Alex Dalglish, UK Services Director at SoftwareONE, discusses the tech, strategies and partners needed to create the enterprise of the future.
What are some of the key differences between businesses today and what you envisage the enterprise of the future to look like?
The key difference between today’s organisations and the future enterprise is how far along they are on the journey to digital transformation. Businesses need to move from an ‘improvement’ to an ‘innovation’ mindset, but to make that leap, a bulletproof digital transformation strategy is crucial. More than ever, this now needs to be a real focus area for businesses, and 85 per cent of enterprise decision makers agree, as they believe that if they don’t make serious progress on digital initiatives, they will find themselves falling behind and take a hit on their bottom line.
Can you give me some examples of the tools/applications that will be important in enabling a new way of working in the future enterprise?
Digitisation is a key enabler for remote and team working, as we’re now currently seeing on a global scale. There’s a whole host of new tools and applications now on the market that are set to transform ways of working beyond the current crisis, with the aim being to empower ‘mobile everywhere’. One example is collaborative tools like Microsoft Teams, Monday, or Slack, which are great at helping workers adapt to this shift, letting them message, video chat or collaborate easily and quickly, regardless of location. These tools can also massively help boost staff productivity by reducing email volume, as their features replace needless internal emails that sit at the heart of lost productivity time – a recent survey of 2,000 office workers showed browsing email inboxes causes two hours of lost productivity each day.
We’re also seeing a sizeable surge in tech that harnesses new and disruptive technologies in the workplace – such as AI, wearables, virtual assistants and IoT. Microsoft Stream, for example, uses AI to automatically record and upload meetings, so notes and actions can be accessed by all attendees, no matter where they are. Similarly, virtual assistants, like Alexa for Business or Cortana, can help employees better organise their day, flagging when and where meetings are and how long their travel time will be – of course, not quite so useful in current circumstances but will be crucial as we move back into the physical office.
Cortana goes even further when connected to Office 365, connecting employees by showing their online status or what documents are being shared between them.
What do you consider to be the biggest barriers to digital transformation?
A lack of skills or technical knowledge is definitely one of the biggest barriers to devising and implementing a successful digital transformation strategy. This is down to the many technologies and processes involved, from cloud, to AI, to software asset management, all of which require a certain level of expertise or knowledge at the outset to ensure investments are worthwhile. While organisations have had to adapt quickly during the Covid-19 pandemic, putting more permanent digital transformation strategies in place will be crucial to business survival moving forwards. Companies should look for partners that will help them identify and fill any gaps during this next phase of their digital transformation – like skills shortages or difficulty migrating business critical legacy applications – as well as offer advice on services and technologies that will be right for them.
Another significant barrier to success is a ‘top down’ company culture. Businesses need to educate workers on how to use technologies and not simply mandate usage. Adoption and change management programmes are crucial to empowering employees – statistics show half of all change initiatives fail without them, and only 34 per cent are a clear success. To ensure businesses achieve the desired result when using new technologies on a more permanent basis post-pandemic, they need to offer staff online educational courses, webinars and workshops that are driven collaboratively by the IT and HR departments to address questions and concerns workers may have.
How important is cloud as an enabler to the enterprise of the future?
The cloud is a crucial part of any successful digital transformation, thanks to its speed, agility, flexibility and scalability. However, the adoption of cloud has also created issues that previously didn’t exist, with companies now struggling to cope with complex cloud infrastructures – be that multi-cloud, hybrid-cloud or other environments. We’re also seeing the continuing impact of ‘Bring Your Own Cloud’ and ‘Bring Your Own Application’, which can present a big management challenge to IT teams.
What are some of the key challenges when it comes to managing the cloud and how will this change for the enterprise of the future?
Over the past few years, the conversation has shifted from how applications and workloads can be migrated to the cloud, to how companies can optimise their cloud usage. One of the key challenges and drivers behind optimisation is how to avoid overspend in complex cloud environments – something that will be especially important for businesses looking to make savings and stay afloat post-pandemic. To achieve this, businesses need to have a more controlled management process in place, including an overarching management layer, to equip IT teams with real-time visibility into spend and performance so they can make decisions based on these factors to maximise cloud ROI. This can help them determine hidden drains on the budget and enable teams to identify where expensive instances could be wound back to a more effective ratio of cost and performance.
Finally, how will the relationship between businesses and their cloud partners evolve over the next five years?
Over the next five years, businesses will be looking to form more personalised partnerships with their cloud partners – we’ll see the traditional ‘vendor to customer’ model change significantly, and organisations won’t want generic tools. Cloud partners will be part of a crowded market, so to differentiate themselves they will need to foster a relationship where businesses feel supported in optimising their cloud infrastructure to extract the best possible value over time. As a result, expect to see a new type of partner emerge. One which doesn’t just provide a cloud management platform, but a breadth of service and solution offerings that address companies’ technology, business and spend requirements.
Alex Dalglish, UK Services Director, SoftwareONE