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

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.

Read more ...

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.

Read more ...

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:

Many organisations have implemented frameworks and methodologies, increased internal project management and improved project governance in an effort to improve IT project success. The Standish Group report on project success has shown considerable improvement over the last 18 years. However, projects still do fail, and organisations can improve their preparedness for projects and change programs by spending time undertaking a business readiness assessment (BRA) before they begin any new change initiative.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

Fear of missing out (FOMO) drives information and communication technology (ICT) leaders to look at new ICT applications with the promise of greater benefits. Many organisations then fail to maximise the value of their existing applications and Power BI is no exception. Hidden under a Microsoft enterprise agreement, organisations and staff are often unaware of Power BIs full capabilities.

Excel still remains a default position for most data analytics. The main reason is familiarity and flexibility to construct, but it has limited access to data warehouses making it less efficient as a business intelligence (BI) tool. Complex problems require multiple spreadsheets to capture and analyse data from multiple sources. Changes are often tedious and time-consuming.

To generate meaningful business insights, ICT leaders need to initiate the use cases and upskill staff with BI tools such as Power BI which are capable of agility and real-time value add.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

This month, discussions regarding artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous solutions have been prominent. As customers become aware of the potential benefits of adopting new solutions, vendors must be capable of clarifying the associated risks. This will allow vendors to respond to rising customer expectations, particularly when they require faster responses to change or have larger, more complex projects. When comparatively new solutions are sought after, but possess market gaps or perceived weaknesses, vendors must be prepared to cater to them and facilitate transparency with customers regarding the unknowns. This will assist with maintaining the integrity of offerings and supporting customer interactions. While the failure to adopt new solutions quickly can result in disadvantages in the market, vendors need to exercise caution. Premature adoption without sufficient strategic planning, analysis as well as transparency with customers can result in unforeseen and negative outcomes.

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.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

Allowing employees to use personal devices for work purposes comes with a unique security challenge. How can the organisation keep track of so many endpoints and make sure that each one is secure? Organisations need to examine their mobile device management (MDM) capabilities in order to protect the organisation from security breaches as a result of insecure mobile devices.

Read more ...

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

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

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.

Read more ...

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)

Conclusion:

While discussions regarding industry trends and customer priority shifts have remained prominent this month, vendor innovation in light of expected growth has also been a focus. In particular, managed service providers required to innovate beyond evolving technologies to include hybrid and integrated offering structures, effective business operations and external sources to support vendor growth. The need to access external sources for funding, skills, offerings and client base has become apparent. The demand for improved internal frameworks to allow for hybrid solutions, offering delivery and customer interactions has also been flagged. Accelerated activity in a critical and complex industry requires vendors to continue to provide high quality, innovative service provision frameworks in order to remain competitive.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

As is common in security, a buzzword becomes a product segment which is then flooded with new entrants or even old players with new offerings. A classic case is the detection and response segment. Initially, it was one approach – endpoint detection and response. But as vendors entered the segment they were driven to find differentiation points to stand out from the crowd.

What was a simple segment became one with many new acronyms, new problem definitions and of course a plethora of products. To help understand the basic differentiation of products in this segment this advisory provides a direct and simple definition for each main sector along with points to note about how to select any specific product in the segment.

Read more ...

Conclusion:

COVID-19 has presented a number of challenges for business and the underlying Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in particular. These challenges have presented both as crisis and opportunity but all have been compelling events. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’. In each case, this will only be possible when the lessons learned are properly investigated and documented, allowing evidence-based decisions to ensure organisations improve the way business is done.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many changes to the way business is done, how employees contribute, and how customers interact. Taking the time to evaluate performance, document the lessons learned, and to improve your business decision processes is invaluable. Applying the technical and business lessons learned from the period of this pandemic will add value for many years to come. It will allow your organisation to reinforce successes, avoid possible errors, and potentially improve its position in the marketplace.

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Conclusion:

Australian organisations in both public and private sectors enthusiastically identify and implement best practices from around the world. After considerable time and effort has been allocated to implementing these processes and the associated tools the results are all too often less than satisfactory. There are many best practices, frameworks and tools to assist in the optimisation of IT but there are two key problems areas that if overcome, can make a significant difference in the benefits that organisations will derive from best practice implementation.

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Conclusion:

For enterprises and small to medium businesses (SMBs), Artificial Intelligence (AI) opportunities are widespread and industry-specific. Each industry will grapple with conversations to understand how AI can:

  1. Create competitive advantage.
  2. Complement existing business.
  3. Disrupt, or even destroy the business model that exists today.

What businesses need to plan for is that AI engineering and AI ops are destined to be the essential umbrella to govern AI in the coming decade. Hyper-automation (HA) of business processes will see some business models fail whilst others thrive into the 2030s.

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Conclusion:

The recent SolarWinds security compromise provides a timely reminder that a cyber security compromise from third parties is a clear and present threat. Virtually all organisations utilise third party vendors to provide services, software solutions and to store data. For these reasons, it is essential that all organisations have a third party risk assessment and compliance program as part of a broader cyber security strategy. Given that organisations utilise a multitude of vendors it is impractical to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to third party risk management. This article provides a pragmatic approach to mitigating this risk.

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Conclusion:

Minimising risks from systems specification errors and cyber risks from network intrusions when an enterprise-wide digital transformation is underway is a daunting task, as many stakeholders could be impacted. Depending on the severity of the error or network intrusion, an incident could damage a brand’s image and shareholder confidence in the board. In the public sector, a cyber incident could result in the leaking of citizens’ private data and put an unwelcome spotlight on ministers and bureaucrats.

While boards are ultimately responsible for monitoring and minimising risks, they must ensure management creates a risk abatement framework and strategy, and executes it. The problem is compounded when the organisation’s aim is to transform or reshape its business model and the changes proposed are resisted by staff concerned at possible job losses or fear of failure – risks which must be addressed in the strategy.

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Conclusion:

Too often, information communications technology (ICT) and business analytics groups focus on business intelligence and analytics architectures and do not explore the organisational behaviours that are required to take full advantage of such solutions. There is a growing recognition that data literacy (a subset of digital workforce maturity1) is just as important, if not more important, than the solutions being deployed. This is especially true for organisations embracing self-service analytics2.

The trend is to give self-service analytics platforms to management that are making critical business decisions. However, this trend also requires managers to be trained in not just the tools and platforms, but in understanding how to ask meaningful questions, select appropriate data (avoiding bias and cherry-picking), and how to apply the principles of scientific thinking to analysis.

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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

Future of Work expert and IBRS advisor Dr Joseph Sweeney has made seven recommendations towards good Microsoft Team governance after surveying and speaking to 80 CIOs across Australian organisations. 

Microsoft Teams usage grew to more than 44 million global daily active users during COVID-19 and has still continued to grow. Dr Sweeney's findings discovered a number of concerning issues for organisations with Teams implementation and the risks associated with them. Businesses rushed to deploy Teams in a way that left them at risk of exposing critical data and damaging productivity.

Dr Sweeney emphasised Microsoft hasn't created an insecure environment with Teams. "Out of all the vendors Microsoft actually has a really good security Story" said Dr Sweeney. "The problem is, a lot of organisations in the rush to get people working from home turned Teams on, and they've deployed (it) without full consideration of all of these new risks."

Full story.

 

Related Articles

Microsoft teams governance: Emerging better practices

Better Practice Special Report: Microsoft Teams Governance

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

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

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