Using AI for Business Decision-Making

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Why do we use AI? The goal of a business in adding intelligence is to enhance business decision-making, and growing revenue and profit within the framework of its business model.

The problem many organisations face is that they understand their own core competence in their own industry, but they do not understand how to tweak and enhance business processes to make the business run better. For example, AI can help transform the way companies run their production lines, enabling greater efficiency by enhancing human capabilities, providing real-time insights, and facilitating design and product innovation. But first, one has to be able to understand and digest the data within the organisation that would allow that to happen.

Ecosystm research shows that AI adoption crosses the gambit of business processes (Figure 1), but not all firms are process optimised to achieve those goals internally.  

Top 10 Areas where Organisations are usings AI

The initial landscape for AI services primarily focused on tech companies building AI products into their own solutions to power their own services. So, the likes of Amazon, Google and Apple were investing in people and processes for their own enhancements.

As the benefits of AI are more relevant in a post-pandemic world with staff and resource shortages, non-tech firms are becoming interested in applying those advantages to their own business processes.

AI for Decisions

Recent start-up ventures in AI are focusing on non-tech companies and offering services to get them to use AI within their own business models.  Peak AI says that their technology can help enterprises that work with physical products to make better, AI-based evaluations and decisions, and has recently closed a funding round of USD 21 million.

The relevance of this is around the terminology that Peak AI has introduced. They call what they offer “Decision Intelligence” and are crafting a market space around it. Peak’s basic premise was to build AI not as a business goal for itself but as a business service aided by a solution and limited to particular types of added value. The goal of Peak AI is to identify where Decision Intelligence can add value, and help the company build a business case that is both achievable and commercially viable.

For example, UK hard landscaping manufacturer Marshalls worked with Peak AI to streamline their bid process with contractors. This allows customers to get the answers they need in terms of bid decisions and quotes quickly and efficiently, significantly speeding up the sales cycle.

AI Research and Reports

AI-as-a-Service is not a new concept. Canadian start-up Element AI tried to create an AI services business for non-tech companies to use as they might these days use consulting services. It never quite got there, though, and was acquired by ServiceNow last year. Peak AI is looking at specific elements such as sales, planning and supply chain for physical products in how decisions are made and where adding some level of automation in the decision is beneficial. The Peak AI solution, CODI (Connected Decision Intelligence) sits as a layer of intelligence that between the other systems, ingesting the data and aiding in its utilisation.

The added tool to create a data-ingestion layer for business decision-making is quite a trend right now. For example, IBM’s Causal Inference 360 Toolkit offers access to multiple tools that can move the decision-making processes from “best guess” to concrete answers based on data, aiding data scientists to apply and understand causal inference in their models.

Implications on Business Processes

The bigger problem is not the volume of data, but the interpretation of it.

Data warehouses and other ways of gathering data to a central or cloud-based location to digest is also not new. The real challenge lies with the interpretation of what the data means and what decisions can be fine-tuned with this data. This implies that data modelling and process engineers need to be involved. Not every company has thought through the possible options for their processes, nor are they necessarily ready to implement these new processes both in terms of resources and priorities. This also requires data harmonisation rules, consistent data quality and managed data operations.

Given the increasing flow of data in most organisations, external service providers for AI solution layers embedded in the infrastructure as data filters could be helpful in making sense of what exists. And they can perhaps suggest how the processes themselves can be readjusted to match the growth possibilities of the business itself. This is likely a great footprint for the likes of Accenture, KPMG and others as process wranglers.

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Global Systems Integrators Play Catch Up in Cloud and AI

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Over the past year we have seen global systems integrators (SIs) – Accenture, IBM, Deloitte, Fujitsu, Capgemini and others – make many acquisitions, particularly in the public cloud, AI, cybersecurity and data space. Much of the growth in spending over the past few years have been driven by these categories: in 2020 if a software company was purely or mainly SaaS, they are likely to have witnessed strong growth. If they were on-premises software, they were lucky not to see declining revenues. While it is normal for the larger SIs and consultants to play catch up through acquisition, it is becoming harder for them to gain traction in these new areas.

Technology Shifts Drive Market Fragmentation

With every technology-driven business change new SIs, consultants, and managed services providers emerge. It happened with the move to big ERP systems, the move towards Business Intelligence, the emergence of SaaS etc. But I think we are now seeing something different. More than just the smaller players going after opportunities earlier, I believe we are seeing a changing buying behaviour from tech and business buyers – a greater willingness for larger enterprises to give their most important, business-critical strategies and implementations to smaller, less established players.

And I am not suggesting that the larger SIs are not performing well. Many are growing at 10-25% YoY – but at the same time, many are also growing at a slower rate than the markets they play in. The Ecosystm RNx for global IT services and consulting providers shows that the global providers continue to power ahead. But they need to adapt to changing market conditions.

Top-10-Global-IT-Services-Consulting-Company-Ranking

New Cloud/AI Partners Winning Consulting and Implementation Deals

We have seen a new community of partners emerge with tech changes, such as the hyperscale cloud platforms and AI/machine learning tools. Traditionally, these companies would be good at one thing – and would learn slowly. For example, in the SAP ERP growth period, the projects were large and long. A single, mid-sized SI might only be working with 2-3 clients at a time. Therefore, the IP that they collected was limited – and they would find themselves with focused or niche skills. The large SIs had done many large, long projects across the globe and had much best-practice IP to call upon, giving them a broader and deeper knowledge of the technology and industries.  Smaller providers had limited IP and industry experience.

But in this cloud and AI era, specialist providers work on hundreds of smaller projects with dozens or hundreds of clients. With the technology constantly evolving, the skills are constantly improving. While the global SIs are working on many cloud and AI engagements, they are often part of longer engagements – giving the consultants and tech teams less exposure to the new and evolving cloud platforms.

In a world where technology is changing at pace, the traditional global SI practice of “learning from peers across the globe” doesn’t happen at the pace the market requires. By the time your peers in the business have completed a project, documented it, and shared learnings, the market has moved on and technology has changed. Today it is easier and faster to learn directly from the tech vendors and cloud platform providers and their training partners.  The network effect of knowledge in a team on the opposite side of the globe for a global SI is less valuable to clients. Often the smaller and mid-sized SIs have a deeper, broader knowledge of the technology platforms and toolsets than the larger providers – giving them a competitive advantage. For example, if you want the actual experience of moving SAP to Azure, or Oracle to AWS – you’ll often find the smaller providers have more experience. And this continues to play out. In many markets in the world, the top 5-10 SIs for cloud, AI and cybersecurity has a high proportion of local specialist providers.

Tech Buyers No Longer Look for Culturally Aligned Partners

Tech buyers themselves are changing too. In years gone by, the smaller tech partners would tell us that they felt they were included in bids to drive down the price from the global SIs. But today the story is different. Smaller partners are admired for their agility and innovation. Large enterprise customers will choose small providers because the small SI is NOT like them. In the past, they chose the global SI because they were just like them!

Because of this, the large SIs are mopping up their smaller competitors across the globe. Accenture has acquired 40 companies in the past 10-11 months, IBM has acquired over 10, Atos and Cognizant have also acquired many companies in the past 12 months. They are doing this for the skills as much as for the clients, along with getting a foothold in a new market or strengthening their position in geography. The challenge will be to hang on to the clients, culture, and the IP of the acquired business. Often these smaller competitors are growing at a significant pace – and the biggest risk is that the acquiring company takes their eyes off the prize.

Global SIs Still Own the Industry Play

Despite these challenges, one of the areas that the global SIs will continue to dominate is the industry play. I have discussed how as technologies mature, industry plays become more relevant.

Smaller and mid-sized SIs and consultants find it hard to create deep pools of expertise across multiple industries. While some may have a deep focus on a single or two industries, only the large players have broad and deep geography and industry experience. This puts many of the acquisitions into context – the global SIs will take these acquisitions and use that deep and broad technical and business knowledge and add it to their industry knowledge to create a more compelling offering.

Their challenge will still be one of cultural alignment. As discussed, many companies seek out tech partners who represent what they want to be, not what they are. The ability for the Global SIs to retain the culture, agility and innovation of the acquired business will determine their ability to continue to see similar or improved levels of growth from the acquired business. Using their IP in the context of industries will be the key to their ongoing success.

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The Rise of Immersive Entertainment

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The Media & Entertainment industry has enjoyed a boom over the last year – and the Sports industry has a key role to play in that. As sporting events resume this year, the conversations are increasingly about what technology can achieve. How can technology keep players and fans safe? How to leverage technology to give the virtual audience a real-life experience of their favourite sporting event? Which are the technologies that should be leveraged to maintain audience engagement?

Here are some examples of how immersive technologies are delighting fans globally; how technology providers are focusing on creating solutions to capture a larger share of this growing market; and the growth of innovative, tech-driven ecosystems in the industry.

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Industries-of-the-future-CTA

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Ecosystm RNx: Top 10 Global IT Services & Consulting Company Rankings

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The Ecosystm RNx – Top 10 Global IT Services & Consulting Company Rankings is based on in-depth, quantified ratings from technology decision-makers on the Ecosystm platform.

If you are an End User, it is likely that you are looking to partner with the right services provider who can guide your transformation journey. This vendor ranking will help you evaluate your buying decisions based on key evaluation ratings by your peers across a number of key metrics and benchmarks, including customer experience, integration capabilities and strategy.

If you are an IT Services & Consulting Company, you operate in a competitive world with several global and regional players – this is an opportunity to understand how your customers rate you on capabilities and their overall customer experience.

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Ecosystm RNx: Top 10 Global Cybersecurity Vendor Rankings

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In this edition of Ecosystm RNx – an objective vendor ranking based on in-depth, quantified ratings from technology decision-makers on the Ecosystm platform – we rank the Top 10 Global Cybersecurity Vendors.

If you are an End User, you are having to re-evaluate your Cybersecurity risks and measures as both solution capabilities and the threat landscape become more complex. In a fragmented market, it is difficult to select the right Cybersecurity partner to safeguard your organisation. This vendor ranking will help you evaluate your buying decisions based on key evaluation ratings by your peers across a number of key metrics and benchmarks, including customer experience.

If you are Cybersecurity Vendor, you are aware that end users are looking more for Cybersecurity services than solutions – this is an opportunity to understand how your customers rate you on capabilities and their overall customer experience.

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Cybersecurity Insights
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Ecosystm RNx: Top 10 Global AI & Automation Vendor Rankings

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Ecosystm RNx is an objective vendor ranking based on in-depth, quantified ratings from technology decision-makers on the Ecosystm platform. In this edition, we rank the Top 10 Global AI & Automation Vendors.

If you are an End-User, you are realising that the right investments in Data & AI now will be the key to your future success. This vendor ranking will help you evaluate your buying decisions based on key evaluation ratings by your peers across a number of key metrics and benchmarks, including customer experience.

If you are an AI & Automation Vendor, it’s an opportunity to understand how your customers rate you on capabilities and their overall customer experience.

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Artificial Intelligence Insights
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Ecosystm RNx: Top 10 Global Cloud Vendor Rankings

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In this first edition of Ecosystm RNx we rank the Top 10 Global Cloud Vendors.

Ecosystm RNx is an objective vendor ranking based on in-depth and quantified ratings from technology decision-makers on the Ecosystm platform.  

If you are an technology user, this Cloud Vendor ranking will help you evaluate your buying decisions based on key evaluation ratings by your peers across a number of key metrics and benchmarks, including customer experience.

If you are a Cloud Vendor, this is an opportunity to understand how your customers rate you on capabilities and their overall customer experience.

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Ecosystm Bytes
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Industries of the Future – Ecosystm Bytes

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Industries continue to innovate and disrupt to create and maintain a competitive edge – and their technology partners evolve their solution offerings to empower them.

We bring to you latest industry news from the Healthcare, Financial Services, Retail, Travel & Hospitality and Entertainment & Media industries to show you how organisations are leveraging technology. Find out more about organisations such as Services Australia, Paypal, Walmart, Zara and Amex – and how tech providers such as IBM, Oracle, Google and Uplift are supporting organisations across industries.

View the latest Ecosystm Bytes on Industries of the Future below, and reach out to our experts if you have questions.


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For more ‘byte sized’ insights click on the link below

Ecosystm Bytes
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Ecosystm VendorSphere – DELL VMware Spin-Off

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Two weeks ago, Michael Dell made the big announcement that Dell Technologies would spin off their shareholding in VMware, leading to a share price spike for both companies. A lot has already been written about the move – we would like to highlight a market-based view which we feel will be significant for the two companies going forward.

First let us break down the facts around the deal:

Dell without VMware - A Comparison

As has been analysed threadbare the deal reduces the total debt Dell is carrying and will even reduce the ratio of Dell debt to EBITDA. As a result, it is highly likely that Dell’s credit rating will move up from their current BB+ level to investment grade – which can have a lot of implications for future capital raising. There is also a buzz in the market that Dell Technologies may also sell off Boomi soon and write down another USD 3 Billion approximately in debt.

It is interesting to note that the company has been willing to let go off VMware even though it will dilute their profitability ratios – VMWare business being obviously more profitable than Dell’s traditional businesses which are heavily based on products.

The last few years has seen Dell reselling a fair amount of VMware products. From a number of perspectives Dell has been a key reseller for VMware and now contributes almost 34% of VMware’s revenues.

Dell VMware Reseller Revenue - 2016-2021

This chart is a testament to the power of execution that is inherent within Dell. This performance was aided by market growth – but even then it is remarkable how Dell has been able to scale up taking VMware to their customers. The two companies have very different sales cycles. A VMware sale typically has a longer cycle with a completely different set of touchpoints from the boxes that Dell is so good at selling – which have shorter cycles. The sales cycle for EMC products is closer to VMware’s which would have helped. The sales of the VXRail hyperconverged appliance have also jumped in recent times and this would have driven an equivalent spike in VMware revenues. It is still a remarkable achievement to be able to bring these three diverse groups together and grow revenue.

Market Impact of the Spin-Off

Does it make sense then for VMware to part with their largest reseller? Would it not be better for VMware to continue to drive this and use Dell’s execution skills to drive more growth? Data suggests that there could be another twist to this story.

VMware Growth 2014-2021

VMware has been growing impressively as a company when one looks at the black line and while the growth has slowed in percentage terms, this is on a much higher revenue base. FY2021 revenue is close to 2x the revenue in FY2014. However, when one considers it without the Dell reselling revenue (the red line) it looks a lot less impressive especially in the last couple of years when it is an anemic 3%. When comparing this growth we also see a slowdown of sorts in recent years for VMware.

Comparison Between VMware and its leading competitors

Til Dell acquired EMC – and VMware in consequence – they were working closely with other vendors such as Nutanix and driving solid growth for them. As they pivoted to doing more with VMware, did this then mean that other vendors – of either bare metal or cloud – drifted away from VMware?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that vendors such as HPE became more cautious and tried to diversify their business. It is entirely possible that if we looked at VMware as two separate businesses – one with Dell and one independent – the independent business has been losing share in the last few years.

The optical separation from Dell may then help VMware in rebuilding stronger relationships with the other players in the market including the hyperscalers. This may fuel further VMware growth. To do that VMware will have to manage a balancing act:

  • On the one hand keep growing their reseller revenue with Dell. They are on a good wicket so far and need to make sure this continues. While the revenue from appliances – which come loaded with VMware – is a sure-fire proposition, other growth needs to be harvested carefully. Dell has a multitude of offerings and taking their eyes of the VMware ball is super easy.
  • Build trust and closer ties with the other vendors to keep driving revenue. VMware’s leadership in the market means they already have ties with other industry leaders like HPE, AWS and so on. These will need to become much deeper; VMware will need to build the trust that they will give these vendors equal status even as they are building new appliances with Dell.

The one complicating factor here is that Michael Dell remains the Chairman of the Board of VMware. This may give other vendors pause and they may still want to keep their options open instead of putting all eggs into the VMware basket.

Ecosystm Comments

VMware is at a fairly critical inflection point in their business. The growth of cloud technologies still bodes well for virtual machines which has been their mainstay, but this is also likely to drive growth for more containerisation. They have great products for that part of the business also. However, as container adoption is likely to explode VMware would not want vendors to shift, to say Red Hat, and develop deeper partnerships with them or other competitors. They would like to keep the vendors on VMware – be it a virtual machine or a container. One does feel the future battle for VMware really rests on how well they will be able to grow in the container space. This will have to be done while continuing to innovate to keep the lead in the virtual machine space. Doing it will be quite a feat!!

Finally, what then of Dell? The company seems to have a talent for running businesses which are in long-term secular decline – but running those businesses well. Their PC business is delivering almost 7% operating income and has continued to show growth. The PC market last year was on fire thanks to the pandemic which dramatically increased the demand for devices – growth was double digits for a market which has declined almost every year since 2011. As Dell is fond of saying the PC industry has sold over 5 billion machines since the PC was declared dead!

The server market seems to have stagnated over the last couple of years which is a bit of a surprise given the growth in cloud. Dell’s revenue has declined two years in a row pointing to possible issues which need fixing in that part of the business.

As the company focuses on these key challenges in the market it probably makes sense for them to lower their debt and earn more freedom to operate. One never knows – given the number of surprises that Michael Dell has engineered over the last decade such as taking Dell private, acquiring EMC, stabilising it, then going public again, making a windfall in the process – if he has some other rabbits yet to be pulled out of his hat!!!


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