What will the IT department look like in the future?

Posted on : 29-01-2019 | By : john.vincent | In : Cloud, Data, General News, Innovation

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

0

We are going through a significant change in how technology services are delivered as we stride further into the latest phase of the Digital Revolution. The internet provided the starting pistol for this phase and now access to new technology, data and services is accelerating at breakneck speed.

More recently the real enablers of a more agile and service-based technology have been the introduction of virtualisation and orchestration technologies which allowed for compute to be tapped into on demand and removed the friction between software and hardware.

The impact of this cannot be underestimated. The removal of the needed to manually configure and provision new compute environments was a huge step forwards, and one which continues with developments in Infrastructure as Code (“IaC”), micro services and server-less technology.

However, whilst these technologies continually disrupt the market, the corresponding changes to the overall operating models has in our view lagged (this is particularly true in larger organisations which have struggled to shift from the old to the new).

If you take a peek into organisation structures today they often still resemble those of the late 90’s where capabilities in infrastructure were organised by specialists such as data centre, storage, service management, application support etc. There have been changes, specifically more recently with the shift to devops and continuous integration and development, but there is still a long way go.

Our recent Technology Futures Survey provided a great insight into how our clients (290) are responding to the shifting technology services landscape.

“What will your IT department look like in 5-7 years’ time?”

There were no surprises in the large majority of respondents agreeing that the organisation would look different in the near future. The big shift is to a more service focused, vendor led technology model, with between 53%-65% believing that this is the direction of travel.

One surprise was a relatively low consensus on the impact that Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) would have on management of live services, with only 10% saying it would be very likely. However, the providers of technology and services formed a smaller proportion of our respondents (28%) and naturally were more positive about the impact of AI.

The Broadgate view is that the changing shape of digital service delivery is challenging previous models and applying tension to organisations and providers alike.  There are two main areas where we see this;

  1. With the shift to cloud based and on-demand services, the need for any provider, whether internal or external, has diminished
  2. Automation, AI and machine learning are developing new capabilities in self-managing technology services

We expect that the technology organisation will shift to focus more on business products and procuring the best fit service providers. Central to this is AI and ML which, where truly intelligent (and not just marketing), can create a self-healing and dynamic compute capability with limited human intervention.

Cloud, machine learning and RPA will remove much of the need to manage and develop code

To really understand how the organisation model is shifting, we have to look at the impact that technology is having the on the whole supply chain. We’ve long outsourced the delivery of services. However, if we look the traditional service providers (IBM, DXC, TCS, Cognizant etc.) that in the first instance acted as brokers to this new digital technology innovations we see that they are increasingly being disintermediated, with provisioning and management now directly in the hands of the consumer.

Companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon have superior technical expertise and they are continuing to expose these directly to the end consumer. Thus, the IT department needs to think less about how to either build or procure from a third party, but more how to build a framework of services which “knits together” a service model which can best meet their business needs with a layered, end-to-end approach. This fits perfectly with a more business product centric approach.

We don’t see an increase for in-house technology footprints with maybe the exception of truly data driven organisations or tech companies themselves.

In our results, the removal of cyber security issues was endorsed by 28% with a further 41% believing that this was a possible outcome. This represents a leap of faith given the current battle that organisations are undertaking to combat data breaches! Broadgate expect that organisations will increasingly shift the management of these security risks to third party providers, with telecommunication carriers also taking more responsibilities over time.

As the results suggest, the commercial and vendor management aspects of the IT department will become more important. This is often a skill which is absent in current companies, so a conscious strategy to develop capability is needed.

Organisations should update their operating model to reflect the changing shape of technology services, with the closer alignment of products and services to technology provision never being as important as it is today.

Indeed, our view is that even if your model serves you well today, by 2022 it is likely to look fairly stale. This is because what your company currently offers to your customers is almost certain to change, which will require fundamental re-engineering across, and around, the entire IT stack.

The Challenges of Implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Posted on : 25-01-2019 | By : kerry.housley | In : Innovation, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , ,

0

We recently surveyed our clients on their views around the future of technology in the workplace and the changes that they think are likely to shape their future working environment. 

One of the questions identified by many clients as a major challenge was around the adoption of RPA. We asked the question; 

“Do You Agree that RPA could improve the Efficiency of Your Business? 

Around 65% of the respondents to our survey agreed that RPA could improve the efficiency of their business, but many commented that they were put off by the challenges that needed to be overcome in order for RPA deployment to be a success. 

“The challenge is being able to identify how and where RPA is best deployed, avoiding any detrimental disruption 

In this article we will discuss in more detail the challenges, and what steps can be taken to ensure a more successful outcome. 

The benefits of RPA are:

  • Reduced operating costs
  • Increased productivity
  • Reduce employee’s workload to spend more time on higher value tasks
  • Get more done in less time! 

What Processes are Right for Automation? 

One of the challenges facing many organisations is deciding which processes are good for automation and which process to choose to automate first. This line from Bill Gates offers some good advice; 

automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency” 

It follows therefore, that the first step in any automation journey is reviewing all of your business processes to ensure that they are all running as efficiently as possible.  You do not want to waste time, money and effort in implementing a robot to carry an inefficient process which will reap no rewards at all.  

Another challenge is choosing which process to automate first. In our experience, many clients have earmarked one of their most painful processes as process number one in order to heal the pain.  This fails more often than not because the most painful process is often one of the most difficult to automate.  Ideally, you want to pick a straightforward, highly repetitive process which will be easier to automate with simple results, clearly showing the benefits to automation. Buy-in at this stage from all stakeholders is critical if RPA is be successfully deployed further in the organisation. Management need to see the efficiency saving and employees can see how the robot can help them to do their job quicker and free up their time to do more interesting work. Employee resistance and onboarding should not be underestimated. Keeping workers in the loop and reducing the perceived threat is crucial to your RPA success.  

Collaboration is Key 

Successful RPA deployment is all about understanding and collaboration which if not approached carefully could ultimately lead to the failure of the project.  RPA in one sense, is just like any other piece of software that you will implement, but in another way it’s not. Implementation involves close scrutiny of an employee’s job with the employee feeling threatened by the fact that the robot may take over and they will be left redundant in the process.   

IT and the business must work closely together to ensure that process accuracy, cost reduction, and customer satisfaction benchmarks are met during implementation.  RPA implementation success is both IT- and business-driven, with RPA governance sitting directly in the space between business and IT. Failure to maintain consistent communication between these two sides will mean that project governance will be weak and that any obstacles, such as potential integration issues of RPA with existing programs, cannot be dealt effectively. 

Don’t Underestimate Change 

Change management should not be underestimated, the implementation of RPA is a major change in an organisation which needs to be planned for, and carefully managed. Consistently working through the change management aspects is critical to making RPA successful. It is important to set realistic expectations and look at RPA from an enterprise perspective focusing on the expected results and what will be delivered. 

 RPA = Better Business Outcomes 

RPA is a valuable automation asset in a company’s digital road map and can deliver great results if implemented well. However, often RPA implementations have not delivered the returns promised, impacted by the challenges we have discussed. Implementations that give significant consideration to the design phase and realise the importance of broader change management into the process will benefit from better business outcomes across the end-to-end process. Enterprises looking to embark on the RPA journey can have chance to take note, avoid the pitfalls and experience the success that RPA can bring. 

Selecting a new “digitally focused” sourcing partner

Posted on : 18-07-2018 | By : john.vincent | In : Cloud, FinTech, Innovation, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , ,

0

It was interesting to see the recent figures this month from the ISG Index, showing that the traditional outsourcing market in EMEA has rebounded. Figures for the second quarter for commercial outsourcing contracts show a combined annual contract value (ACV) of €3.7Bn. This is significantly up 23% on 2017 and for the traditional sourcing market, reverses a downward trend which had persisted for the previous four quarters.

This is an interesting change of direction, particularly against a backdrop of economic uncertainty around Brexit and the much “over indulged”, GDPR preparation. It seems that despite this, rather than hunkering down with a tin hat and stockpiling rations, companies in EMEA have invested in their technology service provision to support an agile digital growth for the future. The global number also accelerated, up 31% to a record ACV of €9.9Bn.

Underpinning some of these figures has been a huge acceleration in the As-a-Service market. In the last 2 years the ACV attributed to SaaS and IaaS has almost doubled. This has been fairly consistent across all sectors.

So when selecting a sourcing partner, what should companies consider outside of the usual criteria including size, capability, cultural fit, industry experience, flexibility, cost and so on?

One aspect that is interesting from these figures is the influence that technologies such as cloud based services, automation (including AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) are having both now and in the years to come. Many organisations have used sourcing models to fix costs and benefit from labour arbitrage as a pass-through from suppliers. Indeed, this shift of labour ownership has fuelled incredible growth within some of the service providers. For example, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has grown from 45.7k employees in 2005 to 394k in March 2018.

However, having reached this heady number if staff, the technologies mentioned previously are threatening the model of some of these companies. As-a-Service providers such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS have platforms now which are carving their way through technology service provision, which previously would have been managed by human beings.

In the infrastructure space commoditisation is well under way. Indeed, we predict that the within 3 years the build, configure and manage skills in areas such Windows and Linux platforms will be rarely in demand. DevOps models, and variants of, are moving at a rapid pace with tools to support spinning up platforms on demand to support application services now mainstream. Service providers often focus on their technology overlay “value add” in this space, with portals or orchestration products which can manage cloud services. However, the value of these is often questionable over direct access or through commercial 3rd party products.

Secondly, as we’ve discussed here before, technology advances in RPA, machine learning and AI are transforming service provision. This of course is not just in terms of business applications but also in terms of the underpinning services. This is translating itself into areas such as self-service Bots which can be queried by end users to provide solutions and guidance, or self-learning AI processes which can predict potential system failures before they occur and take preventative actions.

These advances present a challenge to the workforce focused outsource providers.

Given the factors above, and the market shift, it is important that companies take these into account when selecting a technology service provider. Questions to consider are;

  • What are their strategic relationships with cloud providers, and not just at the “corporate” level, but do they have in depth knowledge of the whole technology ecosystem at a low level?
  • Can they demonstrate skills in the orchestration and automation of platforms at an “infrastructure as a code” level?
  • Do they have capability to deliver process automation through techniques such as Bots, can they scale to enterprise and where are their RPA alliances?
  • Does the potential partner have domain expertise and open to partnership around new products and shared reward/JV models?

The traditional sourcing engagement models are evolving which has developed new opportunities on both sides. Expect new entrants, without the technical debt, organisational overheads and with a more technology solution focus to disrupt the market.

Welcoming Robots to the Team

Posted on : 30-05-2018 | By : richard.gale | In : Finance, FinTech, Innovation

Tags: , , , , ,

1

Research suggests that that the adoption of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and AI technologies is set to double by 2019. This marks a fundamental change in how organisations work and the potential impact on employees should not be underestimated.

For many years we have seen robots on the factory floor where manual processes have been replaced by automation. This has drastically changed the nature of manufacturing and has inevitably led to a reduction in these workforces.  It is understandable therefore, that we can hear the trembling voices of city workers shouting, “the robots are coming!”

Robotic software should not be thought of as the enemy but rather as a friendly addition to the IT family.  A different approach is needed. If you were replacing an excel spreadsheet with a software program an employee would see this as advantage, as it makes their job quicker and easier to do, therefore welcome the change. Looking at RPA in the same way will change the way employees view its implementation and how they feel about it.

There is no doubt that in some cases RPA is intended as a cost saver but organisations that see RPA as simply a cost saving solution will reap the least rewards. For many companies who have already completed successful RPA programmes, the number one priority has been to eliminate repetitive work that employees didn’t want or need to do. Approaching an RPA project in a carefully thought out and strategic manner will provide results that show that RPA and employees can work together.

Successful transformation using RPA relies on an often used but very relevant phrase  “it’s all about the People Process and Technology”.  You need all three in the equation. It is undeniable that automation is a disruptive technology which will affect employees outlook and affect the way they work. Change management is key in managing these expectations. If robots are to be a part of your organisation, then your employees must be prepared and included.

Perhaps it’s time to demystify RPA, and see it for what is really is, just another piece of software! Automation is about making what you do easier to execute, with less mistakes and greater flexibility. It is important to demonstrate to your staff that RPA is part of a much wider strategic plan of growth and new opportunities.

It is vital to communicate with staff at every level, explaining the purpose of RPA and what it will mean for them. Ensure everyone understands the implications and the benefits of the transition to automation. Even though activities and relationships within an organisation may change this does not necessarily mean a change for the worst.

Employees must be involved from the start of the process. Those individuals who have previously performed the tasks to be automated will be your subject matter experts. You will need to train several existing employees in RPA to manage the process going forward.  Building an RPA team from current employees will ensure that you have their buy- in which is crucial if the implementation is to be a success.

With any new software training is often an afterthought. In the case of RPA training is more important than ever, ensuring that the robots and employees understand each other and can work efficiently together. Working to train RPA experts internally will result in a value-added proposition for the future when it comes to maintaining or scaling your solution.

When analysing the initial RPA requirements, a great deal of thought must be given to the employees who are being replaced and where their skills can be effectively be redeployed. Employee engagement increases when personnel feel that their contribution to the organisation is meaningful and widespread.

Consultation and collaboration throughout the entire process will help to ensure a smoother transition where everyone can feel the benefits. Following a successful RPA implementation share the results with everyone in your organisation.  Share the outcomes and what you have learnt, highlight those employees and teams that have helped along the way.

The robots are coming! They are here to help and at your service!

Will Robotic Process Automation be responsible for the next generation of technical debt?

Posted on : 28-03-2018 | By : kerry.housley | In : FinTech, Innovation, Predictions, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

0

All hail the great Bill Gates and his immortal words:

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

With the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) wave crashing down all about us and as we all scramble around trying to catch a ride on its efficiency, cost saving and performance optimising goodness, we should take a minute and take heed of Mr Gate’s wise words and remember that poorly designed processes done more efficiently will still be ineffectual. In theory, you’re just getting better at doing things poorly.

Now before we go any further, we should state that we have no doubt about the many benefits of RPA and in our opinion RPA should be taken advantage of and utilised where appropriate.

Now with that said…

RPA lends itself very well to quick fixes and fast savings, which are very tempting to any organisation. However, there are many organisations with years of technical debt built up already through adding quick fixes to fundamental issues in their IT systems. For these organisations, the introduction of RPA (although very fruitful in the short term) will actually add more technological dependencies to the mix. This will increase their technical debt if not maintained effectively. Eventually, this will become unsustainable and very costly to your organisation.

RPA will increase dependencies on other systems, adding subtle complex levels of interoperability, and like any interdependent ecosystem, when one thing alters there is an (often unforeseen) knock-on effect in other areas.

An upgrade that causes a subtle change to a user interface will cause the RPA process to stop working, or worse the process will keep working but do the wrong thing.

Consider this; what happens when an RPA process that has been running for a few years needs updating or changing? Will you still have the inherent expert understanding of this particular process at the human level or has that expertise now been lost?

How will we get around these problems?  Well, as with most IT issues, an overworked and understaffed IT department will create a quick workaround to solve the problem, and then move on to the myriad of other technical issues that need their attention. Hey presto… technical debt.

So, what is the answer? Of course, we need to stay competitive and take advantage of this new blend of technologies. It just needs to be a considered decision, you need to go in with your eyes open and understand the mid and long-term implications.

A big question surrounding RPA is who owns this new technology within organisations? Does it belong to the business side or the IT side and how involved should your CIO or CTO be?

It’s tempting to say that processes are designed by the business side and because RPA is simply going to replace the human element of an already existing process this can all be done by the business side, we don’t need to (or want to) involve the CIO in this decision. However, you wouldn’t hire a new employee into your organisation without HR being involved and the same is true of introducing new tech into your system. True, RPA is designed to sit outside/on top of your networks and systems in which case it shouldn’t interfere with your existing network, but at the very least the CIO and IT department should have an oversight of RPA being introduced into the organisation. They can then be aware of any issues that may occur as a result of any upgrades or changes to the existing system.

Our advice would be that organisations should initially only implement RPA measures that have been considered by both the CIO and the business side to be directly beneficial to the strategic goals of the company.

Following this, you can then perform a proper opportunity assessment to find the optimum portfolio of processes.  Generally, low or medium complexity processes or sub-processes will be the best initial options for RPA, if your assessment shows that the Full Time Equivalent (FTE) savings are worth it of course. Ultimately, you should be looking for the processes with the best return, and simplest delivery.

A final point on software tools and vendors. Like most niche markets of trending technology RPA is awash with companies offering various software tools. You may have heard of some of the bigger and more reputable names like UiPath and Blue Prism. It can be a minefield of offerings, so understanding your needs and selecting an appropriate vendor will be key to making the most of RPA. In order to combat the build-up of technical debt, tools provided by the vendor to enable some of the maintenance and management of the RPA processes is essential.

For advice on how to begin to introduce RPA into your organisation, vendor selection or help conducting a RPA opportunity assessment, or for help reducing your technical debt please email Richard.gale@broadgateconsultants.com.

 

Are you ready to take advantage of Robotic Process Automation?

Posted on : 28-02-2018 | By : richard.gale | In : Innovation, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , ,

0

Robotic Process Automation or RPA is growing fast. We were initially sceptical as to how innovative it actually is but are always looking for ways to help our clients (and Broadgate!) work more efficiently.

RPA technology, sometimes called a software robot or ‘bot’, mimics a human worker, logging into applications, entering data, calculating and completing tasks, and logging out.

RPA software isn’t really part of an organisation’s IT infrastructure. It sits above, enabling a company to implement the technology quickly and efficiently without changing the existing infrastructure and systems.

RPA could be seen as a ‘tactical’ approach to solving a business problem. In the long term the ‘bots’ should be replaced by strategic solutions but the advantages of quickly being able to make a process more efficient and remove human error can make immediate efficiency gains. And we all know how long these tactical solutions can remain in place….

The evolution of RPA

Although the term “robotic process automation” can be traced to the early 2000s, it had been developing for a number of years previously. We worked on screen scraping applications in the early ’90s to help turn ‘green screens’ into newly fashionable GUI applications.

RPA evolved from three key technologies: screen scraping (mimicking user interaction), workflow automation and artificial intelligence.

Screen scraping is the process of collecting screen display data from a legacy application so that the data can be displayed by a more modern user interface. The advantages of workflow automation software, which eliminates the need for manual data entry and increases order fulfilment rates, include increased speed, efficiency and accuracy. Lastly, artificial intelligence involves the ability of computer systems to perform tasks that normally require human intervention and intelligence.

Benefits of RPA

Robotic process automation technology can help organisations on their digital transformation stories by:

  • Creating cost savings for manual and repetitive tasks
  • Enabling employees to be more productive
  • Enabling better customer service
  • Ensuring business operations and processes comply with regulations and standards
  • Allowing processes to be completed much more rapidly
  • Providing improved efficiency by digitising and auditing processes

Applications of RPA

Some of the applications of RPA include:

  • Financial services: Companies in the financial services industry can use RPA for foreign exchange payments, automating account openings and closings, managing audit requests and processing insurance claims.
  • Customer service: RPA can help companies offer better customer service by automating call centre tasks, including verifying e-signatures, uploading scanned documents and verifying information for automatic approvals or rejections.
  • Accounting: Organisations can use RPA for general accounting, operational accounting, transactional reporting and budgeting.
  • Supply Chain:  RPA can be used for procurement, automating order processing and payments, monitoring inventory levels and tracking shipments.
  • Healthcare: Medical organizations can use RPA for handling patient records, claims, customer support, account management, billing, reporting and analytics.
  • Human resources: RPA can automate HR tasks, including onboarding and offboarding, updating employee information and timesheet submission processes.

 

What’s so different from regular automation?

What distinguishes RPA from traditional IT automation is the ability of the RPA software to be aware and adapt to changing circumstances, exceptions and new situations.
Once RPA software has been trained to capture and interpret the actions of specific processes in existing software applications, it can then manipulate data, trigger responses, initiate new actions and communicate with other systems autonomously.
RPA software is particularly useful for organisations that have many different and complicated systems that need to interact together fluidly.
For instance, if an electronic form from a Compliance system (such as know your customer) is missing a postcode, traditional automation software would flag the form as having an exception and an employee would handle the exception by looking up the correct postcode and entering it on the form. Once the form is complete, the employee might send it on to Compliance so the information can be entered into the approved customer system.
With RPA technology, however, software that has the ability to adapt, self-learn and self-correct would handle the exception and interact with the payroll system without human assistance.

What to look for in RPA software

When enterprise leaders look for RPA technologies, they should consider a number of things, including:

  • Simplicity: Organisations should look for products that are simple enough that any employee in the business can build and use them to handle various kinds of work, including collecting data and turning content into information that enables leaders to make the best business decisions.
  • Speed: Enterprises should be able to design and test new robotic processes in a few hours or less, as well as optimise the bots to work quickly.
  • Reliability: As companies launch robots to automate hundreds or even thousands of tasks, they should look for tools with built-in monitoring and analytics that enable them to monitor the health of their systems.
  • Intelligence: The best RPA tools can support simple task-based activities, read and write to any data source, and take advantage of more advanced learning to further improve automation.
  • Scalability: Organisations shouldn’t select RPA software that requires them to deploy software robots to desktops or virtualised environments. They should look for RPA platforms that can be centrally managed and scale massively.
  • Enterprise-class: Companies should look for tools that are built from the ground up for enterprise-grade scalability, reliability and manageability.

Prerequisites for robotic process automation

  1. Are you able to describe the work? This doesn’t mean your documentation exists or is current. The task could be described by recording a user performing their work on a computer including how they handle exceptions.
  2. Is the work rules-based rather than subjective? Robots need to be prepared (aka, taught, trained, configured) to perform specific actions on your systems. Current technology is insufficient for a robot to determine on its own what to when faced with a new situation.
  3. Is the work performed electronically? It doesn’t matter how many different applications are required or whether they are in-house, cloud-based, Citrix, desktop or mainframe.
  4. Is the required data structured (or could it be structured)? If not, you may be able to utilise an OCR and/or cognitive application capable of structuring the file.  Alternatively, you could have people enter the data into a structured format.

Disqualifiers for robotic process automation use cases​​

  1. Process stability. If your organisation keeps changing the process (e.g., responding to competitive factors or new sources of information), then it may not be the right time to automate it. Despite investing resources to stabilise the current activity, you may end up with too much maintenance to keep your automation aligned to business needs.
  2. Target applications suitability. Some applications are harder for robots to use than others. It’s a fact that vendors don’t really like to highlight in the sales process. Starting with an especially challenging target application could delay the whole program, cause fatigue in leadership and put your credibility at risk. If you have to do it, make sure that you build in an accurate view of the time required.

Organisational impacts of RPA

Though automation software is expected to replace up to 120 million full-time employees worldwide by 2024, many high-quality jobs will be created for those who maintain and improve RPA software.

When software robots do replace people in the enterprise, managers need to be responsible for ensuring that business outcomes are achieved and new governance policies are met.

Robotic process automation technology also requires that the CIO take more of a leadership role and assume accountability for the business outcomes and the risks of deploying RPA tools.

Additionally, the COO, CIO and HR, as well as the relevant executive who owns the process being automated, should all work toward ensuring the availability of an enterprise-grade, secure platform for controlling and operating bots across systems.

Where the robotic process automation market is heading

One report expects the RPA market to reach $5 billion by 2024. The increased adoption of RPA technologies by organisations to enhance their capabilities and performance and boost cost savings will reportedly drive the growth of the robotic process automation market most during that time.

We are excited that the mix of technologies and domain business expertise will enable this growth and we are focusing on growing our skills in this area.

The 2018 Broadgate Predictions

Posted on : 19-12-2017 | By : richard.gale | In : Predictions

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

1

Battle of the Chiefs

Chief Information Officer 1 –  Chief Digital Officer 0

Digital has been the interloper into the world of IT – originating from the Marketing Department through the medium of Website morphing into Ecommerce. The result was more budget and so power with the CDiO than the CIO and the two Chiefs have been rubbing along uncomfortably together, neither fully understanding the boundaries between them. 2018 will see the re-emergence of CIO empire as technology becomes more service based (Cloud, SaaS, Microservices etc) and focus returns to delivering high paced successful transformational change.

 

Battle of the Algorithms

Quantum 2 – Security 1

All the major Tech companies now have virtual Quantum computers available (so the toolkits if not the technology). These allow adventurous techies to experiment with Quantum concepts. Who knows what the capabilities are of Quantum but through its enormous processing power it will have the capability to look at every possible combination of events for a giving situation at once. That is great in terms of deciding which share to buy or how people interacting on Facebook but it will also have the potential to crack most current encryption mechanisms. Saying that it will enable another level of secure access too!

 

Battle of the Search Engines

Voice 2 – Screen 0

OK Google, Alexa, Siri…. There’s a great video of Google talking to Alexa on infinite loop. That’s all fun but in 2018 Voice will start to become a dominant force for search and for general utility. Effectively stopping what you are doing and typing in a command or search will start to feel a little strange and old-fashioned. OK in the office we may not all start shouting at our computers (well not more than normal) but around the home, car using our phones it is the obvious way to interact. This trend is already gathering momentum. VR and especially AR will add to this, the main thing holding it back is the fact you look like an idiot with the headset on. Once that is cracked then there will be no stopping it.

 

RoboWars – to be continued…

Robots 1 – People 1

AI and ‘robot process automation’ RPA are everywhere. Every services firm worth its salt has process automation plans and the hype around companies such as Blue Prisim is phenomenal.  This is all very exciting and many doomsayers have been predicting the end of most jobs (and some the end of most people!). Yes. Automation of processes is here. It’s been here for years – that is what most ERP (aka workflow) systems do. It makes absolute sense to automate mundane processes and if you can build in a bit of intelligence to deal with slight differences in the pattern then all the better. Will it result in the loss of millions of jobs… well maybe and probably in the short-term but once again, as every time in the past, technology will replace human endeavour whilst humans will be busy building the next creative, innovative wave.

 

The Lightbulb Moment

Internet 1 – Internet of Things 3

Is there anything left which is not internet connected? Two years ago, there were very few people that had any interest in communicating with a lightbulb – apart from flicking a light-switch. Now IoT connected lightbulbs appear be everywhere and the trend will grow and grow. The speed this happening is accelerating and the scope of connected devices is expanding beyond belief. Who would have thought we needed a smart hairbrush? This is all fine and will enrich our lives in ways we probably haven’t even thought about yet but there is a cost. We are allowing these devices to listen, see, control parts of our lives and the data they gather has value both for good and bad reasons. There is no ‘culture of security’ for IoT. Many of the devices are cheaply designed and manufactured with no thought towards security or data privacy. We are allowing these devices into our lives and we don’t really know what they know and who knows what they know. This may be a subtler change for 2018 – the securing of ‘the Thing’ – well lets hope so!

 

Welcome to our ESports Day

Call Of Duty 2 – Premiership Football 1

Sport is a big business. From Curling to Swimming to Indy Car racing it has a thousand differing forms, millions of participants and billions of armchair viewers. Top class athletes in a popular sport can earn millions of dollars a year both from performing and through product endorsements.

Video games have been popular for years. They started as single, two player games and now are worldwide multiplayer extravaganzas where you can battle, race or fight against people throughout the world. A number of superstars or EAthletes have emerged, first through winning competitions and then through youtube etc where their tournaments are recorded and watched again and again. This business has now broken the $1B mark – still way off ‘real’ sport but its growing massively and some point soon will become part of the mainstream.