Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 Cybersecurity & Compliance Trends for 2021

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Ecosystm research finds that 47% of organisations re-evaluated cybersecurity risks and management making it the biggest measure undertaken by IT Teams when COVID-19 hit. There is no denying any more that cybersecurity is a key business enabler. This year witnessed cybercrime escalating in all parts of the world and several governments issued advisories warning enterprises and citizens of the increase in the threat landscape, during and post COVID-19. Against this backdrop, Ecosystm Advisors, Alex Woerndle, Andrew Milroy, Carl Woerndle and Claus Mortensen present the top 5 Ecosystm predictions for Cybersecurity & Compliance in 2021.

This is a summary of the predictions, the full report (including the implications) is available to download for free on the Ecosystm platform here.

The Top 5 Cybersecurity & Compliance Trends for 2021

  1. There will be Further Expansion of M&A Activities Through 2021 and Beyond

As predicted last year, the market is set to witness mergers and acquisitions (M&As) to consolidate the market. The pandemic has slowed down M&A activities in 2020. However, the market remains fragmented and there is a demand for consolidation. As the cyber market continues to mature, we expect M&A activities to ramp up over the next couple of years especially once we emerge from COVID-19.  Some organisations that understand the full impact of the shift to remote working and the threats it creates have embraced the opportunity to acquire, based on perceived value due to COVID-19. The recent acquisition of Asavie by Akamai Technologies is a case in point. Asavie’s platform is expected to strengthen Akamai’s IoT and mobile device security and management services.

  1. After a Year of Pandemic Leniency, Regulators will Get Stricter in 2021

The regulators in the EU appear to have gone through a period of relative leniency or less activity during the first few months of the pandemic and have started to increase their efforts after the summer break. Expect regulators – even outside the EU – to step up their enforcement activities in 2021 and seek larger penalties for breaches.

Governments continue to evolve their Compliance policies across broader sectors, which will impact all industries. As an example, in Australia, the Federal Government has made changes to its definition of critical infrastructure, which brings mandates to many more organisations. Governments have shown an acute awareness of the rise in cyber-attacks highlighted by several high-profile breaches reported in mainstream media. Insider threats – highlighted by Tesla, where an employee raised the allegations of bribery by unknown third parties in exchange for exfiltrating corporate information – will also lead regulators to double down on their enforcement activities.

  1. The Zero Trust Model Will Gain Momentum

Remote working has challenged the traditional network security perimeter model. The use of personal and corporate devices to access the network via public networks and third-party clouds is creating more opportunity for attackers. Organisations have started turning to a Zero Trust security model to mitigate the risk, applying advanced authentication and continuous monitoring. We expect the adoption of the Zero Trust model to gain momentum through 2021. This will also see an increase in managed services around active security monitoring such as Threat Detection & Response and the increased adoption of authentication technologies. With an eye on the future, especially around quantum computing, authentication technologies will need to continually evolve.

  1. The Endpoint Will be the Weakest Link

The attack surface continues to grow exponentially, with the increase in remote working, IoT devices and multicloud environments. Remote endpoints require the same, if not higher levels of security than assets that sit within corporate firewalls, and it will become very clear to organisations that endpoints are the most vulnerable. Remote workers are often using unsecure home Wi-Fi connections and unpatched VPNs, and are increasingly vulnerable to phishing attacks. IoT device passwords are often so weak that brute-force attackers can enter networks in milliseconds.

Although endpoint security can be dealt with through strict policies together with hardware or software authentication, the difficult part is to adopt an approach that retains a relatively high level of security without having a too negative an impact on the employee experience. Experience shows that if the security measures are too cumbersome, employees will find ways to circumvent them.

  1. Hackers Will Turn the Table on AI Security

Cybersecurity vendors are increasingly offering solutions that leverage AI to identify and stop cyber-attacks with less human intervention than is typically expected or needed with traditional security approaches. AI can enhance cybersecurity by better predicting attacks enabling more proactive countermeasures, shortening response times, and potentially saving cybersecurity investment costs. The problem is that the exact same thing applies to the hackers. By leveraging AI, the costs and efforts needed to launch and coordinate large hacker attacks will also go down. Hackers can automate their attacks well beyond the use of botnets, target and customise their attacks with more granularity than before and can effectively target the biggest weakness of any IT security system – people.

Already, phishing attacks account for many of the breaches we see today typically by employees being tricked into sharing their IT credentials via email or over the phone. As we move forward, these types of attacks will become much more sophisticated. Many of the deepfake videos we see have been made using cheap or free AI-enabled apps that are easy enough for even a child to use. As we move into 2021, this ability to manipulate both video and audio will increasingly enable attackers to accurately impersonate individuals.


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Juniper Acquires 128 Technology to Boost AI Expertise

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Juniper Networks has entered into an agreement to acquire Massachusetts-based 128 Technology for USD 450 million that will enhance its AI-driven enterprise networking portfolio. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2020. The combined portfolio of 128 Technology’s Session Smart™ networking and Juniper’s Mist AI platform will bolster Juniper’s AI expertise in SD-WAN technology.  

Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Ashok Kumar says, “Juniper Networks has been a major player in enterprise networking from the core to the edge of the network with SD-WAN, WLAN, and AI-driven applications aware network products. Juniper had strengthened their enterprise networks portfolio with the acquisition of WLAN vendor Mist Systems in 2019 which provided cloud-based management and an AI engine. With Juniper’s acquisition of 128 Technology the network transformation process in the industry will continue.”

The platform created by 128 Technology bases decisions on real-time sessions instead of legacy static systems and networking approaches. The newer system created through this by Juniper will use AI to automate sessions and policies for a full AI-driven WAN operation – from initial configuration to customisable actions across various levels, and AI-driven support.

In addition to this, the automation is expected to reduce overheads, minimise IT costs and deliver better client and user-experience through automated network optimised for client-to-cloud. The two companies also aim to optimise the network and user experiences for voice, 5G and collaboration. Juniper continues to evolve the enterprise networking portfolio adding to the acquisition of WLAN start up Mist Systems for USD 405 million last year. Juniper’s AI -driven SD-WAN and networking products and services for enterprises and end-users is a step towards smart LAN and WAN environments.

A recent study on The Future of the Secure Office Anywhere, conducted by Ecosystm on behalf of Asavie found that 56% of global organisations are looking to improve employee experience, as they look beyond the COVID-19 crisis. The feedback from over 1,000 business and technology leaders globally, also finds that 55% of the organisations are also focused on digital transformation. This will require a re-evaluation of enterprise network solutions, to give employees seamless access to company resources as they continue to work remotely.     

“Enterprise communications is being transformed to a user-centric, session-oriented distributed model from a legacy network-oriented centralised WAN model. In the new remote working environment of Office Anywhere, the traditional use of VPN in combination with first-generation SD-WAN will become an impediment going forward. Enterprises will need to re-design networks to address each end-user’s unique needs and their access to applications and all business resources as though they were a Branch of One.”

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A Leaner IBM – What Lies Ahead

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IBM announced its intention to spin off its infrastructure services business as a separate public company, allowing Big Blue to focus on hybrid cloud and AI. The newly formed entity, temporarily named NewCo, will offer project and outsourcing services that currently fall under its GTS business unit. NewCo will have a staff of around 90,000 employees and is expected to earn revenue of about $19B. While GTS has experienced declining revenue for some time now, IBM believes that the split will unlock growth and put it on a path to recovery.

Once the Red Hat acquisition closed last year and the tag team of Jim Whitehurst and Arvind Krishna were announced, it became clear that IBM was gearing up to become a leaner, more agile leader in the hybrid cloud space. One of two possible courses seemed apparent – either wither away for years until IBM was small enough to become nimble, or take bold action. IBM has opted for the latter and is likely to be rewarded for it. The new IBM will have revenue of around $59B, well short of its peak at over $100B, but sacrificing turnover for margin and growth gives it a more positive long-term outlook.

Stripping back IBM to become smaller, faster growing, and more profitable, will help solve many of its greatest challenges. Significant investment into growth segments will become more palatable without the financial burden of the declining infrastructure services unit. The well-needed cultural change and drive to think like a start-up will become more practical in the new IBM.

NewCo to Build New Cloud Partnerships

IBM’s infrastructure services unit has had some great success in larger, complex, hybrid cloud deals recently – but at the lower end of the market there have been many head winds. Public cloud providers have eroded what was once a lucrative compute and storage services market. At the same time, application service providers, like Accenture, TCS, and HCL have been pivoting towards infrastructure. Untethering infrastructure services makes a turnaround story more likely, giving NewCo greater flexibility and speed, which clients have been crying out for.

The greatest benefit to NewCo will be the ability to freely partner with other cloud providers, like AWS, Microsoft, and Google. Although IBM has made noises about being willing to embrace its competitors, this was not necessarily implemented on the ground nor was it reciprocated.

It is no secret that GTS and GBS have had a rocky relationship since day one. The split will reassure clients that each of them is agnostic and relieve any internal pressure to partner unless it is best for the client. While elements of this decision look like the unfolding of a long-term strategy that began under Ginni Rometty, it does, however, leave open the question of why GTS and GBS were more closely integrated over the last few years. This also means IBM is moving in the opposite direction to its competitors, who are shifting towards offerings that cover the full stack of services from infrastructure up to applications.

What Lies Ahead for IBM

One detail that is not immediately certain is the fate of IBM security services, which could be integrated with security software at IBM, spun out with the rest of infrastructure services, or even split into consulting and delivery. An important differentiator for IBM has been its ability to build in security at the beginning of transformation projects making final placement a difficult decision.

It might be tempting to predict that next IBM would couple its Systems unit and Support Services to be spun off or sold although Mr. Krishna ruled that out. Over the long term, these are both financially underperforming units but there is an advantage to building the core infrastructure that critical workloads are run on.

Each new IBM CEO has had a make or break moment and Mr. Krishna has decided that his will come early. For the company to thrive for another 100 years it needed to place a big bet and it could not have come soon enough.


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Telstra and Microsoft Partner to Enhance and Enable the Built Environment

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Telstra and Microsoft have extended their partnership to jointly build solutions harnessing the capabilities of AI, IoT, and Digital Twin technologies in Australia. The partnership will also enable both companies to work on sustainability, emission reduction, and digital transformation initiatives.

The adoption of cloud and 5G technology is already on the rise and creating opportunities across the globe. The Microsoft-Telstra partnership is set to bring together the capabilities of both providers for businesses in Australia and globally. Their focus on AI, IoT, cloud and 5G will enable Australia’s developers and independent software vendors (ISVs) to leverage AI with low latency 5G access to drive efficiency, and enhance decision making. This will also see practical applications and new solutions in areas like asset tracking, supply chain management, and smart spaces to enhance customer experience.

Technology Enhancing the Built Environment

Microsoft Azure and Telstra’s 5G capabilities will come together to develop new industry solutions – the combination of cloud computing power and telecom infrastructure will enable businesses and industries to leverage a unified IoT platform where they can get information through sensors, and perform real-time compute and data operations. Telstra and Microsoft will also build digital twins for Telstra’s customers and Telstra’s own commercial buildings which will be initially deployed at five buildings. Upon completion, the digital twin will enable Telstra to form a digital nerve centre and map physical environments in a virtual space based on real-world models and plot what-if scenarios.

Telstra CEO, Andy Penn says, “If you think about the physical world – manufacturing, cities, buildings, mining, logistics – the physical world hasn’t really been digitised yet. So, how do you digitise the physical world? Well, what you do is put sensors into physical assets. Those sensors can draw information around that physical asset, which you can then capture and then understand.”

Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Mike Zamora finds the comment interesting and says, “It isn’t so much that the physical world is digitized – it is more about how digital tools enhance and enable the physical world to be more effective to help the occupier of the space. This has been the history of the physical space.  There have been many ‘tools’ over time to help the physical world – the elevator in the late 1880s enabled office buildings to be taller; the use of steel improved structural support, allowing structural walls to be thinner and buildings taller. These two ‘tools’ enabled the modern skyscraper to be born.  The HVAC system developed in the early 1900s, enabled occupants to be more comfortable inside a building year-round in any climate.” 

“Digital tools (sensors, etc) are just the latest to be used to enhance the physical space for the occupant. Digital twins enable an idea to be replicated in 3D – prior to having to spend millions of dollars and hundreds of man hours to see if a new idea is viable. Its advent and use enable more experimentation at a lower cost and faster set up. This equates into a lower risk. It is a welcomed tool which will propel the experimentation in the physical world.” 

Talking about emerging technologies, Zamora says, “Digital twins along with other digital tools, such as 3D printing, AI, drones with 4K cameras and others will enable the built environment to develop at a very quick pace. It is the pace that will be welcomed, as the built environment is typically a slow-moving asset (pardon the pun).”

“Expect the Built Environment developers, designers, investors, and occupiers to welcome the concept. It will allow them to dream of the possible.”

Telstra and Microsoft – Joint Goals

Telstra and Microsoft have partnered over the years over multiple projects. Last year, the companies partnered to bring Telstra’s eSIM functionality to Windows devices for data and wireless connectivity; they have also worked on Telstra Data Hub for secured data sharing between data producers, businesses and government agencies; and most recently collaborated on Telstra’s exclusive access to Xbox All Access subscription service to Australian gamers with the announcement of Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S gaming consoles expected to release in November.

This announcement also sees them work jointly towards their sustainability goals. Both companies are committed to sustainability and addressing climate change. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced its plans to be carbon negative by 2030, while Telstra has also set a target to generate 100% renewable energy by 2025 and reducing its absolute carbon emissions by 50% by the same time. To enable sustainability, Telstra and Microsoft are exploring technology to reduce carbon emissions. This includes further adoption of cloud for operations and services, remote working, and piloting on real-time data reporting solutions.

Telstra also aims to leverage Microsoft technology for its ongoing internal digital transformation, adopting Microsoft Azure as its cloud platform to streamline operations, and infrastructure modernisation, including transition from legacy and on-premise infrastructure to cloud based applications.


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Smarter Buildings: Consortia for Intelligent Use of Big Data

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Smarter buildings and public facilities have long been of interest to architects and developers. Innovators can see that the promise of intelligent data used for spatial design can transform how we work, live and play.

How can Big Data be used for intelligent building design? There are a consortia of companies trying to figure this out together. I will discuss the Building 4.0 Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) in Australia.

I have already been examining the new approaches to using big data in facilities management. This is done by developing smarter office spaces, embedded with devices employing Ambient Intelligence (AmI). Research looked at how the intelligent use of big data contributed to building an environment with greater energy efficiency, optimised space utilisation, enhanced workplace experience and occupants’ comfort. This includes sound masking, the use of lighting for enhance environments, and sensors for occupancy for hygiene controls.

Ambient Intelligence (AmI)

AmI refers to electronic environments that are sensitive and responsive to the presence of employees, residents or visitors. These environments can have ecosystems (pun intended) of different IoT devices communicating with each other.

There is a real emphasis here on edge computing, sensors and other IoT devices, and building intelligence into the edge for near real-time decision making closer to where the problem may sit. Ecosystm research finds that construction firms focus a significant amount of IoT investment for building management and energy management (Figure 1).

IoT Solutions in Construction

For example, if an HVAC system is on the verge of malfunction, the system could send a message for a repair intervention. When it comes to AI, predictive maintenance and surveillance are two of the leading use cases in the construction industry (Figure 2).

AI Adoption in Construction

Building 4.0 Co-operative Research Centre (CRC)

In Australia, this push for sustainable and smarter building development is being driven by a consortium of companies looking at Big Data and infrastructure development for buildings. This year, the Building 4.0 Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) has been awarded a USD 19.5 million grant to focus on medium to long-term industry-led collaborations that can assist in driving the growth of new industries. The Australian building and construction industry is a major economic engine that contributes 13% of GDP and employs over 1.4 million Australians. Development of the Building 4.0 CRC makes sense and is timely given the current pandemic and economic conditions.

Part of its research program focus on develop new building processes and techniques through leveraging the latest technologies, data science and AI to ultimately improve all aspects of the key building phases. Their overall ecosystem is designed for enablement of several use cases (Figure 3).

Building 4.0

The Building 4.0 CRC’s principle aims are “to decrease waste; create buildings that are faster, cheaper, and smarter; and capture new opportunities by facilitating collaborative work between stakeholders across the whole value chain in cooperation with government and research organisations.”

Green Star, the rating system which was created by Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) in 2003, rates the sustainability of buildings, fit outs and communities through Australia’s largest national, voluntary, holistic rating system. The GBCA is a partner organisation in the Building 4.0 CRC – as are many other major organisations in construction and trade, all pulling together here, for innovative efforts for the industry.

Where might the Building 4.0 CRC effort make an impact? Its collaborative structure of industry, academia, vocational trade organisation and governmental bodies harness innovative ideas to transmit them to transformative practices of industry and construction partners.

To be smarter, one must work smarter and more efficiently.  A consortia such as this pulls the best minds together to try to accelerate industry efforts for intelligent design with data.


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Genesys Partners with Adobe to Break Data Silos in Contact Centres

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Contact centres were already on a path to modernisation – which got accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis. The need for omnichannel delivery and better insights from customer data has forced contact centres to adopt cloud solutions. Ecosystm Principal Advisor Audrey William says, “There is still a disconnect between integrating and synchronising customer data between Sales, Marketing and Customer Teams. However, the market is starting to see contact centre vendors work closer with vendors in customer experience management segment.”

Genesys and Adobe are collaborating on integrating Genesys cloud and the Adobe Experience Platform. The deeper integration of both platforms is aimed to give organisations a better omnichannel presence. The platform is live for users and Genesys and Adobe will introduce other features and capabilities throughout 2020. Genesys is already a partner of Adobe’s Exchange Program designed for technology partners to supplement Exchange Marketplace with extensions and applications for Adobe Creative Cloud users.

Augmenting the CX journey through Data Synchronization

Ecosystm data finds that 62% of contact centres have driving omnichannel experience as a key customer experience (CX) priority and 57% want to analyse data across multiple data repositories. However, when asked about the challenges of driving consistent CX, data access and integration appears to be a barrier in achieving their priorities. These challenges are the reason why getting a “true view” of the customer data has been an arduous task and achieving consistent CX continues to be a struggle.

William says. “The customer data collected by a particular service or department does not always move along in real-time with the customer interactions across different touchpoints. This complicates maintaining a real-time customer profile and impacts the CX.”

“Sales and Marketing have different KPIs and tend to view customer data from different angles. The data from in-store, Marketing and Sales interactions sits within departmental silos. They may deal with the same customers and not follow them through their entire journey. This leads to missed opportunities in reaching out to them at the right time with the right products to upsell, resell or provide better CX. Data synchronisation across channels, would solve that problem.”

Integrating Genesys and Adobe Experience Platform will give organisations the capability to provide contact centre agents with real-time customer data and profiles from a single point to provide an personalised experience. The platform is powered by Genesys Predictive Engagement that uses AI to provide more intelligence based on past interactions to drive effective, data-driven conversations. In addition to this, the partnership also enables businesses and marketing departments to customise campaigns and extend their digital and voice capabilities for optimal conversions. William says, “The ability to use AI to understand customer intent, behaviour and patterns is critical as it will allow brands to re-look at how to design the customer journey. When you keep using the same and outdated profile, it will be hard to have discussions around intent, customer interest and assess how customer priorities have changed. Accurate and automate data profiling will lead to more targeted and accurate marketing campaigns.”

Genesys Deepening Industry Partnerships

Genesys is re-shaping its strategy on Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) offerings through partnerships and working on its vision of providing Experience as a Service to its global clients. The need for CCaaS has been accelerated by the pandemic. Last month Genesys signed a five year deal with Infosys to develop and deploy cloud CX and contact centre solutions.

Earlier this year, Genesys partnered with MAXIMUS, a US Government services provider to set up the MAXIMUS Genesys Engagement Platform, an integrated, cloud-based omnichannel contact centre solution driven by the government requirement for public sector organisations to provide seamless customer experiences similar to those offered in the private sector.

The company has also partnered with various other industry leaders like MicrosoftGoogle Cloud, and Zoom to roll out cloud-based innovations to benefit customers.


Click below to access insights from the Ecosystm Contact Centre Study on visibility into organisations’ priorities when running a Contact Centre (both in-house and outsourced models) and the technologies implemented and being evaluated

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NVIDIA to Acquire Arm: An Analysis of the Biggest Tech Deal of 2020

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Last week, NVIDIA announced that it had agreed to acquire UK-based chip company Arm from Japanese conglomerate SoftBank in a deal estimated to be worth USD 40 billion. In 2016, SoftBank had acquired Arm for USD 32 billion. The deal is set to unite two major chip companies; power data centres and mobile devices for the age of AI and high-performance computing; and accelerate innovation in the enterprise and consumer market.

Rationale for the Deal

NVIDIA has long been the industry leader in graphics chips (GPUs), and a smaller but significantly profitable player in the chip stakes. With graphic processing being a key component in AI applications like facial recognition, NVIDIA was quick to capitalise. This allowed it to move into data centres – an area long dominated by Intel who still holds the lion’s share of this market. NVIDIA’s data centre business has grown tremendously – from near zero less than ten years ago to nearly USD 3 billion in the first two quarters of this fiscal year. It contributes 42% of the company’s total sales.

The gaming PC market has been the fastest-growing segment in the PC market. The rare shining light in an otherwise stagnant-to-slightly declining market. NVIDIA has benefited greatly from this with a huge jump in their graphics revenues. Its GeForce brand is one of the most desired in the industry. However, with their success in AI, NVIDIA’s ambition has now grown well beyond the graphics market. Last year NVIDIA acquired Mellanox – who makes specialised networking products especially in the area of high-performance computing, data centres, cloud computing – for almost USD 7 billion. There is clearly a desire to expand the company’s footprint and position itself as a broad-based player in the data centre and cloud space focused on AI computing needs.

The acquisition of Arm though adds a whole new dimension. Arm is the leading technology provider in the mobile chip market. A staggering 90% of smartphones are estimated to use Arm technology. Arm is the colossus of the small chip industry – having crossed 20 billion in unit shipments in 2019.

Acquiring Arm is likely to result in NVIDIA now having a play in the effervescent smartphone market. But the company is possibly eyeing a different prize. Jensen Huang, Founder and CEO of NVIDIA said “AI is the most powerful technology force of our time and has launched a new wave of computing. In the years ahead, trillions of computers running AI will create a new internet-of-things that is thousands of times larger than today’s internet-of-people. Our combination will create a company fabulously positioned for the age of AI.”

With thoughts of self-driving cars, connected homes, smartphones, IoT, edge computing – all seamlessly working with each other, the acquisition of Arm provides NVIDIA a unique position in this market. As the number of connected devices explodes, as many billions of sensors become an ubiquitous part of 21st century living, there is going to be a huge demand for low power processing everywhere. Having that market may turn out to be a larger prize than the smartphone market. The possibilities are endless.

While this deal is supposed to be worth around USD 40 billion, somewhere between USD 23-28 billion is going to be paid in the form of NVIDIA stock. This brings us to an extremely interesting dynamic. At the beginning of 2016 NVIDIA’s market cap was less than USD 20 billion. Mighty Intel was at USD 150 billion. AMD the other player in the market for chips who also sell graphics was at a mere USD 2 billion. In July this year, NVIDIA’s value passed Intel’s and today it is sitting at around USD 300 billion! Intel with a recent dip is now close to USD 200 billion. AMD too with all the tech-fueled growth in recent years has grown to just shy of USD 100 billion market cap.

NVIDIA Growth 2014-2021

What this tells us is that the stock portion of the deal is cheaper for NVIDIA today by around 55% compared to if this deal was consummated on 1st January 2020. If there was a right time for NVIDIA to buy – it is now. This also shows the way the company has grown revenue at a massive clip powered by Gaming PCs and AI. The deal to buy Arm appears to be a very good idea, which would establish NVIDIA as a leader in the chip industry moving forward.

Ecosystm Comments

While there appears to be some good reasons for this deal and there are some very exciting possibilities for both NVIDIA and Arm, there are some challenges.

The tech industry is littered with examples of large mergers and splits that did not pan out. Given that this is a large deal between two businesses without a large overlap, this partnership needs to be handled with a great deal of care and thought. The right people need to be retained. Customer trust needs to be retained.

Arm so far has been successful as a neutral provider of IP and design. It does not make chips, far less any downstream products. It therefore does not compete with any of the vendors licensing its technology. NVIDIA competes with Arm’s customers. The deal might create significant misgivings in the minds of many customers about sharing of information like roadmaps and pricing. Both companies have been making repeated statements that they will ensure separation of the businesses to avoid conflicts.

However, it might prove to be difficult for NVIDIA and Arm to do the delicate dance of staying at arm’s length (pun intended) while at the same time obtaining synergies. Collaborating on technology development might prove to be difficult as well, if customer roadmaps cannot be discussed.

Business today also cannot escape the gravitational force of geo-politics. Given the current US-China spat, the Chinese media and various other agencies are already opposing this deal. Chinese companies are going to be very wary of using Arm technology if there is a chance the tap can be suddenly shut down by the US government. China accounts for about 25% of Arm’s market in units. One of the unintended consequences which could emerge from this is the empowerment of a new competitor in this space.

NVIDIA and Arm will need to take a very strategic long-term view, get communication out well ahead of the market and reassure their customers, ensuring they retain their trust. If they manage this well then they can reap huge benefits from their merger.

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RPA Adoption Accelerates in Asia Pacific – but the Future is Cloudy

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The pandemic crisis has rapidly accelerated digitalisation across all industries. Organisations have been forced to digitalise entire processes more rapidly, as face-to-face engagement becomes restricted or even impossible.

The most visible areas where face-to-face activity is being swiftly replaced by digital alternatives include conferencing and collaboration, and the use of digital channels to engage with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.

For example, the crisis has made it difficult – even  impossible, sometimes – for contact centre agents to physically work in contact centres, and they often do not have the tools to work effectively from home. This challenge is particularly apparent for offshore contact centres in the Philippines and India. The creation of chatbots has reduced the need for customer service staff and enabled data to by entered into front-office systems, and analysed immediately.

Less visible are back-office processes which are commonly inefficient and labour-intensive. Remote working makes some back-office workflows challenging or impossible. For example, some essential finance and accounting workflows involve a mix of digital communications, printing, scanning, copying and storage of physical documents – making these workflows inefficient, difficult to scale and labour-intensive. This has been highlighted during the pandemic. RPA adoption has grown faster than expected as organisations seek to resolve these and other challenges – often caused by inefficient workflows being scrambled by the crisis.

The RPA Market in Asia Pacific

There are many definitions of the RPA market, but it can broadly be defined as the use of software bots to execute processes which involve high volumes of repeatable tasks, that were previously executed by humans. When processes are automated, the physical location of employees and other stakeholders becomes less important. RPA makes these processes more agile and flexible and makes businesses more resilient. It can also increase operational efficiency, drive business growth, and enhance customer and employee experience.

RPA is a comparatively new and fast-growing market –  this is leading to rapid change. In its infancy, it was basically the digitalisation of BPO. It was viewed as a way of automating repetitive tasks, many of which had been outsourced. While its cost saving benefits remain important as with BPOs, customers are now seeking more. They want RPA to help them to improve or transform front-office, back-office and industry-specific processes throughout the organisation. RPA vendors are addressing these enhanced requirements by blending RPA with AI and re-branding their offerings as intelligent automation or hyper-automation.  

Asia Pacific organisations have been relatively slow to adopt RPA, but this is changing fast. The findings of the Ecosystm Digital Priorities in the New Normal study show that in the next 12 months, organisations will continue to focus on digital technologies for process automation (Figure 1).

Measures to be retained by organisations after COVID-19

The market is growing rapidly with large global RPA specialists such as UiPath, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism and AntWorks experiencing high rates of growth in the region.

RPA vendors in Asia Pacific, are typically addressing immediate, short-term requirements. For example, healthcare companies are automating the reporting of COVID-19 tests and ordering supplies. Chatbots are being widely used to address unprecedented call centre volumes for airlines, travel companies, banks and telecom providers. Administrative tasks increasingly require automation as workflows become disrupted by remote working.

Companies can also be expected to scale their current deployments and increase the rate at which AI capabilities are integrated into their offerings

RPA often works in conjunction with major software products provided by companies such as Salesforce, SAP, Microsoft and IBM. For example, some invoicing processes involve the use of Salesforce, SAP and Microsoft products. Rather than having an operative enter data into multiple systems, a bot can be created to do this.

Large software vendors such as IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce and SAP are taking advantage of this opportunity by trying to own entire workflows. They are increasingly integrating RPA into their offerings as well as competing directly in the RPA market with pureplay RPA vendors. RPA may soon be integrated into larger enterprise applications, unless pureplay RPA vendors can innovate and continually differentiate their offerings.


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DBS and AWS Collaborate to Upskill Employees

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Organisations are on a fast track to digitalisation. The Ecosystm Digital Priorities in the New Normal study finds that 60% of organisations anticipate increased use of digital technologies for process automation, even after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. One of the key challenges that these organisations will face is the lack of internal digital skills – especially in emerging technologies. One of the success metrics of any technology adoption is employee uptake. Without the necessary skills or understanding of the benefits of emerging technology, employees will largely shy away from digital offerings, even the ones that will make their work more efficient and their lives easier.

Organisations are realising the value of making their workforce future ready.

DBS Instilling Company-Wide Digital Culture

Far-sighted companies are collaborating with technology vendors and professional training providers to promote tech awareness and education to futureproof their workforce. DBS Bank in Singapore has collaborated with AWS to train and upskill 3,000 employees – including the leadership team – with AI and machine learning skills through gamification in a DBS x AWS DeepRacer League.

The AWS DeepRacer Leagues have been previously organised in several parts of the world, but the DBS x AWS DeepRacer will be the first to be organised at this scale. The league will enable DBS employees to get their hands-on AI and machine learning tutorials online. They will then have the opportunity to test out their new skills in programming a 3D racing simulator and iteratively fine-tune their models and compete with each other. The learning program is entirely cloud-based and aims to ingrain digital skills in the workforce.

DBS has won several accolades for their digital transformation and innovation initiatives, and they continue to experiment with emerging technologies. In 2019, DBS digitalised and simplified end-to-end credit processing, setting the foundation for advanced credit risk management using data analytics and machine learning. They have also deployed an AI-powered engine for self-service digital options to its retail banking customers. Taking their employees along with them on this journey is a wise move.

Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Ravi Bhogaraju says, “With the increasing use of automation, AI and machine learning, the nature of work and businesses is transforming rapidly. This is creating opportunities for processes to be automated and increasing the use of AI and Deep Learning into the business processes of the organisation. Industry value chains are transforming – AI and machine learning is adding automation, analytics and predictive intelligence to the portfolio. The recent news of DBS and AWS partnering to upskill the bank’s workforce underscores the value of creating a future ready workforce.”  

“Such upskilling efforts add industry-specific context to make them more effective. BCG refers to this as ‘Human + AI’. A recent study from BCG and MIT shows that 18% of companies in the world that are pioneering AI are making money with it. Those companies focus 80% of their AI initiatives on effectiveness and growth, taking better decisions – not replacing humans with AI to save costs.” 

Government Focus on Digital Skills Upgrade

This week, Singapore also saw another initiative to bridge digital skills gaps – this time from the public sector. In 2018, the Government launched its Smart Nation Scholarship program to attract and nurture talent, and later involve them in various departments to drive Singapore’s Smart Nation initiatives. The most recent Smart Nation Scholarship program 2020 attracted 723 applicants (17% more than the previous year). This is a slightly different approach, aimed at attracting digital native employees and mentoring them for digital leadership. After completing their studies, the 15 scholarship recipients are set to join public sector agencies such as Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), Government Technology Agency (GovTech), and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), to give the younger generation an opportunity to co-create the country’s Smart Nation vision.   

Bhagaraju says, “Both private and government institutions are working to enhance workforce skills, improve marketability and making the workforce future ready. Industry 4.0 and the digital revolution have created the need to address the skill gaps that have arisen. Government programs such as the Skills Future program in Singapore, Malaysia’s HRD upskilling program, and the EU-28 European Digital initiative are all making a sustained effort to promote lifelong learning and acquisition/upgrading of skills for their respective citizens with quite successful results, that will have long-term impacts.”


More insights on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and technology areas that will see transformation, as organisations get into the recovery phase, can be found in the Digital Priorities in the New Normal Study
Ecosystm COVID-19 Research Data

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