Authored by: Sheena Chin, Managing Director at ASEAN, Cohesity
One of the biggest lessons that digital leaders and their business peers can take away from the past 18 months is that uncertainty is now the only certainty.
Rapidly changing customer demands and super-fast technological advances had already created significant challenges. Then the coronavirus pandemic became the impetus for a new phase of digital transformation, forcing organisations to digitalise in days rather than years.
In this new era of constant uncertainty, CIOs must work across the organisation and use digital technology and data to unlock new opportunities. They should work with their C-Suite peers to use technology to help the business overcome the challenges it faces.
Despite the pandemic hitting businesses hard, countries such as Malaysia have implemented strategies to help business leaders with digital improvements and investments in tools such as fintech, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. Businesses can then benefit from the digital economy and recover from the crisis. Moving forward, it is crucial for businesses to adopt a growth mindset and embrace the following six key trends as part of their ongoing digital transformation journeys.
1. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
AI and ML have received significant hype during the past few years – and both technologies will become central to digital transformation efforts going forward. IDC says global spending on AI is forecast to double over the next four years, growing from US$50.1 billion in 2020 to more than US$110 billion in 2024.
Companies will use AI and ML to help boost customer service and worker efficiency. IDC says the top four use cases for AI – automated customer service agents, sales process recommendation and automation, automated threat intelligence and prevention, and IT automation – will represent nearly a third of all AI spending this year. The adoption of such technologies can also change how employees perceive their company. A McKinsey report found that employees at companies that excelled in AI adoption are 2.3 times more likely than others to consider their C-suite leaders very effective.
2. Application strategies
It’s going to be very difficult to change direction quickly if your organisation is hamstrung by its applications. Too often, applications are implemented and then left alone. Their business value is unassessed and potential outlays, both in terms of total cost of ownership and cybersecurity risk, are unconsidered.
CIOs must empower end-users to help developers create the tools they need. Rather than creating big development projects with a big upfront scope, CIOs should create an agile culture that allows the business to create an iterative approach to application development.
3. Cloud and infrastructure strategy
Gartner suggests 25 per cent of the average IT budget is spent on capital expenditure. CIOs must optimise how their IT spend is allocated. Re-platforming legacy applications to the cloud can seem like an expensive proposition. However, the alternative is a reliance on staid applications that can stop your organisation from changing direction quickly.
With less money to invest and more IT to do, Gartner says CIOs are spending cash on areas that will accelerate digital business, such as infrastructure as a service. By focusing investment on a flexible cloud and infrastructure strategy, organisations can flex their IT requirements as business circumstances change.
4. Cybersecurity, privacy and risk
While emerging technology, like AI and ML, can help companies achieve agility at scale, CIOs should only use these technologies when the right foundations are in place. These solid foundations are all about a strong approach to cybersecurity threats.
IT leaders must ensure their organisations invest in key areas like backup and data management. Solid backup and data management provide accurate real-time data and ransomware protection, and speed up test and development environments. Investing in these areas ensures privacy is assured and the risks associated with innovation are reduced.
5. Emerging and disruptive technologies
With budgets likely to be constrained, no one expects the CIO to take a big bet on a fast-emerging concept. What CIOs must do, however, is recognise the potential of emerging technologies to bubble up and impact how their organisation operates and interacts with its customers.
From blockchain to quantum computing and onto brain-computer interfaces, CIOs should create a culture that allows their organisation to test these technologies, possibly even in a lab environment. By developing proof-of-concept studies, IT leaders can test these technologies against emerging use cases.
Businesses that have tighter pockets and are not able to leverage on technology can work with government agencies to receive funding support. The Singapore Government has kickstarted initiatives where SMEs are able to partner with IMDA to enjoy up to 80 per cent co-funding support to adopt more advanced solutions to deepen their capabilities, strengthen business continuity measures and build longer-term resilience. These solutions supported under the Advanced Digital Solutions Scheme in Singapore can help struggling businesses with tighter budgets address common enterprise challenges at scale and adopt cutting-edge technologies which will help them transact more seamlessly within or across sectors.
6. Enterprise architecture framework
Beneath everything else, organisations need to have a standardised methodology from which to create, describe and change their IT systems and assets. That’s where the enterprise architecture framework comes in: it’s a way to make sure the organisation has a long-term view on how systems and services will form part of its approach to IT implementation.
With increased use of cloud and emerging technologies, CIOs would be well advised to create a framework that allows their business to make use of new technologies in an open but secure manner. CIOs who want to adopt a growth mindset will need to ensure their business can embrace innovation without putting the enterprise at risk.
The clear message for CIOs is that optimising for stability is no longer enough. The rate of change will continue to gather pace. Gaining a competitive edge in an age of uncertainty will depend on an organisation’s ability to embrace disruption. The pandemic has become the perfect stepping stone for businesses to be adventurous in thinking outside of the box and to venture into new growth and innovation.