Business priorities for 2020
Leading technology experts, discuss business priorities for industries in 2020.
The end of 2019 marks the close of a decade that has seen technology advances soar. Since 2010 we’ve witnessed the development and adoption of technologies like the iPad, Amazon Alexa, driverless cars and near-field communication (NFC) to name just a few, all of which allow for a wealth of possibilities. Meanwhile the behind-the-scenes tech has been on just as impressive a journey. As we approach 2020, we spoke with 15 IT experts to hear their thoughts on what technologies businesses should prioritise in the coming year, and the impact of the advancements made over this past year.
Keeping data on track
In today’s data-driven world, Rob Mellor, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at WhereScape, explains that businesses are prioritising time to value: “Further eliminating the manual, repetitive elements within the development process will be even more of a priority this year. As the speed of business continues to increase, organisations must shorten the time it takes to unlock the value of data. Automation does just that, and additionally enables companies to redeploy valuable developer resources away from routine data infrastructure management processes and onto value-add tasks, such as delivering new solutions and services that will better guide the business.”
Looking at it from a data science perspective, Rich Pugh, Chief Data Scientist and Co-Founder at Mango Solutions, says: “Data as a way of doing business is not yet engrained in the DNA of most organisations. So, in our view, the key disruptor will be the inevitable broadening of the remit of analytic impact, which can only come when the business-at-large understands the possibilities of data and new ways of driving informed decision making. We believe that in the coming year, leading organisations will have cultural change high on the list of priorities of their data-driven transformation.”
Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise, suggests that edge computing is the way forward for data management.
“Edge buildout is already happening, and its pace is accelerating with trends like Internet-of-Things (IoT), self-driving cars, and biometrics. More apps are generating tons of data at the edge, raising the question of why data should not be better understood and managed directly at the edge. Imagine if you could analyse data, figure out what data is useful and needs to be brought back to the data centre, and directly process the rest of the data at the edge itself without having to first move it all?”
Being prepared for anything
Businesses must go into 2020 fully aware of the risks that they are facing. Tim Bandos, Vice President of Cybersecurity at Digital Guardian, suggests that events outside of technology have been creating some obstacles.
“I think geopolitical relationships around the world have increasingly become strained and uncertain with direction and I believe we'll see state-sponsored attacks being carried out much more; possibly even against critical infrastructure. There have been a number of attempts and even successful attacks against these types of systems but for the most part they've all been isolated incidents. The security in these environments needs to be fully assessed and controls need to be put in place as soon as possible in order to mitigate against future attacks.”
Anurag Kahol, CTO at Bitglass, agrees that preventing cyber threats is crucial, and say that “one technique that will continue to gain traction in 2020 is lateral phishing. Even the savviest security-minded folks can be lulled into a false sense of security when they receive an email asking for sensitive information from an internal source – particularly from a C-level executive. As we will continue to see cybercriminals refining their attack methods in 2020, companies must be prepared.
Businesses will need to prioritise their security as we move into the new year, as Steve Moore, Chief Security Strategist at Exabeam, advises: “In 2020, I recommend a combined focus for CISOs on three distinct disciplines: friendliness, relevance and firm accountability. The ‘friendly CISO’ will never allow his/her program to prohibit future conversations about solutions or risks; the ‘relevant CISO’ will ensure they’ve built a program that ‘trains like it fights’ and doesn’t allow compliance to deter security; and finally, an ‘accountable CISO’ holds others accountable too – starting at the top of the org chart. This approach means the CISO cannot be a proverbial punching bag. Instead, they can articulate how they intend to run a program, for example, as a business leader first, with all the associated accountability for themselves and others, and a security leader second.”
This is supported by the CISO at ConnectWise, John Ford, who comments how MSPs in particular need to keep on top of the risks from cyber threats. “When we share details of an attack, we are essentially creating a community that can act as one when it comes to detecting and responding to the overwhelming number of attacks that are available. I believe MSPs are coming around to the value of threat intelligence along with the realisation that the more their communities share, the less likely they themselves will be unprepared to adequately detect and respond to the event. Will the use and sharing of threat intelligence become ubiquitous in 2020? Probably not, but it will likely become so within the next few years.”
Driving digital transformation
Digital transformation has been a hot topic in recent years, but Josh Flinn, Director of Product Strategy and Innovation at Cybera, predicts that “2020 will be the year that we see digital transformation move from being a widely used marketing term, to becoming something that makes a tangible impact on business. The IoT is the chief driver of this. Businesses will increasingly take advantage of the wide array of connected devices, super-fast connectivity speeds and seamless security to deliver personalised and optimised experiences for their customers.”
Bob Davis, CMO at Plutora, agrees that the efforts spent on digital transformation will only increase, and in the DevOps industry specifically.
“In 2019, we’ve seen growing urgency around digital transformation, and I fully expect that to continue into 2020. As we move into the 11th year since DevOps was ‘born,’ the need to take agile methodologies to the next level – to scale them to support the largest enterprises – is paramount. 2020 will be the year that Value Stream Management (VSM) will serve as the platform that provides predictive insight and visibility for the entire process from idea to cash.
“The benefit will be the ability to optimise software delivery processes to ensure the highest quality applications are delivered on time and at the most efficient cost and resource allocation possible. The success at achieving this will be a critical success factor for the very survival of those enterprises.”
Making smart investments
As we embark on a new year, businesses should invest in the technology that is most valuable to them – be that management, security, or any other area of IT.
Ziv Kedem, CEO at Zerto, highlights why IT resilience should be a key consideration as we are “seeing an increased focus on infrastructure stability. This increased focus usually involves looking into the solidity of roads, bridges, dams, hospitals, water systems and more, but in today’s digital world, network and technology infrastructure resilience needs to be a major part of the conversation as well. Internet access and data centre operations are critical to community recovery efforts, and ensuring resilience on the IT side of infrastructure also has the added benefit of protecting against damaging effects of other digital disasters, like ransomware.”
Meanwhile Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO and Co-Founder at Content Guru, emphasises why AI is only just gaining momentum in many industries.
“Around a quarter of customer interactions are already handled through an automated chatbot, and the customer engagement technology sector is constantly expanding the very definition of what AI is and what it can do. As it becomes the key business differentiator, organisations that stay ahead of the curve are seeing happy, loyal and engaged customers and higher profits, by turning AI hype into tangible business success. Moving beyond the hype and towards result-driven applications of AI will be critical to the success of any company wanting to survive in this competitive landscape in 2020.”
“As the drive for reducing energy consumption to benefit the environment reaches an all-time high,” explains Eltjo Hofstee, Managing Director at Leaseweb UK, “we predict that an increased demand for virtualisation will be a key route to achieving sustainability in data centre operations. Virtual servers use far less energy than their physical counterparts as they share a lot of resources, yet enable IT teams to fully utilise the capacity of a physical server to run the same environment virtually, and in many cases without compromising performance.”
For more niche industries, choosing the right technology is just as crucial, no matter what the specialty.
Surya Varanasi, CTO of StorCentric, parent company of Drobo & Retrospect, says: “In the Professional Consumer (i.e. Prosumer) and SMB space, data storage and protection has always been a priority, but cost has been a roadblock for those seeking to employ comprehensive end-to-end data management and protection solutions.
“In 2020, Prosumers and SMBs will demand solutions that enable them to seamlessly and affordably layer features and functionality onto their on-site storage, such as integration with off-site cloud and SaaS backup and recovery solutions, with flexible cross-platform support for all major platforms.”
For businesses that rely on wireless networks, Ken Hosac, VP of IoT Strategy and Business Development at Cradlepoint reveals: “Enterprises have a variety of use cases that benefit from having private wireless networks across a large area. However, WiFi isn’t always the answer, especially in large, crowded areas with lots of interference. Increasingly, enterprises are considering using LTE instead of WiFi for these ‘wide-area, local networks.’
“Enterprise-deployed Private LTE networks will become a reality in 2020. The FCC recently approved a swath of shared spectrum that was commercially launched this fall. A variety of companies, including Cradlepoint, have formed a broad ecosystem of interoperable Private LTE solutions that enables those commercial deployments. Keep an eye on Private LTE – it’s set to explode in 2020.”
To conclude, Kleopatra Kivrakidou, Channel Marketing Manager EMEA at Ergotron, encourages businesses to prioritise not just their technology but also the welfare of their employees.
“Even more so than their predecessors, Gen-Z workers are highly health conscious, both physically and mentally. Organisations will therefore be facing a much higher demand from these young workers to provide office environments that are both functional and agile, while meeting their stricter health and wellbeing requirements.
“This free-thinking cohort of workers also wants greater control over their environment and value flexible work arrangements that incorporate task-oriented features that enable to them to curate how, and with whom, they work. Less accepting of the limitations of the physical spaces they inhabit, they’ll expect to find adjustable desks and mobile furniture that makes it possible to dynamically transform their working spaces as they see fit.”
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How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.