Strategy & Transformation

Flourishing in the modern marketplace relies on an organisation’s ability to make the right choices.

To avoid being left behind in an evolving world it is critical for organisations to jump at opportunities for transformational growth. However, acting without sufficient planning is fraught with risk. 

Transformation can only happen when an organisation is aligned on its strategic intent, and IT leaders need the resources to drive great choice-making across their organisation.

From planning to delivery, IBRS can cut through the confusion and guide your organisation all the way through its transformational journey. Our advisors have first-hand experience delivering digital transformation projects and can develop a tailored roadmap to deliver the outcomes you want. 

Conclusion:

The complexity and scale of Cloud operations is beyond the capability of traditional financial management processes. Today, organisations use Cloud service providers to increase agility, flexibility, and efficiency. Efficiency in this context means the speed of delivery coupled with a reduction in both capital and operational costs. However, that is not the only benefit to be derived. Operating cost reduction is a challenge to organisations that are new to the Cloud and even with those who achieved a certain maturity level. Dealing with operational cost needs in-depth Cloud financial management (CFM).

With this in mind, there are three things to consider with Cloud cost optimisation. First, assess your organisation needs and its level of maturity in using the Cloud. Second, if you lack the skills, then collaborate with a Cloud-Certified Partner (CCP). Lastly, set a collective governance system (guidelines and guardrails) to ensure the services are continuously cost-optimised.

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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

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

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

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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

IBRS interviews Dr Kevin McIsaac, a data scientist who frequently works with board-level executives to identify and prototype powerful data-driven decision support solutions.

Dr McIsaac discusses why so may 'big data' efforts fail, the role ICT plays (or rather, should not play) and the business-first data mindset.

The government’s new tax incentives making it easier to depreciate software will help big businesses invest in their own software development but will do “bugger all” for Australian software companies and small and medium businesses, and may even create perverse incentives for large companies to invest in the wrong type of software, industry experts say.

IBRS advisor Joseph Sweeney, who works with numerous large organisations on their technology strategies said the policy was a positive step in recognising the need to increase development of a local digital services economy, but would do little to raise productivity in the small- and medium-sized business market, which accounts for half of Australia’s workforce. Dr Sweeney is midway through conducting a study into national productivity gains from Cloud services, and said the early data showed that introducing Software-as-a-Service solutions to small and mid-sized organisations was the quickest way to get tangible productivity gains.as
 
“By only allowing for offset in assets like CapEx in IT infrastructure and software, this policy has the potential to skew the market back towards on-premises solutions. It will certainly make the ‘total cost of operation’ calculations for moving to the Cloud less attractive,” Dr Sweeney said.
 

Conclusion

Whilst many enterprises have successfully implemented a bring your own device (BYOD) mobile policy, many have put this in the too-hard basket fearing a human resources (HR) backlash.

Revisiting the workplace mobile policy can reduce operating costs associated with device loss, breakages, and unwarranted device allocation. IT service delivery operating costs have been increasing annually as more sophisticated and expensive handsets hit the market. Meanwhile, mobile applications are creating increased security concerns which add to asset management and monitoring costs.

Now is the time to take stock and transform the organisation’s mobility space by creating a shared responsibility with staff. Mobile phone allowances are fast becoming the norm with a multitude of different models now being adopted. Choose the one that delivers cost savings across the board as there are both direct and indirect costs associated with each option.

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Conclusion

The deployment of machine learning (ML) solutions across a broad range of industries is rising rapidly. While most organisations will benefit from the adoption of ML solutions, ML’s capabilities come at a cost and many projects risk failure. Deployment of ML solutions needs to be carefully planned to ensure success, to minimise cost and time, but also to deliver tangible results and assist decision-making.

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Conclusion

For organisations when there is stakeholder agreement the enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution has failed to meet business needs, act decisively to turn failure into success. Management must also be proactive, and act when the implementation cost has been fully amortised and deemed past its use-by date, or when vendors providing SaaS ERP solutions have not met their contractual and service delivery obligations. In all situations, it is important to be proactive and tell executive management what is being done about it.

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Conclusion

The growing maturity of data handling and analytics is driving interest in data catalogues. Over the past two years, most of the major vendors in the data analytics field have either introduced or are rapidly evolving their products to include data cataloguing.

Data catalogues help data users identify and manage their data for processing and analytics. Leading data cataloguing tools leverage machine learning (ML) and other search techniques to expose and link data sets in a manner that improves access and consumability.

However, a data catalogue is only beneficial when the organisation already has a sufficient level of maturity in how it manages data and analytics. Data literacy (the skills and core concepts that support data analytics) must also be established in the organisation’s user base to leverage full benefits from the proposed data catalogue.

Organisations considering data catalogues must have a clear picture of how to use this new architecture, and be realistic in how ready they are to leverage the technology. Furthermore, different organisations have unique and dynamic data attributes, so there is no one-type-fits-all data catalogue in the marketplace.

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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

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

Read more ...

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

Read more ...

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

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

Conclusion

Traditionally, vendor lock-in was associated with deliberate vendor-driven outcomes, where software and hardware forced the client to align their business processes to those offered by a specific software or ICT platform. Vendor lock-in often limited the flexibility of organisations to meet business needs as well as increasing costs. As a result, information and communication technology (ICT) was often seen as a limiting factor for business success when agility was needed. Historically, vendor lock-in was therefore seen as a negative. Poor timing, bad decisions and clumsy procurement practices may still see organisations fall into unwanted vendor lock-in situations. But is vendor lock-in always a negative?

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Conclusion

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is suitable for addressing a range of business challenges. As VDI has evolved over the past decade, understanding of use-cases for where is best applied has also matured. In this paper, we explore the use-cases where VDI has been most successful.

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Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has, in many cases, forced the workforce environment to shrink to the walls of worker’s houses for at least nine months. While some services such as shopping, online learning and telemedicine proved to be useful when made available remotely, many other services were not suitable to run effectively outside the traditional work environment (e. g. those with inadequate network capacity). Organisations should study the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of deploying additional remote services that are critical to improve business performance, increase service efficiency and reduce the cost of doing business.

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Conclusion

The decision to integrate machine learning (ML) into systems and operations is not one that is made lightly. Aside from the costs of acquiring the technology tools, there are added considerations such as staff training and the expertise required to improve ML operations (MLOps) capabilities.

An understanding of the ML cycle before deployment is key. Once requirements and vision are defined, the appropriate tools are acquired. ML specialists will then analyse and perform feature engineering, model design, training, and testing and deployment. This is also known as the dev loop. At the implementation stage, the ML model is deployed and the application is subsequently refined and enhanced. The next stage is the monitoring and improving stage where the organisation refines the model and evaluates the ROI for its data science efforts. This stage triggers the retraining of the model through data drift and monitoring.

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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

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

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

Conclusion:

Digital transformation initiatives will drive organisations to grow existing skills and develop new competencies. Unless this need to grow is recognised and plans developed to train geeks in advance, projects will falter and delays will frustrate stakeholders.

To avoid failure it is imperative that organisations develop workplace initiatives to close the (presumed) skills gap, and ensure the business case for the transformation includes funds to train the right people (geeks) and upskill them. Unless the initiatives are identified, and funds allocated, sponsors will need to continually ask for more resources – a career-limiting activity.

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Conclusion:

Traditional Enterprise Architectures (EAs) were introduced to tighten IT control over the type of technology to be used and ensure IT developers comply with IT standards. While this control driver was essential to ensure cost-effective solutions, it was introduced at the expense of efficiency. Without reducing the essential controls, modern EAs should shift the current focus to continuous service improvement. This will permit a flexible mode of work (e.g. anywhere, anytime, any device) and enable businesses to transform, grow and survive in the digital world.

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Conclusion:

As-a-Service machine learning (ML) is increasingly affordable, easily accessible and with the introduction of self-learning capabilities that automatically build and test multiple models, able to be leveraged by non-specialists.

As more data moves into Cloud-based storage – either as part of migrating core systems to the Cloud or the use of Cloud data lakes/data warehouses – the use of ML as-a-Service (MLaaS) will grow sharply.

This paper summarises options from four leading Cloud MLaaS providers: IBM, Microsoft, Google and Amazon.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

For many years Chief Information Officers (CIOs) have faced endless questions about whether Microsoft (MS) and other suppliers meet the requirements for an enterprise-grade solution. The main components of the office suite (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) and the Windows operating systems for desktops and servers, has been de facto standards for most organisations for many years.

With Microsoft’s success with Azure (Cloud and infrastructure), Dynamics (enterprise resource planning (ERP)), Office 365 (collaborative workplace platform) and the PowerPlatform (analytics and low-code workflow development), MS is now competitive in almost every aspect of the enterprise solution space. Your organisation’s approach to determining the value proposition for any supplier is the same as it has always been – maximum gain with minimum pain. The MS offering in both terms of capabilities, service support and security has matured significantly and now offers a much-improved value proposition that organisations should consider.

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Australian businesses expecting the hassles of the COVID-19 pandemic to vanish in 2021 are in for a rude shock, according to business analyst firm IBRS, which as also released a new report on the future of the IT space. The firm's 'Future of Work' expert, and IBRS advisor, Dr. Joseph Sweeney said improvements in IT departments were required because customer organisations will remain threatened by sporadic coronavirus incidents for some time yet.

The IBRS report, titled Trends for 2021-2026: No new normal and preparing for the fourth-wave of ICT, outlines misconceptions businesses have regarding the timeline of the pandemic and that a new, fourth-wave of ICT architecture is emerging in response to the challenges that will linger after the vaccine rollout.

Full story.

There is more innovation going on behind the scenes in Australian organisations than they are being given credit for. IBRS advisor, Dr Joseph Sweeney, who specialises in the areas of workforce transformation and the future of work stated, Australian organisations have led the world in the uptake of virtualisation which now has Australia leading in terms of Cloud adoption. 'World-leading Australian innovation was emerging in how Cloud-based services could be used to make internal operations more efficient, which was less glamorous than some of the consumer-facing apps being developed by emerging fintech companies, but equally worthwhile." said Dr Sweeney. 

“One area of innovation IBRS has identified over the last year is a rapid update of low-code platforms to allow less-technical staff to be involved in digitising business processes,” he said. Citizen developers aren't just limiting themselves to e-forms but are using a full range of low code tools and vendors are reporting sales growth of over 30%.

Full story.

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

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

Conclusion:

Thinking that the pandemic will soon be past and some form of new normal will emerge, be it working from home or office work, or a hybrid mix - is a misconception. Even with a vaccine, the pandemic will continue in isolated, difficult to predict pockets, and cause sporadic rapid changes to work practices for the foreseeable future. Organisations will need to be able to quickly flip-flop work environments rapidly, and work processes - and thus technologies - must evolve to meet the challenges of the 'age of uncertainty'. A fourth wave of ICT architecture is emerging, with a focus on information over architecture, low-code everything and powered by algorithms.

Find attached at the bottom of the article a free downloadable PDF copy of the trends for 2021-2026 executive presentation deck.

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