The journey into the cloud – making the right choices

The cloud is now, quite literally, everywhere. IT end-users interact with the cloud on a daily basis, organizations are engaged in cloud services at all times, and the cloud powers much of the way business operates today. The business benefits of cloud computing are now well-established and acknowledged, yet 37% of IT decision makers think staff have bought cloud services outside of the IT department without permission – meaning not everyone has thought the process through as well as they probably should have.

The cloud journey has now become a strategic imperative and no longer just a tactical IT choice – greater flexibility, improved productivity, increased collaboration, remote working and greatly reduced CAPEX can all be found through a smart cloud policy. But as with any strategic business initiative, making the right choices of suppliers, partners and relationships is the route to these dividends. And put simply, the cloud has gone mainstream.

So how do you ensure that you get these choices right and maximize the benefits of cloud computing to your organization while minimizing risk? Well, in all honesty, it genuinely depends on where you are starting from.

The greenfield approach

Companies and organizations which are taking a “greenfield approach” to cloud computing face a different set of challenges. Coming from this angle, the most beneficial way forward can be the lease and configure model. Instead of having to go on out and buy expensive hardware, and then also manage it, organizations are finding value in the managed services route. The main advantage here to “greenfield companies” is that they can simply pay a leasing fee and have their cloud solution specified and configured precisely to meet their needs.

What this means is that start-up companies or start-up divisions can operate independently and go straight into the cloud. They don’t need to set anything up, whether that is databases or ERP tools, and they are freeing themselves from risk and also responsibility. They enjoy all the benefits of the “greenfield approach”, under which they can test out new initiatives and processes, while just paying a fee for their expert partner to service their storage, virtual machines and applications in the cloud. It can very much be argued that companies in this category can make the move to the cloud more easily than their more established counterparts.

brownfield transformation

More mature companies and organizations can face a more complicated time of it however. If they have greater experience, have existing IT assets on their balance sheet and have a range of business processes in place, then they face a trickier journey into the cloud. By being in the “brownfield” category they can’t simply plug into managed cloud services without a transformation journey – they have totransform their existing operations and systems to the new environment.

These companies also have to address the financial equation which centers on those existing assets, while also managing greater levels of fear, uncertainty and risk than their “greenfield” peers. Meaning they are often in the market for a trusted third party who they can partner with and agree on the required Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

changing times for the CIO

Each of these approaches however means a range of challenges for the CIO. In days gone by the CIO needed to have in-depth technical skills and knowledge, and true IT project management expertise – today the CIO needs to be much more commercially and partnership savvy.

Today’s CIO must specialize in partnerships and relationships, SLAs and vendor management – in essence, the CIO has transformed too, from technologists to commercial decision-maker. In addition to far greater commercial know-how in general, today’s CIO needs to be much more marketing aware to leverage the opportunities that social media and mobile cloud apps offer in marketing leverage.

So whether the “greenfield” or “brownfield” approach, the burden when formulating that essential cloud strategy falls on the company CIO and IT department. They no longer have to build, install and operate systems, they need to specify, partner, transition, configure and manage commercial outcomes. The worldwide cloud market is forecast to grow from $40.7 billion in 2011 to $241 billion in 2020, and research regularly places cloud high among CIO priorities.

So a different way of thinking is required, since organizations are no longer just picking products and boxes, they are picking partners and service providers.  The old approach of buying the market leading product vendor to reduce the risk of technical obsolescence no longer applies. CIOs are now charged with helping make corporate IT agile, flexible and relevant to market discontinuities. Cloud computing, as a disruptive technology, was always going to disrupt the CIO’s traditional way of doing things. CIO’s now need to help reduce the risk of business model obsolescence.

The pace of technological change is accelerating and driving business model change. The CIO challenge has moved from technology obsolescence to business model obsolescence if IT cannot support the business model changes.

Gordon

Smart cities will deliver Innovation Centres

“Competition between Cities” has started

Smart city projects are among the most exciting technological initiatives around today and will play a major role in the world’s future growth. Modern technology lets us track and monitor pretty much anything in a major urban environment – noise, light, traffic, weather and so on – and use this data to improve people’s living and working conditions.

Traffic and parking availability is one area of smart city projects that is leveraging new technology to drive real change. New technology is emerging all the time that lets us manipulate networks more finely, taking advantage of more sensors, more cameras and more real-time data to improve road traffic.

Recent research showed that the average UK motorist spends over 2,500 hours in their lifetime driving around looking for car parking spacesThat’s an enormous 106 days – and in a hectic, built-up city like London, it takes an average of 20 minutes to find a parking space. Other statistics show that up to 30 per cent of city traffic is created by people driving around looking for an available parking space.

With population and vehicle figures always rising, it is hard to see these numbers falling without any kind of intervention. The UN estimates that by 2050 the world’s population will reach 9 billion people, the majority of this growth taking place in cities. This means urban populations will have grown to 6.3 billion by 2050, more than double the 2.8 billion living in cities today. So with all those extra people on the roads, tracking and controlling car and general traffic movements in a more intelligent, detailed way, will become vital.

Taming the beast

Technology provides the tools to make managing this ever-increasing traffic a reality. There are three key elements to dealing with this urban traffic as we move forward – identifying the problem, keeping road users informed and deploying smart mechanisms to keep traffic flowing. Addressing these lets us approach the issue progressively and practically.

Data monitoring and communicating with end-user mobile device apps is already part of modern urban living. We can receive the latest overground and subway train information direct to our smartphones when commuting, helping make the journey to work less of a hassle. Regarding traffic flow, one of the most interesting developments I have seen more of recently was in a “smart car park”, where sensors detect whether or not a car is parked in a particular spot and communicate that to drivers who have just arrived, telling them where available parking spaces with visual indicators of red and green lights – again saving time and keeping traffic flowing.

This model would work in a major city too. Smart cities already have technology in place to install a ‘mesh’ over the whole urban environment, with sensors installed to transmit real-time traffic data across the network. Sensors placed on buildings and on kerbsides could determine whether or not there is a car parked in a space and communicate this information to smartphone users – it could even bring Satellite Navigation and mapping technology into the mix to deliver true, real-time parking information to drivers. Drivers could save both time and frustration – forewarned is forearmed.

Powering the cities of the future

Faster mobile networks are at the heart of smart cities and are enabling people to do more on the move. As networks offer more cloud-based services and storage, this in turn leads to richer content and apps being available to end-users, which both informs and is informed by ever-smarter mobile devices.Smarter devices, faster networks and the cloud becoming ubiquitous all combine to power greater consumption of digital content – in short, users want more data all the time and want it now.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will also play a key role in smart city development. The sheer weight of Big Data generated by the IoT will impact everywhere, particularly on things like traffic flow – town planners will be able to gather the data, analyse it and use it to tailor future policy and projects.

The changing nature of the city as we know it

As smart cities get smarter we’ll be able to introduce new, joined-up services, based on gathering data through sensors and delivering it to smart devices to make life easier for both citizens and administrations. As well as projects like smart traffic management there are other knock-on benefits to be had – for example, parking space sensors could also be used to detect street temperatures in real-time, and tell municipalities whether they need to send out snow ploughs today.

Smart cities are very much about making yesterday’s dreams today’s reality. Back in the mid-twentieth century there was much talk of traffic jams and urban congestion being eliminated in the future. Technology has helped change the very nature of a city and encourage investment in smart cities as a result. Cities began life as religious centers which in time became defence centres and subsequently market centres and industrial centers. In the information era, cities will evolve to become innovation centres, and as economic competition becomes more about competition between cities rather  than just countries, having high levels of innovation and skilled people will be key. The smarter the city, the higher its innovation levels and the better equipped it will be to compete in the economic marketplace.

Gordon

Business Applications as a Service (BAaaS)

Moving business apps into the cloud carries big benefits

The rise and rise of the as-a-Service (XaaS) model continues. The various models based around the XaaS approach are all forecast to continue growing rapidly as organizations go on taking advantage of the increased flexibility, lower CAPEX and on-demand nature of the service. Gartner predicts that Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) will grow at a CAGR of 41.3 per cent through 2016, while Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) will hit 27.7 per cent CAGR in the same period. The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market will grow at 19.5 per cent CAGR in that time too, demonstrating how significant the cloud delivery of IT services has become.

XaaS is about making life easier for the customer while giving the provider greater flexibility. Where previously software licenses were bought and long-term contracts entered into, today organizations want and need to be more agile. Utilizing IT services on-demand means that businesses can deploy services as needed, quickly, securely and cost-effectively, and the cloud has enabled this change in mentality. It has helped to create a more business-centric IT culture, where companies and organizations really do get to have IT on their own terms.

Beyond software and infrastructure

As every mobile user knows, this is the era of the app. Cloud delivery of our favourite films, music, games, magazines and books direct to our smartphones or tablets is now entirely second nature, and it has almost become hard to remember the world before it. So just as we source our personal apps on demand from the cloud, doesn’t it now make sense that we do the same thing with business applications?

Business Applications as a Service (BAaaS) is well set to become the next big thing in app delivery this year. As companies continue needing to cut costs wherever possible, shifting certain business applications into the cloud and utilizing them on an on-demand basis helps to remove the CAPEX typically involved in purchasing business services, and also reduces OPEX as you go along. Companies today often find that processes and requirements change on a continuous basis, meaning purchasing business applications outright can become a zero-sum game or even a loss-maker. Organization and end-user needs are always evolving, and new functionality is often required at short notice.

So just as Software as a Service began life delivering business applications like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Human Resource Management (HRM) tools on demand and via the cloud, so the BAaaS model will evolve to deliver other key applications like Business Intelligence (BI), security tools, plant control and business premises management apps – it’s the next logical step in this technology shift.

Why so popular?

In addition to the OPEX and CAPEX benefits, BAaaS tools can be used from any device, whenever and wherever the end-user wants. With so many personal apps delivered through the cloud to mobile devices today, end-users are perfectly familiar using the internet to get the apps they need. So there is no reason why this should not extend to the workplace. There’s also a shorter learning curve to be had because of this end-user familiarity.

Delivering business apps in this way also makes the upgrade process far easier. Organizations work with their BAaaS partner to establish the terms of engagement, the BAaaS partner then takes care of all updates and upgrades to apps. No additional hardware, software or capacity upgrades are required, even when scaling up the user base. It is a model of simplicity.

The changing nature of the CIO

The BAaaS shift also has major implications for the CIO and the IT department. With the role of the CIO changing into that of a business-critical one, the benefits of BAaaS can help make the transition simpler. With budgets remaining tight, the pressure is on the CIO to do more with less – their focus must become more strategic and they have to deliver commercially impactful initiatives – by being innovative, agile and prepared to adopt new technologies.

Every stakeholder today expects more. They expect more apps delivered more quickly and more reliably, wherever they are, while ensuring that the network remains more secure. This means customers, partners, employees, fellow C-level executives – the modern CIO now has a very different role. The IT department has become both the engine room of a company and also a business unit in itself which must innovate, think strategically and drive the organization forward. BAaaS is the latest cloud service which can help make the CIO’s mission easier and more relevant.

Gordon

The Cognitive era is here as Devices get Smarter

Devices are getting smarter, faster and increasingly cognitive. All around us we see the continuing rapid evolution of electronic devices, both mobile and fixed, into the next generation of tools that will help us live our lives differently.

As smart devices go on advancing in their capabilities, it’s fair to project that devices will eventually advise us on how we dress, what we eat for dietary requirements, our physical fitness and more – there is even a smart toothbrush available now which communicates with an app on your smartphone to advise you on optimum plaque removal when brushing.

We are now in the era of apps that think and interact with their users. Think of voice-activated apps like those which help us navigate our smartphones to which we give specific commands – and applications are only going to continue gaining intelligence. So as devices and apps evolve, so too the operating system needs to evolve with them. Which brings us to cognition-as-a-service (CaaS).

CaaS will be the platform that enables these increasingly intelligent apps. CaaS is effectively the next generation of the Semantic Web – an operating system which is capable of communicating with intelligent devices and apps on their terms.

Powered by the cloud

The truth is that within a couple of years we will probably no longer be talking about ‘the cloud’ as we currently understand it or as if it is something new or advanced. The cloud will simply be ‘IT’ – because so much of what we do will be hosted in and take place in the cloud.

An example of a cognitive app to come would be your daily calendar – your calendar which you use via your smartphone or tablet will effectively operate as your P.A. and will manage your time and activities like a secretary. However, the intelligence itself that powers this cognitive app will be provided by a cognitive platform which lives in the cloud.

These cloud-based cognitive platforms will be the true intelligence that fuels this next generation of apps. The cloud is where the Internet of Things (IoT) lives, and the IoT and its vast array of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication will also be powered by this intelligent platform.

Everything in your daily life is set to become smarter. Phones, TV, the connected car, the smart home, the networked fridge that restocks your groceries without you having to open its door – not to mention wearable technology like smart glasses, clothing and watches. All of these will be powered by intelligence delivered by APIs through the cloud as apps and everyday things grow to be cognitive.

Examples are already in place around the world. There is a new artificial intelligence which can read CAPTCHA images online, while e-health is being powered forward by projects which deliver virtual healthcare assistants through the cloud. These are just a couple of examples which predict the need for platforms that can support more intelligent apps and manage them automatically.

Yet another XaaS model

The growth in popularity of the as-a-Service (XaaS) model cannot be overstated. XaaS brings multiple benefits in both CAPEX and OPEX terms, since it carries with it far lower set-up costs than traditional IT product based solutions and its on-demand nature means that running costs are set on the user’s terms.

XaaS, and in time CaaS, will continue to deliver the same benefits. This continuing cost-control model delivers a more managed total cost of ownership (TCO) and reduces risk overall.

So why CaaS?

What CaaS delivers is that next step that the Semantic Web didn’t quite reach – it will enable APIs in the cloud to operate intelligently and empower developers to use quickly and easily. CaaS providers will be cheap, scalable and accessible, and what makes CaaS so different and powerful is that the cognitive qualities are ingrained in the operating system itself – meaning that so too are all the apps on it. The scope that CaaS presents is huge, bringing cognitive, highly intelligent and intuitive apps to users on a global scale.

The security implications

Because CaaS will be cloud-delivered, the nature of security threats surrounding it will continue to change too. Hackers and phishers, always looking for new ways to extract valuable data, remain creative and go on developing new angles and methods of attack.

So while the CaaS era will bring numerous benefits to mobile users, security professionals are going to need to be as mindful as ever of the threats to data breaches and data loss. API keys can of course be useful tools to the enterprising hacker, and denials of service and account hijacking are both hazards that exist via this route. By securing the platform and working as hard as possible to close potential loopholes, the era of the CaaS next generation operating system powering the apps, devices and habits of the future can be one that will create new industries and new digital giants that will grow from unexpected quarters.

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Improve business efficiency and collaboration with global communications solutions

Gordon Makryllos, CEO – Australasia,  said: “We enable our customers to benefit from global collaboration with employees, partners and clients to improve productivity and efficiency. With our expertise in the resources sector, we understand the unique business challenges faced by Aurecon and are delighted to support them in their transformation journey. This engagement is an example of our collaborative approach with customers and differentiates us as a leading global communications integrator. We are committed to delivering innovative service-based outcomes that add value for Aurecon’s business.”

For more details see:

The Wall Street Journal

Business Wire

 

 

Taming the multichannel customer service monster

Today’s consumer is a much more expectant, much more demanding beast than in times gone by – and the reason for this is technology. The consumerization of IT and mobility have combined to give people a level of control and power over their activities that they’ve never previously been able to enjoy. And one of the by-products of this has been an increased expectancy of customer service quality.

The modern customer – and indeed the modern company – today has more ways of communicating available to them than ever. We have the traditional telephone network for voice calls, but we also have SMS messages and multiple online tools such as email, web forms, chat, instant messengers and social media applications. A common consumer perception is that voice never really gets you very far – and be honest, nobody in the world actually enjoys sitting on hold listening to irritating music and product pitches – so companies have had to start thinking differently.

This means utilizing all those other communications tools in an effective way – and it is a tricky balancing act to get right. Apps are increasingly becoming the way that end-users interact and so they expect their customer service to come their way on their terms. The challenge of delivering a multi-channel customer experience, a genuinely fully-integrated, seamless customer service, is a big one.

the journey’s destination – the fully integrated, seamless customer service

So with customers expecting and demanding better service and more personal attention, why, in this multi-channel environment, isn’t it being delivered?  The opportunity to provide a genuine cross-channel customer experience is there, and it has never been more important to retain good customers and attract new ones through a strong brand and reputation for high quality service.

In a highly competitive world, organizations are focused on product innovation, why are they not taking the next step to think to roll out an integrated customer service suite at the same time?

The figures are pretty convincing in favor of offering an enhanced customer service experience. 86% of consumers say they are prepared to pay more for a better customer experience, while just 1% says companies consistently meet their expectations. Poor customer experience is the biggest cause of customer churn, with 89% of people admitting that they are happy to switch to a competitor due to poor customer experience.

This is the mobile age and companies are faced with a generation of end-users who have no real concept of things like fixed-line phones and sitting on hold waiting for the next available agent. They want their interaction in real time, the same way they have it with friends, family and peers online. When 50% of smartphone users say they would prefer to use a mobile customer service application to try and resolve a customer service problem before picking up the phone and calling the contact center, you know that there is both an issue and an opportunity here.

the way ahead – the Cloud and analytics

40% of organizations have stated that ‘complexity’ is the biggest challenge to their deploying enhanced, multichannel customer service offerings – it used to be ‘organizational structure’ – but cloud computing is helping to make a seamless contact center and customer service operation a more achievable reality. Business intelligence and analytics tools allow organizations to both track and monitor customer datato improve their experience, while the Cloud also enables social media engagement in real time like never before.

The cloud makes it easier than ever to bring the right customer service people together with the right customers, on the customer’s terms. The ability to include customer service processes and systems within the cloud enables more tools – organizations can communicate via Twitter, Facebook and other social apps – but it must be integrated, or risk giving the customer further frustration.

The future of customer service is undoubtedly in the cloud, and intelligent analytics will enable organizations to keep their offering fresh and their customers content. These analytics are particularly useful for government bodies and companies in the financial, health and insurance industries, all of which are subject to regulatory changes and challenges.

70% of businesses plan to include social media as part of their customer service offering by mid-2014, while 55% of customers expect customer service via social media. Customers who engage and interact with companies via social media spend 20 to 40% more with those companies than other customers. The proof points are becoming undeniable, the need for a joined-up customer service provision across multiple platforms and channels indisputable, and it is the cloud which will deliver this.

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Technology predictions for 2014 & beyond

predicting technology futures – what’s in store for 2014?

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2013 has seen a number of technologies enjoy varying levels of success and growth, with mobile devices, cloud computing and enterprise app stores all continuing to gain momentum. As I have written about throughout the year on this blog, these technologies have all had that disruptive business model impact which makes them popular and shakes up the existing landscape.

As we approach the end of 2013, I see no reason to expect 2014’s emerging technologies and trends to be any different. So what do we have to look forward to?

wearable technology and absolute mobility

Mobile everywhere and mobile for everything. 2014 will be the year that mobile is ubiquitous, smarter, faster and our reliance on mobile connectivity becomes absolute.

2013 saw the emergence of bring your own device (BYOD) as a mainstream concept, with end-users pretty much eschewing the notion of work/life balance and taking their smartphones and tablets into the workplace as a matter of course and taking their work on the move with them, presenting companies with new security challenges. But the trend will continue and 2014 will see users expecting to be online in more places than ever, at high speeds and with more robust security levels.

This increased mobility will continue to be driven forward by the latest advances in mobile devices, with wearable technology to the fore. The announcement that Burberry’s chief executive has just jumped ship to join Apple is a good indicator of how technology and fashion will merge over the coming year.Google glasssmartwatches and other wearable devices will all connect to the internet and each other through the Cloud like never before. And speaking of the connected planet. . .

the Internet of things goes mainstream

The internet is dead, long live the internet of things. There are now more networked devices and machines on the planet than there are people and 2014 will see still more devices, appliances and vehicles come online and begin communicating with each other.

The internet as we know it has already changed the world and many aspects of our daily lives. It has benefited businesses, individuals and nations, often helping to transform the way governments deliver education, health and social services and making information more democratically available. The internet of everything addresses the next generation of networked devices, with machine-to-machine (M2M) communications powering new ways of doing everything. Right now our phones and tablets are our most common networked devices, but the internet of things will see the networking of cars, homes, appliances, televisions, meters, indeed most electrical and electronic appliances and devices. There is even a company in the Netherlands that has helped a farmer to connect his cows.

Forecasts vary, but recent research projects that by 2020 there will be 75 billion ‘things’ connected to the internet and communicating with one another. 2014 will be the year that everything being networked goes mainstream.

hybrid cloud and XaaS model

2014 will see IT architectures continue to evolve and bring greater flexibility to companies and end-users. In previous blogs I have written about the future impact of cloud computing on various IT disciplines, notably procurementstorage and business continuity and even the role of the traditional CIO.

The cloud will continue to transform throughout the coming year, and the direction it will take will be that of hybrid cloud. Companies with private cloud architectures in place should be ready to embrace personal cloud and make the shift to the hybrid model. The hybrid approach gives organizations greater operational flexibility and optimized costs without compromising security. Network performance is improved too.

The ‘as a service’ (XaaS) model will continue to grow in popularity as well, as organizations adopt its agility and flexibility benefits while also recognizing that the OPEX model carries major advantages over the traditional CAPEX, investment-up-front approach.

software-defined architecture

Software-defined architecture will also come to the fore in 2014 – a practice whereby the software or the application defines the purpose of the device itself. This can be a storage device or a server, or a personal device such as the music boxes or wristband and apps that tracks how you sleep, move and eat—then helps you use that information to feel your best. The function defines the form.

The software-defined approach can help revolutionize the way we program, use and interact with devices because it makes them completely customizable. Devices of any kind will become defined by their apps, making them directly programmable, more agile, centrally managed and configurable and giving us greater control.

share, share and share again

End-users are now, thanks to the rise and rise of social media, so used to sharing that it is second nature. There are now 1.15 billion active Facebook users and over 288 million active Twitter users, all sharing thoughts, information, news, opinions and more, all the time. There have been more than 16 billion photos shared on Instagram. And this is just the beginning.

3-D printing is one area where the sharing of ideas and designs is going to take off in a big way in 2014 and beyond. Sales of 3-D printers are forecast to grow by 75 per cent in 2014, as the technology takes hold in the mainstream. 3-D printing could have a massive impact on many industries, not least the manufacturing sector. It represents a new way of sharing, with companies no longer needing to produce things the same way. For example one company or individual can come up with a design or bright idea one day and that design can be shared and copied tomorrow. Manufacturing, product development, design and prototypes – all of these disciplines could be hugely affected. This does of course present a challenge similar to that faced by the music and movie industries; when you have moved from the physical world to the virtual, and people are so used to sharing, how do you protect intellectual property? Innovative smart machines may be the solution to that. But that’s for another blog post.

Happy 2014.

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