“Curation” – Moving Mass Production to Bespoke-Like Offerings

Once upon a time, the term “curate” was mainly associated with museums.  We pictured curators carefully selecting art or artifacts aligned with a specific theme or idea they were trying to convey in their exhibits – but that idea is changing.

Marketers have adopted the idea of curation to mean tailoring your company’s products, services, or content to appeal to a specific type of customer.

Over the last 10 years, the concept of “curated content” has gained ground everywhere and has become particularly important for vendors in different vertical industries.  For example, fashion houses “curate” their collections to appeal to their type of clientele; retail buyers “curate” their product assortments to appeal to their specific customer base; and IT vendors are getting the message…their customers are looking for IT solutions that work specifically for them, solving their problems and making them more productive.  Business customers are no longer interested in purchasing hardware or software products that are “hard to use” or take a lot of time training employees to use.

I bring this up, because I recently attended an HP media and analyst virtual briefing on their upgraded line of Z Workstations.   HP said they made innovations based on customer insights, addressing key pain points experienced, specifically among “creative” industries, such as architects, designers, engineers and photographers.  According to HP, their creative customers reported looking for improvements in productivity, added flexibility, and upgraded security, all within budgetary constraints. HP’s improvements to the Z line were done to address specific needs for a very specific set of customers, things like upgraded processors, smaller form factors and added security.

I think HP is on the right track. AMI has been talking to small, mid-size and large enterprises (SMLBs) about which PC features are most important to them.   Our worldwide data shows SMLBs in “creative” verticals rank certain features much higher than “non-creative” verticals – things like ultra-thin design, type of processor (e.g., Intel, AMD), durability, lightweight, and multiple USB ports, among others.

With the ever-increasing “connectedness” of social media and the digital transformation within vendors themselves, new ideas like “curating” merchandise and new technologies such as AI will change the marketing narrative from guiding customers to products to customers guiding product offerings.

~ Eileen Zimbler, Vice President

Quantum Computing – Immense Possibilities for the Future

Quantum Computing is undoubtedly a revolutionary phenomenon; and that’s not an exaggeration! It is speculated that it will provide huge gains in computing capacity and processing power that was previously almost unimaginable! Quantum computers enjoy the capacity to conduct calculations even beyond the grasp of any standard supercomputer.

 A Background: What is Quantum Computing All About?
Quantum computing is the study focused on developing computer technology based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the nature and behaviour of energy and matter on the quantum (atomic and subatomic) level. Development of a quantum computer would mark a huge leap forward in computing capability. Gains in performance may be even a billion-times or more! The quantum computer, following the laws of quantum physics, would gain enormous processing power through the ability to be in multiple states, and to perform tasks using all possible permutations simultaneously.

Standard digital computers store information as bytes. These are represented as 0s or 1s.  However, quantum computers use Qubits (a short contraction of Quantum Bits). The difference from traditional computing is that of superposition whereby a Qubit does not occupy a single value of O or 1; rather it takes up both values: “0” and “1”. This property of “superposition” can enable Quantum Computers to display multiple combinations of states simultaneously; thus, being able to process information at many times the speed of traditional computing.

Several players are in the fray – long established, Start-ups, etc…
Many players are taking part in the research of developing Quantum Computers. Of course, established IT giants like IBM, Google, Microsoft and D-Wave Systems have been playing pioneering roles in the research of Quantum Computing. There are also other players in key roles in Quantum Computing research such as start-ups and new players like Rigetti Computing, IonQ, Quantum Circuits, Qubitekk, QxBranch, Anyon Systems, ID Quantique, Post Quantum, Qbit Logic, QC Ware and Cambridge Quantum Computing.

Of course, their areas of operations are different:

  • Rigetti Computing and Qubitekk are embarking on the capital-intensive challenge of building the hardware necessary to create a commercially viable quantum computer.
  • ID Quantique and Post Quantum offer security products and services based on quantum encryption.
  • QC Ware and Cambridge Quantum Computing focus on software aimed at enterprises running quantum computers.
  • Quantum Bio-systems are developing niche quantum computing-based applications, such as advanced genomic sequencing.

Various Quantum Computing applications exist… many of which we cannot even comprehend.
The incredibly fast problem-solving capacity of quantum computers can be utilized in a myriad of ways. Many of which will gradually become reality. Some of the possible applications of Quantum computing are Artificial Intelligence, Molecular Modelling, Cryptography for improving security, Financial Modelling, Weather Forecasting and Particle Physics. The government is also likely to be a major sector to promote commercial use of quantum technology in different sectors, such as defence and aerospace.

Quantum Computing in the Asia Pacific
Significant advancement in Quantum Computing research is being spearheaded in Europe and America. The Asia Pacific is not very far behind. IBM has chosen Keio University, Japan, as its first Asian quantum computing hub since this university has multiple specialists in this arena. This research hub can access IBM’s advanced quantum computer system via the internet. This is in fact, the first of its kind in Asia. The prime goal of the Keio research center will be to detect those applications that utilize quantum computing to the best extent.

Future Trends…how far ahead is Quantum Computing? 
No doubt there are still several problems to overcome like interference, error correction, output observance but many are optimistic about the time it might take to have a workable Quantum Computer model ahead. “We are at the point now where we have the science developed so far that we see a path to scaling it and building a quantum computer that solves problems in the next five to ten years,” predicted Microsoft’s Matthias Troyer, Researcher. Similar thoughts are echoed by Harriet Green, Head of IBM APAC who predicted that quantum computing is anticipated to go mainstream in the next five years.

John Martinis, Researcher for Google was less willing to commit to a timeline stating “It’s going to take us a while to figure out how to do everything, both in hardware and software. I have been working on this since the ’80s. We are making rapid progress [now], but it may take some time to figure it out”

A multi-functional team with a combination of physicists and engineers need to work together in tandem for the success of a Quantum Computing project. As per Troyer: “Microsoft needs “people who are mathematicians, and physicists, and chemists, and engineers, but mostly people who have an open mind and who can solve problems.”

~ Dev Chakravarty, Sr. Manager, Research

AI in Modern Education

When I recall my university days or even before that, few events or observations really bothered me regarding the existing education system in India. If I had to prioritize these criticisms, the list would look something like this:

  1. Student Evaluation System – Why were all students evaluated on 1 or 2 parameters – marks and obedience. In some situations maybe, physical training but this was a rarity.
  2. Teaching Methods – Why were all students expected to have similar IQs and learning capabilities? Why were all lagging students expected to study more, but no special measures were taken by teachers to alter their teaching style for laggards?
  3. Parents-Teachers Collaboration – Any normal student spends 6 hours in schools and the remaining time at home, but why do parents and teachers interact once a year and have little to no interaction through 4 sessions of schooling.
  4. Lack of Teaching Standards – Good teachers possess unique skills, however, why should a student suffer because he gets tagged to an inferior one.
  5. Too Many Repetitive Tasks – Why is there a need for roll call before every class? This takes about 5-6 minutes for a class of 50. Done 5 times each day, 30 minutes of the teaching day is wasted. If you consider the lag time after roll call to start teaching the days lesson, this lost time is more like 45 minutes a day. And this is just from a student prospective. What about other administrative task like checking answer sheets and preparing exam seat plans just to mention two.

Modernization of Education has been a gradual journey, from the introduction of case-study-based teaching, to usage of PPTs projected by digital projectors or educational CDs. Fortunately, this space has finally found its truest accelerator in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Artificial intelligence has started to change all major aspects of education, while endlessly opening innovative avenues that have led to improved efficiency of teachers, efficacious students, and lower costs for the public-school system. This revolution may still be in its initial phase, but it is already making a huge impact on the education ecosystem.

First and foremost, AI will make teachers’ lives a lot easier. According to UNESCO, the world will need an enormous 68.8 million teachers by the year 2030, including 24.4 million primary school teachers and 44.4 million secondary school teachers, and that’s just to keep class sizes below 40 students in the secondary education level. Finding, coaching, and supporting that many teachers is going to be particularly difficult, given that we only have 12 short years to achieve this. Moreover, many regions of the world don’t have the infrastructure to foster this kind of growth.[1]Artificial Intelligence could potentially alleviate some of the stress that teachers will face in the future. It will create more free time for educators, provide insights on students who might be struggling, and allow for a more adaptive and flexible learning environment.

Multiple AI-powered programs such as automated grading programs could free valuable time for teachers and allow them more opportunities to interact with students. Many experiments are being conducted in India, China, and South America to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs in a “developing” economic environment.

AI systems can be used by teachers to not only craft courses customized to the student needs, but it can also be used to provide feedback to both the student and the educator about the success of the course, considering multiple variables to evaluate a student, like personality or a psychometric test. Besides, blended learning initiatives could allow classrooms to grow bigger while still maintaining the same level of interaction between students and teachers.

For students to perform better, AI-based systems have fundamentally transformed how students can gather knowledge with newer, more integrated technologies such as Apple’s Siri, Google’s adaptive learning algorithm and Microsoft’s Cortana program. Future students may have massively transformed experiences doing research and looking for supporting evidence for theories they are considering than the students of today.

Additionally, machine interaction allows for an unbiased learning system at the student’s disposal. They find it more comfortable and less intimating to learn through a trial and error method offered in an artificial cognitive environment, removing the fear of falling short of the teacher’s expectations. Students feel liberated enough to experiment and offer creative solutions for improvement.

AI-powered education has meant Parents will shoulder larger accountability for their children’s education. Parents may have to take on additional roles as teachers, guardians, and custodians as their kids navigate through newer platforms and technologies. This move would impact millions of public and private K-12 teachers, not to mention the officers and support staff who are constantly coordinating with the parents.

Overall, AI will be good for education. The goal of Artificial Intelligence is also said to be a virtual architect for the learning milieus. It will create virtual human-like characters who can think, act, react, and interact in a natural way with the core objective of CUSTOMIZED CONTENT AND PERSONALIZED CARE!

~Kishalay Choudhury, Director

 

 

[1] UNESCO Institute of Statistics, http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/fs39-the-world-needs-almost-69-million-new-teachers-to-reach-the-2030-education-goals-2016-en.pdf

GDPR: “Right to be Forgotten” vs. Backups Systems

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect recently and it will have a huge impact on all businesses. Particularly data intensive companies when considering Article 17 the ‘Right to be Forgotten’. As it now stands, companies can add or remove data from their current active directory, but what about their backups?

Just a little background: GDPR was approved by the European Parliament in April 2016 and came into force in May 2018. Unfortunately, a majority of organizations waited until crunch-time to finalize their policies. We have seen many companies including the likes of Google and Facebook getting fined billions of Euros due to a lack of security and inappropriate data collection. As per the new rule, non-compliance can result in a fine of 20 million Euros or 4% of annual global (GLOBAL!) revenue, whichever is highest.

Right to be Forgotten is a step in the right direction from a consumer standpoint. This dictates that a company must delete customer data if a consumer requests them to do so. Only governments, hospitals and journalists are exempt from this rule. In theory, this provides “complete control” to consumers on how their personal and public information is being used. However, this policy is a nightmare for organizations where all backups and recovery take place. For example, tech companies like Facebook do not collect the data on small spreadsheets and delete a row at the consumers’ request. We’re talking billions of data points with multiple attributes. This is all multiplied by the numerous backups a company stores. The practice of multiple backups, especially in the case of a tech companies, is extremely commonplace.

GDPR Vs Backup Challenges:

Unstructured Backups:

Backups are usually not structured like an MS Office file or relational databases (RDBMS). In high level terms, it is important to understand that backup products are handed an object with minimal metadata about that object. Backup products do not control the content, or the format of the object and have no knowledge of the data inside it. So, finding a data point and deleting all associated attributes in the backup is not feasible.

Integrity:

When restoring the backup, checksum is a basic way to check data integrity. Deleting data from backup opens risks of corrupting the backup, breaking applications that were expecting data to be present, flouting referential integrity.

Keeping track of deleted data:

When a company is asked to delete a record, it needs to make sure that data stays deleted. The company needs to find a way to delete data for John Doe living at 001 Hollywood Lane, without storing the data of John Doe at 001 Hollywood Lane because doing so would be violating the deletion request.

Compliance:

The right to be forgotten applies in certain situations and an exemption may apply at times but that is still unclear. In addition to the technical issues, companies might face conflicting compliance issues such as keeping historical data for legal cases and audit purposes.

Is there an obvious solution? No! as historical backups can fall out of GDPR compliance. According to AMI’s Global Model, market size for the Backup and Recovery segment is expected to grow at nearly 9% from $9.4 Billion USD in 2017 to $14.5 Billion USD by 2022. How GDPR will affect this market segment remains to be seen but backup vendors should be a part of this process moving forward, because each industry is generating and gathering more data than ever. As technology progresses, maybe finding and deleting a record from a backup will be easier and can become a competitive advantage for these backup companies.

~Ankit Mehta, Associate

Evolving Retail is Digitally Transforming to Cater to the Individual Shopper

There is no mistaking the fact that technology is changing everything from the work environment to the way we vacuum our floors. The shopping experience is also being affected by this ever-increasing phenomenon. While visiting a physical store for everyday needs is still commonplace, more and more we are familiar and comfortable with online shopping via computers and mobile devices. Not only is it a matter of increased purchasing channels and convenience, but we are also more likely to get exactly what we want when we want it. The driving forces behind these changes are advanced technologies and connectivity both playing pivotal roles in changing the shopping environment and experience. Such advanced technologies are not only the luxuries for giant retail chains, but affordable solutions are also increasingly available for small and medium retailers (SMRs).

Omni-Channel Commerce

By definition, “Omni-” stands for in all ways or places without limits. Not just physical stores and e-commerce, but all possible ways of shopping including via mobile devices and marketplaces. As a shopper, I often have trouble finding what I want in physical stores. Almost always my size and favorite color are out of stock or sold out, and my must-haves often become close outs and no longer available. I was either extremely lucky or it was a miracle to find exactly what I wanted. However, now because I am becoming more of an online shopper, I am now increasingly lucky, and I am experiencing such miracles daily. What I was told was “no longer available” in the neighborhood stores can be easily found on online stores or marketplaces and directly shipped to my home without significant delay or high extra shipping cost.

What makes such “miracles” happen is digitally connected supplier networks and centralized inventory management systems in the cloud. In a legacy retail system, warehouses and inventories are separately allocated for physical and online stores. Therefore, physical stores don’t know what their online store has in stock, and vise-versa. Resulting in customers’ bad luck – more likely experiencing an “out-of-stock” situation when they visit one store. Centralized real-time inventory management enables store staff to be able to check inventory and location, so that they can directly ship the merchandise from the closest possible location. This could be from another store in a different location or a central warehouse. It’s also true that an online shopper will receive the desired product from nearest possible physical store carrying the item.

Such systems may sound relevant only for large retail chains that have multiple stores and online outlets. In reality, the rising popularity of participating marketplaces by SMRs has boosted multi-channel commerce across all sizes of firms. Omni-channel inventory management surely benefits even small retailers. A variety of software products designed for SMRs are available for affordable SaaS pricing include Lightspeed, Vend, Veeqo and Clearly Inventory to name a few.

Marketing Strategy – Shift to Individual

The other tangible digital transformation area is marketing. Thousands of startups are now offering marketing tools and apps in various approaches to improve the customer experience. The universe is clearly in an experimental phase – technology vendors and product brands are testing what approaches are effective where and for whom. The ultimate goal for retailers is to sell the right merchandise to the right customer at the right time.

This means strategy is shifting from a product-based marketing campaign to an individual customer’s need/want base. There are roughly 3 types of marketing techniques: macro-marketing, micro-marketing and individual marketing. Macro-marketing is the technique mainly used for branding – improving brand/product awareness and public image. Actual sales boosting is through micro- and individual-marketing. Traditionally, product brands and retailers create a campaign to sell a specific product. Therefore, they analyze and profile customers who are most likely to buy the product and select the most effective methods to reach them. Targets were a group of people who share similar characteristics. But now the strategy is shifting to how to satisfy a customer on an individual basis.

I myself have experienced “individual marketing.” I recently remodeled my 30-year-old kitchen. Looking at the updated kitchen, I felt like getting new dining chairs that fit a modern open kitchen design. I started to explore dining chairs by browsing some online stores to check availability. Soon, I started receiving emails everyday notifying me of “dining chair sales.” Did I looked for dining chairs at the right time when several home furnishing stores were offering discount prices? Clearly that was not the case. Those stores tracked my website browsing history and found out that I was looking for dining chairs. Catching my demand, they created “personal sales” for me.

What made a “personal sales” approach possible are behavioral analytic tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies. The tools catch and analyze individual behavior on ecommerce sites – from keyword searches, visiting the website and clicking product pages until the visitor leaves the website. Realtime analytic tools can empower chatbots to provide the site visitor with information he/she is looking for using friendly natural language.

From the shoppers’ point of view, it sounds good as it cuts down research time but it is not perfect yet. “The personal dining chair sales” was a good try but I didn’t purchase anything. Their apps were able to understand my personal demand (wanting dining chairs,) but didn’t know what dining chairs – my selection criteria and preferred taste. The discount price was a powerful push but didn’t convince me to take a limited time discount offering at the expense of my idea for new dining room coordination. Personal preference and taste are probably the most difficult and tricky areas in purchase behavior analysis – ideas inspired by a massive influx of information from social media, even mood and weather impact final decisions.

Also, how hard to push is a factor that needs to be considered. Too often multiple pushes impact negatively, but too little doesn’t work either. Yet, overtime along with accumulating data, AI and ML will learn even whimsical personal tastes and act like a personal shopping assistance to strengthen the customer engagement. Retailers, regardless of size, will soon have no choice but to adopt such solutions to keep competitive.

The digital marketing space is now extremely crowded. Theoretically, the market will eventually select winners. At this point, it’s extremely difficult to predict just who those winners will be. What is quite clear is the retail industry is shifting to an individual marketing approach to improve the overall customer engagement.

~ Yuki Uehara, Senior Director

Who Will Win the Golden Boot in the Cloud Wars?

The ongoing 2018 FIFA games being held in Russia have already given the world the first set of surprises – Germany losing to Mexico, Argentina and Brazil drawing their respective games to relative underdogs, and Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi—five times voted the world’s best player— misses a penalty!! Unpredictability in the leader quadrant and the ability of the smaller players to rise to the occasion have made an early impact on the World Cup and similar trends have been seen in the ever-present Cloud War.

AWS’s capability to offer innovative, scalable and dynamic cloud infrastructure has made it the most successful provider in this space. My first impression from the AWS Analyst Summit in Mumbai was that of a giant with one of the most extensive partner networks. AWS is financially strong, has an evolving service portfolio and is working closely with Fortune 500 companies to co-innovate. While AWS is garnering a growing base of happy clients, they have been faced with perceptual challenges in client services, response time to issues and price has turned many of their loyal to its nearest competition, Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft is gaining ground quickly under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella and a “cloud first” initiative. They are building their own huge global cloud network and their reputation for delivering business-aligned productivity solutions (WW SMB spending on services like Office 365 are expected to grow at a CAGR of 25% to $40 Billion by 2022), is increasing their cloud user base. At a recent event, Microsoft took pride in taking us through their “Garage” in Hyderabad, which is their hub for open innovation. While competing with AWS, Azure continues to enjoy a reputation for superior service quality, a robust productivity suite, a stronger-by-the-day partner network, and a solid cash flow. However, they seem to be battling a perception war on innovation. A stronger PR initiative and thought leadership is the key to overcoming these obstacles.

Internet giant Google has been busy expanding its public cloud services under the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Google’s initial reluctance to commit adequate resources to the cloud compounded its struggle to rival competitors. A transformation was needed and boy what a transformation it has been. What I noticed at the 2018 GCP Summit in Mumbai, was an increased investment by GCP in data-centers, robust global networks and an increased focus on security. However, GCP must strive harder to sharpen its B2B strategies and build a robust partner network/strategy, targeting MSPs, CPs, SIs and ISVs, to compete with Azure and AWS in India and the ASEAN region.

For quite some time, IBM roundtables and strategy summits have been focused on Watson, intelligent cloud, servers, and systems. However, IBM’s substantial existence in all aspects of the IT services space limits its appeal to other players seeking cloud partnerships. Moreover, when separating cloud on its own merit, their vision is somewhat misty, which continues to cast a doubt whether the firm is really a true contender in the cloud war.

While AWS can be compared to the “German Football team” – a well-oiled, ruthless, fighting machine which will steamroll anything it’s path; GCP is the quite come from behind team. GCP is more relaxed, confident, intelligent and a competent giant which is preparing itself to face the storm. What stood out to me at these summits, was Microsoft and its legacy of strong delivery capabilities, which is more like the erstwhile “Brazil Football team” possessing demeanor plus aggression and super skills up-its sleeves.

According to AMI-Partner, globally, about 22 million firms are planning to allot more of their IT budgets for hosted/cloud solutions as opposed to on-premise IT products and services. The war is not yet over, but for the time being, AWS and Microsoft are the two front runners in a heat to the top spot. And when you are considering the cloud wars in the APAC region, watch out for my review on Alibaba Cloud!! This company will surely be a force to be reckoned with.

~Kishalay Choudhury, Director

Accelerate Cloud Migration Success with The Right Tools

Take any business today, and they are likely to have at least one of their workloads running in the cloud. More and more businesses are making the move, with email and productivity being one of the first workloads to be migrated. Cloud migration brings new levels of agility, scalability, and cost efficiency to an organization, but the process can be challenging without the proper tools. It is imperative for an organization to setup a well-designed process before initiating the migration. Without suitable planning, the migration is likely to take longer, cost more, and fail to provide the expected benefits.

Small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) generally lack IT resources and expertise and often look toward Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to aid in the migration process. As mentioned earlier, SMBs typically migrate their email and related productivity tools as the starting point for their move to the cloud. WW SMB spending on services like Office 365 are expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 25% to $40 Billion by 2022. More and more SMBs are relying on trusted partners like MSPs to lead them and provide ongoing support as they traverse unknown territory. MSPs, in turn, are collaborating with vendors that can provide the right solutions to bring the benefits of the cloud to their customers.

In a recent study conducted by AMI-Partners, we uncovered several benefits that MSPs accrue by using the right tools and processes when migrating their customers’ emails and related data to the cloud. This study was an expanded follow-up to AMI’s 2015 email data migration tools study. The results of the latest study were published on June 12th, 2018 in our whitepaper titled Accelerate Growth and Profitability with Office 365 Migrations and Ongoing Cloud Services: How MSP-ISV Partnerships Are Empowering Small and Mid-Sized Business in The Cloud. The study focused on vendors that offer email migration tools, such as BitTitan, Microsoft, SkyKick, and region-specific vendors such as CloudMigrator365 and CodeTwo in Europe. Continue reading “Accelerate Cloud Migration Success with The Right Tools”

Moving Towards an Era of “Everything-as-a-Service”

We are living in an era where everything can be availed with a click or a tap. Whether it be cab services, entertainment, food, hotel stay, software applications, IT services or anything in between. In other words, all services and products, that are not yet, will soon be available “as-a-service”. This model is known as Everything-as-a-Service or “XaaS” in the IT world. Its origin comes from various technology-based products, services and applications that can be accessed through the internet or via a traditional purchasing and delivery mode.

Everything as a Service (also referred to as “Anything as a Service”) has evolved in recent times. This is due to the popularity of the cloud and expanded through various “as-a-service” (aaS) models such as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), software-as-a-service (SaaS) and many more.

It all began with SaaS. From there, various service models have evolved. Then along came the cloud enabled environment where any device, service or technology solutions could be delivered on a pay per-month model or simply based on the amount of usage by the consumer. These services can be accessed over the internet or through a traditional delivery model. Some examples of such as-a-service models in recent time are Device-as-a-Service, Personal Computers-as-a-Service and Printer-as-a-Service among many other bundled services offered on a pay-per-use basis.

Three levels of a Cloud-based Service Model

With the explosion of data now be capture, there is an increased need for more data analysis and it is essential to make this data relevant for businesses. Most companies are eager to adopt this model and plan to migrate to cloud based infrastructure if they have not already.

There are some key reasons for the migration to a cloud-based model.

  • Be it hardware, software or services there is a reduction in overall cost, maintenance, time consumed by their IT staff in day-to-day IT activities with a cloud-based model.
  • All new applications and technologies are developed and supported by the cloud. Hence, it is easier for the businesses to adopt by just downloading an application.
  • By handing over all the IT related services and maintenance to a cloud-based model, companies can utilize all their capabilities to develop and expand their business.

XaaS leads to Digital Transformation
Globally, the XaaS model has been expanding and getting more traction from all vertical industries and service sectors. XaaS has covered all possible services and solutions be it technology-based services or day-to-day requirements ranging from food-delivery to baby care services and everything in between.

Some major reasons for XaaS as a business model to grow and expand worldwide are:

  • Now a day’s work isn’t confined to the office or to fixed office hours. Rather the modern workplace has a growing number of mobile workers who need to connect with their client and business associates 24/7. These workers need near real-time updates. With the changed work culture, the everything-as-service model will develop and grow.
  • For a company to further their journey on the digital transformation path, they need more flexibility, agility and scalability. All of these are essential for any company to accomplish this transformation. XaaS allows any company to select the service package that is suitable for their present business needs with the option to make any changes as their needs evolve.

 The Future
Everything-as-a-service has vigorously disrupted the traditional business model and given a significant advantage to those businesses that are eager to take their environment to a higher level.  The as-a-service model will not only provide more opportunities to managed service providers (MSPs) but also more challenges. MSPs will need to cater to the growing needs of their customers developing and suppling more customized solutions and on-demand models that will be able to meet the more varied needs than are presently required.

This model offers equal business opportunities for channel partners who with their strength of customer knowledge, can be important players in the changed business environment. A hybrid business ecosystem with equal opportunities for all the stakeholders will be available through an everything-as-service model there by improving overall business efficiencies. With the continuation of new technologies and innovations to come, the everything-as-a-service model will continue to gain more traction and will flourish in the coming years.

~ Arpana Bharti, Research Analyst

Major Industry Verticals are Turning to AI

There’s no doubt that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next big thing in the tech industry today, mainly due to the research and development initiatives led by top technology companies. These technological innovations have greatly influenced key industry verticals such as healthcare, manufacturing, automobile and finance making technology the core of these businesses instead of just a part of it. Applications of AI in businesses are vast, ranging from medical equipment to self-driving vehicles. Top technology companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are dedicated to advancing on this front, making AI accessible to all businesses.

It all begins with finding use cases in various industries:

  • What each industry wants?
  • What kind of decision making needs to be supported?
  • What kind of predictions they want to make?

The next step is to figure out what tasks an industry needs automated. Various industries have various needs, law firms need to automate their document discovery process, manufacturing companies would like to automate the quality control processes among other things.

One of the industries that stands to benefit greatly from this innovation is the healthcare industry. With time, it has become evident that AI could soon be able to provide accurate solutions for various health issues. One of the biggest use cases in this industry is predictive diagnoses/analyses. The key here is to reduce the time between test and treatment. There are numerous health records, but not enough time to process them and this is where AI comes into play. Using AI, data mining as well as analysis can be done within minutes. The correlations between various datasets is difficult for humans to identify whereas an AI platform can do it in a matter of seconds, and this allows physicians to make quick but accurate decisions and act efficiently.

Another notable use of AI in healthcare is precision medicine, not only in precise prescriptions but also in treatments. For instance, hospitals are increasingly utilizing robots for AI driven robotic surgeries. It allows for more accuracy in performing and making real time alterations in surgeries as compared to human surgeons. To sum up, AI in healthcare allows for faster handling of all the data that is generated and reduces the analysis time from days to seconds.

In addition to healthcare, AI is also finding its footing in the manufacturing industry. Robots are not only faster and more reliable than humans, but they’re also performing tasks beyond human capability. The application of AI in manufacturing goes beyond programming robots to do certain tasks. AI is also finding its niche in the projection of market demand which then drives sourcing and staffing needs, inventory, equipment maintenance, and much more. Another application of AI is in predictive maintenance wherein sensors embedded in the processing equipment as well as at the suppliers’ facilities track operating conditions, performance of factory tools to predict breakdowns or suggest preemptive actions.

Although AI is still in an evolutionary stage as far as complete automation is concerned, it won’t take too long to make things better, cheaper, and faster using AI. The purpose of AI is not to replace workers altogether, but to free them to perform design and programming related tasks. Automation and AI will improve efficiency and productivity by keeping schedules and budgets in check, which will allow businesses to take on more work and employ more people without effecting the bottom line.

~Kunika Sodhi, Associate

Success in the Age of Digital Transformation? Design Thinking!!

Most businesses have always applied a systematic approach to generating concepts and turning them into successful products. This approach usually begins with noticing an opportunity or an unmet need, followed by brainstorming to come up with several concepts, one of which eventually makes the final cut into production.

Design Thinking elevates this process by injecting empathy for the customer and other audiences that the proposed product will touch at any point. As a result, a Design Thinking led product is based on a wider set of considerations and an emphasis on user experience, compared to a product developed via a straight out qualitative + quantitative market research study.

As Digital Transformation takes hold, Design Thinking takes on even more importance. Key to developing truly transformative customer experiences is understanding how technology can be deployed within a product and its ecosystem to deliver experiences and solutions that are highly tuned to the target audience’s needs.

This blend of digital and design will define successful businesses from hereon. It is visible across all products coming out of big tech, and will expand to products across other industries as well. This will add fuel to product replacements and upgrade cycles across industries as innovative ways of accomplishing tasks bubble to the surface.

Besides objects, the impact of Design Thinking will increasingly be observed in services as well. Customer interaction is a key area where firms will differentiate themselves as they redesign systems and retrain their workforce to become more tuned to what customers feel during any interaction.

Workforce retraining will perhaps be the biggest challenge in creating success down the road. Clearly, with Design Thinking the world is leveling up from technical competence to a softer skill set that is difficult to learn and master.

The implications for technology vendors will be more pronounced within their ecosystems. With most vendors driving a significant portion of their revenues from indirect, channel-led sales, ensuring their channel partners are up to speed with this skill set will become imperative.

~Deepinder Sahni, Senior VP