2 is to be successful, it will be due to Microsoft defining a new niche for mobile prosumer (professional- level consumers). The success of the device will indicate that there is no single market niche for foldable devices (as they are currently being touted), but several sub-niches tied more to screen size, onscreen keyboard capabilities and photography prowess.

On the flip side (pun intended), first impressions of the Duo 2 suggest it may be a workable alternative to the semi-ruggedised, larger format smartphones which are making inroads against traditional fully-ruggedised tablets. 

The additional screen space and size of the on-screen keyboard, positions the Due 2 slightly above most of the large format phones for field workers. It is even passable (just) for running remote virtual desktop applications. 

Surface Laptop Studio: Solves the problem you didn’t know you had

IBRS has also trialled the Surface Laptop Studio. IBRS believes this device serves a new niche between more traditional laptops (such as the Surface Book) and hybrid devices (such as the Surface Pro).  

The Laptop Studio has a hinge at the back to help set up the device in three versatile constructions: a regular laptop, a ‘stage’ mode where the screen is closed when streaming or engaged in video calls, and the ‘studio’ mode where the screen slides out flat, effectively turning the device into a graphic-intensive tablet.

From observations during ‘digital workspace’ consulting engagements, IBRS has noted that the Surface Pro is often used as a ‘primary desktop’ (meaning, used mostly when seated as a staff-members regular desk and in the home office). The weakness here is that the device is better suited for mobile (nomadic) work.

The Laptop Studio is more geared towards a desk-top experience, while also providing for flexible user configuration. For example, it features more connectivity ports, but less focus on the battery 

Microsoft is not the only company implementing a new form factor to cater to users’ needs for devices that straddle between existing designs. Acer’s ConceptD 3 Ezel and HP’s Spectre Folio also share the same form factor as the Surface Laptop Studio. 

It is likely this ‘desktop oriented yet flexible’ form factor will gain ground as more organisations adapt to the demands of hybrid working. It is not enough to consider someone working between multiple office locations as being a ‘remote worker’. Rather, they are full-time office workers that may wish to move between locations, while gaining the ability to host video conferencing, engage in pen / tablet creative work, and switch back to having a more traditional desktop experience.

Who’s impacted

  • Procurement
  • Digital workspaces / end-user computing teams

What’s Next?

The evolution of end user devices is ongoing - albeit slowly and with more than a few dead-ends. Manufacturers continue to experiment with new market niches, as organisations become more selective with devices that meet specific needs.  

The upshot of this is that care should be taken when developing ‘personas’ for digital workspaces. Keep in mind that a persona is not solely related to a staff member’s ‘job’ (which is really multiple different types of jobs). It needs to factor the environment, the tasks performed in the context of the environment, and the staff's ability to switch between different devices based on needs at any given time.

In addition, when determining mobile force field device needs, do not limit the evaluation to the features of fully rugged products. Instead, consider the lifecycle of the products and software dependencies. Only then should an organisation decide which available devices on the market can best cater to the work contexts and personas you have.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Redefining what ruggedised means
  2. The use and abuse of Personas for end-user computing strategies
  3. Examples of Persona Templates
  4. VENDORiQ: Samsung unveils new smartphones

The Latest

16 August 2021: VMware and AWS announced that VMware Cloud had been independently assessed by an Information Security Registered Assessors Program (IRAP) assessor against the Information Security Manual (ISM) PROTECTED controls.

Why it’s Important

IBRS has noted that VMware Cloud is becoming increasingly popular as a management platform for hybrid Cloud. Its main attraction is that it offers a smooth ‘lift-and-shift’ of on-premises vSphere environments to a hyperscale over time, with different aspects of the data centre ecosystem running in the Cloud and/or on-prem. The VMCloud approach is particularly attractive for heavily regulated organisations and agencies, since it supports Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud elastic, bare-metal infrastructure. 

By assessing the VMCloud service, public sector customers have the opportunity to accelerate their Cloud migration, moving more of the load from on-prem environments to Cloud, while retaining operational consistency with their on-prem data centre.

While VMware Cloud IRAP for PROTECTED status is very much welcome, there is also the risk that IRAP is treated more as a ‘check-box’ in a security policy, rather than a foundation on which to build robot security practices. Many Cloud breaches are not the result of zero day exploits or misconfigurations from vendors (despite recent issues with Azure) but rather weak configuration management. This is exacerbated by the ongoing skills shortage in Cloud engineers, plus the even more critical shortage of cyber security professionals.

VMware Cloud provides common approaches to managing the Cloud environment, but it is only as good as the attention to detail given to the configuration of the environment. Tools such as GorillaStack can assist, but operational security is ultimately a matter of practice.

Who’s impacted

  • CISO
  • Cloud teams

What’s Next?

When considering Cloud management tools, security certifications and IRAP assessments are a sign that the vendor has best practices in place, but are not a panacea for mitigating risk. Treat them accordingly. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Cloud Security Considerations – Lessons from the Frontline
  2. PROTECTED Cloud: Cyber considerations
  3. The value proposition for PROTECTED Cloud
  4. Why Cloud Certified People Are in Hot Demand
  5. VENDORiQ: Microsoft Cloud Database Security Flaw - A Nightmare or a Wake-up Call?

The Latest

22 September 2021: Six months after GorillaStack has released capabilities to monitor and apply rules to any AWS events, it has added similar functionality to Azure. The new service enables greater governance and automation of Azure. The new Azure service focuses on identifying when bad changes - particularly those that may impact security - occur.

Why it’s Important


As previously discussed, Aussie born GorillaStack is one of the earliest vendors to address the complexities of Cloud cost management.

Since its inception, GorillaStack has evolved into a more expansive Cloud monitoring service, with a growing focus on security and compliance. In March 2021, GorillaStack announced real-time event monitoring for AWS. With this announcement, it expands the monitoring of events to Azure, and confirms IBRS analysis that Cloud cost optimisation and security compliance go hand-in-hand. In short, enforcing configurations for security follows the same processes and uses common architectures as enforcing financial governance within Cloud infrastructure. 

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO
  • CISCO
  • Cloud teams 

What’s Next?


When reviewing solutions for Cloud cost optimisation through compliance, consider the extent to which the service can also assist with tightening up security. Conversely, when looking at tools to help enforce Cloud security compliance, consider how these may also be used to manage costs.

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

27 August 2021: Security flaw hunters at Wiz were able to obtain the security keys that control access to Microsoft’s Azure Cosmos DB, and demonstrate that it was possible to access customers’ Azure Cosmos DB.  

Why it’s Important.

This flaw is especially worrying, because all Cloud vendors and many independent security advisors, including IBRS, have been advocating that Cloud security is generally of a far higher standard than that achieved by most in-house data centre teams. IBRS stands by this claim. But this does not mean Cloud vendors will not make security mistakes. And when they do, they will impact large numbers of organisations.

There is no evidence that this security flaw - likely an operational oversight - has been exploited. Once it was identified by Wiz (on the 9th August) and flagged with Microsoft (on the 12th August), the existing keys were quickly re-secured. Unfortunately, the keys in question are fundamental security assets that Microsoft cannot change. Therefore, Microsoft emailed the customers (on the 26th Aug) requesting they create new keys, just in case the previous keys had fallen into the hands of bad actors. It is estimated that 3300 customers have been impacted. 

To mitigate this issue, Microsoft advises Cosmos DB customers to regenerate their Cosmos DB primary keys immediately.

Unfortunately, just because there is no evidence the flaw had been leveraged, organisations should assume the worst. It is well publicised that state-actors hoard such flaws for intelligence gathering. In this case, paranoia may be justified.

More importantly, the situation highlights the need to take a multi-level approach to security in the Cloud. Relying on security protocols to secure an essential asset places organisations at greater risk of these hyper-scale security flaws.  

For example, in this situation, organisations that have behavioural/usage pattern analytics monitoring the database would likely have been altered should any bad actor start to access the database, and remedial action would be triggered. Furthermore, data from such monitoring could be used to determine the likelihood that the security flaw had been exploited - something few Azure Cosmos DB customers can confirm at the moment. 

Another example is using encryption services, these services should be leveraged extensively. Assume data assets will leak and repositories (including databases) will be breached, base encryption strategies on the sensitivity of the data. 

A migration to the Cloud can often improve the security stance of an organisation, but only if security is treated as a multifaceted, ‘trust nothing’ (akin to zero trust) philosophy is taken.

Who’s impacted

  • CISO and security teams
  • Cloud architects
  • Cloud migration teams

What’s Next?

  • If you are an Azure Cosmos DB client or have instances in development teams, immediately regenerate the primary keys for these databases.
  • Review your Cloud solution designs - including those of ‘lift and shift’ of legacy systems - to identify where single points of security failure could occur. Consider remediation strategies using multi-facilitated security services risks. Such effort needs to be balanced against business risk and information sensitivity. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Cloud Security Considerations – Lessons from the Frontline
  2. CyberArk launches AI-powered service to remove excessive Cloud permissions
  3. New generation IT service management tools Part 2: Multi-Cloud management

The Latest

19 August 2021: Microsoft has announced pricing increases for its Office 365 and Microsoft 365 offerings, which has resulted in a great deal of media coverage.Microsoft is at pains to point out that it has not increased its prices on 365 for a decade, and during that time has added a great deal of functionality (20+ applications) to the portfolio.

The Specifics

Microsoft is still working through how the new pricing will be applied in the Australian market and an announcement is expected soon. IBRS will perform a detailed cost analysis at this time. However, Microsoft has confirmed that any changes to local pricing will mimic the North American price changes. 

Based on the US data, enterprise and business plans will see increases in March 2021. Based on US$, the dollar amounts range from US$1 to US$4 per user per month, or US$12 to US$48 per user per year, with the percentage increases running from a low of 9% to a high of 25%. Microsoft F-series licences for frontline workers and Microsoft 365 E5 are not subject to price increases. Consumer and education-specific plans (the A-series) are also unaffected by the price increases.

The new pricing structures will disproportionately impact small businesses and those with the lower levels of the Microsoft suite, while enterprises with E5 licences will be left unscathed. That in itself reveals Microsoft’s clear intent to nudge the market towards its E5 offerings. It is estimated that only 8% of Microsoft customers globally opt for E5 licensing, though IBRS has seen strong interest among Australian organisations to at least explore the more expansive capabilities found in E5.

At this time, we believe the majority of IBRS clients will see price increases in the lower range. However, given that Australia has been one of the fastest adopters of Office 365, and has for decades suffered from ‘the Australia tax’ of software vendors, the increases will still be felt deeply across the industry.

Why it’s Important.

For many IBRS clients, the immediate impact is the need to set aside extra budget for its existing 365 environment. 

Something that is not gaining attention is that the new pricing also increases the cost of Microsoft’s Unified support, since it is calculated as a percentage (10-12%) of the overall Microsoft spend. IBRS recommends that organisations set aside a budget for this increase as well.

However, the price increase is not the full story. A closer look at how the new pricing is structured, plus other less publicised changes, suggests it is geared towards making E5 licences more attractive to mid-sized organisations. 

The increases came shortly after Microsoft announced that its perpetual-licence Office would see a 10% increase and that its service for Office would drop from 7 years (it was previously 10) to just 5. Even more telling is that Microsoft has effectively engineered a one year ‘gap’ in N-2 support for Office (with the persistent licensing model), which forces organisations with older Office Pro licences to either purchase an upgrade sometime before 2023, or migrate to Office 365. 

In summary, Microsoft’s recent changes to Office licensing are a strategy that makes the price difference from E3 to E5 licensing less imposing and makes sweating perpetual Office licences far less attractive, if not unworkable. The savings from sweating Office licences over a five-year period are still there, but they are significantly lower than with seven-year cycles.

IBRS has long stated that Microsoft’s goal is not necessarily to drive up ICT budgets. A closer look at the additional capabilities found in E5 licensing reveals that most are aimed at moving Microsoft into adjacent product sets. For example, the additional security capabilities that become available with E5 licensing are clearly aimed at security incumbents, such as Symantec. Microsoft’s E5 strategy is to pull ICT budget away from competitors and into its own coffers. It is about carving out competition.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO & procurement
  • Digital workspace teams

What’s Next?

In the Australian market, IBRS sees few enterprises still on persistent licensing for Office. Globally, Australia has been an early adopter of E3 licensing, though until the mass push to work from home in 2020, many organisations did not take full advantage of the additional features and collaboration capabilities of the 365 platform. Furthermore, Google Workspaces is only making marginal increases in the local market, meaning Microsoft has little real local competitive forces working to temper it in the office productivity space (though this is not the case in other markets in the Asian region).

Therefore, the question for organisations is, is this strategy to push customers from existing E3 licences to E5 licences a trigger to start re-evaluate ways to leverage more value from the Microsoft ecosystem (that is, double-down on Microsoft).  

Organisations may respond to this price increase and Microsoft’s strategy to push customers from existing E3 licences to E5 licences as a trigger to:

  1. Re-evaluate ways to leverage more value from the Microsoft ecosystem (that is, double-down on Microsoft).  Just prior to this announcement, IBRS had drafted a paper on how to decide between E3 and E5 licensing. It is due for publishing in the coming month. However, if you wish an advance (draft) copy, please request it from nbowman@ibrs.com.au. It is focused on how to evaluate the additional benefits of E5 in the context of your existing software ecosystem.
  2. Set up a ‘plan b’ for enterprise collaboration. In a practical sense, this would likely be a shift to Google Workspace for part of the organisation, coupled with a percentage (generally 20-30%) of the organisation also having Office software, though not necessarily Office 365.  
  3. Set aside 12-15% extra budget for the existing E3 environment, plus a similar increase for support of the Office environment, and re-evaluate the situation in 2-3 years

IBRS also recommends considering what will happen in another 10 years, when many organisations have migrated to E5 (which is likely). What new business risks will emerge from this? Migrating from Office 365 E3 to a competitive product (e.g. Google or Zoho) is hard enough. When E5 features are fully leveraged, the lock-in is significant, but so too is the value. At the end of the day, the ultimate risk factor is trust in Microsoft not to engage in rent-seeking behaviour.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Pros and Cons of Going All-In With Microsoft
  2. Special report: Options for Microsoft support - Key findings from the peer roundtable: August 2020
  3. The journey to Office 365 Part 6: Mixing up Microsoft’s 365 licensing and future compliance risks
  4. DXC Technology and Microsoft collaborate on workplace experience
  5. AIP Should be Essential to Any O365 and Workforce Transformation Strategy
  6. AIS and Power BI Initiatives
  7. Microsoft Pivots to Target Verticals

The Latest

12 August 2021: TechnologyOne released a significant report based on a six-month long study into the economics of Cloud computing and SaaS among Australian organisations.  

The study, which was independently conducted by IBRS and Insight Economics, explored the tangible costs associated with migrating to the Cloud, with both IaaS and SaaS journeys investigated. An economic analysis of the data collected through 67 in-depth case studies with CIOs and C-suite executives, additional interviews, and over 400 respondents, revealed a $224bn economic dividend for the Australian economy, prompting TechnologyOne to term the report "too big to ignore".

Why it’s Important.

While the report is aimed at policymakers and strategies looking at the macro-economic impact of technology, it also details the costs and benefits of Cloud adoption by industry sectors, providing IT strategists with realistic benchmarks. 

When developing the methodology for the report, IBRS and Insight Economics took a ‘no free lunches’ approach to data collection. Unlike other reports on the benefits of Cloud migration, the study took into account the costs of, and time needed for transition, including training, change management, skills (and skill shortages) and the fact that many organisations will need to retain on-premise environments to support legacy and home-grown applications for years to come. In addition, only productivity benefits that had been measured were included in the analysis. 

As a result of the evidence-only approach to the study, the ‘direct returns’ on Cloud migration detailed in the report are both far lower and far more realistic than those found in studies conducted in the USA and Europe.

The report may be accessed here: https://toobigtoignore.com.au/

Who’s impacted

  • CEO, COO, CFO, CIO
  • Cloud migration teams

What’s Next?

The conservative approach to the study, the rich data collected, means that organisations still struggling to make a business case for SaaS have practical benchmarks and economic modelling to call upon.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The economic impact of software as a service in Australia
  2. Get board agreement to the Cloud strategy

The Latest

28 July 2021: During Inspire, Microsoft unveiled Windows 365, which it positions as a Cloud desktop service. IBRS views Windows 365 as an evolution of existing virtual desktop solutions. 

In addition, Windows Virtual Desktop services have been rebranded as Azure Desktop Services. With this rebranding, Microsoft also introduced a number of enhancements, including closer integration with Azure Active Directory (AAD) and Endpoint-Manager, with the ability to deploy applications across both physical devices and Cloud-based desktops based on roles. 

Windows 365 is built on top of Azure Virtual Desktop service. The difference between Windows 365 and Azure Desktop Services is that Windows 365 has more automated, easier deployment and administration options. It is well suited to organisations with minimal VDI specialisation and more akin to a ‘fully managed virtual desktop environment’.  

In contrast, Azure Desktop Services is better suited to larger organisations that have a need for a high level of customisation. It is more akin to a virtualised Citrix farm.

Why it’s Important.

In 2019, Microsoft quietly changed the licensing conditions for running virtual servers in the Cloud, which hindered VMware’s ability to migrate VDI (among other services) to hyper-scale Cloud services. Since then, IBRS has had reports of efforts to migrate VDI into the Cloud stifled by rights, with Microsoft partners steering organisations to an ‘all-in Azure’ approach.

The introduction of Windows 365 and the rebranding of Azure Virtual Desktop certainly fits a strategy of selecting alternative virtual desktop environments less compelling. 

This is not to say that Microsoft’s VDI capabilities are not solid offerings. Windows 365 certainly addresses a problem in the Australian market, where fully managed VDI has suffered greatly from vendors under-scoping the resources needed to run a client's environment in order to come in at the lowest possible cost. Autoscaling in the Windows 365 environment largely eliminates this issue. The level of automation is also impressive, as is an application cook

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Windows 365 is a viable option for specific use VDI cases, and it may be considered against traditional fully managed desktop vendor solutions. However, it may not be cost-effective at scale. Solutions from AWS, VMWare and Google should also be examined, though it is important to consider the total cost of operation of this type of VDI, not just the licensing / service costs. Be sure to factor in human resources for administration, application compatibility testing and packaging (which are significant hidden costs and often overlooked, as well as help desk and support.

In addition, if staying within the Microsoft stack, Azure Desktop Services can provide a more flexible and scalable solution. Again, be sure to factor in the total cost of operation.

Overlooked by many discussions of Cloud VDI is the rise of Cloud application virtualisation services from the likes of Cameyo. Rather than presenting an entire desktop, these services only stream a configured application, either in a manner that makes it appear as a native application or within a web browser. Such an approach is significantly lower cost than traditional VDI. When considering a new virtual environment for your workers, both VDI and Virtual Application Delivery (VAD) options should be considered.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Should You Outsource Your Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?
  2. When to Consider Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
  3. VDI trends for 2021–2025
  4. End-user computing managed services: 3 initial things to consider for the RFP
  5. SNAPSHOT: Workforce Transformation beyond Mobility and Digital Workspaces
  6. IBRS Compass: Beyond the Desktop: Creating a Digital Workspace Strategy for Business Transformation

The Latest

3 August 2021: Salesforce has announced an agreement to acquire Servicetrace, a robotics process automation vendor. This marks another milestone in Salesforce’s strategy to deliver enterprise SaaS solutions surrounded by a mesh of low-code process automation and integration. It is also evidence of how the previously disparate markets for low-code application development tools, RPA, process mapping, and integration tools are consolidating into a service mesh that goes beyond process digitisation. In this case, when coupled with enterprise SaaS, the sum is greater than the parts.

Why it’s Important.

In the IBRS trends report for 2021-2026, a fourth-wave of ICT was detailed. The crest of this wave is the rapid consolidation of low-code, process mapping, RPA and (soon) rules engines, and AI.  

However, IBRS case studies with scores of executives involved in Cloud migration strategies, suggest that many organisations ICT groups are resistant to the coming wave. This is mainly due to sunk costs in on-premises software and infrastructure, the difficulty in justifying costs of integrating disparate systems and, at least to some degree, concerns over losing control or lacking skills to manage core infrastructure.

The cost of integration coupled with the need for digitising manual processes is currently a real economic barrier. Financial modelling suggests that the labour and costs of integrating disparate (on-premises and Cloud) solutions can destroy the return on investments for Cloud migration in the near to mid-term (1-5 years). This is especially problematic for industries with a complex mix of specialist enterprise solutions, such as healthcare and utilities. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Organisations that have previously rejected Cloud migrations due to not being able to make the financials stack up should consider re-evaluating the decision in 2022, taking into account the potential of buying into a mesh ecosystem that unifies low-code, workflow, process mapping, RPA rules engines and possibly AI services and that supports SaaS enterprise solutions ‘out of the box’.

Enterprise architects should also consider a shift towards a fourth-wave of ICT will impact their organisation’s ICT architecture and, if needed, begin planning to evolve to a new environment.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Hammering Low-Code into Place Takes Time
  2. Mulesoft Believes it Can Accelerate Digital Customer Experiences on SAP
  3. Salesforce introduces Hyperforce
  4. Salesforce Einstein automate

The Latest

16 August 2021: Zoom is best known for its video conferencing solution, which set new standards for ease of use and quick adoption, which in turn saw its usage skyrocket during the first months of COVID-19 lockdowns. The firm’s brand is now so ingrained that staff often refer to video conferencing as ‘zoom calls’ and the public use the terms ‘zooming’ and ‘zoom me’, even when Zoom may not be technology in use. Unfortunately for Zoom, its strong brand recognition with video calls often obscured the breadth of its unified communications (UC) ecosystem.

Zoom is attempting to reposition its brand as an end-to-end UC platform. The topics for its planned Zoomtopia summit, scheduled for the 14th of September, are clear indicators of where Zoom will focus its efforts in the coming year: 

  • Public sector
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Financial services

IBRS recent interviews as part of the Cloud economic study found these four sectors have all been particularly impacted by COVID-19 in terms of service delivery volume and increasing expectations on multichannel (if not omnichannel) experiences. So Zoom’s targeting makes sense. 

Why it’s Important.

The requirements for UC are shifting from internal standardisation (cost optimisation, ensuring staff can communicate efficiently and switch between communications modes) to external flexibility (delivering services using end-points that the public have on hand). It is for this reason that both Microsoft Teams and Zoom are finding their way into call centre strategies. It is not just that these video communications technologies fit within a larger communications ecosystem, but that the majority of the public are familiar with the services and likely have clients already installed on their devices. The mature wave of UC, which IBRS introduced 14 years ago, is moving from the trailblazers into the mainstream.

Who’s impacted

  • User experience / customer journey teams
  • Development team leads
  • Customer service teams
  • Call centre teams

What’s Next?

There two key triggers for replatforming an organisation’s UC environment, or at least introducing a new UC platform:

  • An overhaul of call centres, possibly in conjunction with CRM modernisation.
  • Replacement of legacy PBX or VoiP solution

 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Unified Communications: the future is full of MUC
  2. Unified Communications: Justifications and Predictions
  3. Special Report: Using Lessons from Activity-Based Working to Redefine the Post-Pandemic Workplace

The Latest

18 August 2021: While natural language processing AIs are becoming increasingly accurate in how they respond to questions, their ability to explain how they arrived at their answers has been limited. As The Doctor reveals, confronting a rogue AI in the Green Death, ‘Why?’ remains, perhaps, the hardest question for machine intelligence. IBM’s AI Horizons Network is developing a method to enable AIs to explain their reasoning with a common sense data set.1 

Why it’s Important.

Today, virtual service agents, both customer facing and internal IT held-desks, are effective and very efficient FAQs. They can identify a context from natural language and then provide answers to questions, as well as provide follow up answers based on the original context. However, they cannot provide details as to how they arrived at any given answer, which generally leads to a request for human manual intervention.

Specialists who develop conversation virtual service agents, work around these limitations by programmatically refining the answers AIs have available (i.e. curating the FAQ) to include reasons. E.g. “Your transaction has been declined because of XYZ.” 

IBMs work to allow AIs to report back on their reasons, may not only minimise the programming effort needed to develop virtual agents, but allow them to report decision-making in ways that organisations have not considered. 

While AI development will remain a niche activity for most Australian organisations, AI will increasingly find its way into enterprise SaaS products. Natural language AIs coupled with machine learning over knowledge assets held in core enterprise systems will see a rapid increase in the use of virtual agents, both for internal and external services. 

Who’s impacted

  • AI specialists
  • Service automation / customer experience teams
  • ICT strategy leads

What’s Next?

The rapid improvements in AI quality, coupled with their integration into most enterprise SaaS products, will make them ubiquitous for customer service delivery within the next 2-5 years.

Organisations need to start exploring the AI service agent capabilities already available in their SaaS products, and develop plans for how to leverage such capabilities. The goal should not be to deliver an ‘all-singing and dancing’ virtual agent experience, but rather to incrementally introduce capabilities over time, learning how clients and staff wish to interact, and continually leveraging advances in technology as they become available. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Chatbots Part 1: Start creating capabilities with a super-low-cost experiment
  2. Preparing for the shift from digital to AI-enabled transformation
  3. BMC Adds AI to IT Operations
  4. Trends for 2021-2026: No new normal and preparing for the fourth-wave of ICT
  5. Software Agents Maturity Model
  6. Artificial intelligence Part 2: Deriving business principles

 

Footnotes

1. COMMONSENSEQA: A Question Answering Challenge Targeting Commonsense Knowledge, 2019 Association for Computational Linguistics

The Latest

27 July 2021: During Google Cloud Platform’s (GCP) analyst update, the vendor unveiled details regarding its Australian expansion with a new Melbourne data centre and new management for the ANZ region. 

Why it’s Important

The new data centre is more an indication of overall Cloud growth in Australia, as IBRS has reported in the past. It is less a turning point in Google’s strategy, and more of a necessary response to market trends. It should be noted that a large set of GCP services will be available from the Melbourne zone, but not all. Others will be added ‘based on market demands’. This is a strategy that has been adopted by all three hyper-scale Cloud vendors, and is a clear indication of how Cloud usage is expanding in Australia: from core infrastructure services (especially storage, compute, containers and analytics) to more nuanced services, such as AI.

During the briefing, Google highlighted its private ANZ wide data network as a key differentiating factor. There is merit to this claim, as network infrastructure in Australia remains a thorny issue for Cloud clients outside the major States, such as Perth and Darwin, Adelaide, etc.

More telling was what was not elaborated upon during the briefing. In the past, Google has focused on its capabilities in AI as a key differentiator in the market. While Google clearly has strong credentials in AI, the reality is that most Australian organisations are not investing in AI directly, but rather obtaining it as part of other solutions. 

For example, AI is found in capabilities of CRM products Salesforce (Einstein) and Zoho (Zia), in low-code products from Appian and Microsoft’s Power Platform and so on.  

Instead, Google championed its partner program and its support credentials. Google knows channel partners are essential to competing against AWS and Microsoft. It also recognises that skills are in short supply, so is investing in training and support programs. 

In reality, Google’s strongest competitive weapon is an age-old one: value for money. When evaluating like-for-like core compute and storage services, GCP is more economical than its two top rivals.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Cloud infrastructure teams

What’s Next?

Most organisations will end up with a multi-Cloud environment, though with a preference for a ‘primary’ platform. Many Cloud migration strategies IBRS reviews are scoped in such a way to limit the choice of deployment to Azure and/or AWS. Given the strengths of these two Clouds, this makes sense. Oracle’s Cloud platform is also appealing to Oracle customers looking for an ‘easy’ migration of their core services. 

Far fewer Australian organisations are formally considering GCP as a viable alternative for running core workloads, or even leveraging it for failover/parallel workloads. This is a lost opportunity. While IBRS is not recommending GCP, it considers that the vendor is under-represented in shortlists and as a result, opportunities for Cloud cost optimisation and contestability in multi-Cloud environments suffer. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. IBRSiQ: Google Cloud - Are Their AI Offerings a Point of Difference From Other Vendors?
  2. Vendor Lock-in Using Cloud: Golden Handcuffs or Ball and Chain?
  3. Options for Machine Learning-as-a-Service: The Big Four AIs Battle it Out
  4. How to get on top of Cloud billing
  5. Why Cloud Certified People Are in Hot Demand
  6. VENDORiQ: Data Replication Goes Serverless with Google Datastream

The Latest

24 June 2021: Samsung Networks, which was launched early in 2021, has struck a deal with infrastructure supplier PLUS ES to support the deployment of Samsung’s 5G technologies. Given activities from other 5G vendors, it is clear that the 5G rollout in Australia will only accelerate.

Why it’s Important

5G will impact both consumer and business applications, as well as hybrid working. It is not just a matter of speed. With greater bandwidth and different cost points, new services become possible. For example: chatbots passing not to a human agent using text, but a human agent on video. These service delivery innovations need to be tested in terms of how the public will accept them, the operational and staffing changes needed to support them, and finally the IT issues and architecture they will raise (including what to do with all the new data coming in)!

CTOs and innovation teams in organisations with public-facing services need to be experimenting and testing new service delivery options and ideas now, since such services are likely to give a competitive advantage.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

If not already established, form a temporary committee to brainstorm the potential for 5G on:

  • Service delivery
  • Field operations and staff
  • Business processes, both internal and external, and how these can be digitised ‘into the field’
  • Hybrid working

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. 5G potential to deliver economic upsides
  2. Samsung unveils new smartphones
  3. Telecommunications reborn
  4. Redefining what ruggedised means

The Latest

2 July 2021: Amazon released a video summary and report on its sustainability targets and performance. The key take outs are that Amazon is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, with a shift of 42% from non-renewable within one year. The underlying message here is sustainability is no longer a political issue for the corporate sector, but a fiscal imperative.  

Why it’s Important

As outlined in previous IBRS research, all of the hyperscale cloud vendors - Google, AWS, Microsoft, Oracle and Alibaba - have well-documented strategies to reduce their reliance on carbon-based fuel sources. All position sustainability as a competitive advantage, not just against each other, but against on-premises data centres. 

It is likely that cloud vendors will be positioning their sustainability credentials in both business and general news channels, looking to position their brand as a leader on climate action. From a cynical view, this messaging will play well with the existing news cycle of the impact of climate change, from the disastrous bushfires to killer heatwaves in North America, to unseasonable storms and record-setting weather events. From a more optimistic perspective, these vendors will drive genuine solutions to reduce the carbon footprint associated with providing computing service.

Therefore, as cloud vendors set or meet zero carbon energy targets, the issue of sustainable ICT is set to re-emerge as a priority for CIOs and data centre architects.  

IBRS and BIAP (via the IT Leaders Summits) have tracked CIOs interest in the topic of green IT. An IBRS study in 2008 had sustainable ICT being rated as ‘very important’ for 25% of CIOs and ‘somewhat important’ for 59% of CIOs. Since then, interest in sustainable computing has plummeted year-on-year. The IBRS / BIAP data for 2016 had 6% of CIOs rating sustainable ICT as a priority. By 2020, less than 0.5% of CIOs rated sustainable ICT as a priority.

IBRS expects this trend to reverse sharply in 2024-2025 as the leading cloud vendors continue to demonstrate both environmental and financial benefits associated with renewable energy.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO
  • Data centre leads
  • Infrastructure architects

What’s Next?

By 2025 the leading cloud vendors will leverage their position in renewable energy consumption as a selling point for policy-makers to mandate cloud computing and place unattainable goals for architects of on-premises data centres.

Rather than waiting, CIOs should review previous strategies for sustainable ICT, with the expectation that these will need to be updated and reinstated within the next 3-5 years.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The Status of Green IT in Australian and New Zealand (2008)
  2. Building your Green IT strategy
  3. Think green IT: Think saving money
  4. Forget Green; think sustainable computing in 2009

The Latest

28 June 2021: After a leak of an early pre-release version of Windows, Microsoft formally announced Windows 11 and have followed up with a series of posts, most aimed at promoting the new user experience of the operating system. A quick look on YouTube will find dozens of reviews and tests of the pre-release version of Windows 11, and from early tests, it appears as if there is little performance impact for the OS. Reviews of Microsoft’s documentation suggest that there is no significant change to how Windows 11 can be deployed. The bulk of the changes appear to be related to how Microsoft’s Office 365 products are put front and centre within the desktop experience. Teams, in particular, takes centre stage. As with the release of Windows 10, Windows 11 will start by building new expectations among consumers, which will in turn drive staff to demand the new environment from their ICT groups. In this sense, the key issues for ICT look to be identical to those faced in 2015.

Why it’s Important

While Microsoft executives famously touted that Windows 10 would be the last Windows, a clear reference to enterprises’ frustrations with continued hardware/software refresh treadmill and the expense of upgrading fleets of desktops en-mass, the statement was never officially enshrined in the product lifecycle. This means that enterprises, at least for the foreseeable future, will need to plan for generational shifts in desktop upgrades, complete with the demands of change management and the potential bulk hardware refreshes.  

The common driver for most organisations looking to refresh their desktop environment (device management, security, application deployment and change management), is to ‘flatten the investment’ needed to keep users up to date. From a device asset management perspective, the goal is to move away from four-to-five year bulk buys and move to a rolling schedule of device refreshes. For software deployment, it's a move to a self-service model. And for the OS, it's a move to a gradually updated, evolving platform.  

All the above have become critical enablers of hybrid working and by extension business continuity. 

Microsoft’s Cloud-based approach to deploying devices and software with Autopilot is highly attractive as it supports the new digital workspace model. How best to migrate to Autopilot from the legacy ‘tiered’ desktop management approach is by far the most common question IBRS is asked in relation to digital workspaces.

Microsoft has noted that Windows 11 can be managed using all current tools and processes that are used to manage Windows 10. This means Windows 11 can be managed using the Cloud-based Autopilot approach and the ‘standardised desktop’ approach via SCCM (System Centre Configuration Manager). Third-party tools such as Ivanti are also expected to work without problem. Therefore, based on available information, there appears to be little additional benefit to Windows 11 over Windows 10 when it comes to deployment and management.

This is not to say that Windows 11 will not have other benefits to enterprises, but the (current) benefits appear to be more related to putting Office 365 services forward.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Desktop / end user computing teams
  • ICT asset management teams
  • CFO / ICT financial planning teams

What’s Next?

Enterprise desktop teams do not need to rush into Windows 11 planning. Device and software compatibility is expected to be high (despite some initial negative assumptions on YouTube). Instead, organisations should continue to focus their efforts on migrating from the standardised desktop management model to the ‘digital workspaces’ model which focuses on offering self-service capabilities and zero-trust security. In addition, adopting an iterative and ongoing approach to Office 365 change management is needed. Moving to the digital workspaces model will not only reap significant operational benefits over the older standardised desktop approach, but will also ensure a smoother transition to Windows 11 before the 2025 end of support deadline.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Digital Workspaces Master Advisory Presentation
  2. SNAPSHOT: Workforce Transformation beyond Mobility and Digital Workspaces
  3. How will you deal with Microsoft’s Pester Power strategy for Windows 10?
  4. The journey of Office 365: A guiding framework Part 3: Post-implementation

The Latest: 

26 June 2021: Zoho briefed IBRS on Zoho DataPrep, it’s new business-user focused data preparation which is being included in its existing Zoho Analytics tool, as well as being available separately as a tool to clean, transform and migrate data. DataPrep is in beta, and will be officially launched on 13th July 2021.

Why it’s Important

Traditionally, cleaning and transforming data for use in analytics platforms has involved scripting and complex ETL (extract, transform and load) processes. This was a barrier to allowing business stakeholders to take advantage of analytics. However, several analytics vendors (most notably Microsoft, Tableau, Qlik, Snowflake, Domo, etc.) have pioneered powerful, drag-and-drop low-code ETL into their products.  

Zoho, which is better known for its CRM, has an existing data analytics platform with Cloud storage, visualisation and reports, and dashboards. While the product is not as sophisticated as its top-drawer rivals, it can be considered ‘good enough’ for many business user’s needs. Most significantly, Zoho Analytics benefits from attractive licensing, including the ability to share reports and interactive dashboards both within an organisation and externally. 

However, Zoho Analytics lacked a business-user-friendly, low-code ELT environment, instead relying on SQL scripting. Zoho DataPrep fills this gap by providing a dedicated, AI-enabled platform for extracting data from a variety of sources, allowing data cleaning and transformations to be applied, with results being pushed into another database, data warehouse and Zoho Analytics. 

All existing Zoho Analytics clients will receive Zoho DataPrep with no change to licensing.

However, what is interesting here is Zoho’s decision to offer its DataPrep platform independent of its Analytics platform. This allows business stakeholders to use the platform as a tool to solve migration and data cleaning, not just analytics. 

IBRS’s initial tests of Zoho DataPrep suggest that it has some way to go before it can compete with the ready-made integration capabilities of Tableau, Power BI, Qlik, and others. In addition, it offers less complex ETL than it’s better established rivals. But, that may not be an issue for organisations where staff have limited data literacy maturity, or where analytics requirements are relatively straightforward.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

The bigger take out from Zoho’s announcement is that ETL, along with all other aspects of business intelligence and analytics, will be both low-code, business-user friendly and reside in the Cloud. ICT departments seeking to create ‘best of breed’ business intelligence architectures that demand highly specialised skills will simply be bypassed, due to their lack of agility. While there will be a role for highly skilled statisticians, data scientists, and machine learning professionals, the days of needing ICT staff that specialise in specific reporting and data warehousing products is passing. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Snowflake Gets PROTECTED Status Security Tick by Aussie Auditor
  2. IBRSiQ: Power BI vs Tableau
  3. Business-First Data Analytics
  4. AWS Accelerates Cloud Analytics with Custom Hardware
  5. IBRSiQ AIS and Power BI Initiatives
  6. Trends in Data Catalogues
  7. When Does Power BI Deliver Power to the People?
  8. Staff need data literacy – Here’s how to help them get it

The Latest

26 May 2021: Google has introduced Datasteam, which the vendor defines as a “change data capture and replication service”. In short, the service allows changes in one data source to be replicated to other data sources in near real time. The service currently connects with Oracle and MySQL databases and a slew of Google Cloud services, including BigQuery, Cloud SQL, Cloud Storage, Spanner, and so forth.

Uses for such a service include: updating a data lake or similar repository with data being added to a production database, keeping disparate databases of different types in sync, consolidating global organisation information back to a central repository.

Datastream is based on Cloud functions - or serverless - architecture. This is significant, as it allows for scale-independent integration.

Why it’s Important

Ingesting data scale into Cloud-based data lakes is a challenge and can be costly. Even simple ingestion where data requires little in the way of transformation can be costly when run through a full ETL service. By leveraging serverless functions, Datastream has the potential to significantly lower the cost and improve performance of bringing large volumes of rapidly changing data into a data lake (or an SQL database which is being used as a pseudo data lake). 

Using serverless to improve the performance and economics of large scale data ingestion is not a new approach. IBRS interviewed the architecture of a major global streaming service in 2017 regarding how they moved from an integration platform to leveraging AWS Kinesis data pipelines and hand-coded serverless functions, and to achieve more or less the same thing that Google Datastream is providing. 

As organisations migrate to Cloud analytics, the ability to rapidly replicate large data sets will grow. Serverless architecture will emerge as an important pattern.

Who’s impacted

  • Analytics architecture leads
  • Integration teams
  • Enterprise architecture teams

What’s Next?

Become familiar with the potential to use serverless / cloud function as a ‘glue’ within your organisation’s Cloud architecture. 

Look for opportunities to leverage serverless when designing your organisations next analytics platform. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Serverless Programming: Should your software development teams be exploring it?
  2. VENDORiQ: Google introduces Database Migration Service

The Latest

26 May 2021: Talend, a big data, analytics and integration vendor, has received ISO 27001:2013 and 27701:2019 certifications. According to the Talend, they are the only big data/integration vendor with this level of certification.  

Why it’s Important

IBRS has observed that even the most security focused organisations often overlook their big data integration and ETL (extract, transform, load) when it comes to assessing business risk. For example, when Microsoft launched its protected Azure services in Canberra, many of the Azure analytics capabilities, such as its machine learning services, were excluded from the platform.

The data being ingested into data lakes, be they on-premises or in the Cloud, will include private information on clients, staff or citizens, and possibly sensitive financial data. But more significantly, taken as an aggregate, this information contains patterns and insights that cyber criminals and state actors may leverage for further attacks.  The value of analysing data at scale to an organisation is just as valuable to criminals.

Who’s impacted

  • Business analytics architecture specialists
  • CISO 
  • Security teams

What’s Next?

Start by reviewing the sensitivity of information moving to the data analytics platform. Such information would be reviewed against the organisation's existing data governance and data classification framework.

Next, review the process of how sensitive information is ingested, manipulated, stored and accessed within the organisation’s analytics platform. Be sure to pay attention to ETL processes: both the technologies and processes involved. 

Finally, review the third-party (vendor) supply chain for all platforms and services involved in data analytics.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. How does your organisation manage cyber supply chain risk?
  2. IBRSiQ: Risk assessment services and the dark web
  3. VENDORiQ: SolarWinds Incident

The Latest

10 May 2021: ServiceNow is acquiring Lightstep, a specialist vendor for monitoring digital workflows. While ServiceNow already has capabilities for monitoring its low-code applications and workflows, Lightstep will provide deep analytics and performance metrics. 

Why it’s Important

The rise of low-code will necessitate the use of application monitoring tools.  

From a technical perspective, being able to monitor performance of applications that may themselves be comprised of dozens of integrations and span multiple SaaS environments, is an important precursor to meeting user expectations. In low-code environments, gone are the days of being able to monitor server and network performance. Vendors such as ThousandEyes and Lightstep have emerged to provide a more comprehensive (and simplified) view of the complex application infrastructure that is emerging. Buying Lightstep is a smart move for ServiceNow, as it increasingly moves into enabling low-code departmental and public-facing applications. 

Another reason for monitoring low-code is to report back to the business tangible business benefits. While digitising a process can clearly save money, being able to quantify the savings with evidence after a solution has been deployed helps build the case for an expansion of low-code and (in the case of high-value products, such as ServiceNow) justify any increased licensing.

However, an often overlooked benefit of observability is application lifecycle. Observability allows organisations to identify and consolidate duplicate processes across an organisation. Observability also allows organisations to identify digital processes that are not being utilised and determine why, and give clues as to what to do about them.

Who’s impacted

  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Expect low-code vendors to continue investing in workflow monitoring/observability tools, as well as low-code integration capabilities. 

When selecting a low-code application development platform, consider the degree to which being able to monitor workflows and processes will be useful. If using ServiceNow, will the existing capabilities be sufficient, or will investments in products such as Lightstep be needed. If using products such as Nintex, will leveraging their business process modelling tools provide the desired observability.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: ServiceNow to Acquire Vendor Intellibot
  2. VENDORiQ: Creatio - More Low-Code Investments
  3. Aussie vendor radar: Nintex joins the mainstream business process automation vendor landscape

The Latest

19 May 2021: Google has launched Vertex AI, a platform that strives to accelerate the development of machine learning models (aka, algorithms). According to Google and IBRS discussions with early adopters, the platform does indeed dramatically reduce the amount of manual coding needed to develop (aka, train) machine learning models. 

Why it’s Important

The use of machine learning (ML) will have a dramatic impact on decision making support systems and automation over the next decade. For the majority of organisations, ML capabilities will be acquired as part of regular upgrades of enterprise SaaS solutions. Software leaders such as Microsoft, Salesforce, Adobe and even smaller ERP vendors such as Zoho and TechnologyOne, are all embedding ML powered services into their products today, and this will only accelerate.

However, developing proprietary ML models to meet specific needs may very well prove critically important for a few organisations. Recent examples of this include: customise direct customer outreach with specific language tailored to lessen overdue payment, and creating decision support solutions to reduce the occurrence of heatstroke.

IBRS has written extensively on ML development operations (MLOps). However, the future of this disciplin e will likely be AI-powered recommendation engines that aid data teams in the development of ML models. In a recent example, IBRS monitored a data scientist as they first developed an ML model to predict customer behaviour using traditional techniques, and then used a publicly available tool that leveraged ML itself to build, test and recommend the same model. Excluding data preparation, the hand-coded approach took 3 days to complete, while the assisted approach took several hours. But more importantly, the assisted approach tested more models that the data scientist could test manually, and delivered a model that was 3% more accurate than the hand-coded solution.

It should be noted that leveraging ‘low-code’ AI does not negate the need for data scientists or the pressing need to improve data literacy within most organisations. However, it has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of developing and testing ML models, which lowers the financial risk for organisations experimenting with AI.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • Marketing leads
  • Development team leads

What’s Next?

Prepare for low-code AI to become increasingly common and the hype surrounding it to grow significant in the coming two years. However, the excitement for low-code ML should be tempered with the realisation that many of the use cases for ML will be embedded ‘out of the box’ in ERP, CRM, HCM, workforce management, and asset management SaaS solutions in the near future. Organisations should balance the ‘build it’ versus ‘wait for it’ decision when it comes to ML-power services. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Six Critical Success Factors for Machine Learning Projects
  2. Options for Machine Learning-as-a-Service: The Big Four AIs Battle it Out
  3. How can AI reimagine your business processes?
  4. Low-Code Platform Feature Checklist
  5. VENDORiQ: BMC Adds AI to IT Operations
  6. Artificial intelligence Part 3: Preparing IT organisations for artificial intelligence deployment

The Latest

11 May 2021: Jamf is a market leader in Apple iOS device management, with a strong presence in education. It has announced its intention to acquire the zero-trust end-point security vendor Wandera. 

Why it’s Important

Vendors in the device management have two options for continued growth: add new services and grow horizontally within their market (as in VMWare), or specialise in increasingly niche areas. Jamf has remained firmly entrenched in providing Apple device management, so it is a niche (though important) player in device management. Its acquisition of Wandera, hot on the heels of its purchase of Mondad, will broaden its base and help cement its position against the broader players. 

Who’s impacted

  • End user computing/digital workspace teams
  • Security teams

What’s Next?

Globally, the move to working from home saw an uplift in Apple products being connected to enterprise (work) environments. Citing IDC, Jamf reports the penetration of macOS in 2019 was around 17%, and during 2020 this increased to 23%. In addition, globally 49% of smartphones connecting to work environments remain iOS, though this is slightly lower in Australia, where Android has gained small market share in a tight market last year. 

The challenge with supporting a mixed device ecosystem (Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, Chrome) is now more than just securing the end-point, but the entire information ecosystem. VPNs in particular proved difficult to scale and adapt to a myriad of end points. The need to patch reliability and manage software also becomes significantly difficult due to differing rates of change, patch cycles and tools needed. 

Jamf’s acquisition of Wandera will not eliminate these challenges completely, but will at least simplify the Apple slice of the situation. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Requirements Check-List for Mobile Device Management Solutions
  2. Embracing security evolution with zero trust networking

The Latest

Mid May 2021: Mulesoft detailed its new Connectors for SAP during an analyst’s briefing. The SAP connector is most interesting, since it aims to speed up the development of lightweight, agile customer-facing, online self-service capabilities, while building on the weighty (not exactly agile) capabilities of SAP.  

Mulesoft has out-of-box integrations (called connectors) for existing data sources including AWS, Google, GCP, Azure, Snowflake, Salesforce, Splunk, Stripe, Oracle, ServiceNow, Zendesk, Workday Jira, Trello, Azure, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, etc. Mulesoft has identified 900 common enterprise applications, though only 28% of these have pre-existing integrations. Mulesoft states that on average 35 different apps are needed for a single customer-facing enterprise digital solution. Therefore, it is investing heavily in developing additional connectors for enterprise solutions, with at least 50 planned for release in 2021.

Why it’s Important

In late 2019 and early 2020, IBRS conducted a series of 37 detailed interviews with organisations that found organisations with ERP SaaS platforms supported by low-code workflows and integration, saw at least 3 times (and up to 10 times!) as many customer-facing services delivered annually as compared with on-premise solutions with traditionally managed API integrations. A recent series of 67 interviews confirms these findings.

During COVID-19, the big winners of the ‘prepackaged integration’ model (specifically, the model outlined in the 'Trends for 2021-2026: No New Normal and Preparing For the Fourth Wave of ICT'), were business-to-consumer organisations that quickly pivoted from a myriad of shopfront locations to digital stores in a matter of weeks. As Mulesoft has figured out, this is not just an issue of having the ability to integrate, but having a consolidated core of ERP capabilities to provide core data and processes, surrounded by a fabric of low-code application, workflow and integration services.

Who’s impacted

  • COO
  • CIO
  • Head of sales 
  • DevOps leads
  • Enterprise architects

What’s Next?

Organisations should consider how their current environment - including legacy ERP - can evolve to support the fourth wave of enterprise architecture. This will impact upgrade decisions for ERP and other enterprise applications, the selection of low-code application development and integration tools.  

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Trends for 2021-2026: No New Normal and Preparing For the Fourth-wave of ICT
  2. Accelerating Remote Services Deployment

The Latest

May 2021: Talend, a vendor of data and analytics tools, released its Data Health Survey Report that claims 36% of executives skip data when making decisions, and instead go “with their gut”. At the same time, the report claims that 64% of executives “work with data everyday”. On the surface, these two figures seem at odds. However, the report goes on to claim 78% of executives “have challenges in making data drive decisions”, and this is largely due to data quality issues. However, the most interesting finding from the report is “those who produce and those who analyse data live in alternative data realities”.

Why it’s Important

At its core, this report highlights the issue of data literacy. The report was compiled from 529 responses from companies with over USD10 million in sales. A quarter of respondents were from the Asia Pacific region. However, IBRS cautions drawing Australia-specific inference, given that different markets have differing levels of data literacy maturity. No details were given for industry, which is also likely to impact data literacy maturity. In fairness, any more detailed analysis of a country or industry would not be feasible, given the sample size. 

The above concerns aside, the report does highlight the importance of data literacy: investments in big data tools are useless unless executives are knowledgeable and well versed in the key concepts of applying analytical thinking to business decisions. IBRS notes that without data literacy, the most common use of new self-service visualisation tools such as Power BI, Looker, Domo, Tableau, Qlik, Zoho and others, is to ‘prove’ executives' gut feelings. In short, too often visualisations tools are used to reinforce the ‘current ways of thinking’ rather than seek areas for improvement.  

The report’s statement that “those who produce and those who analyse data live in alternative data realities”, frequently underpins IBRS inquiries into why business intelligence and analysis programs fail to produce the expected business benefits.

Who’s impacted

  • Business intelligence/analytics teams
  • Senior line-of-business executives
  • Human resources/training teams

What’s Next?

ICT teams responsible for providing business intelligence and analytics services need to cease solely focusing on the tools and technologies and ‘getting data curated’, and spend time exploring which business decisions would most benefit from the application of analytical thinking. However, the ICT teams cannot do this alone. They need to be involved in uplifting data literacy among line-of-business executives and work closely with them to identify the decisions that not only can be addressed with data, but those that would make the biggest difference to organisational outcomes. This does not mean that all aspects of a data scientists role need to be explained to business executives. Rather, training executives in the principles of using data to inquire into issues or disprove current ways of doing things is more important.  

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Staff need data literacy – Here’s how to help them get it
  2. When Does Power BI Deliver Power to the People?
  3. The critical link between data literacy and customer experience

Contract management can be more than just record keeping. When done well, it can enable organisations to explore the best ways to optimise their investments when conditions change.

This capability proved essential for the Australian government when COVID-19 hit, with investments in all manner of services and infrastructure being needed almost overnight.

IBRS interviews ZEN Enterprise, an Australian niche contract management solution vendor, and the contract manager from a large Australian agency to tease out the benefits and challenges of advanced contract management in an age of rapid change.

The Latest

29 April 2021: Cloud-based analytics platform vendor Snowflake has received ‘PROTECTED’ status under IRAP (Australian Information Security Registered Assessors Program).  

Why it’s Important

As IBRS has previously reported, Cloud-based analytics has reached a point in cost of operation and sophistication that it should be considered the de facto choice for future investments in reporting and analytics. However, IBRS does call out that there are sensitive data sets that need to be governed and secured to a higher standard. Often, such data sets are the reasons why organisations decide to keep their analytics on-premises, even if the cost analysis does not stack up against IaaS or SaaS solutions.

The irony here is that IT professionals now accept that even without PROTECTED status, Cloud infrastructure provides a higher security benchmark than most organisations on-premises environments.

However, security must not be overlooked in the analytics space. Data lakes and data warehouses are incredibly valuable targets, especially as they can hold private information that is then contextualised with other data sets.

By demonstrating IRAP certification, Snowflake effectively opens the door to working with Australian Government agencies. But it also signals that hyper-scale Cloud-based analytics platforms can not only offer a bigger bang for your buck, but greatly improve an organisation's security stance.

Who’s impacted

  • CDO
  • Data architecture teams
  • Business intelligence/analytics teams
  • CISO
  • Public sector tech strategists

What’s Next?

Review the security certifications and stance of any Cloud-based analytics tools in use, including those embedded with core business systems, and those that have crept into the organisations via shadow IT (we are looking at you, Microsoft PowerBI!). Match these against compliance requirements for the datasets being used and determine if remediation is required.

When planning for an upgraded analytics platform, put security certification front and centre, but also recognise that like any Cloud storage, the most likely security breach will occur from poor configuration or excess permissions.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Key lessons from the executive roundtable on data, analytics and business value
  2. VENDORiQ: AWS Accelerates Cloud Analytics with Custom Hardware
  3. IBRSiQ: AIS and Power BI Initiatives
  4. VENDORiQ: Snowflakes New Services Flip The Analytics Model

The Latest

7 May 2021: Analytics vendor Qlik has released its mobile client Qlik Sense Mobile for SaaS. During the announcement, Qlik outlined how the new client enables both online and offline analytics and alerting. The goal is to bring data-driven decision-making to an ‘anywhere, anytime, any device’ model. 

Why it’s Important

While IBRS accepts that mobile decision support solutions will be of huge value to organisations, this needs to be tempered with an understanding that not all decisions should be made in all contexts. There is a very real danger that in the hype surrounding analytics, people will start making decisions in less than ideal contexts. Putting decision support algorithms (i.e. agents), KPI dashboards and simply modelling tools on mobile devices will likely be the next wave of analytics. In short, mobile big data/AI driven solutions that support specific, narrow mobile work tasks will be a very big deal in the near future.

However, creating and diving into data - that is, data exploration - is or should be, a process rooted in deep, careful, considered scientific thinking. That is a cognitive task that is not well suited to a mobile device experience. This is not just due to the form factor, but also the working context. Such deep thinking requires focus that a mobile work context does not provide.

As organisations embrace self-service analytics and more staff are engaged in creating and consuming visualisations and reports, data maturity will become an increasingly important consideration. However, data literacy is not just a set of skills to learn: it requires a change in culture and demands staff become familiar with rigorous models of thinking. It also requires honest reflection, both of the organisation’s activities and individually. 

While mobile analytics will be a growing area of interest, it will fail without a well-structured program to grow data literacy within the organisation and without granting staff the time and appropriate work spaces to reflect, explore and challenge their assumptions using data.

Who’s impacted

  • CDO
  • HR directors
  • Business intelligence groups

What’s Next?

Organisations should honestly assess staff data literacy maturity at a departmental and whole or organisation level. Armed with this information, a program to grow data literacy maturity can be developed. The deployment of data analytics tools, and indeed data sets, should coincide with the evolution of data literacy within the organisation. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Staff need data literacy – Here’s how to help them get it
  2. When Does Power BI Deliver Power to the People?
  3. The critical link between data literacy and customer experience

The Latest

28 April 2021:  AWS has introduced AQUA (Advanced Query Accelerator) for Amazon Redshift, a distributed and hardware-accelerated cache that, according to AWS, “delivers up to ten times better query performance than other enterprise Cloud data warehouses”.

Why it’s Important

AWS is not the only vendor that offers distributed analytics computing. Architectures from Domo and Snowflake both make use of elastic, distributed computing resources (often referred to as nodes) to enable analytics over massive data sets. These architectures not only speed up the analytics of data, but also provide massively parallel ingestion of data. 

By introducing AQUA, AWS has added a layer of specialised, massively parallel and scalable cache over its Redshift analytics platform. This new layer comes at a cost, but initial calculations suggest it is a fraction of the cost of deploying and maintaining traditional big data analytics architecture, such as specialised BI hyperconverged appliances and databases.

Given the rapid growth in self-service data analytics (aka citizen analytics) organisations will face increasing demands to provide analytics services for increasing amounts of both highly curated data, and ‘other’ data with varied levels of quality. In addition, organisations need to consider a plan for rise in non-structured data. 

As with email, we have reached a tipping point in the demands of performance, complexity and cost where Cloud delivered analytics outstrip on-premises in most scenarios. The question now becomes one of Cloud architecture, data governance and, most important of all, how to mature data literacy across your organisation.

Who’s impacted

  • Business intelligence / analytics team leads
  • Enterprise architects
  • Cloud architects

What’s Next?

Organisations should reflect honestly on the way they are currently supporting business intelligence capabilities, and develop scenarios for Cloud-based analytics services. 

This should include a re-evaluation of how adherence to compliance and regulations can be met with Cloud services, how data could be democratised, and the potential impact on the organisation. BAU cost should be considered, not just for the as-in state, but also for a potential future states. While savings are likely, such should not be the overriding factor: new capabilities and enabling self-service analytics are just as important. 

Organisations should also evaluate data literacy maturity among staff, and if needed (likely) put in place a program to improve staff’s use of data.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. IBRSiQ: AIS and Power BI Initiatives
  2. Workforce transformation: The four operating models of business intelligence
  3. Staff need data literacy – Here’s how to help them get it
  4. The critical link between data literacy and customer experience
  5. VENDORiQ: Fujitsu Buys into Australian Big Data with Versor Acquisition

The Latest

29 April 2021: Microsoft briefed analysts on its expansion of Azure data centres throughout Asia. By the end of 2021, Microsoft will have multiple availability zones in every market where it has a data centre.

The expansion is driven in part by a need for additional Cloud capacity to meet greenfield growth. Each new availability zone is, in effect, an additional data centre of Cloud services capability.

However, the true focus is on providing existing Azure clients with expanded options for deploying services over multiple zones within a country.  

Microsoft expects to see strong growth in organisations re-architecting solutions that had been deployed to the Cloud through a simple ‘lift and shift’ approach to take advantage of the resilience granted by multiple zones. Of course, there is a corresponding uplift in revenue for Microsoft as more clients take up multiple availability zones.

Why it’s Important

While there is an argument that moving workloads to Cloud services, such as Azure, has the potential to improve service levels and availability, the reality is that Cloud data centres do fail. Both AWS and Microsoft Azure have seen outages in their Sydney Australia data centres. What history shows is organisations that had adopted a multiple availability zone architecture tended to have minimal, if any, operational impact when a Cloud data centre goes down.

It is clear that a multiple availability zone approach is essential for any mission critical application in the Cloud. However, such applications are often geographically bound by compliance or legislative requirements. By adding additional availability zones within countries throughout the region, Microsoft is removing a barrier for migrating critical applications to the Cloud, as well as driving more revenue from existing clients.

Who’s impacted

  • Cloud architecture teams
  • Cloud cost / procurement teams

What’s Next?

Multiple available zone architecture can be considered on the basis of future business resilience in the Cloud. It is not the same thing as ‘a hot disaster recovery site’ and should be viewed as a foundational design consideration for Cloud migrations.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: Amazon Lowers Storage Costs… But at What Cost?
  2. Vendor Lock-in Using Cloud: Golden Handcuffs or Ball and Chain?
  3. Running IT-as-a-Service Part 49: The case for hybrid Cloud migration

The Latest

09 April 2021: During its advisor business update, Fujitsu discussed its rationale for acquiring Versor, an Australian data and analytics specialist. Versor provides both managed services for data management, reporting and analytics. In addition, it provides consulting services, including data science, to help organisations deploy big data solutions.

Why it’s Important

Versor has 70 data and analytics specialists with strong multi-Cloud knowledge. Fujitsu’s interest in acquiring Versor is primarily tapping Versor’s consulting expertise in Edge Computing, Azure, AWS and Databricks. In addition, Versor’s staff have direct industry experience with some key Australian accounts, including public sector, utilities and retail, which are all target sectors for Fujitsu. Finally, Versor has expanded into Asia and is seeing strong growth. 

So from a Fujitsu perspective, the acquisition is a quick way to bolster its credentials in digital transformation and to open doors to new clients. 

This acquisition clearly demonstrates Fujitsu’s strategy to grow in the ANZ market by increasing investment in consulting and special industry verticals.  

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Given its experienced staff, Versor is expected to lead many of Fujitsu’s digital transformation engagements with prospects and clients. Fujitsu’s well-established ‘innovation design engagements’, are used to explore opportunities with clients and leverage concepts of user-centred design. Adding specialist big data skills to this mix makes for an attractive combination of pre-sales consulting.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The new CDO agenda
  2. Workforce transformation: The four operating models of business intelligence
  3. VENDORiQ: Defence Department Targets Fujitsu for Overhaul

The Latest

16 April 2021: BMC has released a new edition of its Helix Platform, which leverages machine learning algorithms to support AI-driven IT operations (AIOps) and AI-driven service management (AISM) capabilities. The introduction of these algorithmic features enable IT service and operations teams to predict and resolve issues more effectively.

Why it’s Important

The use of algorithms to both categorise and predict events in IT operations is a growing trend. Such AI capabilities will be increasingly embedded in existing IT operations suites. As vendors enter a new ‘AI-powered’ competitive phase, these new AI capabilities will be included as part of regular upgrades and maintenance, rather than as add-on components.

Getting value from the new AI capabilities requires planning very human responses.  

For example, the predictive capabilities of algorithms, especially when using multi-organisational data, can provide op teams with alerts well in advance of problems becoming apparent. But unless op teams are resourced and given budget to respond to such ‘predictive maintenance’ issues, these predictive capabilities will be relegated to little more than an alarm clock with a snooze button. 

Likewise, the ability to correctly leverage and continually train advisory from resolution support algorithms, will demand both training of, and input from, the support team. The algorithms are only as good as the information and the contexts they can draw on. Support team people play an intimate role in ensuring the right information is selected for training the algorithm and, most importantly, the right contexts. This is especially pertinent as virtual agents (chatbots) are introduced for self-help capabilities.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • IT operations staff
  • Support desk

What’s Next?

Begin to track the new AI capabilities available in IT operations support platforms, not just for the platforms used by your organisation, but in the competitive landscape. While there is no critical priority to adopt AI-powered IT operations or service management capabilities (just yet), it is important to understand what is coming and what may already be available as part of your current licensing agreements.

Assemble a working group to explore how AI capabilities could positively impact IT operations and service management, and the changes in process and roles that would be required to leverage them.

In short, start planning for AI-powered operations and a service management future.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Running IT-as-a-Service Part 55: IBRS Infrastructure Maturity Model
  2. Sustaining efficiency gains demands architecture risks mitigation Part 2
  3. Artificial intelligence Part 3: Preparing IT organisations for artificial intelligence deployment
  4. IBRSiQ: Approach to identifying an ITSM SaaS Provider

The Latest

18 March 2021: Veeam released a report which suggests that 58% of backups fail. After validating these claims, and from the direct experiences of our advisors who have been CIOs or infrastructure managers in previous years, IBRS accepts there is merit in Veeam’s claim.

The real question is, what to do about it, other than buying into Veeam’s sales pitch that its backups give greater reliability?

Why it’s Important

Sophisticated ransomware attacks are on the rise. So much so that IBRS issued a special alert on the increasing risks in late March 2021. Such ransomware attacks specifically target backup repositories. This means creating disconnected, or highly-protected backups is more important than ever. The only guarantee for recovery from ransomware is a combination of well-structured backups, coupled with a well-rehearsed cyber incident response plan. 

However, protecting the backups is only useful if those backups can be recovered. IBRS estimates around 10-12% of backups fail to fully recover, which is measuring a slightly different, but more important situation than touted by Veeam. Even so, this failure rate is still far too high, given heightened risk from financially-motivated ransomware attacks.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Risk Officers reporting to the board
  • CISCO
  • Infrastructure leads

What’s Next?

IBRS has identified the ‘better-practice’ from backup must include regular and unannounced, practice runs to recover critical systems from backups. These tests should be run to simulate as closely as possible to events that could lead to a recovery situation: critical system failures, malicious insider and ransomware. Just as organisations need to rehearse cyber incident responses, they also need to thoroughly test their recovery regime. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Maintaining disaster recovery plans
  2. Ransomware: Don’t just defend, plan to recover
  3. Running IT-as-a-Service Part 59: Recovery from ransomware attacks
  4. Ransomware, to pay or not to pay?
  5. ICT disaster recovery plan challenges
  6. Testing your business continuity plan

The Latest

28 March 2021: MaxContact, vendor of a Cloud-based call-centre solution, announced it is supporting integration of Teams clients. Similar vendors of call centre solutions have announced or are planning similar integration with Teams and/or Zoom. In effect, the most common video communications clients are becoming alternatives to voice calls, complete with all the management and metrics required by call centres. 

Why it’s Important

The pandemic has forced working from home, which has in turn positioned video calling as a common way to communicate. There is an expectation that video calling, be it on mobile devices, desktop computers or built into televisions, will become increasingly normalised in the coming decade. Clearly call centres will need to cater for clients who wish to place calls into the call centre using video calls.

But there is a difference between voice calls and video that few people are considering (beyond the obvious media).  That is, timing of video calls is generally negotiated via another media: instant messaging, calendaring, or meeting invites. In contrast, the timing for voice calls are far less mediated, especially when engaging with call centres for service, support or sales activities.

For reactive support and services, video calls between a call centre and a client will most likely be a negotiated engagement, either instigated via an email or web-based chat agent. Cold-calling and outward bound video calls is unlikely to be effective.

The above has significant implications for client service and support processes and call centre operations.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

The adoption of video calls by the masses is here to stay. Video calling is not a fad, but it will take time to mature. 

Having video support and services available as part of the call centre mix is likely to be an advantage, but only if its use makes sense in the context of the tasks and clients involved.  

Organisations should begin brainstorming the potential usage of video calls for serving. However, adding video calling to the call centre is less of a priority than consolidating a multi-channel strategy and, over time, an omnichannel strategy.  

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Better Practice Special Report: Microsoft Teams Governance
  2. Evolve your multichannels before you try to omnichannel
  3. VENDORiQ: CommsChoice becomes Australia's first vendor of Contact Centre for Microsoft Teams Direct Routing

The Latest

28 March 2021: AWS has a history of periodically lowering the costs of storage. But even with this typical behaviour, its recent announcement of an elastic storage option that shaves 47% off current service prices is impressive. Or is it?

The first thing to realise is that the touted savings are not apples for apples. AWS’s new storage offering is cheaper because it resides in a single-zone, rather than being replicated across multiple zones. In short, the storage has a higher risk of being unavailable, or even being lost by an outright failure. 

Why it’s Important

AWS has not hidden this difference. It makes it clear that the lower cost comes from less redundancy. Yet this architectural nuance may be overlooked when looking at ways to optimise Cloud costs.

One of the major benefits of moving to Platform-as-a-Service offerings is the increased resilience and availability of the architecture. Cloud vendors, including AWS, do suffer periodic failures within zones. Examples include the AWS Sydney outage in early 2020 and the Sydney outage in 2016 which impacted banking and e-commerce services.  

But it is important to note that even though some of Australia’s top companies were effectively taken offline by the 2016 outage, others just sailed on as if little had happened. The difference is how these companies had leveraged the redundancies available within Cloud platforms. Those that saw little impact to operations when the AWS Sydney went down had selected redundancies in all aspects of their solutions.

Who’s impacted

  • Cloud architects
  • Cloud cost/contract specialists
  • Applications architects
  • Procurement leads

What’s Next?

The lesson from previous Australian AWS outages is that organisations need to carefully match the risk of specific application downtime. This new announcement shows that significant savings (in this case 47%) are possible by accepting a greater risk profile. However, while this may be attractive from a pure cost optimisation/procurement perspective, it also needs to be tempered with an analysis of the worst case scenario, such as multiple banks being unable to process credit card payments in supermarkets for an extended period.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: AWS second data centre in Australia
  2. Post COVID-19: Four new BCP considerations
  3. Running IT-as-a-Service Part 55: IBRS Infrastructure Maturity Model

The Latest

18 March 2021: Zoho is a privately held, Indian, Cloud-based CRM vendor that has grown rapidly internationally. It has just turned 25 years old. While it’s CRM suite is not as sophisticated as that of SalesForce, it is supported by a suite of low-code development tools and marketing-oriented modules for small to mid-sized business.

zoho timeline

Why it’s Important

IBRS has noted that many Australian organisations - in particular the public sector - are only short-listing Salesforce and Dynamics for modern CRM. This is often due to the research into available CRMs being exclusively limited to vendors in leading positions on US-focused market research papers, or advice from consultancies that only refer to such public materials.

To ensure the best suite at the best cost-point is selected, IBRS strongly recommends that the following be considered during the shortlisting process: 

  1.  Be sure to explore niche CRM products, as some of these may have a better fit or specific industry sector focus that can deliver benefits more quickly and at significantly lower costs than the leading products. Just because a solution as complex as a CRM is leading the market, does not mean it is necessarily the best for your organisation.
  2. When reading international reports, keep in mind that North America and Europe have different technology market ecosystems to Australia. In particular, skills availability (and therefore costs) differ. Be sure to factor in local issues.
  3. Carefully consider your starting point. How complex is your software environment? Factor your organisation’s networking infrastructure and the integration requirements both immediate and longer term.
  4. Leverage the channel capabilities and skills of local implementation partners. Implementation partners play a significantly greater role in a CRM’s successful implementation than the product itself. It is therefore vital that buyers not only consider the product in question, but also the available partners. 

The ultimate impact of limiting modern CRM (and related digital services) to the major vendors is that organisations may find themselves paying for far more than they need in a system, while also introducing more complexity into business operations than is necessary. 

IBRS is not suggesting that Zoho (or any of the other niche CRMs from the myriad available) is right for your organisation. Salesforce and Dynamics are exceptional products. However, many organisations do not need exceptional: they simply need more than good enough for their current and future needs, and they need it quickly and at the right cost point.

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO
  • Digital platform leads
  • Procurement teams
  • Business units executives

What’s Next?

Shortlists are critical for keeping procurement agile and within scope. However, do not short-change the shortlisting process by relying on generic reports that do not factor in:

  • specific industry needs
  • the Australian context
  • local channels and skills 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Trends for 2021-2026: No New Normal and Preparing For the Fourth-wave of ICT
  2. VENDORiQ: Salesforce Introduces Hyperforce
  3. Salesforce vs Dynamics
  4. CRM Modernisation Part 5: Microsoft Dynamics vs Salesforce Total Cost of Service
  5. IBRSiQ: Can IBRS Review Our Dynamics365 (D365) Licensing Calculations?

 

The Latest

23 March 2021: ServiceNow has signed an agreement to purchase robotic process automation vendor, Intellibot. The deal will see Indian-based Intellibot, which was founded in 2015, embedded into the ServiceNow platform. 

Why it’s Important

RPA is rapidly becoming merged within the low-code everything ecosystem. ServiceNow’s planned investment in buying into RPA is not surprising: other low-code vendors, such as Nintex, have already secured their RPA solutions through acquisition. Buyers of standard-alone RPA solutions can expect more acquisitions, followed by rapid market consolidation in 3-5 years time. 

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Expect RPA to play an increasing role in areas such as customer account creation and management, customer verification, employee on-boarding and off-boarding, data extraction and migration, and claims and invoice processing, among others.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Exploring Robotic Process Automation
  2. How Can AI Reimagine Your Business Processes?
  3. Cloud Low-code Vendor Webflow Secures US$140 Million
  4. Aussie Vendor Radar: Nintex Joins the Mainstream Business Process Automation Vendor Landscape
  5. SNAPSHOT: A Robotic Process Automation Infographic

The Latest

20 March 2021: GorillaStack has released capabilities that allows it to monitor and apply governance rules to any external service that communicates with AWS EventBridge.

Why it’s Important

GorillaStack is one of the earliest vendors to address the complexities of Cloud cost management, having started in Australia in 2015 and moved to having strong growth in the international market. In May 2020, GorillaStack was acquired by the switzerland-based SoftwareOne.

Like its international competitors, GorillaStack moved from helping organisations monitor and optimise their Cloud spend, to monitoring the Cloud ecosystems for performance and security concerns. This recent announcement suggests that the next phase of growth for organisations in the Cloud cost optimisation space is not only to detect events in Cloud infrastructure, but also external services, and then apply rules to perform specific actions on those events. Such rules can not only automatically help reduce Cloud spend by enforcing financial governance directly into the Cloud infrastructure, but also helping to enforce security rules.

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Cloud cost optimisation is already an important discipline for organisations with mature Cloud teams. Like software asset management (SAM), tools alone will not see organisations optimise their expenditure on Cloud services. An understanding of the disciplines required and setting up appropriate rules is needed. In addition, IBRS notes that many less-mature organisations have a ‘sprawl’ of Cloud services that need to first be identified and then reigned in before cost optimisations products can be fully effective. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. New Generation IT Service Management Tools Part 2: Multi-Cloud Management
  2. How to Get on Top of Cloud Billing
  3. Sourcing Monthly April 2020 – May 2020

The Latest

27 March 2021: Google has announced programs with two US-based insurance companies where clients taking up Google Cloud Platform security capabilities will receive discounts on cyber insurance premiums. 

Why it’s Important

The number of serious cyber incidents is on the increase and insurance premiums in the US have tripled over the last two years. Having a cyber incident response plan in place helps mitigate the risks and reduces the recovery time from a cyber incident, but also contributes to lowering the premium for cyber insurance. It is akin to having fitted window locks to a house, lowering insurance premiums in certain circumstances.

Google’s security posture, and threat assessment services, and services to manage security incidents effectively are sufficient to both reduce the frequency of security incidents and lessen their impact. Insurance actuaries see the benefit in such services and have determined there are savings to be made by the lower risk and risk mitigation profiles. 

Notwithstanding any special programs brokered between Cloud vendors and insurers, being able to demonstrate both a strong security posture and, importantly, an incident response plan will drive down an organisation's premiums, especially as insurance companies are inserting their own teams into incident response situations. 

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

If not already done, organisations should undertake a cyber risk assessment and implement a cyber incident response plan backed by appropriate cyber insurance. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Improving Your Organisation’s Cyber Resilience
  2. Incident Response Planning: More Than Dealing with Cyber Security Breaches and Outages
  3. How Does Your Organisation Manage Cyber Supply Chain Risk?
  4. Why You Need a Security Operations Centre

The Latest

9 March 2021: Dropbox has acquired DocSend for US$165 million. This is a welcome addition to managing the risks associated with information management in a collaborative environment. 

Why it’s Important

Dropbox’s acquisition is not about organic growth, as DocSend’s client base of 17,000 users is dwarfed by Dropbox’s estimated 600 million. The deal is more about positioning Dropbox against the likes of Adobe Document Cloud, by allowing organisations to track what happens to information once it is shared. Being able to manage and track document access is a critical aspect of modern, enterprise-grade file sharing which is needed for secure collaboration. It is a feature missing in most collaborative platforms - at least out of the box. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Being able to manage access and track who’s accessed a document is a good start for closing the governance issues of most collaborative platforms (e.g. Teams, Slack, Zoom, Zoho, etc.)  However, organisations should look at adopting a zero trust model for information assets, involving identity management linked to access controls and an ‘encrypt everything by default’ mentality.  

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Did Dropbox just break knowledge management?
  2. IBRS survey exposes Teams risk - The Australian - 21 January 2021
  3. Microsoft Teams governance: Emerging better practices
  4. Data loss by the back door, slipping away unnoticed
  5. Workforce transformation Part 2: The evolving role of folders for controlled collaboration

The Latest

11 March 2021: Talend, a big data / data integration solutions vendor, has signed an MOU to be acquired by private equity giant Thomas Bravo for US$2.4 billion, representing a nearly 30% premium on its current share price. 

Why it’s Important

Talend has been aggressive with the development of its solutions in the last few years, in particular in the area of managing data quality. During one-on-one briefings with IBRS, the company has demonstrated considerable flexibility in its roadmap and the willingness, and agility, to take cues of the emerging needs of clients.

Conventional wisdom is that once tech firms get subsumed by private equity, innovation declines as business drive turns to ‘rent seeking’ behaviour. This is especially true for funds that have a portfolio of well-established (legacy) technologies. A review of Thomas Bravo’s current and prior investments places Talend in a fund that previously held the likes of Attachmate and Compuware. Attachmate (now owned by Micro Focus) was seen to be aggressive with audits during the period it was owned by Thomas Bravo. On the surface, this could be cause for concern about the future direction of Talend.  

However, there are significant differences. Talend has a growing user base, is positioned in a market segment that is still evolving and has at least a decade of product innovation to come.  

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Business intelligence / big data teams
  • Data management leads
  • Procurement 

What’s Next?

Over the next half-decade, an acquisition of Talend by Thomas Bravo is likely to deliver a continued commitment to market-led innovation. There is enough head-room for the fifteen-year old Talend to continue deploying new capabilities at pace that keeps clients happily buying more services.  

However, as the market for big data management solutions matures - especially shared data catalogues - pressure may start to mount for Talend to refocus on extracting more revenue from clients with proportionally less investment in development. Yes, that is a worst-case scenario, and it is not unique to Talend nor its deal with Thomas Bravo.  

Even so, organisations looking to invest in big data management solutions need to be viewing their investment futures over a decade. Such solutions quickly become fundamental platforms for the business and will be difficult (and expensive) to replace as they become increasingly embedded. Keep the long-term scenario in mind. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Power BI is driving data democratisation: Prepare now
  2. Why investing in data governance makes good business sense
  3. Key lessons from the executive roundtable on data, analytics and business value
  4. Machine learning will displace “extract, transform and load” in business intelligence and data integration
  5. IBRSiQ: Can IBRS provide input into suitable reporting systems using primarily in-system data, but not excluding third party?

The Latest

9 March 2021: The Australian Defence Department has inked a deal with Fujitsu, Leido and KBR to blitz its ageing network and end-user computing environment in a program of work thought to be worth around AU$200 million.

Why it’s Important

Fujitsu is not the first vendor that comes to mind when thinking about end-user computing overhauls. However, in the world of highly secure workplaces, vendors such as Fujitsu and Unisys have unique offerings and experiences. Even if not using these vendor’s capabilities, the critical components of the security architecture are worth noting by organisations that need to protect information assets with an increasingly mobile or distributed workforce. 

Who’s impacted

  • End-user computing / digital workspace architects
  • Security teams

What’s Next?

With remote working no longer a choice, but a business continuity issue, organisations need to rethink traditional approaches to securing information assets and people when planning for the next upgrade of end-user computing. Identity management, contextual access control and encryption of information assets are three essential pillars of a modern, secure digital workspace. Building upon these pillars, organisations can look towards zero trust approaches and adopt emerging new techniques for detecting issues and protecting the organisation, such as embodied in products for user, entity and behavioural analytics (UEBA).

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Architecting identity and access management
  2. Embracing security evolution with zero trust networking
  3. Trends for 2021-2026: No new normal and preparing for the fourth-wave of ICT

The Latest

18 February 2021: The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Labour Force report highlighted major increases in employment for ICT and business professionals.

Net increases of note in the period were:

ICT professionals 

  • programmers (14%)
  • network professionals (16%)
  • web designers (16%)
  • database administrators (23%)

Business professionals

  • accountants (14%) 
  • information / organisational professionals (27%).

Who’s impacted

  • CIOs
  • Sourcing Teams
  • Human Resources

What’s Next?

These increases are consistent with forecasts that found ICT spending would increase in 2021 to
secure growth opportunities and support remote staff.

Employment increases of the scale above inevitably trigger investment in new systems that need
innovative software solutions, hardware, and specialised ICT services, all of which open the door for
market-ready vendors to promote their offerings.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. ICT Trends 2021-2021: No new normal and the fourth wave of ICT
  2. IBRSiQ: Can IBRS help in an understanding of where Australian companies are in relation to spend vs revenue? 
  3. Why benchmarking IT costs and staffing is important

The Latest

25 February 2021: Microsoft has announced a new industry Microsoft Cloud product suite. In short, Microsoft is pivoting to deliver vertical market Cloud offering for: Financial Services, Manufacturing, Non-profit and Retail on the back of the success with the Microsoft Healthcare Cloud. The primary purpose of these tailored industry solutions is to meet specific needs, breakdown silos and increase collaboration, productivity and efficiency within and across Industries.

Is this new or are we seeing a response to similar Cloud SaaS verticals from Salesforce and Netsuite?

Why it’s Important

Whether it is regulatory compliance or creating efficiencies, Microsoft is the latest to develop industry driven verticals offerings under the Microsoft Cloud banner. Whilst each MS Cloud solution addresses specific industry needs it also makes a concerted effort to take the existing Microsoft software products suites and add new capabilities to M365, Azure, Dynamics 365 and the Microsoft Power Platform. 

This level of investment by Microsoft in Cloud specific solutions should reduce the need for industries to invest heavily in their own solutions and instead adopt a common off the shelf SaaS solution. But will this provide competitive advantage for industries or will it make everything vanilla over time. Microsoft is planning continuous engagement with Industry leaders to ensure constant innovation so the industry Clouds do not become a one size fits all, set and forget approach. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CDO
  • Digital Supply Chain
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • Software Architecture Leads

What’s Next?

Monitor the release of these industry specific Microsoft Cloud solutions in March 2021. As with Microsoft Power Platform products, much of the pricing remains a mystery for these Cloud offerings. By all means get access to release information and hopefully a private preview from March 2021 so you can see if the industry solution really meets your business needs.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Book at an advisory session to explore how Microsoft’s Strategy impacts your organisation
  2. Pros and Cons of Going All-In With Microsoft
  3. Google Workspace for Education - From Free to Fee
  4. Oracle’s new federal government Cloud capabilities

The Latest

23 February 2021: The appetite for crowdfunding of tech startups looks to remain strong, with the fledgling accounting software vendor Thrive securing AU$3 million through the Birchal service.  

Why it’s Important

There are two lessons to take from this announcement. 

First, commercial crowdfunding is a growth area that will favour niche tech start-ups. As more success stories emerge, this has the potential to re-invigorate the Australian startup community, which has been lagging. 

Second, it highlights the likely capabilities to be introduced in SaaS-based financial solutions: namely AI-powered automation and machine-learning decision support.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFOs
  • Individual investors

What’s Next?

There is the potential for larger organisations to set aside funds to invest in startups. CIOs and CFOs may wish to watch the crowdfunding space that may provide relevant solutions to their needs, or secure services that may complement or even compete with their organisation. While IBRS acknowledges this strategy will not be suitable for the majority of organisations it works with, there is the possibility this will become more common over the next decade, especially for startups in security, Cloud management and cost control, AI-powered automation and machine learning-based decision support systems.

While Thrive is unlikely to be of interest to CIOs, being targeting squarely at SMEs and sole traders, the vendor’s goals leverage AI to automate much of the account process and provide recommendations, highlighting where development dollars will be going for many SaaS-based accounting solutions.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. CIOs seek ready-made over DIY AI solutions
  2. How can AI reimagine your business processes?
  3. Salesforce Einstein automate
  4. The evolution of SaaS offerings for legacy systems

The Latest

23 February 2021: Creatio has just taken US$68 million in funding, joining the current investment frenzy in low-code platform vendors. 

Why it’s Important

Creatio started life as a BPM vendor in 2011, and introduced its low-code platform in 2013, making it one of the better established of the new generation of low-code vendors. This round of investment is relatively small, compared recent activity in the low-code platform market. Even so, it is yet more evidence that the market for Cloud-based low-code is on the boil. These low-code platform vendors are spending their new-found cash on the following, in order of priority:

  • global market expansion: setting up new offices and hiring channel managers, which means more vendors will be entering the ANZ market more aggressively
  • buying additional elements of the ‘low-code everything’ stack: including business process mapping / management (BPM), robotic process automation (RPA), API management (APIM) and rules engines
  • buying market share with acquisitions: as we saw recently with Nintex procuring K2

The challenge for buyers of low-code platforms is that while the market is beginning to see a great deal of change and competition, their ICT investments need to be considered for the long-term - at least a decade. This is due to the need to invest the skills, processes, governance and change management to get the promised returns on whatever low-code is selected. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

When considering low-code platforms (and it is likely your organisation will have more than one, in order to meet different needs) look for the investment and development road map of the vendors. In particular, determine if the vendors have a viable strategy to develop skills and support resources locally, either directly or through channel partners. Also, explore their road map for delivering more than just eforms and workflow, but moving to acquire or develop a ‘low-code everything’ platform. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Cloud low-code vendor Webflow secures US$140 million
  2. How to succeed with eforms Part 1: Understand the need
  3. Workforce transformation part 4: Non-techies are taking over your developers’ jobs – Dealing with the fallout
  4. Aussie vendor radar: Nintex joins the mainstream business process automation vendor landscape

The Latest

01 March 2021: ServiceNow released the latest quarterly edition of its platform. 

Why it’s Important

ServiceNow provided the latest quarterly release in March 2021. In this version, called ‘Quebec’, ServiceNow has revised its support model and incorporated major changes to enable the effective upgrades from either New York, Orlando or Paris versions.

A streamlined support structure will help CIO and ITSM team on a ‘learn, prepare and upgrade’ model. 

  1. Learn: Identify your upgrade path and consider the release highlights.
  2. Prepare: Choose the tools to perform a risk and value assessment of the upgrade. Use the upgrade value calculator, the playbook to maintain platform health and a risk assessment of platform customisations.
  3. Upgrade: Maximise the upgrade value by reviewing over 78 release highlights across core functionality, ITSM workflows, AI, asset management, security, risk and cost, customer and field service workflows, employee workflows ,safe workspace, and workspace service delivery

One of the big winners is the telecommunication sector, with enhancements to the product cataloguing, order management and open API’s to assist with alarm management. A new processing engine has been created to automate alerts and incidents.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • ITSM functional Leads 
  • DevOps leads
  • Security Leads

What’s Next?

ServiceNow clients should set time to review the release notes for Quebec and consider the ‘learn, prepare and upgrade’ literature to determine whether they are ready for the upgrade. If so, plan and execute once the risks and value are clear.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. New generation IT service management tools Part 1
  2. New generation IT service management tools Part 2: Multi-Cloud management
  3. New generation IT service management tools Part 3: Multi-Cloud backup and recovery

The Latest

15 February 2021: IBM has unveiled the new Power Private Cloud (PPC) Rack solution which offers converged infrastructure with a focus on migrating legacy on-premises apps running on its POWER9/AIX systems to a Cloud-like infrastructure.

What’s Included

The PPC is effectively pre-built, pre-configured Cloud-like infrastructure for running containers. 

The PPC Rack consists of three POWER System S922 servers with 20 CPU cores, 256GB of RAM, and 3.2TB of local storage, the FlashSystem 5200, with a minimum of 9.6TB,  and twin SAN24B-6 switches with 24 Fibre Channel ports. The solution is pre-installed with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8, IBM PowerVM Enterprise Edition, IBM Cloud PowerVC Manager, Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, and Red Hat OpenShift OpenShift Container Storage (OCS).

Why it’s Important

IBM’s new offer is effectively a container-centric, Cloud-like hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) similar to that offered by HPE, Dell, Lenovo, VMware, and Nutanix. More importantly, IBM is offering this at an easy target - its existing customers with legacy POWER9/AIX/i solutions looking to migrate to a Cloud-like environment with OpenStack.

For IBM clients, it presents a low-risk opportunity for extending the life of legacy applications, while modernising the environment. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Organisations moving legacy solutions into hyperscale Cloud infrastructure (IaaS) to meet the objectives of ‘Cloud first’ strategies have found that the proposed cost savings are not always present, and operational risks due to skills shortages can emerge. The rise of next-generation hyperconverged offering Cloud-like management is a response to this challenge. 

IBM’s new offering shows how this grandfather of the industry, with a massive backlog of legacy solutions, will seek to re-secure its client’s investment in solutions, while smoothing the transition to Cloud-like architectures. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. VENDORiQ: Woolworths Selects Dell Technologies Cloud to deploy hybrid Cloud strategy
  2. Running IT-as-a-Service Part 49: The case for hybrid Cloud migration
  3. Running IT-as-a-Service Part 50: Hybrid Cloud migration – Where is the money saving?

The Latest

In late January, Google presented a detailed report entitled “Operating the cleanest cloud in the industry” to analysts. The private briefing detailed Google’s current status as a ‘net zero-carbon emitter’ (meaning it offsets any carbon emissions from its current operations with other programs). It also outlined its plans to be running entirely on carbon-free energy by 2030. 

Why it’s Important

All of the hyperscale Cloud vendors - Google, AWS, Microsoft, Oracle and Alibaba - have well-documented strategies to reduce their reliance on carbon-based fuel sources. Their strategies are all similar and simple: reduce energy consumption (with accompanying higher computing density) and development of renewable energy sources as part of data centre planning. Their efforts in this area are not just for environmental reasons, there are significant cost benefits in the immediate term to being free of fossil energy supply chains. All also see competitive advantages, not just against each other, but against on-premises data centres.

As these Cloud vendors announce not only net zero-carbon emission targets as being met, but zero carbon energy targets, the issue of sustainable ICT will once again start to emerge as a serial consideration for CIOs and data centre architects.  

IBRS and BIAP (via the IT Leaders Summits) have tracked CIOs interests in the topic of green IT. An IBRS study in 2008 had sustainable ICT being rated as “very important” for 25% of CIOs and “somewhat important” for 59% of CIOs. Since then, interest in sustainable computing has plummeted year-on-year. The IBRS / BIAP data for 2016 had 6% of CIOs rating sustainable ICT as a priority. By 2020, less than 0.5% of CIOs rated sustainable ICT as a priority.

With the growing call for action on climate change and the economic advantages the hyperscale Cloud vendors will have by moving to carbon-free energy sources, the pressure to provide sustainable ICT metrics will re-emerge.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO
  • Data centre leads
  • Infrastructure architects

What’s Next?

CIOs and infrastructure leads for organisations running on-premises services / data centres should expect a swing back to discussions of sustainability. However, unlike the 2000’s, the benchmarks for sustainability will be set by the hyperscale Cloud providers. By 2025, all Cloud vendors will start using their leadership in sustainable ICT as a selling point for policy-makers to mandate Cloud computing, or possibly even place unattainable goals for architects of on-premises data centres.

Rather than waiting, CIOs should review previous strategies for sustainable ICT, with the expectation that these will need to be updated and reinstated within the next 3-5 years.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. The Status of Green IT in Australian and New Zealand (2008)
  2. Building your Green IT strategy
  3. Think green IT: Think saving money
  4. Forget Green; think sustainable computing in 2009

The Latest

17 February 2021: At the Learning with Google global event, the Cloud giant announced a slew of new education-oriented features for its education productivity suite. Previously called G Suite for Education, the Google Workspace for Education is now being aggressively commercialised.  

What’s included

The free tier service - now called Google Workspaces for Education Fundamentals, had found strong acceptance in Australia by providing educators and students with collaborative learning capabilities. 

This free tier now has three paid tiers, each with increasing levels of security and manageability. 

  • Standard: Adds security and analytics capabilities. The new features are aimed at improving traceability and providing more nuanced access rights to information.
  • Teaching and Learning Upgrade: Adds features to better manage the classroom experience.
  • Education Plus: Combines all the features of the previous tiers, in addition to extra management capabilities. 

In addition, Google increased the baseline storage capacity for educational institutions to a whopping 100 TB, and added online-learning features to Google Meet.

Why it’s Important

Google and Microsoft are locked in a fierce battle for ‘hearts and minds’ in education. Both vendors know that student’s experiences with their productivity platforms today, will set expectations and habits for the workforce of tomorrow. This battle extends beyond the productivity suite to device, operating systems and ultimately, the entire digital workspace.

By introducing features that have been much in demand by education (especially K12) into commercial tiers, Google is fundamentally changing its stance in this war. In most State K12 and private education systems, Principals have the final say on the extent to which Google or Microsoft is used in classrooms. Often the decision is delegated down to the teachers and often both vendor’s offerings sit side by side.

Google’s evolving commercial stance means that this can no longer be the case. Given the total national cost (as ultimate schools are funded through State and Federal funds) educational policy setters now need to consider taking a side in the battle. 

Who’s impacted

  • Educational policy makers
  • CIOs
  • Educational ICT strategy leads 
  • Principals and senior leadership of higher education institutions
  • Digital workspace teams

What’s Next?

Stakeholders within education need to immediately begin the laborious task of evaluating Google’s and Microsoft’s offerings, not just from the perspective of current offerings, but from their likely future directions. While the need to rationalise to one platform today may not be a burning priority, the need will increase over the next decade.

Stakeholders outside of education should monitor the decisions of education networks, as the platforms they select will impact new staff expectations and work habits. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Dr Sweeney on the Post-COVID Lessons for Education (Video Interview)
  2. Kids, Education and The Future of Work with Dr Joseph Sweeney - Potential Psychology - 25 July 2018
  3. Higher Education Technology Future State Vision
  4. BYOD in Education: A report for Australia and New Zealand

The Latest

17 February 2021: Google Apigee announced the release of Apigee X, its latest edition of its API management solution.

Why it’s Important

IBRS has found that the topic of APIs has moved out of the boiler room to the boardroom. During a series of roundtables with CEOs, CFOs and Heads of HR in late 2019, IBRS noted that many of these executives were advocates for ‘API enabled enterprise solutions’. Upon further questioning, these non-technical executives were able to accurately describe the core concepts and purposes of APIs. Much of their knowledge had come from engagements with combined SalesForce / Mulesoft sales teams. During 2020, the demand for rapid digitisation of processes with low-code platforms further raised the profile of API usage.

Expectations for APIs are high. Meeting those expectations demands a structured approach to management of APIs, and the ability to report on their usage. 

Who’s impacted

  • CTO
  • Software development teams

What’s Next?

Consider how the topic of APIs - which many executives see as critical for evolving business functions, or even a building block of digital transform efforts, needs to be communicated within the organisation. Explore how the adoption of low-code platforms both within and tangential to the ICT group will further expand the use of APIs. If not already available, put in place a roadmap for the introduction of API management capabilities, factoring both governance issues and supporting technologies.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Architectures for Mobilised Enterprise Applications
  2. Running IT-as-a-Service Part 15: Traditional enterprise architecture is irrelevant to digital transformation
  3. IBRSiQ: Can IBRS advise on the pros and cons of best of breed combined EAM/ERP vs fully integrated ERP/EAM?
  4. The impact of Software-as-a-Service on enterprise solutions: Why you must run IT-as-a-Service
  5. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) Part 2: Planning the ERP strategy for modernisation
  6. How to succeed with eforms Part 4: Selection framework
  7. Making the case for enterprise architecture

The Latest

10 February 2021: Competition for highly secure hyperscale Cloud capabilities for government services has been boosted with Oracle joining forces with Australian Data Centres (ADC) to provide Canberra-based services. Oracle now has three Australian regions for managed Cloud, with Sydney and Melbourne.

Why it’s Important

Oracle’s Cloud service is highly attractive for organisations looking for a simpler Cloud transformation journey for critical, Oracle-based solutions.

Last year, Oracle’s SaaS solutions in the areas of security, human services, and health were certified as offering PROTECTED data capabilities. ADC has a strong presence in the Australia government, already running sensitive workloads and being connected to the secure Intra-Government Communications Network (ICON). By leveraging ADC’s footprint in Canberra, Oracle is now able to meet the second part of the trust equation: the physical safety of the environment.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Cloud migration teams

What’s Next?

Oracle now joins Microsoft in offering a specialised, highly secure Cloud capability for government agencies in Canberra. Agencies looking to quickly adopt a Cloud first strategy now have clear Microsoft and Oracle trajectories that include a physical presence, while AWS approaches the PROTECTED Cloud stance solely through a service-by-service model. When considering Cloud migration, agencies should review the extent of Oracle in their ICT architecture and factor this into the Cloud platform (or platforms) to be selected. 

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

16 February 2021: Veeam continues to expand its footprint across the hyperscale Cloud vendors with the introduction of Veeam Backup for Google Cloud Platform. This follows its December 2020 announcement when Veeam announced the general availability of AWS v3 Backup and Azure v4 Backup. As a result, Veeam now provides backup and recover capabilities across - and just as importantly between - the three major hyperscale Cloud vendors. 

Why it’s Important

During a briefing with IBRS, Veeam detailed its strong growth in the Asia Pacific region. It also discussed its strategy for providing backup and recovery capabilities over the major hyperscale Cloud services: Azure, AWS and Google. The demand for Cloud backup and recovery is growing with greater recognition organisations adopting hybrid Cloud (the most likely future state for many organisations) demands more consistent and consolidated approaches to management - including backup and migration of data between Clouds. VMWare is seeing growth in its hybrid Cloud management capabilities as well, and the synergy between Veeam and VMWare productions is no coincidence.  

Who’s Impacted

  • Cloud architects
  • Business continuity teams

What’s Next?

Backing up Cloud resources appears to be a simple process. Taken on as service-by-service, this might be true. However, in reality the backup becomes increasingly challenging. As more and more applications are made up of a myriad of components, this leads to a rapidly evolving ecosystem of solutions. Hence, data recovery and restoration are also getting more complex. This is further exacerbated by the growing adoption of hybrid Cloud. 

Organisations need to explore backup and recovery based on not only current state Cloud architecture, but possible migration between Cloud services and where different integrated applications reside on different Cloud platforms.

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

2 February 2021: Google has announced general availability of Dialogflow CX, it’s virtual agent (chatbot) technology for call centres.  The service is a platform to create and deploy virtual agents for public-facing customer services. Google has embraced low-code concepts to allow for rapid development of such virtual agents with a visual builder. The platform also allows for switching between conversational ‘contexts’, which allows for greater flexibility in how the agents can converse with people that have multiple, simultaneous customer service issues.

Why it’s Important

While virtual agents are relatively easy to develop over time, two key challenges have remained: 

  1. the ability to allow non-technical, customer service specialists to be directly involved in the creation and continual evolution of the virtual agents
  2. the capability of virtual agents to correctly react to humans’ non-linier conversational patterns.

Google’s Dialogflow CX has adopted aspects of low-code development to address the first challenge. The platform offers a visual builder and the way conversations are developed (contexts) can be described as ‘program by example’. While there are third-party virtual agent platforms that further simplify the development of agent workflows (many of which build on top of Dialogflow), the Google approach is proving sufficient for non-technical specialists to get heavily involved in the development and fine-tuning of virtual agents

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

If not already in place, organisations should establish a group of technical and non-technical staff to explore where and how virtual agents can be used. Do not attempt a big bang approach: keep expectations small, be experimental and iterative. Leverage low-code ‘chatbot builder’ tools to simplify the creation of virtual agent workflows, while leveraging available hyperscale cloud platforms for the back end of the agents. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Chatbots Part 1: Start creating capabilities with a super-low-cost experiment
  2. Virtual Service Desk Agent Critical Success Factors
  3. SNAPSHOT: The Chatbot Mantra: Experimental, experiential and iterative
  4. New generation IT service management tools Part 1
  5. Artificial intelligence Part 3: Preparing IT organisations for artificial intelligence deployment
  6. VENDORiQ: Tribal Sage chatbot

The Latest

20 January 2021: In its 2020 Q4 quarterly earnings report, Citrix announced it is buying Wrike, a Cloud-based, collaborative project management service, for US$2.25 billion.

Why it’s Important

The market for collaborative workforce management tools has grown sharply in 2020. Prior to the pandemic, products such as Write were generally procured by business stakeholders. The ICT group’s ability to mandate a specific collaborative workforce management tool was limited due to the ease of acquiring such tools, strong user preferences based on past experiences with tools and waves of vendor’s branding activities. As a result, most organisations have a myriad of collaborator workforce management tools, including: Wrike, Monday, Trello, Microsoft Project, Microsoft Planner, Plutio and others. 

However, as outlined in IBRS’s whiteboard session on Disruptive Collaboration, this situation is unsustainable. These Cloud-based tools can not only create pockets of documents and sensitive information, but also act as barriers for different teams to work together when they each have different tools. 

Citrix’s acquisition of Wrike is a sign that the market for such tools may be starting to consolidate.

However, for existing Citrix customers and for Wrike customers, the acquisition will have little direct impact at this time.

Who’s impacted

  • Project managers
  • Business stakeholders involved with workforce management / project delivery

What’s Next?

  • ICT groups should seek out which workforce collaboration tools are in use across the organisation. Longer term, plans should be in place to begin limiting the number of tools in an effort to improve information management and compliance, collaboration between disparate teams and reduce the security footprint.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Disruptive Collaboration (whiteboard session)

The Latest

27 January 2020: Sitecore, which offers a web content management and online customer experience platform, announced a US$1.2 billion investment plan to grow its global footprint. 

Why it’s Important

In the market for online customer experience, Sitecore is the key rival to Adobe. While Sitecore does not provide the breadth of digital design services that Adobe offers, its web content and digital marketing capabilities are competitive. This US$1.2 billion investment plan signals Sitecore’s desire to take advantage of the increased demand for digital service delivery in the wake of the pandemic. 

Sitecore’s offering is price-competitive against Adobe, though still at the high-end of the market. However, it does need to boost its support network and partners if it wishes to encroach on Adobe, while also defending against mid-tier players and modern CRMs such as Salesforce and Netsuite ecommerce and customer service offerings. 

Who’s impacted

  • CMO
  • Sales / Marketing teams

What’s Next?

While Sitecore is well-known in Australia and the Asia Pacific / Japan region, strengthening its implementation partners and support network will go a long way to positioning it against Adobe. IBRS has noted that some Australian Sitecore clients have expressed frustration with the availability of local Sitecore skills and sought US-based contractors to fill the gaps. Investment in building an international footprint may help alleviate local skills shortages.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. CRM modernisation Part 1: Strategy, planning & selection
  2. CRM modernisation Part 2B: Creating a customer experience strategy
  3. Positive customer experiences must lead digital transformation

The Latest 

19 January 2021: Salesforce has added a customer loyalty management module to its Customer 365 Platform. The new module allows organisations to define and deploy programs for incentives and rewards, linked to customer data held within the core Salesforce and customer experience platform.

Why it’s Important

During the pandemic and related lockdowns, digital service delivery has surged. More significantly, as consumers adopted more online service delivery, they also tried out new brands. McKinsey estimates that 80% of US consumers stuck with their new channels, with digital customer loyalty programs being a significant force in this trend.  

Who’s impacted

  • CMO
  • Sales executives
  • E-commerce teams

What’s Next?

While data for Australian consumers' adoption of digital channels and digital loyalty programs is not readily available, anecdotal evidence from discussions with IBRS clients and from well established online retailers such as Kogan and Woolworths, suggests Australia has also seen a similar pattern to that of North America, though perhaps not as pronounced.  

Loyalty programs will likely become a key differentiating factor for brands to maintain repeat business as more (niche) Australian retailers take up digital channels to meet their client demands. Organisations should begin to explore how digital loyalty programs can:

  • drive repeat and regular online engagement 
  • build brand awareness and affiliation, and 
  • increase life-time-value measures.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. CRM modernisation Part 1: Strategy, planning & selection
  2. CRM modernisation Part 2B: Creating a customer experience strategy
  3. Positive customer experiences must lead digital transformation

The Latest

27 January 2021:  M-Files, which provides a document and content management solution, has raised US$80 to develop an AI to analyse, categorise and manage enterprise information. 

Why it’s Important

There are two forces driving the destruction of traditional electronic documents and records management (EDRMS) solutions: 

  • collaboration, which breaks legacy information lifecycles, and
  • the explosion of information types and stores, which hinders the ability to have a single repository of digital records

When combined, it becomes clear that legacy EDRMS solutions are not only incapable of providing the flexibility needed to manage enterprise information is a way that enables new ways of working, but also cannot address the ‘mess’ (really, complexity) of these work practices.

Leading EDRMS vendors are looking to leverage AI to address this ‘mess’ by:

  • analysing and automatically applying meta-data / classifications to information
  • determining which information policies need to apply to content, and enforcing such policies automatically
  • seeking out information across an organisation for the purposes of applying information lifecycle policies, e-discovery and security. 

By investing in AI, M-Files is ensuring it remains relevant and able to compete in the future of enterprise content management. 

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Information Managers

What’s Next?

While legacy products such as TRIM (now Micro Focus Content Manager) remain in place and are being supplemented by add-on solutions (eg. Micro Focus Control Point), the future will be products with AI taking centre stage within the core information management functionality. 

Organisations considering their future information management strategies must factor the disruptive impact of collaboration, including the Office 365 platform, and the ever growing amount, variety and location of information. EDRMS solutions that feature AI as a core component should be short-listed.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Disruptive Collaboration - Whiteboard Session
  2. Making work, work better: digitisation, digital workflow, & the new normal
  3. Teams Governance: Emerging better practices
  4. Planning your next generation Office Suite? Consider Records Management
  5. Records management discipline must not be ignored during digital transformation

The Latest

15 January 2021: Samsung released a set of three Galaxy S series smartphones, aimed at the consumer market. All models support 5G. The high-end model - the Galaxy S21 Ultra - has features that rival its flagship executive-level smartphone, the Galaxy Note. In addition, the announcement stressed Samsung’s workplace features:

  • Wireless DeX for using smartphone as desktop
  • Office 365 integration
  • Knox Suite for device management and end-point security.

Why it’s Important

Despite the market for smartphones declining sharply in 2020 (a drop of 16 percent), Samsung gained around 5% market share. The decline in the market is due to consumers retaining their smartphones for longer periods of time due to the increasing costs of premier devices.  

Samsung’s efforts to sell into enterprises - blending consumer and enterprise features - are proving effective in shoring up its strength against rivals. The vendor has been making inroads into the enterprise space with both consumer-grade devices and semi-ruggedised devices. The S21 series of devices support Samsung’s enterprise security features, DeX and the Knox (as well as third-party) end-point management services. 

The devices also include new cameras that make them attractive for field-based asset management activities. The S21 Ultra is a large format device that supports pen-input (via an add-on pen and case) positioning it against Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note.

Who’s impacted

  • Field support teams
  • Telecoms / comms teams
  • Workforce transformation strategists
  • End-point / security teams

What’s Next?

While Samsung’s DeX feature is interesting, IBRS has seen very few organisations launching DeX desktop experiences from smartphones. For now, this remains an ‘experimental’ idea, limited to tech. However, launching DeX desktop experiences from tablets is growing in popularity.

Samsung is betting heavily on 5G, especially in regard to new services on its devices. The new cameras can produce not only high-resolution images, but high-colour sensitivity (12-bit) RAW images and depth of field information, which open up new applications for asset management, field maintenance, and design. Any files that leverage these camera capabilities will be large. 5G networks will make such files viable in field applications.

From recent client research, IBRS notes that organisations using premium consumer-grade devices (namely Apple and Samsung) for field force tasks overestimate the battery life of these devices, and as a result, the replacement cycle needed. When such devices are used for ‘typical’ consumer use, batteries last for 3-4 years before their capacity diminishes to a point where they are problematic. In contrast, such devices used for field-forces result in batteries decaying within 2 to 2 ½  years. Therefore, buyers of enterprise smartphone devices need to monitor device health, adjust their device procurement lifecycles - and budgets - accordingly.

Samsung’s new S21 range supports enterprise features and cameras that make them attractive for field use. The range of price points for the S21 series make them attractive against their rival in enterprise smartphones.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Redefining what ruggedised means
  2. Keeping your mobile device strategies up to date

The Latest

11 January 2021: IBRS interviewed low-code vendor Kintone, exploring its unique capabilities. The Japanese company is looking to expand its presence in the Australian market through traditional channels and some unexpected partners.

Why it’s Important

As detailed in the ‘VENDORiQ: Cloud low-code vendor Webflow secures US$140 million’, the low-code market is growing rapidly.  Kintone Australia is a subsidiary of Cybozu, one of Japan’s largest software companies, which was founded in 1997. The firm’s platform focuses as much on collaboration around digitised processes as it does on the development of applications - with every process having ‘conversational threads’. The firm’s clients in Australia are predominantly Japanese firms with local operations.

Who’s impacted?

  • Development team leads
  • Workforce transformation leads

What’s Next?

Kintone addresses the low to mid-range of the IBRS spectrum of services for eforms and low-code environments. It is suited for less-technical staff (including business analysts) to create structured processes that include collaboration. 

Kintone’s approach is worth noting, since many of the processes digitised by low-code platforms are replacing ad-hoc, messy processes that are often managed with manual activities and collaboration. There is an active evolution from manual, collaborative processes to digitised processes.

Kintone has a stable financial base via its strength in the Japanese market. Skills, training and support for Kintone are comparatively weak in the domestic market. However, Kintone is looking to partner with IT services organisations and partners with strengths in providing printing and digitisation technologies. 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. How to succeed with eforms Part 1: Understand the need.
  2. Workforce transformation part 4: Non-techies are taking over your developers’ jobs – Dealing with the fallout
  3. Aussie vendor radar: Nintex joins the mainstream business process automation vendor landscape
  4. VENDORiQ: Cloud low-code vendor Webflow secures US$140 million

The Latest

14 January 2021: IBRS interviewed Appian, a low-code vendor that specialises in providing business analysts and developers with a platform to deliver custom enterprise applications. The vendor has seen strong growth in the later half of 2020 due to organisations needing to quickly develop new applications to address lockdowns and new digital service delivery demands. The vendor also detailed how it is leveraging machine learning to guide users through the development of applications. The use of machine learning to recommend low-code application designs and workflows is a key differentiator for Appian.

Why it’s Important

As detailed in the 'VENDORiQ: Cloud low-code vendor Webflow secures $140 million', the low-code market is growing rapidly. Appian is a major global vendor in the low-code market. It positions itself above the non-technical / citizen-developer tools such as Forms.IO, but below the specialised development team platforms such as OutSystems. Appian’s ‘sweet spot’ is teams of business stakeholders working with business analysts and developers to jointly prototype and then put into production applications. 

Appian has been expanding the use of machine learning algorithms to application design. During application development, the algorithms will make recommendations on fields that are needed on forms, workflow steps, approval processes, etc.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

When selecting a low-code platform, organisations should be very clear about who the stakeholders are, who will use the platform, the project management model for application development and the applications to be developed.  

In the case of Appian, there is clearly a close alignment with Agile business methodologies, which extend beyond the ICT group as outlined in the 'IBRS Snapshot: Agile Service Spectrum'.

The use of AI during the development applications is a feature more than a gimmick. This ‘guided’ approach to design not only speeds up application development, but by analysing a large body of existing applications and drawing inferences based on usage and effectiveness, it helps ensure that ‘best practices’ in workflows are not overlooked.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. How to succeed with eforms Part 1: Understand the need.
  2. Workforce transformation part 4: Non-techies are taking over your developers’ jobs – Dealing with the fallout
  3. Aussie vendor radar: Nintex joins the mainstream business process automation vendor landscape
  4. VENDORiQ: Cloud low-code vendor Webflow secures US$140 million

The Latest

12 January 2021: Webflow, a Cloud-based low-code vendor, has secured US$140 in investment. The new round of investment values the vendor at US$2.1 billion. 

Why it’s Important

The low-code market exploded over the last year. Newer entrants, such as Webflow (founded in 2012), are attracting significant venture capital. Just 17 months ago, Webflow took $72 million investments which valued the company at $400 million. The new investments thrust the vendor into unicorn status. At the same time, well-established low-code vendors such as Nintex and Microsoft are consolidating and expanding their portfolios to include robotic process automation, process modelling and integration tools.

The market for low-code is not yet at the peak of its feverish growth, but IBRS cautions that current rates of investment and hype are unsustainable. There will be turmoil as the mark begins to consolidate, likely in 2023 to 2026.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Workforce transformation leads

What’s Next?

Low-code development is not a new concept. However, the uptake of Cloud platforms, common data models, robot process automation and business modelling are extending the notion of low-code development from simple ‘e-forms’ tools to services that enable enterprise-grade process digitisation.  

The pandemic and working from home has supercharged the need for process digitisation, and low-code vendors are all seeing strong sales growth. 

Unfortunately, the term ‘low-code’ is starting to become meaningless, as vendors that provide very different application development tools and platforms attach the term to their products.  IBRS recommends organisations view ‘low code’ as a broad term that covers a spectrum of capabilities, as detailed in 'How to succeed with eforms Part 1: Understand the need'. It is likely that most organisations will need to acquire two low-code products to cover different parts of this spectrum: one product aimed at non-technical staff for simple e-forms, and another product to increase the agility of pro-developers in the ICT group.

Consider the financial backing and stability of a vendor when selecting low-code tools, as market consolidation is on the horizon. You do not wish to be developing business processes on a platform they will outlive.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. How to succeed with eforms Part 1: Understand the need.
  2. Workforce transformation part 4: Non-techies are taking over your developers’ jobs – Dealing with the fallout
  3. Aussie vendor radar: Nintex joins the mainstream business process automation vendor landscape
  4. IBRSiQ: Can IBRS assist in identifying a mobility platform other than Xalt?

The latest

14 December 2020: FireEye announced it had been breached. An extremely comprehensive overview is available from FireEye. This blog post includes timelines, technical recommendations, and IoCs (indicators of compromise). 

FireEye, a company that exists to track and thwart advanced and persistent adversaries, was itself compromised by an advanced and persistent adversary. FireEye was compromised through a product from SolarWinds. 

What now?

There are four main areas worth exploring. 

1) Check your SolarWinds instance(s) 

The FireEye blog post includes instructions for what to look for. Good asset management will be useful in this verification process. One CISO noted they found an unmaintained SolarWinds instance in one of their OT environments. 

A core lesson that many security executives drew from the MobileIron vulnerability (CVE-2020-15505) was that anything an organisation has that is internet facing needs to consistently receive critical patches quickly, even out of cycle. 

This will require a process to identify critical patches, but for the process to actually be executed. Citrix, VPNs, staff home routers (see FF no.02), and now MDMs have all been leveraged this year for compromise. Everything is up for grabs, so logically, anything internet facing needs to be aggressively maintained. This relates to patching but also asset management. 

Further, it's an opportunity to review privilege. Just because a product can do something, doesn't mean it should. Does SolarWinds really need to talk to the Internet? There are technical controls like host firewalls and properly profiled application allow-listing that will significantly frustrate an adversary in this scenario. It’s a great example where a zero trust architecture would make a big difference.

2) Organised crime 

The ACSC has noted that once a vulnerability is disclosed, threat actors can develop an exploit within 48 hours. We've seen this timeline achieved this year, with both F5 and MobileIron vulnerabilities. Now that the advanced and persistent actor has been ejected from FireEye (and hopefully from SolarWinds) it could be a matter of time before organised crime tries to exploit unpatched SolarWinds instances. 

FireEye will recover, and have an even better story to tell. At this early stage it seems that FireEye was the last target compromised by this adversary, and probably compromised for the shortest duration before the adversary was detected and ejected. It sounds like FireEye was targeted as a source for further intel on government agencies.  

I've got no evidence for this, but I wouldn't be surprised if FireEye was the last, trophy, "let's see if we can do this" target. 

3) Supply chain

The critical point about FireEye being breached, is it points to what industry has been saying for years - "it's not if, it's when". What matters after bang (or 'right of bang'), is how the organisation responds and FireEye is giving a master class on how to respond. But FireEye is only able to do this on the back of years of refining their art. 

However, going left of bang will encourage technology and security executives to look at their supply chain. What other products have access to systems, data and privileges that would be a nightmare if you did not have sole occupancy?

What other software has pervasive access like SolarWinds? What protocols are my service providers following when they use tools like SolarWinds on my environment? We cannot boil the ocean but, as Kevin Mandia said at a CISO Lens gathering in 2016, "protect most what matters most". 

4) Cyber insurance

I've not heard anyone talking about cyber insurance regarding this whole hostile campaign. It seems inevitable that public attribution will end up pointing to a particular nation. If this is the case, many insurers will likely point to exclusion clauses that indemnify the insurer from costs incurred through nation-state activity.

If you have cyber insurance, it may be worth getting a position from your insurer on whether you would have been able to make a claim against your policy if your organisation had been compromised.

The Latest

8 Dec 2020: AWS has announced plans to open a second region in Australia in the second half of 2022. This venture will consist of three availability zones supporting hundreds of thousands of AWS customers. This promotes lower latency, enhanced fault tolerance, and resiliency for critical Cloud workloads. 

Why it’s Important

This is not a competitive response to Microsoft Azure, which already has several data centres across Australia. Instead, it is the result of Amazon's continuing growth in the market. AWS needs to build significant additional domestic capacity to meet expected demand up to 2025. Hence, doing so in a new location provides AWS an additional benefit with on-shore multi-zone resilience. 

A new AWS region in Melbourne will also fuel different organisation innovative efforts. Government, private organisations, and the education sector will continue to transform their research and development endeavours that aim to protect, prioritise and benefit people across the country.

Who’s Impacted

  • Cloud architects
  • Cloud engineers

What’s Next?

In practical terms, this move has little direct impact on most organisations’ Cloud strategies. However, it does provide an additional option for resilience for organisations that need to keep all data on-shore. 

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

2 December 2020: Salesforce introduces Hyperforce. This move is a re-architecture of Salesforce’s design to continually support its global customer base. It has B2B and B2C performance scalability, built-in security, local data storage, and backward compatibility.  

Hyperforce allows Salesforce solutions to be run on a hyper scale Cloud service based on the client’s choice. These solutions include:

  • Sales Cloud
  • Service Cloud
  • Community Cloud
  • Chatter
  • Lightning Platform (including Force.com)
  • Site.com, Database.com
  • Einstein Analytics (including Einstein Discovery)
  • Messaging
  • Financial Services Cloud
  • Health Cloud, Sustainability Cloud
  • Consumer Goods Cloud
  • Manufacturing Cloud
  • Service Cloud Voice
  • Salesforce CPQ and Salesforce Billing
  • Customer 360 Audiences

Why it’s Important

Being able to move a SaaS solution to the Cloud based on client's preference, is a radical departure from convention for most major SaaS vendors. It is likely to be followed by other SaaS solution vendors, though Oracle’s close ties with Netsuite and Microsoft Dynamics with Azure, suggest Salesforce’s two main rivals will not be following this strategy any time soon.

This is a long-overdue overhaul for the entire Salesforce architecture as it needs to offer both architectural and commercial elasticity to aid customer’s global digital transformation.

It solves data sovereignty issues and provides all the advantages of using public Cloud resources. It also reduces implementation time despite being an enhanced architecture designed from the ground up to help customers deliver workloads to the public Cloud of choice.

Who’s Impacted

  • CIOs
  • CTOs
  • CRM leaders
  • Salesforce developers

What’s Next?

While the Hyperforce announcement is welcoming, there are still loopholes in the horizon. The solution is not available for on-prem implementations of the major Cloud vendors. Meaning, Hyperforce is not a path to an on-prem or hybrid Cloud solution.

For Australian organisations that aim to gain more control over how Salesforce stores information, either for compliance or cost control, to bring it closer to other Cloud services, Hyperforce is worth considering. It offers greater flexibility but also comes with a greater need for managing resources and costs. 

Before making any decision on moving to Hyperforce, Salesforce clients should have clear understanding of the following migration aspects:

  • Who will do the migration (i.e. the client or Salesforce)?
  • Who will deal with the public IaaS provider on a daily basis?
  • How will the current service cost be impacted?
  • Who will be responsible for the service management of public IaaS including the service desk?
  • What are the new risks that should be identified and mitigated?
  • Are there any changes to the current backup arrangements?
  • Are there any changes to the disaster recovery and business continuity arrangements?
  • How will the current change management arrangements change?
  • How the exit fees might change?

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

8 Dec 2020: Veeam announced the general availability of AWS v3 Backup. This is a timely endeavour with the continuous growth of multi-faceted Cloud apps built in AWS that necessitates backup and disaster recovery solutions.

Veeam offers automated backup and disaster recovery solutions that provide additional protection and management capabilities for Amazon EC2 and Amazon RDS. There are two options to consider:

  • Veeam Backup for AWS - protects data housed on AWS using its standalone AWS backup and recovery solution.
  • Veeam Backup & Replication™ - safeguards and consolidates AWS backup and recovery with another Cloud, virtual or physical, across different Cloud platforms with unlimited data portability. 

Why it’s Important

Cloud backups are no longer an option. Competition now requires additional redundancy and security for businesses. This ensures that their important data is available and retrievable if and when disasters strike.

Backing up Cloud resources appears to be a simple process. Taken on as service-by-service, this might be true. However, in reality the backup becomes increasingly challenging. As more and more applications are made up of a myriad of components, this leads to a rapidly evolving ecosystem of solutions. Hence, data recovery and restoration are also getting more complex.

Who’s Impacted

  • Cloud architects
  • Business continuity teams

What’s Next?

Tech management should explore which Cloud services, both IaaS and SaaS, need to be backed up. Establish strategies and choose the appropriate interplay between these services. For a growing Cloud usage or a forecast usage growth, evaluate how the services can be backed up reliably. This is possible through knowing beforehand the important parts that may be reconstructed into a recovered state if needed. 

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

2 December 2020: Salesforce Einstein is being extended into the Mulesoft automation and data integration platform. The newly announced Flow Orchestrator enabled non-technical staff to transform complex processes into industry-relevant events. The new AI-assisted MuleSoft Composer for Salesforce will allow an organisation to integrate data from multiple systems, including third-party solutions.

Why it’s Important

AI enables business process automation as a key technology enabler that favours organisations with a Cloud-first architecture. Salesforce will leverage its experience and connections with selling to organisation’s non-IT executives to secure a strong ‘brand leadership’ position in this space.

Who’s Impacted

  • CIOs
  • CTOs
  • CRM Leaders

What’s Next?

In mid-2019, IBRS noted a significant upswing in interest in Mulesoft and integration technologies more broadly from the non-ICT board-level executives. In particular, COOs and CFOs expressed strong interest in, and awareness of, process automation through APIs.  

Digging deeper, IBRS finds that Salesforce account teams, who are well-known for bypassing the CIO and targeting senior executive stakeholders, are also bringing Mulesoft into the business conversation. Also, Microsoft is expected to double-down on AI-enabled business process automation with the PowerPlatform. 

As a result, the addition of Salesforce Einstein AI into the discussion of automation and integration is expected to land very well with COOs and CFOs. 

CIOs need to be ready to have sophisticated discussions with these two roles regarding the potential for AI in process automation. Expectations will be high. Understanding the possible challenges of implementing such a system takes careful consideration. CIOs should be ready to build a business case for AI-enabled business process automation.

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

2 December 2020: DXC Technology is partnering with Microsoft to create modern workplace experience. This effort is aimed at addressing the demand by enterprises to improve workplace agility, which has come into sharp relief during the pandemic.

Why it’s Important

This announcement clearly shows Microsoft’s strategy for securing not just segments of the enterprise architecture of the future but the lion’s share. 

Enterprise companies are driving the business transformation to enhance collaboration, increase mobility, and improve customer engagements. This announcement comes as competition such as Salesforce heats up through several acquisitions, and Microsoft’s long-time rival, Oracle, makes inroads into new models of SaaS.

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO / CTO
  • Enterprise software architecture team

What’s Next?

Microsoft, like all vendors, has a strategy to extract ever more revenue from its clients.  However, Microsoft's unique position in the market gives it huge power. Understanding how Microsoft will evolve its services and licensing models is essential for keeping budgets in control.

As explored in this week’s Salesforce Slack announcement, IBRS sees that one option for the future digital workplace architecture is based on five platforms.

  1. A platform consisting of central systems of record (e.g., CRM, ERP, etc.) in the Cloud or Cloud-like environments
  2. An integration platform that surrounds the mentioned platforms 
  3. A one (or likely two) low-code platform(s) 
  4. A platform that provides the needed collaboration tools  
  5. A federated information management platform.

Indeed, Salesforce is buying the platforms it needs and integrating them then, leveraging its strength in selling it to both technical and non-technical executives. On the other hand, Microsoft is starting from a position of technical strength and deep connection with the systems integrators. 

This is evident with the DXC agreement, which is a classic strategy. Leveraging larger SIs as a strategy to deliver a future digital workplace architecture, with Microsoft 365 and Teams (collaboration), Dynamics 365 (core systems), Power Platform (low code and automation), and Power BI (business intelligence).  

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

2 Dec 2020: Salesforce Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire Slack. The forthcoming merger of Salesforce and Slack provides an avenue for a new operating system of how e-commerce organisations and companies grow and succeed in the digital space. The merger is anticipated to close in the second quarter of Salesforce’s fiscal year 2022. 

Why it’s Important

Salesforce has struggled to shore up offerings in the collaborative side of the business, which will evolve to be an important part of modern CRMs and ERPs, along with low code dev and integration for process automation and business intelligence tools for analytics. The planning acquisition of Slack rounds out Salesforce’s ‘magic four’ components of a modern digital workplace. 

The Slack acquisition aims at heading off increasingly strong competition from Microsoft’s Dynamics, the Power Platform, Power BI, and Teams.

Who’s Impacted

  • CIOs
  • CFOs
  • COOs

What’s Next?

Consider your future digital workplace architecture based on these five high-level platforms: 

  • A platform consisting of central systems of record (e.g., CRM, ERP, etc.) in the Cloud or Cloud-like environments
  • An integration platform that surrounds the mentioned platforms 
  • A one (or likely two) low-code platform(s) 
  • A platform that provides the needed collaboration tools  
  • A federated information management platform 

Though these five platforms need not all come from the same vendor, nor even be made up of a single vendor’s solutions, Microsoft, Salesforce, and little-known Zoho are all vying for the entire set. The competition for the overall ‘Enterprise Digital DNA’ will heat up significantly through to 2025.  

IBRS expects Salesforce and possibly Microsoft to make new investments in information management platforms from 2021 to 2022. There will be rapid expansion, followed by feverish consolidation of the low code platform market.

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

5 December 2020: Australian education solution vendor Tribal, has upgraded its digital learning design chatbot. The move is illustrative of how chatbots can be leveraged to aid complex tasks - in this case, learning content, delivery, and leaner coaching.

Why it’s Important

Chatbots are not unique to Tribal. However, Tribal is demonstrating how such agents can deliver new capabilities into the LMS market, which can be glacial in the adoption of innovation. The Tribal chatbot is aimed at improving knowledge transfer inside an organisation. It assists domain experts to build learning content and share knowledge by recommending approaches to online training.

Who’s Impacted

  • CIO / CTO
  • Service delivery teams 

What’s Next?

Like most forms of AI, chatbots will make their way into organisations through their addition to existing software solutions, either via paid upgrades or as part of the ongoing improvements of SaaS solutions. Chatbots will increasingly act in an advisory manner or as a guide for complex processes inherent in the vendors’ solutions. 

As a result of this trend, staff will be presented with a growing number of chatbots embedded in different vendor’s solutions, each serving a specific purpose. This itself will present a new challenge for digital maturity and staff satisfaction.

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

10 Nov 2020: CyberArk launches an AI-based Cloud entitlements manager. The solution combines principles of ‘least privilege’ and ‘zero trust’ to reduce risks of poorly configured access privileges for the major hyperscale Cloud platforms. CyberArk uses AI to determine the context and intent, which in turn provides risk assessment and recommendations for appropriate actions, and automation of remediation. 

Why it’s Important

Poorly configured privileges to Cloud solutions - in particular storage services - is a major cause of data breach. It is a significant risk for all organisations that leverage Cloud resources. Reviewing and maintaining privileges over resources is problematic, even with high levels of automation, because automation will only impact known entities in the environment, and can only address well-defined use cases. 

Who’s Impacted

  • CISO
  • Cloud Teams

What’s Next?

The use of Machine Learning algorithms to interrogate Cloud services and identify and remediate risks is a welcome addition to Cloud security management. While the efficacy of the CyberArk solution is not yet known, IBRS anticipates that this approach will be beneficial and at least provide an additional ‘check’ over sprawling Cloud environments.

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

Woolworths has selected Dell Technologies Cloud to support its private Cloud infrastructure over two data centres. The Dell offering provides Woolworths with a consistent, managed operating environment across public and private Clouds.

Why it’s Important

The future of enterprise computing will be hybrid Cloud because hyperscale Cloud services are not the most cost effective environment for every application or use case. However, the benefits of Cloud can be brought into on-premises data centres through adoption of new architectures, including new management services, containers and virtualisation, hyperconverged systems and software-defined infrastructure. Dell’s approach wraps these technologies into a commercial model that mimics hyperscale Cloud vendors: consumption-based and elastic. It is a model worth watching.

Who’s Impacted

  • Enterprise architects
  • Cloud migration leads
  • Data centre managers

What’s Next?

Dell Technologies Cloud is as much a contractual innovation as it is a set of technologies. Like Oracle Cloud, it evolves traditional ICT operational models to embrace aspects of hyperscale Cloud, while recognising the necessity of on-premises infrastructure. This is one approach that may, if appropriately provisioned and supported locally, see strong growth among larger enterprises and those needing to maintain their own data centres, while still taking advantage of the benefits of Cloud computing.

Related IBRS Advisory

The Latest

CommsChoice Group has announced expanded Centre functionality for Microsoft Teams Direct Routing. The new service allows companies to implement a call centre natively within the Teams environment, leveraging Direct Routing.

Why it’s Important

Many Australian organisations - in particular public sector and local government - are in the process of re-architecting customer engagement from traditional ‘centralised call centre’ models to multichannel and then to omnichannel. The introduction of collaborative telephony solutions with rich API support, such as Teams, brings the possibilities of accelerating the move to true omnichannel services. Direct Routing allows contact centre agents to make and receive calls within Microsoft Teams, while also engaging in mixed mode communications, such as chat (potentially assisted by chat bots) and video meetings.

Who’s Impacted

  • Call centre managers and architects
  • Sales managers
  • Telephony teams
  • Office365 teams

What’s Next?

While CommsChoice is not the only vendor offering call centre integration with Teams, its announcement shows the likely future of calls centre architecture: a blend of collaborative tools and telephony, linked to internal and external-facing service channels. However, IBRS cautions organisations against rushing to adopt omnichannel call centre architectures. We have noted that the most successful organisations take a measured, phased approach, moving first to a multichannel operating model and only then to omnichannel. Many organisations have departmental processes that struggle to support true omnichannel. Staging through a multichannel model first allows organisations to identify and address the internal departmental silos before making the biggest step to omnichannel.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Omnichannel Customer Service must be more than Multichannel done properly
  2. Improve the customer experience within a digitally transformed world
  3. Modern telephony: Considerations

The Latest

19 Nov 2020: During its annual summit, Snowflake announces a series of new capabilities: a development environment called Snowpark, support for unstructured media, row-level security for improved data governance and a data market.

Why it’s Important

Of Snowflake’s recent announcements, Snowpark clearly reveals the vendor’s strategy to leverage its Cloud analytics platform to enable the development of data-intensive applications. Snowpark allows developers to write applications in their preferred languages to access information in the Snowflake data platform.

This represents an inversion of how business intelligence / analytics teams have traditionally viewed the role of a data warehouse. The rise of data warehouses was driven by limitations in computing performance: heavy analytical workloads were shifted to a dedicated platform so that application performance would not be impacted by limits of database, storage and compute power. With Cloud-native data platform architectures that remove these limitations, it is now possible to leverage the data warehouse (or at least, the analogue of what the data warehouse has become) to service applications.

Who’s Impacted

Development teams
Business intelligence / analytics architects

What’s Next?

Snowflake's strategy is evidence of a seismic shift in data analytics architecture. Along with Domo, AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google and other Cloud-based data platforms that take advantage of highly scalable, federated architectures, Snowflake is empowering a flip in how data can be leveraged. To take advantage of this flip, organisations should rethink the structure and roles within BI / analytics teams. IBRS has noted that many organisations continue to invest heavily in building their BI / analytics architecture with individual best-of-breed solutions (storage, databases, warehouse, analytics tools, etc), while placing less focus on the data scientists and business domain experts. With access to elastic Cloud platforms, organisations can reverse this focus - putting the business specialists and data scientists in the lead. 

Related IBRS Advisory
Workforce transformation: The four operating models of business intelligence
Key lessons from the executive roundtable on data, analytics and business value

The Latest

To cater for organisations with requirements to keep data in-country, VMware has opened a Sydney based Point of Presence (PoP) for Carbon Black Cloud in the AWS Sydney data centre. Carbon Black Cloud offers end-point security, which provides behaviour based analysis of devices. 

Why it’s Important

The market for end-point security based on behavioural analytics is growing quickly. However, it relies upon hyper scale Cloud or Cloud-like resources. The paradox is that risk-averse organisations that can benefit from this type of endpoint protection are reticent to allow as-a-Service solutions not based domestically to have access to sensitive information about their staff activities. By opening a Sydney based PoP for Carbon Black Cloud, VMware removes a policy barrier to this type of end-point security. 

Who’s Impacted

  • Desktop / digital workplace leads
  • CISO / security teams

What’s Next?

Carbon Black Cloud is one of a growing list of technology offerings in end-point security that leverage Cloud computing and AI. This market will grow rapidly as remote and hybrid working environments become a permanent part of the economy. And rightly so. In principle, IBRS does not see that data geolocation (keeping data domestically) significantly improves an organisation’s security stance, though it may provide regulatory compliance. Latency issues, especially for high-volume services, are also a consideration.

In practice, many organisations still need to address legacy policy regarding information management, and so the trend towards vendors setting up local data processing operations will continue..  

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Embracing security evolution with zero trust networking
  2. What is the security agenda for 2019?
  3. When it comes to security, when is enough... enough?

The Latest

13 Nov 2020: Google Cloud announced preview availability of a serverless Database Migration Service (DMS), which enables clients to migrate MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQL Server databases to Cloud SQL from on-premises environments or other clouds. 

Why it's Important 

Refactoring applications to take advantage of Cloud-native databases is one of the fastest cost-optimisation opportunities for organisations migrating to Cloud services. Cloud-native databases offer cost-efficiencies i