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Technology is Becoming the Core to Every Business

By Goran Kimovski, SVP Global Customer Solutions (Onica)

For many decades, technology businesses were considered a separate industry sector. These were typically companies whose revenue was dependant on developing technology-based products and selling those products to other businesses. The majority of other businesses were relegated to the role of technology consumers. Wanting to reduce their technology budgets, these technology consumers focused on minimizing their technology costs by standardizing their business processes and tools. This approach worked for a while, since everyone in their industry and market were in the same race. However, with the advent of ubiquitous technology – in the form of cloud services, mobile and edge devices – a new wave of companies emerged. These new companies shifted technology from the periphery to the core of their business model.149 Technology is Becoming the Core to Every Business

Technology Became the Differentiator

New businesses in sectors ranging from healthcare to transportation to financial services were able to compete and steal market share from existing businesses. We started using terms like fintech, healthtech, and transportation as a service to differentiate these businesses from the respective industry sector they were competing within. They almost always looked more like technology companies based on their R&D budget and technology innovation. This new wave of hybrid startups has attracted tons of investments across the globe.

Many traditional businesses have changed their direction to keep up with the competition. They had to take advantage of the same trends in cloud, mobile, and edge, to start catching up to (or in some cases outperform) their new competitors. These traditional businesses have recognized that these new businesses are using technology to differentiate themselves and grabbing market share from them. Some have been able to successfully change their direction and take their competition. Many found new solutions for their customers by partnering with these new vendors. Some have decided to acquire these businesses and bring them into the core of their operations. This effectively started a transformation towards becoming more and more technology oriented.

What Drives This Process?

Several technology innovations:

  1. Open and fast internet access
  2. Adoption of mobile in every aspect of our business and professional lives
  3. Extensive processing and sensor technology being built in every device
  4. Low cost and easy access to large computing power in the form of cloud

Screen-Shot-2019-05-14-at-11.14.03-AM Technology is Becoming the Core to Every Business

These innovations have converged and democratized access to technology. This enabled new business models like “everything as a service” to thrive. As businesses adopt more technology, they create a greater wealth of data and many new integration possibilities.

In turn, this drives innovation to:

  1. Make sense of all the data
  2. Help businesses drive better decisions and optimize the user experience
  3. Offer new ways for users to obtain services from their business
  4. Create additional revenue generating opportunities uniquely enabled by technology

What Does this Mean for Your Business?

If you’re not already on the path of transforming towards a technology-centric future, now is the best time to start.

This is how you can begin:

  1. Starting the Discussion
    Initiating discussions with your leadership (or, if you’re an executive, by leading such discussions) about making an initial investment.
  2. Create a Team
    Empower a small team to start experimenting with technology and exploring how to solve current business challenges in a different way using cloud-based or related technologies. It is critical that you truly empower the team to try different technologies. Give them a budget and authority for creating a sandbox with enough guardrails and support from your IT and security teams to enable them to safely run experiments fast. It is equally critical to hold them accountable for their learning and sharing the results of their experiments. Therefore, you can build a roadmap for transforming your business through the use of technology and get wider support from the organization to continue further investments.

If you’ve started the transformation and feel overwhelmed, you’re not alone. The technology driving the trends discussed here is largely developed for builders. These are companies that employ engineers and others that have the skill and know-how to build solutions from various technology components. However, many of the businesses outside the technology sector employ people that are good at customizing and managing solutions who don’t have the capacity to maintain their existing technology stacks.

Learning the New Model

Customization, integration, and maintenance is commonly outsourced to professional services or managed services firms. In addition, most of those firms are too invested in their existing technology platforms and unable to move as fast as their customers who feel the pressure of the market. They need to adopt new technologies faster than their vendors can. This leaves room for a new kind of service firms (Optimus Information and Onica included) that have been born in the new technology-centric world. These new service firms are not constrained by old business models or large numbers of customers with support agreements that keep their staff working with outdated technologies. These companies are more than happy to share the best practices they have developed over the years working with early adopters of technologies like cloud, IoT, serverless, Big Data, Machine Learning, etc. Larger enterprises are also great examples of this new model. Many have already started their journeys and have been relying on those new technology-centric services organizations to help.

Technology Transformation Trend

It is somewhat useful to think of all of these trends as enabling a transformation towards technology-enabled businesses. However, in my 6+ years offering cloud consulting and managed services in Canada and the US, I have often seen this trend of technology becoming central to the business. These businesses are on the path to becoming or have already become technology-centric; and many aspects of their organizations have been transforming to support that. I expect this trend to continue over the next 10 years. I predict that we will find ourselves in a world where almost every business will become technology-centric.

Think Big: How Design Plus Data Will Change Your Business

Is design thinking catching your attention? It should. Data insights not available before now can transform your business models and allow you to lead in your industry when you incorporate elements such as predictive, mobile dashboards and machine learning. This wave of change is forcing data architects to re-think and re-design how programs and applications must be built. To truly innovate, design teams need to push the design thinking envelope on almost every project.

“You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.”
– Daniel Keys Moran, computer programmer and science fiction writer.

Since the invention of the first computer, the world has been on a digital light-speed journey – one that has seen massive change in how we interact with our world and with each other. Today, there are more than 2.5 billion[i] smart phones carried in people’s pockets – each more powerful than the ones used to run the spacecraft that landed the first men on the Moon.[ii] In particular, how we interact with and gain insight from data has gone through an incredible transformation. We have evolved from relying on simple historical reporting – from the days of simple reporting to now, where tanker.

The Way It Was

Reporting has always been a critical element for a business to thrive and we have been accustomed to seeing our reports – our data – in fairly standard and historic terms. Let’s take a straightforward quarterly sales report at a consumer retail company, for example. Simple data, like units sold, prices received, cost of goods, volume of shipments and so forth, would be gathered and stored over a three-month period and then used to generate a few charts and graphs. Conclusions would be drawn from this static data and the company would shift strategy based on the conclusions.

Perhaps the conclusions were accurate and maybe they weren’t. Regardless, that’s how it’s been done for a long time: based on the data available.

The Way It Is

Today, the capability exists to break down data into far greater detail, do it in real-time and through disciplines like machine learning and artificial intelligence, draw highly focused and accurate conclusions not at the end of a business quarter but at the end of each day, and, in many cases, as it happens.

IoT Changes Shipping Industry – Reduces Risk and Cost

A client that operates a fleet of tankers equipped with IoT sensors wanted to move beyond its basic data reports and drill deeper into the technical data gathered aboard its vessels. Optimus utilized elements from Microsoft’s IoT Suite, including Azure Data Factory, to create visually appealing reports and dashboards that contained information gathered from thousands of sensors throughout the fleet.

The results meant a far more in-depth data analysis than the company had been getting, delivering more accurate insight for more accurate business decisions. When it comes to tankers, a simple mistake can cost millions in terms of lost time, environmental disasters, financial penalties, missed deadlines and more.

Optimus solved the client’s existing problem while building a platform for continuous improvement with data analysis using Microsoft Azure tools. Because the data can be aggregated in the cloud, the client can analyze greater amounts of data over an extended period of time, thus further enhancing their shipboard operational analysis and implementing global cost saving efforts as a result.

Now, a business can make highly informed decisions immediately and adjust accordingly. Of course, it’s not simply analyzing a few traditional data points, like sales; it’s analyzing where those sales took place, in which store locations, even in which aisles or departments, at what time of day, from which shelf the customer chose a purchase, what the customer’s likely income level is– in other words, the more highly specialized the data, the more highly specialized and precise the conclusions that can be drawn.

Because it’s possible to generate highly detailed data and analyze it from so many different perspectives, every sector of the economy is making use of data analysis.

In the manufacturing sector, factory operations are being revolutionized[iii] by both big data and analytics. Sensors generate endless streams of data on the health of production line equipment, data that’s being examined by the minute for the slightest indication of a potential problem or defect. Conclusions are drawn and actions implemented immediately to avoid any breakdown and disruption in the production process. There’s a positive ripple effect to this: customers don’t experience delays and the company doesn’t experience a loss of revenue.

The virtually unlimited storage capacity in the cloud, coupled to highly sophisticated computer algorithms that can perform serious analysis in, literally, seconds, is placing tremendous demands on data architects. Programs and applications must be agile enough to allow for updates, added features and improvements without delay. This has meant developing new architecture that can not only run a program at lightning speed but can be altered or updated in the areas where it needs improvement, much like making incremental improvements to a car model but without re-designing the whole car every time.

Gone are the days of a monolithic software structure where data warehouses needed a year or more to be designed and several more months for data to be inputted. If missing data was discovered, it would mean an entire rebuilding of the program.

Microservices and Teams

Today, Optimus Information designs architecture so that updates, changes or improvements can be made to one area of a program or application without having to open up the whole program. By using microservices in our software development, Optimus has created functional teams whose responsibility is to just one area of a program. A team focuses only on its specific area and generates improvements without impacting other teams or resulting in an overhaul of an entire software product. Tremendous amounts of time are saved for our clients and the cost of updates or re-designs is driven down dramatically.

Optimus applies the same method to data gathering. By means of advanced tooling, our clients can store raw data, without pre-aggregating it, run a query on that raw data and have the answers they need in a matter of seconds. Previously, it would take weeks to get a result because the data would have to be assessed and compartmentalized as it was gathered and placed into structured environments before a query could be run. This is what we call modern data warehousing. The focus is on agility and speed.

Down the Road from Microsoft by Design

Optimus specializes in working with IT departments of companies that don’t or can’t spend the time and money to develop the cloud-based software architecture needed today. Optimus uses a suite of leading edge services, on the Microsoft Azure platform, that allow us to select exactly the right components to solve a client’s problem. We are physically located close to Microsoft’s Vancouver and Redmond development centres

Optimus is a Microsoft Gold Partner and, in that role, we work very closely with Microsoft on new product previews and trials that are in development, giving feedback that improves our customer’s end product. Optimus employees have often already kicked the tires on new Azure features before they are released. This keeps us at the forefront of rapidly changing technology but let’s us give feedback as enhancements are designed.

If you want to enhance and sharpen the results of your data analysis, we invite you to contact us. We are happy to explore some “what-if” scenarios with you to help propel your data insights – and your business – forward exponentially. Reach out and schedule a virtual coffee anytime.

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