On-demand ERP – Future Growth Engine for India Service Sector Firms

Background
First, let’s pen a line on what constitutes the service sector. The service sector, also called the tertiary sector, is one of the three principal and traditional economic sectors. The other two sectors are Agriculture (covering areas like farming, mining and fishing) and the secondary sector covering manufacturing. The importance of the service sector can be gauged from the fact that it constitutes more than half of the overall GDP in India. Moreover; its contribution to the GDP is continually on the rise; signifying that India is gradually showing a shift from manufacturing-based economy towards a services-based one. The service sector also provides employment to more than a quarter of the labour force.

Need for a Business Integration Solution
The service sector has become increasingly IT-savvy and technology-focused in its quest to conform to client expectations and achieving global standards in business processes and performance. AMI research shows that service sector SMBs account for over a quarter of the entire SMB business universe and constitutes almost a fifth of the overall sectoral IT spend.

This research further shows that SMBs in India face multiple business challenges. Several of these challenges are the need for business integration, manpower management and payroll processing, automation of manual tasks, ensuring compliance, ensuring higher profitability and cost control. Thus, the need of a robust and comprehensive business application software that can address these business problems has grown by leaps and bounds among India service sector SMBs. With the modernization of the sector and exposure to global business partners, factors like transparency, efficiency and accountability have grown in importance. Many businesses within this sector are on the lookout for business application software that helps in managing resources and providing a bird’s eye view to top management regarding the overall business situation.

The question arises – specifically what are the sub-verticals within the service sector that show a higher potential of growth in terms of ERP solutions?  AMI’s study shows that sub-verticals like back-office service providers (audit & tax / finance & accounting, legal) as well as other service providers (healthcare, hospitality & professional business services) show significant potential of adopting business application software.

Currently, ERP penetration is marginal within this sector with most adoption being an on-premise platform. However, there is significant growth potential for on-demand or cloud-based ERP within this sector in the days to come.

Drivers and Barriers
As part of its survey, AMI has analysed the key growth drivers and hindrances for Cloud-ERP adoption in the service sector. The major growth-inducers, as mentioned by most end-users are ease of use, anytime/anywhere accessibility, automatic upgrades, pay per use improved efficiency and scalability.

There are also several hindrances. These include data security concerns, poor connectivity, performance unpredictability and the need for internal training.

As mentioned by a Travel Agency, “Timely ticket booking online is a key success factor for my business. However, in this city the Internet speed and connectivity fluctuates a lot. So, you can understand the trouble I would face if I am unable to process a request due to internet issues. Hence, cloud-based ERP is not for me!” Another person in the hospitality sector indicated that he was convinced that there would be true TCO benefits “I am not sure that although I pay none or little initially that I may not end up paying a lot more in the long run!

The way Forward. . .
There is indeed huge ERP adoption potential within the India service sector SMBs but for that to become a reality multiple measures need to be undertaken by ERP vendors. One of the most important needs is to select proper implementation partners with adequate technical and service capability. Undoubtedly, this is a vital requirement since in our discussions with service sector SMBs they have mentioned that one of the key bottlenecks to successful ERP adoption is the problem faced during implementation and training. A primary necessity is that partners should have a concept of the vertical-specific Line-of-Business Software usage patterns so that they can gauge the client requirements better and design solutions accordingly. Further, there should be a clear demarcation between sales partners and implementation partners.

Another interesting finding is that most organizations prefer an easy plug-and-play-solution with little customization that should fit most organizations. Vendors will do well to remember this at the stage of product designing. Many end-users are still unaware of the value proposition and advantages of cloud-ERP. Vendors should surely initiate more awareness-building campaigns among prospective users along with channel partners to educate users about cloud-ERP value propositions and remove all misconceptions.

Thus, it is easy to conclude that cloud-ERP adoption and spending is set to grow among the India service sector businesses in the future.

~ Dev Chakravarty, Sr. Manager, Research

Digital Transformation Hits the Financial Sector

It has become the norm that of the seven vertical industries retail and travel have always been the front-runners in responding to innovation and the adoption of new technologies when compared to the finance and banking sector. But recently, the financial services vertical has begun to re-establish itself striving to become more consumer-centric. This has become necessary due to changing consumer expectations, high-voltage competition and the overall adoption of the latest technologies by other industries resulting in it becoming necessary for financial services to embrace digital transformation. In addition, in the digitized world, the emergence of “FinTechs” (financial startups based on new technologies) are giving immense opportunities to traditional and age-old financial players to come up to speed to compete or collaborate with these new types of firms and co-exist.

Responding to customers’ expectations – bringing about innovation & technology to financial sector
Financial players are integrating the latest technologies into their day-to-day operations and all areas of banking. Some of these are turning to next-gen technologies allowing for remote expert consultation via video and chatbots, analytics-enabled trading platforms and customized services as well as enhancing transactions on the go from any mobile device. Interestingly, financial firms and banks became advanced players to adopt and adapt machine learning (ML), artifi­cial intelligence (AI), data analytics, blockchain and cloud computing. This has allowed them to meet the consumers’ expectation, provide better customer experiences, and to attain operational efficiency and business compliance.

Recent changes inspired large financial institutions to collaborate with fintech firms to acquire the strength of advanced technologies to lure more customers such as small businesses that need hassle-free time-saving technologies to help increase growth. This also allows them to reach millennials who prefer to do all financial functionalities through their mobiles using mobile-friendly apps. Previously, financial firms were using technology to innovate their improvised internal operations and maintenance but with the saturation of mobile devices and the appearance of fintech firms, all focus has turned to providing more efficient & effective customer experiences. This is being done via mobile-friendly innovations contactless payments, payment on-the-go, e-deposits, digital lending, capital markets, P2P payments and many more.

Let’s explore some of the important tech-innovations making their way to the financial domain that are bringing about much-needed change.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI in all verticals, including financial services, aims to provide a more personalized and relevant customer experience. Digitization of banking procedures has enabled a greater number of touch-bases than the traditional banking system. Customers feel more engaged and involved while getting messages from all sorts of channels (traditional as well social media channels). One of the world’s leading banking & financial services launched an AI-driven Facebook chatbot to answer   customers’ queries. Such as what’s their current account balance or to locate the nearest ATM using Facebook Messenger.

AI-enabled banking procedures are making the customers’ experience more convenient and well-connected. An AI-enabled facial recognition system can identify an individual the moment they enter any bank branch and access relevant related information such as spending patterns and recent financial transactions. AI technologies are also helping financial firms in cost-management and maintaining efficiency in their operations. Modern technologies – Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) are great enablers to improve efficiency and productivity. An AI-enabled system analyzes all types of business data and establishes greater internal control of the operating system.

Machine learning (ML)
Machine Learning has been used in many day-to-day activities from email sorting through Natural Language Processing (NLP), automatic update of customers’ records in Customer Relations Management (CRM) solutions, efficiently assisting customers’ through customer self-service portals and many more. In recent time, ML became an important component in many aspects of the financial ecosystem like approving loans, asset management and assessing risks to name a few.

ML in a different format is assisting in essential financial procedures such as portfolio management, algorithmic trading/ high-frequency trading (HFT), fraud detection and loan/insurance underwriting. ML is used to a larger extent to strengthen customer service through chat bots and conversational interfaces, ensuring security (Security 2.0), sentiment/news analysis  by analyzing social media, news trends.

 Blockchain
The use of blockchain (not the open blockchains such as bitcoin rather the private, permissioned blockchains) will be the future of technology in the financial sector. With trusted third parties handling back office transactions, post-trade settlements, trade finance, insurance, and compliance and regulations. Blockchain can be utilized to create client identification systems based on distributed ledger technology and can be used by other branches and different banks in the financial ecosystem.

Blockchain technology would be crucial in insurance deposits and loan decisions by identifying fraud and unreliable sources in the overall financial system. Another significant role of blockchain would be to improve traditional insurance by automated payments.

Cloud
Cloud-enabled applications help the financial sector to streamline many processes such as new digital workflows, to establishing effective collaboration among else-while siloed departments, business units and individuals who are working with the financial organizations. Many in-house systems and processes can be handled more effectively with cloud-based SaaS applications, such as HR, CRM, ERP and financial accounting. The cloud system can secure the overall finance ecosystem in terms of cyber security protection without hiring a specialist team or deploying any technology.

Digital path-way to financial sectors
In recent times, all industries are trying to transform digitally. So is the financial sector where ensuring security, data maintenance & management is almost as important as sustain customers’ trust in the institution. All modern technologies (A-B-C – Artificial intelligence/machine learning, blockchain and cloud) are thus leading the way to attain this revolution in financial sector. In coming years, digital transformation will be a significant component of the investment strategy of any financial firm thereby embracing the digital disruption happening in all verticals.

~ Arpana Bharti, Research Analyst

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”

ITaaS – The Next Step Towards the Software-Defined Data Center

Nowadays consumers are moving towards an “Everything-as-a-Service” model and businesses have similar expectations for their IT departments. Hence the advent of “IT-as-a-Service” (ITaaS). Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) can provide a strategic approach to support the business goals of a firm and provide the speed, agility & elasticity to thrive with digital transformation.

For years businesses have had to adapt to greater competition and changes in the economic purchase cycle. Now organizations are embarking on a path towards digital transformation with an objective of building newer competencies around being more adaptable to an ever-changing landscape as well as becoming more consumer-oriented, cost-effective, aligned to consumer needs, less complex and more efficient. This transformation is vital to counter competition from new sources, small startups, and often from companies born in the cloud. Small startups can create turmoil in the industry thus causing problems to established market leaders.

The above facts are almost universal for all businesses and have always existed for chief experience officers (CXO). But what has changed now is enhanced competition from new sources.

The Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) – a key tool for Digital Transformation

SDDC can provide a strategic approach to support business goals and provide flexibility to thrive by embracing digital transformation. At the fundamental center of this transformation is the data center which is constantly evolving in an effort to keep up with business objectives.

It’s an accepted fact that the ability to bring new applications and services to market fast is crucial to success in today’s rapidly-moving marketplaces. Consequently, organizations are adopting public cloud services, or implementing hybrid cloud strategies, as they deliver business agility beyond the capacity of internal IT infrastructures. SDDC can support all workloads in a holistic approach optimally across the entire data center. To achieve this, a properly configured SDDC must display the following main principles:

  1. The SDDC must be dynamic and adaptive to respond to changes in resource workload. The adaptability should be automated and built on defined configurations as per the demands of the applications it runs.
  2. It must be ‘intelligent’, eliminate complexity and create elastic computing without direct human intervention.
  3. The SDDC must be robust to compensate for hardware and software problems and continue with the highest level of availability.

Modernize the Data Center

While businesses understand the need to modernize data centers and complete the journey to a hybrid cloud and SDDC, they still face significant challenges.

According to Sanjay Deshmukh, VMware’s vice president of End User Computing – “Apps drive various changes in enterprise infrastructure. Companies born in the cloud can integrate a modern data centers into operations from the beginning. The challenge for most other firms is how to advance the existing infrastructure to take advantage of new cloud-application capabilities without losing critical functionality from the legacy technology on which the business relies.”

Software and Automation

“Modernizing data centers is about altering the organization’s mindset from hardware to software, and embracing automation,” says Sanjay. “Companies mistakenly think they’re automated when they run scripts, but if the hardware changes, the company must then rewrite those scripts. That’s not true automation, which means delegating to the software.”

For modernizing, change is not always limited to technology; it also asks for changes to staff roles & the policies needed to accomplish work efficiently. In many cases, that means updating technologies developed over years specific to the business and have been working reliably.

Bottom-Line Savings and Top-Line Growth

Immediate benefits of modernization may be difficult to demonstrate to top management. An SDDC model delivers ROI / cost-savings through automation, reduced labor costs, improved security, and simplified IT management, but these savings are not visible in the short term and will take time to seen in the bottom-line.

There are immediate bottom-line savings, but significant top-line value, too, e.g. driving new business models. Once a business changes to SDDC, it is far more agile and able to rapidly respond to business needs.

Faster agility increases go-to-market strategies and drives innovation. New apps and services can be quickly developed, tested and improved through accelerated iteration. Also, modern data centers enable companies to scale up to meet demand and scale down when necessary.

Businesses with modernized data centers save money, innovate better and react to market changes faster. Other businesses innovate slowly and spend more time & money attending to hardware infrastructure issues & repairs.

It is better for companies to modernize data centers focusing on automating manual IT, modernizing infrastructure with virtualization software across the entire data center stack, focusing on unified management and laying a foundation for running both traditional and modern cloud-native applications.

Conclusion

Utilizing SDDC to create IT as a Service provides a strategic roadmap for IT leadership. It sets the basic principle on how a data center needs to evolve; it creates an evolutionary path for the data center. SDDC is a strategic approach to ensure the data center supports business goals and provides the flexibility required to enable businesses to embrace the digital transformation and thrive.

~Subrata Sarkar, Senior Research Analyst

Travel, Expense, and Invoice Management Automation Boosting Business Performance

Managing expenses and invoices is an inescapable part of doing business. There is simply no way around it. But, firms have a choice as to how they track and manage their spending. They can do it the old-school way—updating countless spreadsheets, tracking and filing paper work (invoices and receipts), and running around for signatures. Or, they can leave the cumbersome processes behind and opt for an automated travel, expense (T&E), and invoice solution.

The digital transformation is rendering traditional methods obsolete, and organizations are increasingly automating business functions such as expense and invoicing to improve efficiencies and boost productivity. Small and mid-sized business with 1-999 employees (SMBs) are beginning to catch on. According to AMI’s Global Market Sizing Model, worldwide SMB spending on T&E and invoice solutions is expected to reach nearly $4.7 Billion by 2021. This represents an 18.6% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2017. Cloud-based solutions are outpacing their on-premise counterparts with spending on SaaS T&E and invoice spend growing faster than 23% year over year through 2021.

There are dozens of brands to choose from including SAP Concur, Xero, MS Dynamics and Zoho to name a few. A top notch, comprehensive solution is one that offers, but is not limited to the following features.

  • Analytical tools for better tracking of data on spending
  • Auto-populate of expense reports
  • Receipt capture via mobile app
  • Flagging of non-qualified expenses
  • Integration with traditional Accounting/Finance/ERP software (i.e. QuickBooks, SAP ERP)
  • Integration with corporate credit cards
  • Travel and hotel booking in a user-friendly environment

Technology solutions really shine when they enable businesses to tackle key challenges and automated T&E and invoicing is a prime example of a software solution that does just that. Through its conversations with SMBs, AMI-Partners has found that companies using a well-rounded T&E and invoice solution benefit as they are able to:

  • Save time and money
  • Increase employee satisfaction
  • Improve employee and company compliance
  • Gain better visibility into spending and cashflow

These benefits tie together and are reinforced by one another.  For example, employees using a T&E application spend less time submitting expense reports which boosts employee satisfaction. Happy employees are more likely to use the application, which improves compliance. Since more information is captured, financial decision makers have better visibility into data on company spending, which they can more readily analyze. Finally, improved visibility helps firms to gain financially as it allows them to uncover cost saving opportunities.

Ultimately, a well-integrated T&E and invoice solution empowers firms to focus on overarching goals such as customer acquisition and business expansion.  Automation gives decision makers a clear picture of how money is flowing through the organization while giving back some of that ever-precious resource…time.

To learn more about how businesses are adopting automated solutions such as T&E and invoicing visit www.ami-partners.com or drop us a line at ask_ami@ami-partners.com

~ Joseph Bertran, Associate Director

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – Drones – Hawks in the Dawn of the IoT Era?

In March 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it will start testing the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) like drones at 300 air traffic facilities covering 500 airports in the US on incremental manner on April 30.  This deployment is scheduled for completion by September 13, 2018.  Commercial drone usage is expected to surge. This surge is being made possible in part by the LAANC system that is expected to automate the approval process of airspace authorization requests for operations in the entire US. In addition, FAA rules and regulations that clarified previously identified as potential issues are also assisting this growth. The FAA expects commercial drones to grow fourfold within 4 years from 110,000 to 450,000 units in the air in 2022.  But the impact on IT and cloud service providers is expected to be much larger.

Drones have long been in a trial phase for business use in various industries – delivering foods, packages & medical goods, monitoring agricultural crops and fields, responding to disasters, inspecting facilities, monitoring worker safety and mapping/surveying landscape to list a few. Powered by cloud platforms and the increasing availability of software applications, drones are able to function as robots in the air generating an enormous amount of data to feed cloud storage space and big data analytics.

Growing Usage of Imaging Apps

Photography and video are major drone applications. According to the FAA, 43% of commercial drone usage is for taking aerial photos, films and videos.  Photos and videos are already must-have items for almost all industries for marketing materials, brochures, how-to-use videos, and so on.  Increasing usage of social medias for marketing among businesses in any size has also been fueling the trend.  In the realm of social media today, eye-catching visual materials are must have while the role of language is decreasing.

Virtual reality (VR) is still in the nascent stage.  But it should be easy for everyone to foresee that it will play an important role in various fields in the near future – not just gaming, but we have already started to see its usage in tourism, entertainment and industrial design. The role of drones in the VR field is almost limitless.

The significance of these trends for cloud service providers is the data volume that drone operations will generate. Generally, image files are much larger than regular document files. In addition, an increasing number of commercial grade drones are equipping 4K cameras with 360-degree view for superior image quality. Drone photos will be a key driver for cloud storage consumption as, on average, a 4K video file is nearly 10 times larger than that of the standard definition.

Vertical Expansion and Applications

The core functions of drones in the traditional sense are transporting and monitoring. But their operation areas are widening. Power and energy companies, manufacturers and insurance companies are using drones for inspecting facilities.  Telecommunication carriers are using drones to carry cellular network, especially in the isolated remote areas and disaster sites.  Also, drones are convenient tools to manage inventory in huge warehouse facilities.

There is even a case where drones are used for time management by monitoring employees and work sites within an office building to reduce unnecessary overtime. This may look a bit awkward and employees may feel uncomfortable to be monitored but as insider threats by malicious users or employees are increasingly recognized as a major security concern, it will not be surprising to see drones hovering overhead in offices in the future.

Drone-Related Solution Providers

There are several players providing cloud-based drone tools for commercial use. Most of such tools are equipping functions of autopilot, data management, processing, analytics, planning and reporting. Most pricing are subscription models and quite affordable even for small businesses.

Key ISVs specializing in drone-related solutions include:

Flight/Operation Management

AirMap Kittyhawk
Drone LogBook NV Drones
Everdrone Skyward
Flyte
Microsoft UAV simulator (an open source aerial informatics and robotics platform for engineers/designers to test and train machines)

Mapping and Data Processing

3DR DroneMapper Raptor Maps
Agribotix Esri Sentera
Airware Gamaya Skycatch
Avision Robotics GeoCue Group Skydio
Bentley Maps Made Easy SLANTRANGE
Botlink Pix4D Uplift Data Partners
Datumate Pix Processing WebODM
DroneDeploy PrecisionHawk  

The market landscape is already quite crowded and M&As and vertical expansion strategies have already taken place. Verizon acquired Skyward in February 2017. This pairing is a good marriage of a wireless network and the aerial app.  DroneDeploy is pursuing vertical expansion via launching App Market to integrate its solutions with external apps such as Audodesk and John Deere to appeal to manufacturers and farmers.

Commercial drones are clearly becoming a key market dynamic in the cloud landscape at the dawn of IoT era.  IoT solution vendors and cloud service providers should gear in on these players.

~ Yuki Uehara, Senior Director

Artificial Intelligence is Modernizing the Future Workspace

Technology and data administration is maneuvering across vertical borders and previously isolated sectors are being integrated and creating new business opportunities. By capturing the diverse needs and expectations of today’s multi-demographic workforce, these connected technologies will help businesses of all sizes to plan and invest in their future workplace strategy.

“The modern workplace starts with empowering everyone in organizations to be more creative, collaborative and ultimately apply technology to help shape the culture of work” – Microsoft

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is among the most significant chapters in this great growth story. With a CAGR of over 50% through 2021, AI is developing into one of the key forces that in changing the outlook of the workplace, and will force many of today’s workplace habits, tools and environments to become archaic over the next 4-5 years.

With the red-carpet being rolled out for AI, we are starting to see the rise of a more personalized user experience which is vigorously adapting to capture and translate content in terms of relevance and preference. These technologies, when unified with cyber “customer service” agents, speech recognition interfaces and wearables, are leading to a more unified and collaborative experience.

A leading telecom, MNC having operations in India, is using AI to collect and crunch data from a variety of sources to find people with the right talents and the experience to match. Their HR system can also analyze workers’ email to identify job sentiments and triggers appropriate action for management. Similar cases have been seen in multiple domains where the use of chatbots and robotics have reduced human interaction from tactical jobs to more thinking roles.

The growing importance of AI in the workspace has triggered Google to transform its Translate Service to an AI model. In addition, Cisco and Microsoft have been advancing ways AI can impact everyday work life, from helping to connect users in virtual meetings to acting as an active listening agent that provides additional context regarding topics being discussed.

While countries such as U.S., China, Germany and South Korea have been making strong investments in developing their AI technologies, India too has picked pace in advancing its technologies. The Indian government’s push for ‘Make in India’ and ‘Start-up India’ has given a much-needed lift to the AI ecosystem. With tech start-up driving the way, India today has over 160 start-ups who are purely focused on AI and have raised over $30 million in venture investments to build their AI programs.

We are only at the beginning of this digital journey where AI and chatbots transform all aspects of the workspace including collaboration, communication, cross-function (HR, Production etc. processes), mobility, cloud, and security. We are seeing a huge migration of business processes becoming AI enabled and driving the business world forward.

However, the eminent fear that the advent and incorporation of AI will replace the human race with robots still looms overhead. Another way of looking at AI is to transpose the letters. “IA = Intelligence Assistance”. This would emphasize the fact that AI is only assisting the individual worker to work smarter and not make them less important to the workforce. In summation I would like to suggest that we all enjoy the change and let’s make our workspace a smarter place!

~ Kishalay Choudhury, Director Client Services

Riverbed New Channel Partner Program “Riverbed Rise” – Innovative and In-time Amid Ever-Changing Needs of Consumers

On February 9, 2018 we were invited to an analyst briefing that was hosted by Riverbed. Riverbed is one of the major players in the WAN optimization space with expansion toward software-defined technologies. They focus on providing hybrid networking, SD-WAN, SaaS and infrastructure visibility, working towards building a software-defined architecture for digital business. The purpose of this seminar was to introduce their new partner program Riverbed Rise. With this program they plan to consolidate their contact with partners from “compliance concept” to “capacitating their partners based on performance and value-based awards”.

Riverbed Rise is a clear transition from their traditional program, which is based on competency. This new program is based on the three-key designed operational principles of simplicity, flexibility and profitability. The objective is to expand their customer portfolio by tapping existing and new businesses and simultaneously ensure that partners’ performance is at their peak.

The key focus area of this program is to align Riverbed’s sales strategies to expand their portfolio sales and strengthen their commercial segment. Riverbed has introduced a performance & value-based reward system to acknowledge the performance of all partners with different requirement levels and financial models.

Riverbed Rise a Partners’ Panacea:

  • Riverbed aims to address issues related to new technology adoption and digital transformation of its channel partners through this new program of industry-leading digital performance solutions.
  • Riverbed’s new partner program offers more choice options to customers. It also ensures that the new partner program accommodates all unique business needs of their partners and at the same time guides them vis-à-vis decision making for investment and profitability plans in the long run.
  • Further, partners have more possibilities to select the different Training and Certifications criteria in accordance with their businesses.
  • Riverbed Rise is primarily based on dividends. These are determined by the overall partner performance and not on competencies or revenue attainment. It gives equal opportunities to all Riverbed partners to compete on individual strengths and customer value propositions, in their preferred target markets.

In the changing and rapidly disruptive business world, Riverbed’s program provides partners with individual decision power with the added benefits of earning and spending criteria that would also be unique in every instance.

Riverbed’s Journey in 2018:

Riverbed has made significant changes to its product portfolio in the last 18 months. Building on its legacy as a leader in WAN optimization, the company believes that these changes will create new opportunities for partners, to expand into new technology areas including SD-WAN and Digital Experience Management. Its focus on Digital Performance is aimed at addressing some of the most pressing challenges businesses are facing as they embark on digital transformation and move to the cloud. Riverbed Rise is an innovative program designed for partners of all types to respond immediately to these rapidly changing customer needs.

Riverbed Rise promises the partners to achieve more on productivity, performance and profitability through the unique reward system based on new business models and a diversified range of services. With this innovative reward matrix giving dividend and achievement rewards to associated partners, Riverbed is highly placed on the diverse partners’ ecosystem and in the competitors’ circle.

The new partner program has also enabled Riverbed to expand its partner base into new business avenues, emerging markets and newer verticals. Furthermore, Riverbed Rise is expected to help build a new partner portal with strong marketing tools revolving around simplified, flexible and a profitable dividends-based model.

As We See It:

Riverbed Rise has more commitments beyond the traditional partner schemes. However, the need of the hour is to sustain the longer retention of partners while keeping the product portfolio diversified.

Enforcing the authorized partners to use all their dividends for training, shows Riverbed’s priority on partner training and indeed supporting the partners to elevate their expertise.

In addition, Riverbed should also ensure the reach of this newly launched program to small and emerging markets where end user dynamics are very specific to each region and industry. They can also enrich their product positioning and roadmap with inclusive strategies for when partners’ investment plan is minimal or indecisive regarding changing adoption trends of various technologies.

What Does Their Success Depends On?

The strength of the Riverbed Rise partner program is centered around a strong partners’ base and a diversified product portfolio. With this program, Riverbed is aiming to strengthen their present relationship with existing partners as well as new market regions and in the ever-changing technology scenario. The more Riverbed empowers their partner ecosystem and enhances collaboration with their partners, the more likely Riverbed will obtain the success they are envisioning from this program.

~Arpana Bharti, Analyst and Subrata Sarkar, Sr. Analyst