This is a contributed article by Patrick Nicolet, Chief Technology Officer at Capgemini.
We hear and read it all the time: every business is now a technology business. For enterprise leaders, this means being more tech-savvy than before in considering the impact of technology on their strategy. Put this against the disruptive backdrop of COVID-19 and the stakes are even higher.
Enterprises must be agile and adaptable, open to new opportunities. The challenge is how these nimble businesses will be able to embark, engage and scale, or stop, go out and re-deploy in this new era. Technology is the key to success, but exploiting it is easier said than done. With so many options available, it can be difficult to know which ones will make the biggest impact and where companies should invest.
For organisations to deal with the immediate challenges of COVID-19, subsequent recovery, and to create a future business with technology at its core, they need to distribute their focus and investment across three horizons. But these horizons are shaped by three technology principals which need to be understood.
From data, to security and standards, these principals influence the whole landscape with notable manifestations in the technology domains: data because it has become a primary asset for the business; security because it will keep the enterprise alive; standards because they are necessary for technology portability and interoperability – preserving independence and enabling partners to work seamlessly with one another.
Now these principals have been outlined, let’s explore the three horizons and how they can act as a framework for businesses to understand where to aim and invest during these uncertain times.
The first horizon – evolution
The two technologies underpinning the first horizon are AI and cloud. Multiple studies have highlighted the extent to which AI has penetrated business across all sectors, including retail, manufacturing, financial services, automotive, and energy and utilities. In fact, many valuable organisational processes are already unthinkable without it.
While AI is often perceived as a way of dealing with repeatable and error-prone tasks, it is now entering domains that were previously exclusive. Away from automation, it can be used to enrich decision-making by augmenting creativity and optimising entire enterprise ecosystems, taking on its cognitive functions. For organisations to unleash its potential, they need a firmer understanding of its capabilities, to prepare their culture for change and to give people the skills needed to develop and leverage the next generation of AI solutions.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 crisis is only accelerating the rate of adoption for cloud technologies and enterprises will need to review their strategies in response to two key factors: the ongoing cloud-technology evolution, and the cybersecurity consequences. They need to understand the impact of cloud solutions bought from a singular provider, versus multi-sourced technology which leverages features, economics, and risk management of different providers.
To fully take advantage, organisations should look to take a hybrid, multi-cloud approach, where workloads can be flexibly moved between clouds and on-premise facilities.
The second horizon – emergence
Once AI and cloud have been woven into the fabric of an organisation, next on the horizon is the emergence of a digital-powered world.
COVID-19 has forced employees and consumers to get used to online experiences everywhere. Now, they not only expect these technologies to deliver the service they are accustomed to, they also want them to address other concerns too, notably sustainability, safety and how their data is exploited. This is creating a need for hyper-customised, connected, and intelligent networks to support business growth.
Data, however, is pervasive – not only in the office, but also at home, in public spaces or even in stores. We are immersed in data; human interfaces need to be completely seamless and integrate with our senses much more naturally.
To operationalise this vision, organisations must focus on several critical areas. Most crucially, IT departments should place the customer at the center of the journey, contextualising what the intelligent network means for their business and the value it brings. This involves a multi-pronged approach: defining an architecture for chosen machine-to-machine domains and capturing technologies of interest.
Decentralisation will be another aspect of the digital-powered world. The enterprise will no longer be rooted in one specific place, but a portable, evolving endeavour, able to interoperate in a range of business and technology ecosystems, leading to new marketplaces and revenue streams. Business leaders must look to break the cycle of legacy modernisation, embracing a broader ecosystem of partners that can operate as peers in a trust fabric to transform their workplaces. For enterprises that embrace this, the business benefits are vast, offering a route to trustworthy, technology-enabled transformation.
The third horizon – disruption
The final horizon will see new, disruptive approaches in high-performance cloud computing, where neuromorphic computing and quantum computing take center stage.
These innovations will rewrite the rules of information technology as we know it, so enterprises need to be aware of the new concepts and skills needed to harness this potential or else they will be playing catch-up.
Taking advantage of these technology evolutions is a complex task. Most important is recognising that organisations need to understand the scale of what’s at play – after all, this third horizon will be as disruptive as the IT revolution of business in the early 1980s.
By using frameworks, patterns, and building blocks that are developed in close cooperation with strategic technology partners, organisations can experiment and become more efficient and successful in these areas of emerging computing technology.
The future is unpredictable, but that’s what makes it exciting. It’s what gives organisations an opportunity to seize an advantage. The only thing we can be confident of is that the future will be digitally led. As organisations embark on a journey shaped by the COVID-19 crisis, business and technology will need to act as one to navigate new uncertainties. This is an undertaking that must be led by executives, to open vast expanses of global opportunity in an age of multiple new normals.