This is a guest posted by by Marc Caltabiano, vice-president for ANZ at Mulesoft
Companies across industries have been gearing up for digital transformation, which has become a buzzword in the tech sector in recent years. But what is digital transformation? In simple terms, it is a complete shift from one digital existence to another – particularly one that is more efficient and effective.
What it means to each organisation, however, differs greatly. Some define this ‘reimagining of business’ as the application of software solutions that will disrupt how the business operates or earns revenue. Others perceive it to be the deployment of digital technologies to encourage a cultural shift or enhance customer experience.
Whatever it might mean for your business, it’s important to remember that despite what the phrase itself implies, there is no end point to digital transformation. Rather, successful digital transformation requires a reiterative and an evolutionary route – or what we call: the ‘digital evolution’ approach. This is particularly relevant today, at an age where the rapid rate of change means that the end state is ever changing, requiring businesses to adapt and evolve in order to keep up.
Digital evolution encourages organisations to approach the digital transformation journey at each stage with a well-considered strategy, to ensure that change ultimately creates a positive and real business impact. For organisations that embrace evolution, the process is more measured, more organic and thus more sustainable.
Now that we are in a new decade, how can companies embrace this continuous process of digital evolution, build a solid foundation and stay ahead of the curve?
Take a data-driven approach
One of the great benefits of going digital is the ability to unlock and analyse data, which is central to every business’ success. However, we still see that data silos are largely present in most organisations. According to a Mulesoft study, 83% of IT decision makers reported that data silos create immense business challenges and must be broken down – a critical step for organisations to drive ahead on their journey.
Not only will breaking data silos help enable sharing of insights across the company but it also improves customer experiences, streamlines operations, and enables organisations to quickly launch new products and services.
Take, for example, the forward-thinking retailer Lane Crawford, who is using an API (application programming interface) strategy to deliver personalised, omni-channel customer experiences. The retailer exposed access to its customer relationship management and e-commerce applications through APIs in its application network, enabling it to create a data-as-a-service platform. The platform can orchestrate 360-degree views of customers and inventory, including up-to-date loyalty balances and shopping history. The same APIs are leveraged across digital channels, including its new mobile app, website and WeChat.
Companies who are putting their data to work are the ones who are able to improve customer service, streamline operations, and innovate at speed.
Provide a connected customer experience
Customer experience (CX) is at the core of business success and delivering best standard customer service has become paramount for organisations. According to Harvard Business Review, 93% of business leaders say that delivering a relevant and reliable customer experience will be critical to their company’s overall business performance two years from now.
Delivering best practice in CX depends on businesses’ ability to provide a seamless digital experience across multiple channels and touchpoints – whether it is through mobile, desktop, a kiosk, or in-person. Without adapting to customer needs in the mediums they prefer to interact with, a company is at risk of losing valuable business.
For Service NSW (New South Wales), a government initiative delivering services like driver licenses and birth certificates through a one-stop-shop digital network, helped to increase digital service delivery by over 60%, and has led to a 97% customer satisfaction rating.
The companies that are developing mature digital strategies are earning the trust, respect and loyalty they need from their customers to give them a leading edge over their competitors.
Move towards multi-cloud computing
Organisations are increasingly moving towards multi-cloud adoption in order to meet their specialised needs. It gives them the freedom to explore best-of-breed services, and enables them to achieve greater flexibility, scalability, agility and enhanced performance, all at a more competitive price.
Even though there are considerable advantages to multi-cloud environments, it does not come without its challenges. Specifically, the struggle to move application workloads from one cloud to another and how to approach its integration. With this in mind, it’s critical that organisations have effective multi-cloud strategies in place to realise the full benefits of the cloud.
An API-led approach is key to ensuring multi-cloud strategies are successful in delivering the desired efficiency, agility and accelerated innovation benefits. Using APIs, companies can build an integration layer that decouples on-premises data and applications from the systems they reside on. With this new integration layer, organisations can form an application network, which provides IT with an architecture of reusable building blocks that can be utilised to rapidly connect new cloud services.
HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, used the multi-cloud application network to meet its customers’ growing demands. The bank published thousands of APIs that were deployed across multiple environments, using containers to unlock legacy systems and power cloud-native application development. As a result, HSBC produced customer offerings that extended beyond basic finance and insurance needs and helped them realise their customers dreams – like buying a home or sending their children to college.
Co-create value through digital ecosystems
As technology continues to move at a breakneck pace, many companies are recognising the importance of building a wide digital ecosystem to boost their competitive strength, produce new products and services, and enhance customer experiences.
These connected ecosystems provide a combined economic opportunity of $1tn dollars in revenue to the companies investing in digital transformation, according to McKinsey Digital. This makes the role of APIs even more crucial in linking organisations and technologies in the ecosystem.
Take the example of one of the biggest ride-sharing platform in the world, Uber, which used APIs to co-create value with external stakeholders. The company exposes an open Uber API, driver API and deliveries API to the market, with the hopes of discovering new uses, such as food delivery, driver rewards, and more. This will ultimately drive new revenue streams and suggest new investments by Uber itself. The company is enabling others to create customer journeys powered by their API, rather than trying to retain complete customer ownership.
As we head full speed towards a new decade, the pace of digital transformation shows no signs of slowing down. Organisations seeking to compete in this ever-changing digital age need to reframe their approach and consider the path of digital evolution. This incremental, well-considered route to digital transformation will provide an optimal means for businesses to stay relevant, competitive and ahead of the curve in 2020 and beyond.
This is a guest post by Srinivasan CR, chief digital officer, Tata Communications
No matter how much technology keeps evolving, making predictions about the future is always a risky business. But with growing digital transformation efforts, there are some areas where advances are more likely. Here are five trends I expect to see in the coming 12 months:
5G networks really began to pop up in a handful of countries around the world in 2019, but 2020 is the year the technology will start to proliferate. For most people, 5G will enable much faster internet speeds, more responsive connections and more reliable connectivity in densely populated areas, but its impact on society will go further than that.
5G is a tremendous enabler, with its low latency in particular making the deployment of new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and consumer robotics a realistic proposition. That makes 5G inherently geopolitical. Governments will use the roll-out of 5G to appeal to voters, highlighting the social benefits offered by the technology. Enhanced connectivity offered by 5G will also attract investment from companies across the world.
As the benefits of 5G become apparent to other countries, it’s likely to be rolled out sooner in more parts of the world. Smaller, wealthier countries may even see their global stock rise off the back of a well-managed, all-encompassing 5G strategy.
Advances in connected cars and transport
When people think about connected cars, they usually imagine kicking back and letting artificial intelligence (AI) take control. We are, however, still a little way off a robo-chauffeur becoming an everyday sighting on most of the world’s streets.
That hasn’t stopped the entertainment industry from pinpointing passengers as an on-the-go captive audience, though. With 5G offering faster, more reliable connectivity for people in transit, this is the perfect commercial opportunity for the media industry. I predict that the major streaming services have identified cars as the next place for people to consume their content and will likely tailor their offerings to appeal to these viewers.
While we’ll have to wait for fully autonomous vehicles before we can hand over control to a computer, drivers will benefit from a more reliable connection to music streaming services and passengers can catch up on the latest episode of their favourite TV show, whether that’s on a 5G-compatible device like a smartphone or tablet, or using screens built into the car’s interior. When you can catch up on the morning commute, spoilers at work will become a thing of the past!
AI to enhance human collaboration
While all reports today indicate that AI will benefit organisations, there is some fear that the use of AI in the workplace will lead to a loss of jobs. Setting the record straight, a 2018 study of global business leaders found that the technology was actually expected to diversify human thinking, rather than replace it. AI is expected to enhance cognitive diversity within groups, which can yield better outputs and help employees become more nimble and agile.
AI will have the potential to free employees from tedious repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus much more on communication and innovation, thereby altering the structure of work. Work is expected to move from being task-based to strategic, enabling workers to enhance their curiosity and creative thinking – something that AI is not yet capable of doing.
Focus on privacy and anonymity
With more data being generated and stored than ever before, security and privacy have never been so important. Making people aware that their data is being treated with the care it deserves will be hugely valuable for companies of all kinds, while anonymising it will be crucial to getting the most out of it without risking its integrity. Breaches are never good news, but if the data can’t be tied to an individual, it limits its use for the thief.
Fines for breaching the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) are serious business, so as more and more companies switch to the use of biometrics for security, the storage of that data itself is just as important. After all, passwords can be changed, but fingerprints and facial recognition data can’t. Biometrics undoubtedly make life both easier and safer, but the security of its related data cannot be 100% guaranteed. That means we’ll see stricter laws and punishments to deter those who might be tempted to steal such sensitive data and infringers must be held accountable.
There’s no doubt that there’s a lot to look forward to in 2020, with secure, reliable connectivity at the heart of it. What do you think the big developments will be in 2020? I would love to know what you think so please leave your comments and predictions below.
In yet another example of the risks of supply chain vulnerabilities, Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (Mindef) recently disclosed that the confidentiality of its personnel’s personal data could have been compromised by malware incidents that affected two of its suppliers.
In December 2019, Mindef said malware incidents involving HMI Institute and ST Logistics had affected their systems containing personal data of Mindef and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel.
HMI Institute was contracted by the SAF to conduct cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillator training since 2016, while ST Logistics provides logistics services to the military. Both vendors were provided with personal data of Mindef and SAF personnel needed for the provision of their operations.
For the HMI Institute incident, their affected system contained personal data of 120,000 individuals. This includes the full names and identity card numbers of about 98,000 Mindef and SAF personnel. Preliminary investigations indicate that the likelihood of data leak to external parties is low.
For the ST Logistics incident, their affected systems contained full names and identity card numbers, and a combination of contact numbers, email addresses or residential addresses of about 2,400 Mindef and SAF personnel. Preliminary investigations indicate that the personal data could have been leaked.
Supply chain attacks have long been a concern in cyber security circles, since it can be difficult for organisations to enforce or prescribe specific cyber security measures for suppliers and partners – beyond broad service level agreements.
SME suppliers are particularly vulnerable, since they may not have dedicated IT departments, let alone security teams to fend off cyber adversaries.
So, what can organisations do? For now, there are few standards that address cyber security issues related to the supply chain. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is one of them. It not only offers vendor management guidelines, but also specifies safeguards such as the use of encryption.
Organisations should also put in place a vendor management programme that includes identifying the most important vendors and requiring strict documentation of controls and processes. The programme should also be integrated with an organisation’s compliance practices.
As for SME suppliers, the Singapore government has been working with industry bodies to promote awareness of cyber security among smaller firms. But it is uncertain if these awareness programmes have the intended effect, going by the data breaches that continue to make headlines.
This is a guest post by Simon Piff, vice-president of security practice at IDC Asia-Pacific
The essence of IDC’s predictions for 2020 is about efficiency, velocity and productivity in this era of massively digitally augmented business. Digital is no longer the platform that IT uses; it is the business platform that drives topline revenue, captures critical KPIs (key performance indicators), delivers new digital products and provides real-time insights on customer satisfaction.
What IDC has done is to capture the leading indicators of digital transformation success and forecast where we expect the Asia-Pacific region to be – but there are assumptions.
The first assumption is the key one, that business leadership understands, accepts and funds their transformation into a technology-led business. That means equipping workers with the right tools to do their jobs properly, creating an environment that not only supports, but also promotes innovation (i.e. a safe place to fail), effectively measuring success, and working closely with partners and suppliers to create new ecosystems and markets.
If business leadership is not signed up for all of that, then their future is less clear.
The second critical thing to understand about this change is that it’s taking place across the board. Every customer expects to be understood, individually catered to, treated like VIPs, and have their personal data kept safe.
Customers also require immediate response to any issue or concern with a product or service. And if we don’t treat them the way they want to be treated, their ability to turn to a competitor that can fulfil their needs is increasingly at the click of a mouse or phone button. That means the data we capture and collect about customers has to be accurate, secure and available to the right teams on-demand, and with integrity.
It all seems like a tall order, but IDC already sees some Asia-Pacific organisations exhibiting many of these traits, so it’s about who can do this first, not if.
It’s not uncommon for cloud-first companies to participate in open source communities – after all, they have benefited from the very same open-source technologies that power their businesses.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Alibaba, the Chinese internet and e-commerce giant, has been stepping up on its contributions to open source projects, even spearheading new ones.
It now boasts over 180 open source projects, contributing codes to all aspects of enterprise software, including cloud infrastructure and machine learning, containers, databases and networking.
The company is also active in open-source communities, such as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Alliance for Open Media, Cloud Foundry, Hyperledger, Open Container Initiative, Continuous Delivery Foundation, The Apache Software Foundation, MariaDB Foundation and The Linux Foundation.
Earlier this week, it contributed the core codes of Alink, its self-developed algorithm platform, to the open source community. The platform offers a broad range of algorithm libraries that support batch and stream processing, which is critical for machine learning tasks.
Data analysts and software developers can access the codes on GitHub to build their own software, facilitating tasks such as statistical analysis, machine learning, real-time predictions, personalised recommendations and abnormality detection.
“As a platform that consists of various algorithms combining learning in various data processing patterns, Alink can be a valuable option for developers looking for robust big data and advanced machine learning tools,” said Yangqing Jia, president and senior fellow of data platform at Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.
“As one of the top ten contributors to GitHub, we are committed to connecting with the open source community as early as possible in our software development cycles. Sharing Alink on GitHub underlines our such long-held commitment.”
Alink was developed based on Apache Flink, a unified distributed computing engine. Based on Flink, Alink has achieved seamless unification of batch and stream processing, offering a more effective platform for developers to perform data analytics and machine learning tasks. It supports Alibaba’s proprietary data storage, as well as other open-source data storage projects such as Apache Kafka, Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) and Apache HBase.
Alink is already being used to power various aspects of Alibaba’s business. For example, it helped to increase the clickthrough rate of product recommendations by 4% on Tmall during Alibaba’s global shopping festival this year.
By Stuart Kennedy
Grappling with legacy systems to being fixated on project completion and budget rather than outcomes are some of the common challenges and pitfalls that software development teams face each day.
Yamen Sader, a platform engineering partner at Deloitte Australia, highlighted these “deadly sins” at the Pivotal Summit 2019 in Sydney and offered advice on what developers and their managers can do to avoid them.
The growing legacy
This is where a key system of record has become difficult to use due to technology limitations, knowledge gaps, resource shortages or risk of change. Antidotes range from a full replacement to abstracting the old gear as much as possible through application programing interfaces (APIs) and microservices.
The hospital pass
In larger organisations, software changes cross organisational boundaries can lead to multi-team meetings that go nowhere. Fixes include properly aligning teams and maximising self-service and autonomous delivery of value.
A fixation on funding and tying success to project completion on time and within budget. Actual business outcomes after completion can be ignored. Antidotes include tying accountability to real business value.
Organisations have controls have controls and regulations that feed into software development, but these can lead to a “you shall not pass” approach that stifles development. Don’t leave the checks to after the fact of development. Instead, concentrate on governance as code.
Don’t maintain test environments that resemble production past their use-by date. Get around the snowflake problem by allowing testing in production where appropriate and putting effort into all forms of testing such as end-to-end and synthetic transaction testing.
The fear of code
This can infiltrate executive levels, says Sader, as the higher you go, the less you want your fortunes tied to developers. Off-the-shelf platforms feel like security blankets.
Confront the fear of code by getting over the binary “buy or build” mentality. “There’s a spectrum there,” says Sader, where off-the-shelf systems can be modified. Code can be made less scary by industrialising how it’s done.
The Accidental PaaS
Don’t over build a software project into a full-blown platform as a service (PaaS). Stop this wasteful process by taking a punt on platforms and pipelines if they align with your requirements. Proceed swiftly to add value rather than getting stuck in trivialities.
While there are many approaches to solving the issues in Sader’s list of seven deadly sins, he notes that changes in practice can lead to desired cultural change. “Small changes aren’t that hard. What we find is that practicing change leads to culture change,” says Sader.
Microsoft and Alibaba have developed a way to improve collaboration between application developers, operators and infrastructure teams in a new project that could speed up deployment of applications in Kubernetes.
In what the two tech giants termed as the Open Application Model (OAM), developers will be able define their application components without considering operational details, minimising any ambiguity over which capabilities operators should apply to an application that is being deployed.
By separating the description of an application from the details of how the application is deployed and managed by infrastructure teams, developers will be able to focus on the key elements of their application. These include information on which parameters of their applications can or cannot be rewritten by operators to fit different runtime environments, for example.
In an interview with Computer Weekly, Zhang Lei, a staff engineer at Alibaba Cloud, said the OAM will be useful to independent software vendors that want an easy way to package and deliver applications to a variety of cloud and mobile platforms.
Alibaba has been using the OAM since the start of 2019 to deploy internal applications, and is also migrating older applications to the new model, Zhang said. He added that the OAM will also let cloud suppliers handle the deployment of applications on behalf of developers in future.
“Developers shouldn’t have to care about operations,” Zhang said, adding that the OAM will pave the way for NoOps, where the IT environment is completely automated and abstracted from the underlying infrastructure.
The OAM is currently being developed under an Open Web Foundation agreement, and the two tech giants plan to contribute the specification to a vendor-neutral foundation to enable open governance and collaboration.
More information on the OAM can be found in this blog post by Microsoft and Alibaba Cloud.
At any large-scale event, whether it’s an independence day parade or a Coldplay concert, chances are you’ll see security personnel using push-to-talk devices or walkie-talkies to coordinate with one another to keep the crowds under control.
For a while now, voice has been the primary mode of communications transmitted over land mobile radio networks in such scenarios, but the rise of high-speed mobile broadband networks such as 4G has made it possible to include videos and photos into the mix.
During a media demo at Motorola Solutions in Singapore earlier this week, executives from the supplier of data and communications equipment show how it is possible for a team of police officers to share photos and videos of their immediate vicinities to one another, on top of voice communications.
Chuah Seng Heng, vice-president for Asia at Motorola Solutions, says this helps to improve the situational awareness of teams operating in mission-critical scenarios, be it delivering emergency services or securing an event attended by VIPs. “Video has become the new voice and we’re always looking at how to put the two together,” he said.
Earlier this week, Motorola Solutions introduced its so-called broadband push-to-talk offerings that can make use of existing 4G networks to support critical communications.
These could be public networks carved out solely for use by law enforcement officers or private LTE networks that cover a specific area of operations, according to Shanti Ravindran, principal architect for next-generation experience at Motorola Solutions. In some cases, telcos can even prioritise traffic for enterprises that require high levels of reliability, she adds.
Ravindran says while it’s important to extend the reach of land mobile radios into these networks, just as important are features on devices that make it easy for officers and enterprise workers to access key functions such as video streaming, secure messaging, as well as initiating an emergency call.
“Advanced broadband push-to-talk solutions enable emergency services and enterprises to communicate easily and securely via the same communications system – regardless of whether their workers use two-way radios, smartphones, desktop computers or other devices.
“This provides significant advantages to organisations at a time when workforce demographics continue to change and organisations require more solutions to enable wider interoperability and collaboration,” Ravindran says.
But Motorola’s expertise isn’t limited to devices and networks – it is also making a bigger push into software and managed services, a business that grew by 20% last year, according to Chuah. In March 2018, it completed its acquisition of Canada’s Avigilon, a specialist in advanced video surveillance and analytics.
Chuah says advanced analytics, in particular, will help security officers in command and control rooms make better sense of the alerts that they are seeing.
Asked about the efficacy of Motorola’s analytics capabilities as compared to best-of-breed offerings, Chuah said the company’s edge is in providing an integrated offering that meets the needs of enterprises operating in mission-critical environments.
Singapore telco M1 is planning a 5G trial at the latest outlet of Haidilao, a well-known hotpot restaurant in the city-state, in a bid to demonstrate the use of 5G networks in the food and beverage (F&B) sector.
The two companies said they will be equipping the new Haidilao Hot Pot restaurant at Marina Square with a kitchen management system, an automatic soup base machine, as well as food delivery robots that will serve diners.
In addition, they are setting up a new 5G experience corner to showcase M1’s 5G expertise and capabilities.
Diners, for instance, will be able to immerse themselves in instructional, educational and interactive virtual and augmented reality gaming at the experience corner, while waiting in line for the next available seat.
Willis Sim, M1’s chief corporate sales and solutions office, said the telco has been building 5G capabilities to deliver 5G applications across a range of industries and that the Haidilao testbed is its first one in the F&B segment.
Frank Li, branch manager of Haidilao Marina Square, said: “Customer experience has always been a top priority for us at Haidilao, and we are very excited to explore this new experience with M1 for our new store. 5G is enabling better experiences across industries, and we are happy to bring the trial of this technology to our restaurant in Singapore”.
Besides the F&B segment, M1 is also setting its sights on the use of 5G in last-mile connectivity.
Just this week, it announced a partnership with Nanyang Technological University, to integrate 5G technology into cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) research testbeds and trials, as part of Singapore’s ongoing transition into a global innovation hub for research in connected mobility.
C-V2X communications is used to enhance safety by relaying real-time traffic navigation and hazard information to users in advance. It can send traffic warning notifications at road junctions, helping to optimise road usage by reducing travelling time and minimising the risk of accidents.
M1 will provide the infrastructure for a 5G connected mobility testbed and trial by deploying three 5G base stations for C-V2X communications at the NTU smart campus. The increased capacity and capabilities of the network will deliver ultra-fast and reliable low-latency communications over a wider coverage area.
The network’s radio efficiency is further improved by massive MIMO technology that will enable hundreds of sensors to be installed in vehicles and traffic lights. This allows industry partners to design and deploy 5G mobility solutions for a range of safety-related use cases such as collision avoidance and real time traffic routing.
In June 2018, M1 and Huawei conducted Singapore’s first 5G live trial where virtual reality content was transmitted at the former’s headquarters in Jurong.
The transmission was carried out using Huawei’s 5G equipment that operates in the 28GHz millimetre wave band and supports a theoretical peak download throughput exceeding 20Gbps.
Singapore’s DBS Bank has launched a digital logistics solutions package for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the logistics sector that are looking to expand their regional footprint.
Comprising digital solutions powered by the bank’s application programming interfaces (APIs), the package will provide SMEs with access to real-time trade financing and funds settlement capabilities directly through their enterprise resource planning (ERP) or internal systems.
In addition, SMEs will also be able to collect payments instantly and process refunds via online portals, mobile apps and DBS Max, a QR code mobile application.
Although logistics accounts for around 7% of Singapore’s GDP, it is becoming more saturated with tighter profit margins, spurring more SMEs in the sector to turn to overseas markets for growth.
But in doing so, they often face challenges such as access to trade financing, operational inefficiencies from paper-based and manual processes, the lack of supply chain traceability, as well as payments and collection inefficiencies.
“Customers looking to expand overseas need more advisory services and solutions and we are here to help them make the first step,” said Tan Su Shan, group head of institutional banking at DBS Bank. “We hope to make banking simpler and more seamless for our customers, so they have a more structured approach to their regionalisation plans.”
Yang Kee Logistics, a DBS customer since 2002, was the first firm to sign up for the package. It operates in 12 markets and is looking to grow its footprint in the region.
Said Ken Koh, group CEO of Yang Kee Logistics: “Expanding into new markets is always challenging, we lack market knowledge and understanding of regulatory requirements. Partnering with DBS gives me the confidence to take our regionalisation plans to the next phase”.