Business Technology

Saturday 16 December 2017

Aisling Keegan: Your choice: disrupt or disappear

Transforming data centres is vital for firms as part of a seismic change (stock image)
Transforming data centres is vital for firms as part of a seismic change (stock image)

Aisling Keegan

The world is changing. The volume of data that we are producing is growing exponentially. More data has been created in the last two years than the previous 5,000 years. That's a striking statistic that has repercussions for all parts of our lives - personal and professional. Technology is transforming how we communicate, share information, socialise and drive productivity and profits in business.

Despite the pace of change, many businesses in Ireland haven't quite grasped how technology will change their market place or the significant opportunities it presents. What I'm seeing when I'm out meeting customers is that many are on the sidelines watching, waiting to see what will happen rather than actively engaging in the digital evolution that we all find ourselves in.

While many in their day-to-day lives are using technology without thinking and enjoying this emerging 'experience economy' we're now living in - checking in for flights online, ordering food via apps, pre-booking taxis and even arranging for your laundry to be collected and delivered via apps on our phones - we are not seeing this level of adoption translate to the business world.

This is a problem.

The technology-led changes that we are currently witnessing are described by some as the fourth industrial revolution. This is not just a passing phase - this is a seismic change. A real example is the movement by ridesharing apps as they begin to partner with car companies to roll out driverless taxis that provide transport needs 'on-demand'.

Moving away from fixed owned assets to virtual shared services is a real example of the impact of digital transformation and could reshape urban planning, the role of insurance companies and even public policy as we know it.

According to Dell's Digital Transformation Index, only 5pc of business leaders worldwide classify themselves as digital leaders. This leaves 95pc as spectators, waiting and watching to see what is going on. This will have a huge impact on the businesses that survive and thrive as we prepare for 2030.

Dell EMC partnered with the Institute for the Future in California to explore how emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Robotics to name a few - will shape our world in 2030.

The report shows that, by then, we will become increasingly reliant on machines as the pace of innovation accelerates. Thanks to emerging technologies, from data analytics to enhanced processing power, we will enter the 'next era of human-machine partnerships'.

Technology will play a bigger role in helping us to manage and orchestrate many of our day-to-day tasks, allowing us in effect to become 'digital conductors' of ourselves. Machines will crunch more data and do more work, but we shouldn't be alarmed that machines will take over. Due to the volume of work and the rapid pace of change, our problem-solving skills, intuition, judgment and emotional intelligence will be required more than ever. It will be the combination of these human skills plus the efficiency of the machines that will have a real impact.

So how can we collectively prepare for this change?

The most important step is to accept the need to digitally transform.

The Government has put in place many support structures through agencies like Enterprise Ireland and IDA to support companies on this journey. The Government has set an ambitious goal, for the country to become recognised as an Innovation Island by 2020. My advice would be to embrace these structures, take risks, think differently and learn from other companies who have already excelled.

Another key element for this digital evolution to be successful is for us to equip ourselves with the skills to become 'digital conductors' in both our professional and personal lives.

I would urge business leaders to take advantage of courses available outside of the traditional education system to upskill and, most importantly, ensure you've a workforce with the right skill set to take you forward.

With nearly half of business leaders believing their firm might become obsolete within the next five years due to digital disruption, organisations need to have a proactive strategy in place for the future. This strategy should look at IT transformation, workforce transformation, and security transformation.

Firstly, IT transformation in the data centre will be required. Existing infrastructure will not be able to support a thousand times more data created by a thousand times more users. Businesses must embrace a hybrid cloud strategy and base it on a modern data centre enabled by the most comprehensive converged infrastructure portfolios on the market. Users can't build tomorrow's apps on yesterday's infrastructure.

Secondly, companies must adopt products and applications that conform with the future of work envisioned.

Only by adopting the latest technologies and applications, can your workforce transform and ultimately increase productivity.

Thirdly, with the workforce accessing applications and information remotely, security transformation becomes a necessity. To protect against an ever-increasing number of cyber-attacks for example, it is critical to integrate within your business intelligence-driven solutions providing endpoint protection for data, systems and reputations.

Without it, business risk increases greatly. For a nation to digitally transform we all need to work together.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach that can be universally adopted for business. However, to be relevant in 2030, we must make this a boardroom discussion and all start transforming and adopting a pathway to disruption - otherwise, you risk standing by and allowing your business to be disrupted.

Aisling Keegan is vice-president and general manager of Dell EMC Ireland. Adrian Weckler is away

Sunday Indo Business

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