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Business double-vision: ‘change’ AND ‘run’

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Most successful companies of the modern era have one fundamental thing in common – a strong set of core infrastructure, reliable and versatile, from which new innovation can be borne, writes GAVIN HOLME of Wipro.

Think of the greatest creative minds throughout history, the artists who open our eyes to new visions of the world, the scientists making breakthrough discoveries, or the sports stars that evolve physics-defying techniques.

Whichever individuals are in your mind, if you look more deeply, we’ll see that their unique, creative approaches are always grounded in a set of fundamentals: the artist whose training is based in perspective, colour and light, the scientist who firstly learns the essentials of physics or chemistry, or the sports hero that ploughs hours into fitness and strength training regimes.

In the same way, most creative and successful companies of the modern era have one fundamental thing in common – a strong set of core infrastructure, reliable and versatile, from which every new innovation can be borne.

Outside-In

When it comes to enterprise technology, we often refer to two distinct domains: ‘run the organisation’ (where the focus is on efficiency, stability, and reducing technology costs), and ‘change the organisation’ (looking at new innovations and business transformation).

But the reality is more nuanced, as the two domains often interrelate and overlap. Technology that starts out in the ‘change’ space will mature and eventually become embedded in the ‘run’ space. And not all new technologies will immediately land in the ‘change’ portfolio – consider breakthrough innovations in areas like automation and robotics, creating efficiencies on the ‘run’ side, for instance.

While the bi-modal framework certainly has its merits, looking at your IT strategy from a purely bi-modal perspective is too one-dimensional. It is advisable to engage with a partner that takes a holistic approach to their clients’ digital transformation strategies – considering projects and programmes from various perspectives.

I believe that firms should adopt an ‘outside-in’ approach, with design as the starting point.

Design – in its broadest sense – seeks to deeply understand customer requirements, draw on strategy consulting and design thinking, and ultimately discover new business outcomes that can be achieved with the tools and capabilities that one has. From there, ideas move into conceptual prototypes in the ‘change’ space, before moving further inside, towards the ‘run’ space.

Finding the balance

The real challenge, though, lies in addressing one’s core infrastructure while simultaneously building and incubating these new digital innovations at the fringes. To truly embrace the digital era, organisations need to refresh, refactor or replace some of their existing assets held within the ‘run’ area.

Here, I advocate the concept of ‘business processes as a service’ – essentially applying a technology layer that transforms core infrastructure, and incorporates the benefits of cognitive analytics, artificial intelligence, connected devices, and automation. The goal is to simplify and automate as much as possible, aggressively drive costs out of the ‘run’ portfolio, and divert as many possible resources to new programmes in the ‘change’ area.

But too many firms are failing to balance their change and run portfolios – either investing so heavily in ‘keeping the lights on’ that their innovation efforts are stifled; or swinging to the other side of the pendulum, with popular new digital services, but failing to maintain the stable IT core that enables these innovations to be sustainable.

The biggest challenge of the digital era is keeping a dual-focus on maintaining the core, while accelerating the innovation efforts at the edge. With a skilled IT partner, and with the optimal technology solutions, organisations can create a stable foundation – like the artist, scientist or sports star – from which new shoots of creativity can grow.

* Gavin Holme, Country Manager, Africa, Wipro Limited

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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