20 on 2020 - IT leaders dish out predictions

20 on 2020 - IT leaders dish out predictions

Machine learning and artificial intelligence will have the greatest impact in 2020

Credit: Yeshi Kangrang

Twenty IT leaders look into their crystal balls to predict the technologies and trends that will drive the sector in 2020. 

CIO Australia asked Australian technology bosses about their top line predictions for 2020, the technologies that will have the greatest impact next year, and what top trends will impact the IT and business landscape.

Here are the predictions from IT leaders across vendor land to CIOs and CTOs across a host of industries. 

Michael Snell, service strategy manager, Airservices

Intelligent systems (machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation) are the top trends in 2020. Intelligent systems will have a significant impact on increasing situational awareness (insights) and using these insights to enhance decision making – to deliver optimal outcomes for customers.

Michael Snell
Michael Snell

One large impact on the business landscape will be the expanding role of digital twins – extending beyond the optimisation of individual assets/systems to driving improvements at the organisational level. 

We are introducing a reference to ‘Digital Twin of Operations (DTO)’ – having recently built some proof of concepts. The DTO brings together inputs from a range of different systems and assets onto a common data & analytics platform; is able to process large-scale and real-time data sets to simulate millions of ‘what if’ scenarios through cloud technologies.

We also see that increasing situational awareness requires a focus on visualisation is also critical. Building applications that are designed to present the right information at the right time to the right people – so that the inputs are easy to understand and interpret.

Mark McGregor, head of strategy of business transformation solutions provider, Signavio

What should every CIO be preparing for in 2020? The application of AI and ML, not just in business, but in how IT systems are built and managed. CIOs need to consider how these technologies are applied and leveraged in their own domain. 

Additionally, CIOs need to be preparing to help businesses deal with the inevitable disruption that the introduction of new systems will create. Lack of ability to scale these technologies and to replace or update them promptly when they become obsolete requires skills and thinking some business leaders do not have. Proof of concepts and small-scale rollouts are great, but as we saw in the 1980s, small-scale base type apps were great for one or two people, but were never engineered for enterprise-grade. We’re likely to witness similar issues with RPA and other Low/No-Code BPM type systems, and with more significant data privacy issues the business risk is substantial.

Mark McGregor
Mark McGregor

There are some things CIOs won't see coming in 2020 including citizen IT. There has been much talk of citizen developers for many years, but with AI/ML and technologies like RPA, the pace is accelerating. In process mining, data mining, process analysis, and other fields, we’re seeing that the trend is to empower knowledge workers at their desks. To provide the tools and technologies that enable them to create systems for themselves. The push toward individual productivity and the desire to deliver faster will change the role and purpose of traditional IT functions.

What do CIOs need to change in 2020? While some CIOs have started to switch from thinking about IT as a service to the business, and instead see IT as a fundamental and core part of the business, serving customers outside of the organisation, others have still to make the shift. 

Customer centricity is now pervasive in business and process design - no longer can we change the way that our employees and customers interact to suit our systems, systems need to change to work the way that people do. CIOs that embrace this change, and educate their teams and ensure greater flexibility in the systems they use, will prove themselves invaluable to executive teams. Those that don’t, risk being relegated to the more traditional IT and infrastructure management role and will be given no part to play in helping design the future for their organisations.

Guy Boyangu, chief technology officer and co-founder, Sisense

Over the past few years, data lakes have become a more popular way of storing data for most companies. This is due to the massive amounts of data that can be stored at a very low cost and the separation of storage from computing. The data, however, is stored in an unstructured way without a predefined schema and most companies find themselves using less than 10 per cent of their stored data for analytics and BI purposes. In the coming year, we will see more and more companies using existing and emerging technologies and products to make the huge amounts of unused data accessible for any type of analysis - from BI to data science. 

Guy Boyangu
Guy Boyangu

The new breed of products will include new and improved engines to run queries against the data lake, tools to transform and prepare data in the data lake, tools to move data between environments, and tools to manage the overall data environment, including pipelines, cataloguing and RBAC.

Streaming analytics allows companies to analyse data as soon as it becomes available, significantly enhancing real-time analytics. This is a very difficult level of BI. Think of Uber trying to pick your driver in seconds from hundreds of choices. Until now, this has been a complicated process involving a full back-end team of DevOps and data engineers to constantly monitor and manipulate the data so that real-time data can be acted upon at any given moment. Over the next few years, we will see more and more services offering a simple point and click interface for streaming real-time data. This will allow companies to gain the value of streaming analytics while cutting the cost of the enabling infrastructure. The value of the data as companies will be able to analyse risks before they occur.

Lavi Lazarovitz, group research manager at CyberArk Labs

Drones will open up a new pathway for intelligence gathering. To date, the security concern around drones has mostly been focused on the physical damage that could be perpetrated by nefarious actors, including nation states. In 2020, we could start seeing attackers focus more on what drones know and how that information can be exploited for intelligence gathering, corporate espionage and more.

Ransomware attacks will have a butterfly effect, aimed at disrupting and destabilising critical public systems. Wanting access to a greater diversity of systems, including cloud environments and containers, we’ll begin to see innovation in ransomware that focuses more on Linux to take broader advantage of digital transformation trends. Investments in cyber insurance will have a contrary effect, and will drive even greater waves of attacks. Attackers will target organisations with cyber insurance because of the high likelihood of getting paid.

Lavi Lazarovitz
Lavi Lazarovitz

Political attacks causing disruption and disenfranchisement will increase. While much of the discussion tends to focus on disinformation campaigns, including the use of deepfake technology to influence opinion, attacks will evolve to have a broader disruption theme that goes beyond media. We’ve considered the impact of stalling major transportation systems – like buses and trains – in major metropolitan areas that could impact significant events or reflect poorly on the state government. A sequencing of these attacks that impact core infrastructure – halting transportation, shutting down the electrical grid or launching an attack on citizen databases – can have a domino effect and impact the ability for the government to operate with trust and reliability. 

Biometrics will create a false sense of security in enterprises. While biometric authentication is a very good way to authenticate a user to a device, organisations must be aware that every time that happens, that biometric data must be encrypted and the assets behind the authentication are secure. Even more importantly, the network authentication token that’s generated must be protected.

Andrew Todd, CTO, iress

There will be further strong progress of voice-based user interfaces, driven by Alexa, Google et. These will start to more frequently support business software, however there is still a significant way to go as data held within businesses is not yet ready to drive this into the mainstream. More traditional businesses, driven by the potential of AI and ML will recognise the need to improve the quality of data held and how they process it which will then support an increase in real personalisation.

There will be a bigger push by business to implement blockchain type solutions in order to better enable the ability to provide trust-based solutions that work more effectively in a globally-distributed, more interconnected environment. There will also be a push for business to implement block-chain or ML/AI type solutions just to do it, when more traditional, simpler solutions would suit, resulting in continued investment in technology but lack of value generated from those investments, including lack of value for clients/customers.

I have a view that in line with continued globalisation of businesses and the increasing interconnectedness, combined with the continued and increasing focus of ‘start-ups’ there is a risk of distraction for businesses. This will play out in a way where strategic partnerships become more important to drive value within businesses, and they will need to become more focused on who is a real partner, and who is just a simple vendor providing basic componentry. Perhaps importantly, as a result of this, trust will become even more important. This has the potential to further drive solutions around blockchain but also drive existing identity, privacy and security-based solutions more strongly.

Ken Reddy, CEO, Reddy2Grow

Hands down AI and ML will have the greatest impact on 2020.  We have spent the last five years talking about and collecting big data to improve the user experience but very few companies have come close to cracking the elusive holy grail of ‘the single customer view’.  I think 2020 will see the rise of single customer view driven experiences, which is both good and bad. The good is obvious; less hassle and getting a tailored user journey for the services that I use. The bad is when companies implement this without fully understanding the tech. 

Ken Reddy
Ken Reddy

The continued rise of tech partnerships, JV’s, mergers and acquisitions to improve product offerings will have the greatest impact on 2020. We saw a rise of companies in 2019 using this as a strategy to bolster product offerings, such as PayPal with GoPay to allow them to finally get a domestic license in China, & Honey the price comparison tool to ensure users get the best deal online.  

Amazon Eero to strengthen it’s Ring acquisition in 2018. McDonalds with Dynamic Yield to use AI driven user experiences while ordering, Google with Alooma to strengthen it’s hybrid cloud and migration capabilities. These key acquisitions have had a huge impact on not only the end user having a more seamless experience but also in the start-up space, as founders started becoming more problem focused, so instead of disrupting a space people are looking to solve gaps in user experience and hopefully get swallowed up by someone larger in their space.

Johnny Serrano, global head of IT, Ground Probe

Technologies like 5G, internet-of-things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) being part of people’s everyday life and processes/applications in the workforce. This will include automation from deployment of equipment to paying of invoices or providing customer support via different types of bots - it will truly start to change and evolve the office environment. This will change workers spending most of their time on repetitive tasks at their desks; the most innovative companies are creating multiple workspaces for employees to enable creativity and ideas.

Johnny Serrano
Johnny Serrano

The top trends will continue to magnify as I don’t believe that they have peaked. The skills shortages in areas such as cybersecurity, AI, RPA and other emerging technologies are holding businesses back in how to safely secure and use its data for competitive advantage.

Michael Grant, deputy chief operating officer/director, information technology services, Murdoch University

As financial margins continue to be challenged, the use of technology to provide operating efficiencies will continue to grow. While business process management solutions have been around for awhile, the advent of automation and AI will significantly increase the value these platforms can provide in optimising critical business processes, increasing the value to the customer while reducing the cost to serve.

The focus on cybersecurity only increases the need to move to secure, resilient, scalable, sustainable ‘as a service’ platforms and decommission the legacy systems that can longer be secured.  The ability for citizen users to leverage their own platforms increases focus on security awareness and policy to ensure that the organisation’s data remains secure, reinforced by technologies such as threat management (SIEM) and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).

Nicki Doble, group CIO, Cover-More

The launch of AWS Sagemaker Studio (and the Autopilot tool) will open up ML capability to a wider range of developers and I predict we will see a lot more companies very quickly starting to use ML as a standard tool rather than something they are aspiring to do and listed in a roadmap. If IT teams haven’t started to use ML in 2020 then I predict another round of companies will be left behind as the competition steams ahead.

Nicki Doble
Nicki Doble

On the trends front, cyber and resilience planning will move into build and delivery. BCP & Business Resilience planning will become part of the day to day operations and duties of digital and applications managers. It will no longer be just a separate practice managed by a separate team and scenarios run just a couple of times a year. Organisations will better prepare for the inevitable cyber attacks and vendor outages by heavily threading cyber and resilience into day to day discussions around meeting customer delivery commitments and data protection. This will require full product teams – solution architects, developers, quality engineers, product managers to be trained in how to ensure resilience in their design and expectations.  

Security SME’s will live within the business and development teams rather than just under a specialised cyber team. IT teams will start building cyber certs as a standard practice into the Pi shaped skill sets that we ask staff to develop towards.

Nick Lambrou, managing director A/NZ, Boomi

The pressure to deliver digital services, operate more efficiently, and predict customer expectations will see organisations spend big on new digital services, with investments around best-of-breed solutions and microservices to win out against large, all-encompassing software suites.

Nick Lambrou
Nick Lambrou

However, many CIOs are now left to battle systems that can’t communicate with one another, creating operational siloes that make it near impossible to accurately analyse the data flowing through them. This complexity will compound as IoT and AI-based projects shift from test to pilot phase throughout the year. Similarly, there will be heightened pressure from tech-savvy consumers who understand the value of their data, and pushback from those who prefer privacy over personalised engagements

Combined, these factors will reshape how budgets are spent; CIOs will increasingly align investments to the forecast impact on customers and employees, rather than the bottom line generally. This includes measures to demonstrate compliance under whichever regulatory framework an organisation operates.

Beyond 2020, it will become a balancing act between crunching numbers to make use of data and protecting privacy as organisations deploy new services while keeping a close eye on compliance and data governance requirements.

Peter Chidiac, managing director A/NZ, Avaya

2019 was the year customer experience was put on notice, with consumers eager to expose poor services from the brands they rely on. The Royal Commission had the financial sector licking its wounds, and the ACMA and TIO highlighted ongoing issues in the telco industry.

Peter Chidiac
Peter Chidiac

Looking ahead, consumers will continue to wield most power and purchasing decisions will become even less about cost, and more about the value-add organisations can deliver. While solutions like chatbots and live chat aren’t new, CIOs – at least those who haven’t already – will turn their attention to using the data from these automated services to anticipate and better serve consumers. That data will also empower employees to better understand, contextualise and resolve issues, elevating the quality of customer interactions. However, progress on this front will be limited by the ability of CIOs to effectively govern data. After all, no one wants to fall victim to a Cambridge Analytica clone.

Additionally, while technological progress will be steady, the next five years will see organisations augment remaining legacy systems, such as large CRM suites and databases as these limit data analysis. We also expect heightened interest in applications that use real AI technologies – not just basic scripts – as well as best-of-breed SaaS to align to specific operational challenges rather than aligning to limited all-in-one platforms.

Mark Yaxley, director A/NZ, D2L

The year ahead will be less defined by specific technologies, and more by a shift in attitudes towards them; companies will turn their attention – and investments – to training and properly resourcing their own people so that new software and apps are operated by highly-skilled Australians. This will be a critical differentiator when you consider McKinsey predicts 375 million workers will switch occupational categories as a result of automation. CIOs have realised that trust starts and finishes with human relationships, and while automation and other ‘set and forget’ functions have a role to play, it must be a supplementary one.

Mark Yaxley
Mark Yaxley

Deloitte found that a strong learning culture makes employees 52 per cent more productive and 92 per cent more likely to develop more innovative products. By investing in the ongoing development of their staff, employers will, over time, establish an environment comprising the best talent in their respective industries. They will become known for their professional training programs, and subsequently attract new, talented personnel from all over the world looking to advance their careers by working at the most forward-thinking companies.

Jamie Humphrey, managing director A/NZ, Nutanix

With signs of a potential economic downturn impacting Australia, CIOs are being forced to reconsider their approach to technology and IT infrastructure investment. The modern technology and cloud industry in Australia have only known good times, leading to huge focus on and investment in innovation and digital services. Organisations have scaled up with little thought on the types of infrastructure they use, whether they own or rent it, and so on, leading to a huge spike in renting this infrastructure through the public cloud.

Jamie Humphrey
Jamie Humphrey

CIOs will start shifting their attitudes and dollars towards technology that can help them in a downturn. We’re already seeing signs of this approach – our second annual Enterprise Cloud Index showed CIOs in Australia and across the globe are shifting investment away from the public cloud with cost a chief concern. There is a heightened desire to own and control infrastructure and I believe one of the key benefits that will emerge from that is the ability to ‘sweat’ these assets when times get tough.

Allan Waddell, founder and co-CEO, Kablamo

Artificial Intelligence has become a buzzword, taken up with an enthusiasm bordering on fanatical, bringing with it a slew of new, pressing, and even philosophical complications. If AI doesn’t learn the right lessons, ethical problems will inevitably arise. We’ve already seen examples, such as the tendency of facial recognition software to misidentify people of colour as criminals.

Allan Waddell
Allan Waddell

In 2020, more of the consequences of biased data and algorithms will become apparent, resulting in a corresponding push for stronger ethics to guide the technology. Every enterprise owns a treasure trove of content – everything from video, audio, image, and text – but many are unable to extract any value from it. The main reason is inconsistent tagging and storage practices. Even if you knew exactly what piece of content you needed, could you find and retrieve it?

Businesses will seek to bring more integrity to their data through effective applications of technologies like facial recognition, speech-to-text, and OCR. We’ll see the building of bespoke solutions to discover essentially lost content, and these discoveries will drive even greater use of technology to unlock the hidden value of enterprise content.

Max Verma, senior director, sales engineering APJ, Seismic

The as-a-service technology consumption model triggered a shift in B2B purchasing behaviours, fuelled by the expectation for personalisation at every touchpoint of the purchase journey. Hyper-personalisation will become key in 2020 for B2B organisations to differentiate.

Max Verma
Max Verma

Intelligent automation technology, driven by AI and analytics, that deliver hyperpersonalisation at speed and at scale will have a pivotal impact on driving revenue growth amid the economic downturn. Companies capturing insights to create connected customer experiences and accelerate sales will outperform their competitors.

There will be a sharpened focus on building trust, ensuring compliance and mitigating risk across all industries in light of the royal commission into financial services. Organisations will double down on refining business processes and customer engagement to avoid becoming the next big headline.

Meanwhile, when we look at the latest OECD and Productivity Commission findings, the downward trend in Australia’s productivity has reached crisis levels. To thrive in the digital economy, organisations need to harness technology to improve workforce productivity and bridge skills gaps. Businesses that use technology to diversify their services and generate new revenue streams will stay ahead of the game.

Robert Linsdell, managing director A/NZ, Vertiv

Edge computing will move from small and test deployments to early stage operation, spreading across branch offices, mining and transport sites, and more. We conducted research into what the data centre of 2025 will look like, and the edge has emerged as a top trend and consideration.

Robert Linsdell
Robert Linsdell

While 5G, smart cities and IoT are still largely in their infancy and trial stages in Australia, they’re having a considerable impact on data being created at the edge and CIOs need to consider their infrastructure requirements to support this.

Large colocation and datacentre construction is on the rise in highly connected hub areas such as Sydney, but we’re starting to see interest in smaller 0.5-to-1-megawatt (MW) datacentres, particularly in regional areas. We believe 2020 will see the birth of ‘1MW edge’ facilities across Australia. CIOs in Australia will have to find the balance between innovation and increasing cost pressures, and there will be no shortage of options in many different areas to choose from.

Con Balaskas, managing director A/NZ, Motorola Solutions

We’ll see continued pressure on cost and resources for emergency services and enterprise industries. Digital disruption will also have both positive and negative consequences – for example artificial intelligence (AI) will increase automation, operational efficiency on the one hand, but traditional business models unable to adapt to this kind of technology will be under more pressure and may struggle.

Con Balaskas
Con Balaskas

Cyber threats will continue to rise, but we’re already seeing greater awareness and investment in cyber security solutions. Public safety organisations are embracing new software solutions which is leading to evolution in areas such as the command centre. Both public safety and enterprise organisations are recognising it’s not just an area for data storage. Australian organisations are becoming more comfortable with cloud versus on-premises solutions and leveraging the cloud for better collaboration, building new capabilities and increased efficiency.

Luke McGoldrick, country manager A/NZ, Rubrik

The appetite for digitisation has caused an as-a-service binge that’s left CIOs sick with complexity. Many organisations are now trying to manage expanded IT environments with clunky, legacy infrastructure incapable of supporting new platforms, processes and business objectives.

Luke McGoldrick
Luke McGoldrick

In the next year, there will be a spike in the number of organisations that turn their attention inwards; business leaders will prioritise strengthening back-end technologies to create a foundation capable of supporting ‘cool’ projects in automation and IoT, for example.

The winning frameworks will be those designed around the concept of passive survivability. This approach to cyber security and business continuity provides a defensible infrastructure to ‘hold the fort’ so that services are maintained and data protected – as technology will never be immune to cyber threats, this capability is critical as government, regulators and industry watchdogs crack down on lazy and malicious practices.

Karen Stephen, COO, SurePayd

CRM has lost its ‘R’ - the relationship with the customer. Technologies that enable organisations to automate the tedious and time-consuming and reverse this trend will put the ‘R’ back into CRM in 2020. This next wave, relationship-centric automation, the lack of which has seen businesses offshore entire departments, will turn around high levels of customer dissatisfaction and retain the people in a business with the greatest customer knowledge and nous. Increasingly smaller departments will be able to bring much more value to the business, elevating previously transactional job roles to ones which radically enhance the customer experience and the bottom line.

Karen Stephen
Karen Stephen

Many CIOs lament their legacy technologies for holding them back. But the prospect of removing these deeply embedded systems, and the potential business disruption that comes with it, has stopped many from pursuing newer technologies. This is particularly the case for business-critical investments like ERP. 

In 2020, IT will seek to integrate new software layers over the top of legacy systems to extract more value out of them, rather than face the risks of removing them completely. Add-on technology will become the go-to. The future isn’t another system - it’s another layer that extracts the value from the legacy.

Scott Hahn, technology lead, Accenture A/Z

In 2020, the next iteration of artificial intelligence (AI) will be upon us as it will evolve into a technology that provides continued value and supports human ingenuity. If organisations design systems that effectively blend people’s skills with AI, this will allow employees to manage complexity within the workplace and develop disruptive business strategies. Organisations will look at AI through a different lens and see it as a technology that is more than automation, almost a ‘co-worker’. This will work by optimising the relationship between humans and machines.

Cloud is another technology that will have an even bigger impact next year, as businesses will look to go deeper into cloud to improve cloud operations, maintain security, control cost and ensure governance for both internal and external IT. Businesses will look to expand their cloud footprint by leveraging multi-cloud networks and micro services. Discussions regarding cloud are already moving from just workload management to rather platforms for innovation, and this will be even more true next year.

Scott Hahn
Scott Hahn

Facial and body recognition technology will also start to become more prevalent as machines will get more sophisticated at reading our physical features and people will become more trackable in the real world as opposed to online.

Companies making the most of technology understand that humans and machines can bring out the best in each other and they are aspiring to build future systems which are boundaryless, adaptable and radically human.

Boundaryless systems take advantage of blurring boundaries — within the IT stack, between companies, and between humans and machines — to create new spaces where ideas and partnerships flourish. Boundaryless organisations utilise the cloud, have a uniform approach to data, security and governance, and have established paths for exploring unconventional business/technology partnerships.

Adaptable systems learn, improve and adapt by themselves, eliminating the friction that hinders business growth and empowering humans to make better decisions, exponentially faster. Key markers of adaptable organisations include enterprise-wide use of automation and AI, a continuous data supply chain in the cloud to power the AI in the enterprise, and a stable but modular, flexible, and constantly evolving architecture. Radically human systems talk, listen, see and understand just like we do, bringing elegant simplicity to every human-machine interaction.

To ensure businesses can maximise return on their technology investments, those leading the charge are focusing on improving their Technology Quotient (TQ), going beyond building pockets of excellence, to implementing a strategy for achieving enterprise-wide transformation in which all people understand (and more quickly adopt) technologies and apply them to create new business value.

By thinking in terms of systems, as opposed to point-solutions, and how to combine this with an improved technology quotient, organisations can outpace their competitors in terms of both revenue and margin growth in 2020.

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