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February 13, 2017
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During 2016, enterprises across all industry verticals stepped up their investments in IT and telecom infrastructure in order to enhance operational efficiencies and meet customer demands. Internet of things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies gained significant traction during the year, while enterprises continued leveraging social media, analytics and cloud (SMAC) technologies to get real-time insights into market trends and convert them into actionable strategies. Going forward, the role of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, fog computing, blockchain, machine learning, robotics and 3D printing is expected to increase considerably. Enterprise customers comment on the key technology trends during 2016, the challenges in adopting new applications, and the technology roadmap for 2017...

What were the key technology trends in the enterprise space during 2016? What was the level of adoption of new technologies like IoT, M2M and the cloud?

Sarbani Bhatia

The digital revolution has created an entirely new landscape and ecosystem for the enterprise technology space. Smarter enterprises have realised the importance of embracing the change by training employees, consumers and other stakeholders to become capable of handling new cutting-edge technology. Most organisations have begun their cloud journey with private and hybrid cloud solutions. While the public cloud has the lowest level of adoption as of now, its usage is on the rise as it addresses security concerns. According to the International Data Corporation, by end-2018, half of the IT expenditure will be on cloud-based solutions.

M2M technology offers great solutions for saving costs, improving operational efficiencies, and growth, but the lack of standardisation and infrastructure challenges pose a problem. Most M2M projects are initiated by business teams or research and development teams, not so often by the IT teams. IT members get involved in integration and data handling at a later stage. The verticals implementing M2M on a large scale are transport and logistics, automotives, the e-health and utilities. The IoT journey has begun. The possibilities offered by it are endless, but most enterprises are yet to come up with a clear-cut policy or strategy to implement it to create a significant impact on their functionality. Big data has been growing and evolved the analytics with it to convert it into actionable insights. But very few enterprises can leverage the information strategically to improve their bottom lines.

Virtual reality and augmented reality have certainly made inroads in creating immersive user experiences, but their use and applications are still largely limited to gaming and entertainment. Most organisations have made laudable efforts in social networking and achieving better collaboration amongst employees, consumers and partners. But there is still a lot of head room for expansion.

Another promising field, 3D printing is at a nascent stage. The technology holds the key to customise and conveniently mass produce virtually all the objects we need to operate our businesses, and solve our consumer needs and healthcare issues. However, the complexities and lack of maturity of the 3D printing industry often obscure its true promise.

Vikas Gujral

Enterprises today are putting a strong focus on utilising technology to deliver best-in-class service and an overwhelming experience to their customers, partners and employees. Max Bupa has strengthened its position as an IT leader in the industry. It has recently launched SARAL – a device and operating software-agnostic application that automates the policy issuance process for banks and non-bank partners, speeding up the process significantly. We have recently developed a specialised over-the-counter application for agents termed InstaInsure that offers one of the fastest policy issuances in the industry.

Manoj K. Mishra

Digital transformation and a greater focus on analytics, machine learning and cloud computing are the key technology areas that dominated the enterprise space during 2016. AI and robotics also started making a significant impact on enterprises’ business models by automating routine jobs. Enterprises invested further to dilute the brick-and-mortar model and adopted a more mobile workforce. Advances in secured mobile-based transactions helped achieve this.

Nilesh Purey

The deployment of cloud solutions was the most important IT strategy of all organisations, irrespective of their size before November 2016. Post-demonetisation, “going digital” became the de-facto verdict for IT as an industry as well as for all other organisations. There is now greater pressure to reduce IT expenses. The allocated budgets have been curtailed and there is pressure on IT Departments to postpone projects till the economy becomes normal.

As far as the adoption of new technologies is concerned, there has definitely been a significant uptake of industrial IoT or M2M. Although these technologies were already present, their integration with analytical platforms has now enabled them to be used for core business operations as well.

Dr Vishad Rahangdale

The year 2016 has seen transition in many ways as far as the adoption of IT solutions by enterprises is concerned. Although technologies like SMAC have been doing the rounds for the past few years, the buzz was more around IoT and M2M during 2016. These technologies are yet to gain traction in the core manufacturing sector. However, the seeds have been sown. Meanwhile, the perpetuated effect of the preceding year and the reassurance by technology players on prevailing concerns regarding the security and privacy of organisation-sensitive data encouraged organisations to migrate from a capex to an opex model of IT spends. The year also saw enterprises migrating most of their applications to the cloud. The year was marked by the deployment of cloud-based business application solutions like customer relationship management (CRM)/supply chain management on a large scale.

What are the key challenges faced by Indian enterprises in adopting new technologies? How can these be resolved?

Sarbani Bhatia

Technology advances at a very fast pace, with new technologies emerging almost every day. The challenge lies in deciding which of these will align best with the organisation’s priorities and long-term goals. A good understanding of the organisational working and its vision is necessary.

Lack of good leadership often acts as an impediment to the implementation of new technologies. Another challenge is the lack of time due to routine ongoing tasks and responsibilities. The chief information officer (CIO) or IT head can turn to innovation and new technology only after meeting the current IT needs and maintaining the existing IT environment.

User acceptance is also a major issue. There is always resistance to adopting new technologies as users prefer to be in their comfort zone with age-old methods of working. Moreover, users are faced with a mind-boggling array of applications, without enough collaboration or integration between them. Very few solution providers are able to tie them together to offer a seamless user experience. Software intelligence should be approached and handled as an across-the-board journey rather than a one-off project.

Budgetary issues also act as an obstacle in embracing new technology. To this end, using tools to monitor energy use as well as adopting industry best practices can go a long way in saving the power expenses associated with the adoption of a new technology.

The biggest challenge in adopting the cloud is the overdependence on legacy or proprietary systems. If applications are built on an open architecture and framework, they would run on any platform, whether it is the in-house data centre or a private or a public cloud. Moving to the cloud would not involve any major change or rewriting of code.

Many organisations are yet to make strategic use of big data analytics. The tool requires a new approach in handling, storing and retrieving data as the traditional methods are not always able to cope with the variable nature of big data.

The major challenges faced in implementing IoT is the complex nature of the different components of the IoT ecosystem and the lack of standards. Other challenges are data privacy concerns, security issues, high cost of implementation, handling of the huge amount of data generated, inadequate domain knowledge and interoperability concerns. To resolve this, a focused approach is needed. Consumers should have the choice to opt out of data collection. Access control and device authentication methods could be introduced. Despite all precautions, security breaches may occur and one must be prepared for such breaches by having an exit strategy in place and saving whatever data can be secured.

Manoj K. Mishra

First and foremost, there is a natural resistance amongst the workforce to adopting new technologies. They develop a fear of losing their jobs as soon as there is automation of routine jobs. This issue can only be addressed through effective engagement at the ground level. Second, new automation technology should be fairly easy to use, or else there is a possibility of slow adoption. Third, enterprises need to learn how to target the business areas that can benefit most from the technological advances. Prioritisation based on the appetite for investment and the estimated return on investment (RoI) is important. Enterprises in India face a challenge in prioritisation due to difficulty in estimating the RoI for technological projects. RoI is not just about financial returns. Enterprises must also look at financial, brand, compliance, customer and operational excellence parameters to arrive at a more objective understanding of the implications of adopting a technological solution.

Nilesh Purey

One of the major challenges facing enterprises is the short product lifecycles, with products soon becoming obsolete. Enterprises face financial constraints with regard to the deployment of IT solutions and this is definitely the major driving force for the discovery of new cost-effective IT initiatives.

The other challenge is that of malware attacks. This menace could pop up at any moment and in any form, and there is no sure-shot cure for it. Timely patching of antivirus and operating systems and sand-boxing are some of the ways to handle this issue, but there is always a possibility of a malware attack.  Meanwhile, as the government has become a major IT consumer, the protection of government data/citizen data/ digital assets has become a key concern.

Dr Vishad Rahangdale

Internally, we have a new-generation, impatient and technology-savvy top management. It is very difficult to explain the readiness and preparedness of the internal ecosystem and its ability to sync with the new technology. Large manufacturing organisations still do have surreptitious rigidity in their processes. At the same time, CIOs are required to evaluate solutions from a 360-degree perspective, so that the technology complements the business rather than creates hindrances. But eventually, organisations have to willingly or unwillingly adopt disruptive technologies like IoT and M2M to remain competitive. The external challenge relates to the reliability of technology players and the stability of the solutions. A major bottleneck is connectivity and security and the high dependence on telecom operators. There are still grey areas in this domain. If not addressed in time, this would hamper the adoption of new technologies.

Which technology trends are likely to dominate the enterprise space in 2017?

Sarbani Bhatia

The already blurred lines between the real, physical world and the digital world will continue to obliterate as smart objects, devices and machine learning help us increase our control over the physical world. In the near term, machine learning and AI will become much more pervasive. Intelligent applications such as virtual personal assistants will make the handling of routine tasks simpler and the workforce more efficient. We are already used to voice-activated assistants like Siri, Google and Cortana, and these will become much smarter due to advances in AI and machine learning. AI will eventually find its way into all classes of smart routine software such as enterprise resource planning, CRM modules and security tools. The real world will converge more and more with the digital world, with more and more smart “things” getting interconnected. These intelligent things will move beyond drones, robots and self-driven vehicles, and enter every office, factory floor and home. The time is ripe for seamless integration across IoT devices, wearables and mobile handsets, which will go beyond individual interactions and extend to a more collaborative model. The dynamic connection of people, processes, things and services that coexist and communicate in an intelligent, smart, digital landscape is often referred to as “the mesh”. A need for a comprehensive and adaptive set of security measures will arise with the evolution of the mesh. Security experts will work closely with application developers at the design stage to consider security implications. This will be a big challenge as complete risk mitigation measures continue to remain elusive.

Virtual reality and augmented reality will move beyond the realm of entertainment and gaming, and find utility in the enterprise space in a big way, in terms of design work, engineering, construction, training, marketing and communications. It is predicted that the immersive visual experience will extend beyond visual senses to include other human senses as well.

3D printing will gain momentum and people will prefer to “print” rather than purchase items. Other trends that will begin to show up are “blockchain” and “hyperconvergence”. Blockchain is a secure transaction tracking service that will have an impact beyond the financial services industry to cover all transactions. While there is a lot of hype and interest, most of these initiatives are at a preliminary stage and some major challenges exist. Hyperconvergence is a revolutionary concept in the field of infrastructure, which combines computation, storage, networking and virtualisation units into an integrated box supported by a single vendor. In sum, the building blocks for every digitally enabled enterprise will comprise information systems, analytics, intelligence, customer interaction, IoT and business ecosystems. New platforms for IoT and AI will be a major thrust area.

Vikas Gujral

The future will be either creating your own ecosystems or riding on others’ ecosystems to have an integrated end-to-end offering for consumers. This will encompass the buzzwords that all of us are hearing around us like IoT and other intelligent applications. In the insurance sector, IoT will not only help in improved conversion and enhanced customer stickiness, but will also help insurers in risk prevention and portfolio management. The use case for AI is an area that some insurers are currently working on actively. Hybrid cloud is another trend that will be very strategic for enterprises as it provides the most desirable elasticity and reach across a wider ecosystem. In order to leverage this capability, seamless “plumbing”, using application programming interfaces through a service integration layer (which can integrate across premises as well as the cloud) will be a key component of all strategic IT initiatives. Lastly, I feel some innovative and breakthrough technology-enablers such as blockchain and software defined networking will provide immense benefits for health insurance and the overall insurance sector, as they allow for significant scalability of business.

Manoj K. Mishra

The government’s demonetisation move and the increased focus on digital transactions have made it imperative for Indian enterprises to strengthen their digital transformation and information security. Cloud service providers are investing heavily in India to cater to the market demand. It is expected that more and more enterprises will go for either the public cloud or hybrid cloud adoption. Enterprises would want to offload complex infrastructure management from their end and outsource it as a service. Also, data science and machine learning are going to witness significant investment and focus, as enterprises try to improve the quality of their portfolio, increase the top line and reduce the bottom line through a data-driven decision-making approach rather than a subjective decision-making approach.

IoT has started unleashing new business benefits. We can expect this space to be explored by more and more organisations. The year 2017 will be an interesting one for Indian enterprises with a twist in the economy, which is likely to be driven by government initiatives, including a reduction in tax and lending rates and a higher number of people being brought under the banking system.

Nilesh Purey

The adoption of cloud solutions is expected to continue because of the pressure on companies to cut costs. The other key trend that will dominate the enterprise space in 2017 is mobility. The third trend, which is a niche segment currently but is likely to gain momentum amongst enterprises that are at an advanced stage of technological adoption, is Bots. Bots are applications that perform automative tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone. This, therefore, reduces budget and manpower requirements.

Dr Vishad Rahangdale

The year 2017 is going to witness more vibrancy in the technology space. To be specific, organisations will consolidate their IT stack and ensure continuity in infrastructure. IoT will make some inroads and M2M discussions will hit the boardroom. However, sizeable new investments will go into traditional business applications on their maintenance and expansion. The cloud space will see a major surge.

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