Disruptive Thinking

Traditional ways of doing business have changed. Or, to be rather brutally accurate, they have been disrupted.

Our world has been transformed with mobile, cloud, social, data, security, connected devices, to a technological paradigm that could not have been imagined prior to the introduction of the PC, which is not that many years ago.

The way we do things and the devices we use to get things done basically just got faster and smarter at Moore’s law speed. Powered by cloud computing and mobile broadband and fuelled by the individual’s desire to be online all the time, the impact on the world of work and commerce has been profound. What this means for enterprises is that it’s time to think differently; doing business in the digital age means dealing with digital customers, and this can mean a need to dramatically reshape the organisation’s operating model.

Changing technologies, changing philosophies

One of the most significant changes to enterprise IT procurement today has been the shift of the cost model. Organisations have gone from the traditional method of paying up front for technological tools, the CAPEX route, to the more agile, cost-effective OPEX model. This change in philosophy has been powered by pay-as-you-use technology services and is at the heart of how enterprises have to adapt and reinvent themselves.

The benefits that this brings to businesses are many. There is the immediate cost saving inherent to not having to pay set-up fees and to not actually having to buy the full technology kit in the first place. The on-demand usage model also lets companies operate in more flexible and agile ways, creating work/life balance advantages for their employees and enabling better interaction with customers.

When your customers are digitally savvy end-users themselves, they naturally expect the companies they buy from to be similarly engaged. That’s why progressive companies are now using social media tools to deliver customer service, or enhancing their overall value proposition with dedicated smartphone apps.

Fundamentally, enterprises now need to work smarter. Those companies that want to thrive and enjoy competitive advantage over rivals are those that embrace technology, harness its power and use it to improve their product and service offering.

The shift from digital enablement to digital dependency

Technology and in particular mobile devices and mobile Internet connectivity have become life essentials – to the point where some countries have even gone as far as making broadband an actual human right. So much of what we now do as individuals requires technology to make it happen and that we’ve become dependent on it.

Broadband is now faster than ever and pretty much ubiquitous, while cloud computing and the proliferation of smartphones and tablets has been extraordinary and pervasive. Wearable technology is set to go mainstream and the Internet of Things will see more connected devices in place around the planet than we can currently envisage.

Enterprises have no choice but to reinvent and change the ways in which they work and interact with customers. At operational level they need to change their structure and their value proposition needs to evolve.

The more demanding customer

There is a cyclical element to the changes the digital era has brought us; because technology has enabled organisations to work in whole new ways, customer expectation levels have risen. The smartphone connected customer is used to great service, direct to their mobile device wherever they are, so the enterprise is under increasing pressure to keep meeting and exceeding these expectations. It’s a whole new paradigm of customer expectation.

To take this a little further, the next batch of customers currently working their way through university are all Echo Boomers, or Generation Y. They are the most technologically advanced and expectant generation of individuals we’ve ever produced, and they literally do not know or remember a world without broadband, mobile devices, laptops and always-on connectivity. So enterprises need to plan ahead – customer expectation of your digital capabilities is only going to keep on rising.

But remember to keep the back door locked

All this increased mobility and device usage does of course carry a threat with it. While organisations can benefit hugely from reinventing themselves and carrying a digital offering, they must be mindful of the security challenges. Hackers and cyber criminals have also continued to evolve, so risks do remain and have multiplied.

Enterprise mobility management, a strong firewall on your network, in-depth mobile policy within the organisation and even secure corporate app stores are all ways that enterprises can enjoy the benefits of digital while minimising security risks.

Disruptive thinking

With so many technological advances, disruptive thinking is key to an enterprise reaping the benefits quickly. Organisations need to disrupt themselves before they are disrupted, they need to embrace new technologies and adapt them to their organisation’s operations as this is the only way ahead.

Companies that move first will enjoy greater success over the coming decade. Enterprises that delay and continue to operate in time-honoured, traditional ways, will find themselves losing customers, market share and ultimately profitability.

By embracing the digital era and reinventing themselves as a digital enterprise, organisations can truly thrive. Technology used to be a support function within a company, today it is an absolutely essential element of a business strategy. By utilising digital tools to integrate customer service channels, companies can deliver far better customer service and keep customers coming back. Giving your customers more added value with smartphone apps tailored to their needs, will see your customer satisfaction levels increase.

These are some of the ways to forge ahead in the age of the digital economy. Disruptive thinking needs to also be applied to cyber security and protection from unwanted cyber penetrations of your systems, data and sensitive intellectual property.

A simple and effective start, on the security front, is to have professional penetration testing conducted on your organisations systems before someone else does.

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

Cyber threats makes it to number 4 on the Global WEF Agenda

A recent report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) focused on the Global Agenda for 2014 and the top 10 trends facing the world. As one might expect, topping the list were globally pertinent and vital topics like; growing societal tensions in the Middle East and North Africa; income disparity around the world; and ongoing unemployment.

However in fourth place was “intensifying cyber threats”, which was considered a more significant issue than climate change and diminishing confidence in economic policies.

This is a truly insightful conclusion – such a global focused, facts-based organisation marking cyber threats at such a high threat level – shows how rapidly technological threats have evolved. It’s not that long ago that ‘being online’, whether as an organisation or as an individual, meant merely having your own server – relatively secure and simple to fireproof – against typical cyber-attacks and threats.

The evolution of IT into cloud computing, machine to machine (M2M) communications and the Internet of Things (IoT), presents a whole new generation of dangers – ones against which most industries, companies and end-users are not safe.

The cloud of course means more devices and machines than ever are connected through the same network, making it an even bigger target for cyber terrorists. Get one denial-of-service (DoS) attack through successfully and it can grow exponentially through the cloud to other domains, taking many other websites with it.

Similarly the IoT has presented cyber attackers with a particularly attractive playground – the network infrastructure and technological capabilities are really transforming at a rate that is too fast for cybersecurity to keep pace.

Many IoT machines and devices remain quite unsecured, with communications between them being unencrypted. This is clearly a major worry when so much private, personal and sensitive data is communicated via the internet.

Changing habits, changing threats

The nature of how we use IT has also helped form the evolution in cyber security threats. We love all the benefits that come with our increasingly mobile-powered lives; more flexible work practices, greater productivity, increased control and choice over our consumer habits, but we do need to be aware that these changes carry new threats too.

Through 2014 and beyond, it is highly likely that we will see cyber threats piggyback this trend to make attacks more personal. Where previously generic data was the target for cyber-attacks, they may now shift to specific, individual information. These attacks will target mobile operating systems, since thanks too trends like BYOD, mobile devices now very often carry both personal and corporate data on them. In 2013 there was 1000 per cent growth in malicious Android apps, demonstrating the shift in focus by cyber attackers. Factor in SMS floods, development of malicious apps and even fraudulent developer credentials appearing in app marketplaces and it becomes clear that mobile is a fertile hunting ground for the modern cyber criminal.

The growth in social media use presents another big target too. Social is a true modern-day technology success story, enabling people to keep in touch and share experiences in whole new ways, no matter where they are.

That ubiquity however does present new territory for cyber threats, with social attacks likely to increase massively in the near future. Social media utilises personal data, passwords, contacts, location-based activities and more – all of which is highly attractive bait to cyber criminals. So it is perhaps no surprise that earlier this year even President Obama was banned from using his smartphone due to security concerns.

Another modern day advancement that carries its own new threats is online currencies. Ransomware has been developed and targets currencies like Bitcoin, while online currencies also offer cyber criminals the opportunity for money laundering. Currency exchanges are also potential areas of attack. Traditional threats of course remain too – 2013 saw the biggest cyber fraud case in history, as 160 million credit cards were compromised in the US, to the tune of $300 million.

In short, new technologies and the growth of the cloud and increased mobility mean more targets for cybercriminals. Gartner suggests that by 2020 governments and enterprises will leave a massive 75 per cent of sensitive data unprotected – so organisations are going to need to think long and carefully about the security policies they implement to mitigate this threat and tighten up cybersecurity as much as possible.

Malware hasn’t gone away

Another threat which is not gone but merely evolving is malware. Previously the preserve of desktops and the enterprise environment, malware has transformed to take its dangers to the mobile landscape as well. Malware has adapted to target mobile authentication processes via fake SMS confirmations and other means. Android malware is also on the rapid rise.

This year will also likely see malware architects continue with covert command-and-control (CnC) attacks on networks. Encryption techniques go on getting smarter and stealthier and malware is now smarter than ever in evading traditional network defences.

Time to evolve thinking

The changing nature of technology in the mobile era – with disruptive solutions being developed all the time – means that the CSO has to always think one step ahead. As the WEF report indicates, cyber threats will continue to grow and evolve throughout 2014, with the only predictable thing about them being their unpredictability.

Traditional perimeter-based security solutions are today less effective than usual because of disruptors like cloud, mobile and social. M2M, the IoT, wearable technology in the workplace and more will continue to render the perimeter security model less powerful and the financial imperative of modern cyber threats is clear. Some estimates forecast that failure to implement sufficient cyber security solutions and capabilities quickly enough could mean a $3 trillion hit to the world economy by 2020.

Fourth on the Global WEF Agenda – cyber threats

Cyber threats is number 4 on the World Economic Forum of top 10 trends, so it is time to plan ahead and be proactive about new security threats. Allocate sufficient resources and people to head off cyber threats before they attack and organisations can still win the battle and the war.

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.

Original Publication

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.”

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