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 workspace of the future is exciting – but?

The digital tsunami and the move to mobile have changed the way we work forever. It is not all that long ago that we accepted our jobs as being part mobile – or at least where you could get a signal – and part tied to a desk. But no more; mobile is the new normal, it is here to stay, and the ‘workplace’ has become something altogether new and different.

At the heart of this workplace transformation has been an ongoing cycle of technological evolution. As networks have become faster and faster and support more apps and more data, the cloud has come into play. Cloud computing is now second nature to most people, and processing data through or storing it in the cloud has grown exponentially.

This faster computing power married to mobility’s always-on-anywhere nature has in turn led to richer content and applications at end-user level, for which end-users want ever smarter mobile devices, hence the astonishing rise in smartphone and tablet proliferation. Then, having faster, smarter mobile devices and ever-faster mobile broadband, end-users consume more and more data and digital content, which in its own turn has the knock-on effect of needing faster networks. This is the mobility and virtualization lifecycle, and its impact on the workplace has been revolutionary.

The point is that the traditional way of working has changed, and with it the workplace itself. And this has been powered not just by technology, but by people themselves. Mobile technology has empowered people to shape their workplaces to their own demands. It is a brave new world all right, and a truly exciting one.

How workers and ways of working are changing

Mobile has changed so much of what we’re used to. The typical ‘office job’ has transformed into something which through mobile empowers the employee and benefits the employer, in the form of greater freedom and increased productivity respectively. The consumerization of IT led us to bring your own device (BYOD) policies, with research showing that 87 per cent of employees have used a personal device in the workplace. Sales of smartphones and tablets now outstrip all PCs put together, including notebooks. 79 per cent of IT decision-makers say virtual desktops are in their current or future plans, while enterprise social networking is also high on agendas. The world of work went and got mobile, and employers have had no choice but to embrace it.

Buildings, ways of working and ICT strategy

The new workplace has become a seamless environment, where personal and professional crossover and interchange. Even workplace buildings themselves have become part of the mix; intelligent building projects are in place now which differ hugely from offices and factories of days gone by. The need for intelligent buildings now informs a company’s ICT strategy, as the new, mobile first way of working requires this new workplace to make it a reality.

When previously kitting out an office building IT departments generally focused on wireless connection models and protocols, wired and wireless access points and so on. There were no interfaces in place for seamless integration of multiple mobile devices, networks and platforms were largely proprietary (and not very interoperable with multiple different devices and protocols) and legacy services were limited. In short, the workplace was a relatively dumb environment.

The shift to new ways of working has created the need for new, intelligent buildings to support progressive companies. New working environments are looking to the Internet of Things as a driver, with its need for embedded systems with local computing. Next generation communications systems like MiFi and Zigbee must be worked into the mix, as must multimodal interactive interfaces like NFC, digital signage and all the various smart devices that now enter the workplace.

Intelligent buildings can also have a positive environmental impact thanks to increased numbers of sensors, monitoring systems and controllability of systems making them greener places to work. All of these elements are now making their way into organisations’ real estate acquisition strategies, making them part of an overall business strategy. Including smart intelligence to the building itself’s design makes for a smarter workplace and happier employees. This means thinking about your ICT strategy can separate digital, Business Intelligence and legacy systems while still looking to generate interaction between unified communications and collaboration (UCC) tools, human resources, security and suppliers.

In short, companies must now think not just from their own perspective but also from what their employees want and expect from a workplace. Take a technology-agnostic approach, and think ahead – use your building systems to deliver open, integrated services to workers – not just to manage your building. That’s the way to moving to the cloud-enabled, flexible and any place, anywhere, anytime method of working.

The security imperative

The new way of working is exciting, progressive and more productive – but it of course remains vital not to ignore the potential security risks. BYOD and smart building initiatives have helped empower workers in unprecedented ways, but they do bring with them traditional worries. Company data now resides on more devices in more places than ever, and IT departments have no choice but to accept this and mitigate it.

Lost or stolen mobile devices naturally remain a key concern for IT professionals, while employees placing data in cloud-based file-hosting apps such as Dropbox is also a potential problem. Traditional security threats like hacking and DoS (denial of service) attacks are still present too of course. So the IT department must manage both the old threats and the new.

They can begin by implementing a mobility policy which lays out the rules and precautionary measures needed to keep sensitive corporate data and systems as safe as possible. Employees bringing own devices into the workplace have to play their part and commit to safeguarding data and not abusing their newfound flexibility. Device management systems married to good quality encryption tools can help guard against data loss via stolen or lost mobile devices, but with both mobility and new, intelligent building systems to manage, companies should think about both hardware and software encryption policies.

The new workplace is a thrilling prospect, taking our now second nature mobility, partnering it to intelligent building environments and using it to help us enjoy greater freedom and flexibility in our jobs than ever. It’s an exciting time – but nonetheless one that requires good planning and the factoring in of expansive security measures at each step on the journey.

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.

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.”

For more details see:

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Devices, Devices, Devices everywhere – it’s time for next generation “Mobile Device Management as a Service”

As mobile devices continue to increase in both variety and number, it seems to me it is a good time to revisit mobile device management (MDM) strategy. MDM has been around since mobile devices came to the fore, but because of the rapidly changing nature of the mobile landscape, it has had a hard time keeping pace.

A quick definition; MDM policy and tools secure, monitor and manage mobile devices throughout organizations and across various platforms, networks and operators. However as mobile devices have become ubiquitous, both at enterprise and consumer level, there has come a need for MDM to evolve too, to offer greater control and confidence to organizations without compromising all the benefits of the modern mobile user experience.

So what is it that has changed the landscape the most? Well, quite simply, it is the sheer number of devices. The mobile experience is no longer simply about a phone – it’s now smartphones of numerous types and operating systems, tabletsphabletsultrabooks, wearable technology and much more besides. This is the new ‘mobile’, this is now how big mobile is. Over two-thirds of people say they use personal mobile devices in the workplace today. This is what MDM has to cope with.

more devices, more data, more risks

So as mobility takes hold in the enterprise, and more and more critical or sensitive corporate data is at risk of being transported into the public domain by accident or design, the need for a comprehensive MDM approach becomes essential. Global companies want to design and implement global security policies that keep their data as free from threat as possible, but how do you achieve this in the face of such massive mobile device proliferation?

The threats are clear. While it is not really all that long ago that malware, Trojan horses and viruses were considered the chief menace to corporate data, mobility has today brought with it a whole raft of new, more subtle, dangers. Lost or stolen mobile devices and insecure communications now rank high on the list of information security professionals’ worries, and without the right tools and policies in place can be more damaging. Organizations can only realistically secure and control the threats that they know about – mobile devices in the workplace are more difficult to track and maintain in the enterprise environment than inward-bound attacks.

So the main threat is as simple as staff members using their personal devices to access corporate data – with or without their knowledge or intent – and then taking it outside the network. The traditional walled garden is now so compromised as to be obsolete. Nine out of ten executives recently confessed to accessing corporate data on their own mobiles – so how do organizations deal with this fast-growing problem?

everything needs to be managed

Everything is mobile and everything needs to be managed. This is the premise from which to start. Smartphones, tablets and phablets in the workplace, ultrabooks as replacements for traditional laptops, and while not so common just yet, smartwatches and other wearable technology like Google Glass will soon enter the workplace and fall under the remit of the IT department. So an organization’s MDM strategy needs to be robustwide-reaching and most of all progressive – it needs to be able to grow with the rapidly changing landscape.

Furthermore, the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its accompanying machine-to-machine (M2M) communications will also play a part. The IoT means yet more mobile devices, all communicating over the network and all in need of management. The connected car is now a reality and gives mobile employees a new workplace, while other M2M devices that can also store data will need to be managed. So organizations need to address all of these developments, both cost-effectively and efficiently.

on-premise or in the cloud?

Traditionally, MDM policy forming and implementation would be done at ground level, on-premises, so that the IT department could be involved in each step of the process. However, a comprehensive MDM strategy has many bases to cover, and with more mobile devices than ever entering the corporate environment, even the most efficient IT department could find itself stretched too thin. There is basic encryption of devices required, protection against data breach should a device be stolen or lost. Corporate app stores are gaining popularity as a means of controlling the applications that users can install on devices, but more devices with more operating systems again means more complexity here.

So in the event that in-house resources are insufficient to cover MDM on premises, we turn again to the cloud. The benefits to enterprise of cloud-based solutions are well-documented, but when it comes to MDM, the cloud model brings with it the big benefit of lower set-up fees – CAPEX – but also lower ongoing OPEX as well. Cloud-based MDM – or in fact as it is becoming known, MDM as a Service – can give organizations scalable mobile device management on-demand, so they can use it as much or as little as they need to. As mobile devices continue to evolve and end-users continue to lap them up, the flexible MDM in the cloud solution, provided by a specialist partner, looks like offering a highly desirable way ahead.

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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.

Original Publication