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Digital Transformation Trends 2019-2020: Costs of The Cloud, The Future of Workplaces, and AI

Innovation Executive Forum | Posted on November 19, 2019 by Erika Van Noort

Softchoice’s Innovation Executive Forum (IEF) is touring North American cities once again – learning first-hand how IT leaders are driving transformation and delivering outcomes in their organizations.

In this second post of the Digital Transformation Trends series, we bring you the key insights from our events in Houston, Los Angeles, and New York City.

 Trend 1: Understanding the true costs of cloud

How do you calculate just how much the cloud costs?

Despite the promises of a switch to operational expenses, and paying for only what you need, when you need it, predicting cloud costs has turned out to be a lot more complicated than initially thought. And the complexity is having an impact on digital transformation success, according to the IEF members.

  • Sticker shock: Several IEF members said attempts to migrate to the cloud have been hampered by unexpected consumption costs. “You quickly learn it’s not cheaper,” said an IT leader in Houston. Another IT leader, from a law firm in New York, said his company hit the brakes on a major migration project, and going back on premises, because of sticker shock. “It simply costs too much,” he said.
  • Count the soft costs: Another factor is the unexpected demand for cloud expertise. One IT leader in Houston said his company intends on going all-in on the cloud. But, to do so, they are now realizing they will need to hire an Azure expert, someone to manage and monitor backups and maintenance, full time.
  • The need for insights: Other IT leaders say they can justify cloud investments, but not without more insights or reporting tools. One IT pro pointed out that the cloud can help control costs, by providing granular charge-back details per department and user groups. Another said the move to multi-cloud requires a modern, consolidated dashboard. IT leaders must be able to monitor and control cloud operations from a singular, unified pane of glass. Another IT leader said his department needs richer performance insights into cloud applications, too. Otherwise, it can be difficult to remediate and fix issues when cloud applications suffer from downtime.

Dig deeper: 5 Ways you Could be Misunderstanding Cloud Usage and Costs

Trend 2: Fine-tuning the future workplace

To successfully compete in the digital age, businesses don’t just need innovative ideas and products. They need the people and processes to generate and sustain those ideas. In fact, according to research by the MIT Sloan Center of Information Systems Research, companies with the best employee experience achieve double the customer satisfaction and get 25 percent greater profitability.

It’s no wonder, IT leaders of the IEF are feeling immense pressures to support a modern workplace experience – one where technology, culture, and operations come together to transform what it means to work.

  • Mass migration to Teams: In NYC, Houston, and LA, IT leaders said they were pursuing a migration to Teams, and other Office 365 products, to simplify and secure a complex landscape of collaboration tools. This comes as numerous other third-party tools, such as Slack, have been getting adopted behind IT’s back. The good news is that tools such as Teams are rapidly gaining in popularity, while offering IT a way to protect data and foster a great user experience. (This summer, Teams overtook Slack with 13 million daily users, according to The Verge.)
  • The physical worker: IT leaders don’t just have their heads in the clouds. They are taking on the responsibility to make sure the physical office space and hardware employees receive, are evolving to meet new demands for flexibility, purpose, and culture. In Houston, one CIO is upgrading everyone’s earbuds, webcams, and conference rooms, as the organization stops supporting old school desk phones and costly fixed-line infrastructure. In New York, offices are being designed for people to bump into each other and share ideas – something lacking in the wave of new, off-site flexible workers.
  • Hiring hacks: IT is also at the table when it comes to changing up the employee value proposition, to hire and retain new talent. One IT leader in New York is exploring a radical new approach to flexibility, allowing employees to work for eight months of the year and take four off. Others are concerned about making employee onboarding as invisible and seamless as possible. While others are re-examining their hiring practices, looking out for diversity of experience and viewpoints.

Dig deeper: Time to re-invent the office space… again 


Trend 3: The practical use cases of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is officially a buzzword. So much so, in fact, that many start-ups and businesses are engaging in “AI washing,” pretending to be using AI, just to gain attention.

This trend is unfortunate because there are so many practical examples of AI delivering value in the enterprise. Just ask our IEF members.

  • AI for safety on the factory floors: A Houston IEF member discussed how AI is being combined with Internet-connected wearable devices to improve factory safety and working conditions. Solutions can identify and prevent an accident before it occurs, by sending an alert when an employee is in harm’s way.
  • AI for the insurance industry: In Los Angeles, one IT leader spoke about how AI and automation can help streamline and simplify insurance claims processes. Instead of needing to send a human worker out into the field to report on an incident, insurance firms can leverage mobile applications, cameras, and visual learning to quickly and accurately complete tasks.
  • AI and customer experience: From offering self-service experiences, to sifting through mountains of data for new insights, artificial intelligence is also helping IT drive more relevant and compelling customer experiences. “It’s helping us create more customer stickiness,” said an IT leader in Houston, discussing how his firm is leveraging AI capabilities on Amazon’s cloud to generate new business insights.


Trend 4: The security war intensifies

IT is more aware than ever of the need for enhanced cybersecurity. The bad news is this trend is emerging because attacks are getting more common and sophisticated, by the day.

Our IEF members are playing the canaries to the coal mine, sounding the alarm for IT leaders to elevate their security and data privacy practices into 2020.

  • Losing the war: As ransomware attacks hit all-time highs, you can forgive IT leaders in Houston for feeling like they are losing the cybersecurity “arms race.” Over in LA, many IEF members spoke of the need to improve readiness and their response capabilities, in case an attack occurs. They are looking to improving Incident Response training, investing in insurance, and leveraging third-party firms such as CrowdStrike to support their security needs.
  • Table stakes: When you are in the business of handling customer data, you no longer have a choice: You need to provide top-notch security and compliance, or you won’t be in business much longer. This is especially true in industries collecting highly-sensitive information, suggest the IT leader at a law firm in New York. “Security is table stakes. You need to prove high trust and certification, or you can’t do business,” he said.
  • Data privacy regulations: With GDPR behind us, businesses in the United States are now bracing for a new wave of regulations, demanding new levels of consumer data and privacy protection. IEF members in Los Angeles said that they are getting ready for the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which goes into effect on January 1, 2020. Interestingly, the new regulation impacts any business, anywhere in the United States (and beyond). Just ask Microsoft, which is vowing to implement CCPA across the States.

Dig deeper: Cybersecurity & data privacy trends in 2020

To learn more about the IEF and apply to become a member, visit our IEF homepage.

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