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What will frame the CIO’s agenda?

What will frame the CIO’s agenda?

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With the IT world rapidly evolving with new technologies entering the market, we ask leading experts in the industry what should be the Chief Information Officer’s priorities for 2020.

Niral Patel, Oracle South Africa MD

There are fundamentally no new areas for CIOs to focus on in 2020. Instead, it’s a case of maintaining a grasp on swiftly evolving existing trends, particularly as cloud technology enters its next lifecycle. While greater all-round operational efficiency remains a north star for CIOs, the following are the greatest priorities moving into the next year.

  1. Whole-enterprise cloud

To mine the potential of IoT and other emerging technologies requires the scalable, reliable, flexible and far-reaching computing power that only cloud provides. With next-generation cloud solutions becoming ever more accessible, now is the time to cast aside on-premise legacy systems and move towards a whole-enterprise cloud.

A cloud-native IT environment is future-facing, structured around the realisation that mission-critical applications cannot afford to suffer any downtime, and therefore need to leave the traditional enterprise data centre behind. Such solutions also help companies make the most of their data by breaking down silos and creating an integrated information system that can produce valuable insights nearly instantaneously.

CIOs overseeing a technology refresh at their organisation should take advantage of how Digital Transformation is being streamlined thanks to a new breed of integration and migration tools, as well as a growing number of interoperability partnerships. Oracle has entered into agreements with Microsoft Azure, VMware and Linux so customers can migrate and run workloads for a highly optimised and reliable experience, whether going the public or hybrid cloud route.

2. Tech debt reduction

The pace at which business requirements are evolving can leave IT platforms insufficient for the task, holding back organisational growth and ramping up spend as urgent quick fixes are adopted. The result can be a Frankensteining of software and disparate code that costs more to integrate, in the long run.

It’s one of the reasons that home shopping retailer HomeChoice South Africa chose our Oracle Commerce Cloud solution when they initiated a technology refresh. Making the move to cloud also helps to shift Capex spend to Opex, in line with how IT budgets are fundamentally changing, so companies can operate more cost-effectively and become more agile in their resource allocation.

3. Security

Security will always be a concern for businesses, especially as cybercrime breaches at enterprises are consistently rising.

Generation 2 Cloud’s differentiator is its greater amount of embedded AI and machine learning. With automatic and proactive functionality, protective responsibilities shift from enterprises to the cloud services provider, freeing up customers to focus on innovation instead of defensive measures. For example, the next-generation Oracle Data Safe solution alerts administrators regarding risky users and system configurations, and proactively monitors database activity for suspicious access attempts. It also can automatically mask sensitive data for use in partner or development environments. 

4. Staff value add

South Africa has a chronic digital skills shortage, particularly at senior levels. This year’s annual ICT skills survey shows that even as 5,000 immigrants enter the country annually to fill key roles, just as many practitioners emigrated. CIOs are challenged to find ways to maximise the talent they currently have while investing in skills development via in-job training or CSI initiatives to bolster the ICT industry as a whole.

Just as they bring a new level of reliability to cybersecurity, cloud-based Autonomous systems help to alleviate the headache of skills shortage and boost productivity. Self-driving, self-securing and self-repairing systems eliminate manual database management, liberating database administrators and others from mundane tasks when they can be putting their expertise to better use in generating business value.

5. Data’s impact on Customer service

Customer experience is one of the most powerful differentiators. Organisations must be able to mine actionable insights from the myriad information entering the business. Few companies have the manpower to “crunch” this information/ data, and provide an expected real-time response, especially as they strive to streamline their staff contingent. The cost-effective solution is data management and analytics tools with built-in machine learning capabilities. At Oracle, we predict that 85% of all interactions will be automated by 2025. Right now, globally, 89% of people use voice assistants for customer service, and 69% of enterprises have chatbots integrated into their customer service functions.

As our Generation 2 Cloud kicks off, more data-first options bring together customer data from various platforms to provide a more cohesive and personalised experience. Businesses today are in a constant state of flux, and companies in every industry face a multitude of challenges. CIOs, though, are in the best position to implement game-changing technology that puts their companies in the best position moving forward.

Ian Jansen van Rensburg, Lead Technologist for Sub-Saharan Africa at VMware

Changing corporate mindsets and learning how to effectively leverage disruption will frame the CIO agenda in 2020. To manage this, they must be at the forefront of the business challenges their companies face, understand the financial implications, and link everything back to digital imperatives.

All businesses want to grow their profitability, be more competitive, protect their brand, nurture customer trust, and be more innovative. Fundamental to tying these elements together is a CIO willing to transition from solely being a technologist into one that helps deliver on business strategy. Providing the impetus to affect this change is the growing digitalisation of business. Technology is no longer limited to software and infrastructure support. It now permeates every facet of the organisation.

As we head into 2020, several key imperatives will frame this change.

Digital meets cloud

It all starts with the digital strategy. CIOs must carefully consider how digitalisation is not only impacting the company but also its stakeholders. The connected environment revolves around creating a smooth user experience across multiple touchpoints. So, while it is easy to be tempted by simply rolling out the latest and greatest technology, there must be a strategic reason behind it. Getting to grips with the business case of technology is therefore a priority. If it makes sense to implement, then the technology must be embraced, and solutions developed around it to maximise the investment made.

This is where modern cloud-native applications built with the Kubernetes open source container-orchestration system become an important asset. By being able to leverage from the high-performance computing capabilities of the cloud through these applications, CIOs can bring their business ideas to life. These more sophisticated technologies also make using a multi-cloud strategy a more effective way of addressing business challenges.

To optimally use this multi-cloud environment, the CIO must understand the costing models, the solutions that best integrate into the current corporate strategy and identify the areas where it will be possible to save the most money.

Cost optimisation is a vital benefit especially when it comes to using edge computing technologies to supplement existing data capturing, analysis, and intelligence. Part of this relies on the Internet of Things and making better sense of the data at hand as well as how to optimise products and services at the edge. Next year will see a significant focus on decentralising computing resources with the edge becoming essential in this regard.

Security and innovation

Cybersecurity must keep pace with all these changes and become reflective of the completely connected business environment. This means CIOs will have to focus on adopting an intrinsic security approach as Digital Transformation initiatives start maturing.

This is not only about having network edge protection from the outside, but an integrated cybersecurity strategy throughout the IT infrastructure. It will factor in every connected device, every data access point, as well as the link between the organisation and the cloud provider(s).

Providing the peace of mind that data is protected will further enable the CIO to examine other innovative ways of unlocking business value. The expectation is that things such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the blockchain will finally gain the momentum needed to change Digital Transformation initiatives in the country.

The coming months will be eventful for CIOs irrespective of industry sector they are working in. Becoming digitally empowered and linking that to solid business principles will grow the competitive environment and position organisations for continued growth.

Indi Siriniwasa, VP at Trend Micro Sub Saharan Africa

Digital Transformation has become a customer experience strategy as much as it signifies an evolution that requires organisations to embrace more innovative technologies. Driving this change is the CIO who must ensure business operations more accurately reflect changing client expectations.

To do this, data needs to be leveraged in new ways to not only extract its maximum value but also identify opportunities for growth. Research shows that more than 40% of all data analytics projects will relate to customer experience by 2020. Furthermore, two-thirds of these initiatives will use IT by 2022, up from half in 2017.

Consequently, business operations must become digital if they are to operate efficiently and be quickly available to serve customer demands. This requires CIOs to understand what is needed to successfully digitise their organisational environment while not forgetting the all-important security aspects during this transition.

If data is compromised, the company faces not only significant financial damage, but also a loss in customer’s confidence in the brand. In an ultra-competitive environment, this could prove to be crippling.

Security imperative

However, with data driving decision-making in businesses, traditional cyber-defences are no longer good enough. The focus simply cannot remain only around protecting end points, but rather integrating cybersecurity in all aspects of the business. Fortunately, corporate culture around this is maturing partly due to recent well-publicised local malware attacks.

We have also seen Artificial Intelligence (AI) having a big impact on the cybersecurity industry. This technology empowers users to more proactively detect attack surfaces. AI and Machine Learning are becoming increasingly prevalent in cybersecurity solutions. And while it is still early days, their effectiveness will grow as the technology becomes more mature.

AI has also impacted on how users interact with their devices and data. Chat bots and voice assistants are common practice while smart home speakers will be a trend to watch in the coming months. All these contribute to the level of user sophistication in the digital environment.

Fundamentally, a business must embrace this cultural shift while being cognisant of keeping data safe. CIOs must therefore walk a tightrope between leveraging AI and other technologies, delivering shareholder value, and not opening data up to compromise. However, this is essential if they are to future-proof their businesses.

Gone with tradition

Giving further impetus to adopting more sophisticated cybersecurity solutions and analysing data more effectively, is how the traditional ways of working have changed. Many companies are shifting from an on-site ‘9-to-5’ approach into one that sees employees work from anywhere and at any time.

Cybersecurity policies must therefore reflect how these increasingly mobile ways to access the corporate back-end is safeguarded. From protecting the mobile devices of employees to being able to remotely wipe data should a device get lost or stolen are just two examples of the business basics that are required in the digital world.

The constrained way of working is being replaced with a more agile framework where business operations must move faster than ever. CIOs will be the glue that link the organisational strategy with a more sophisticated, technology-led, mobile environment.

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