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Businesses are taking IT out of the IT dept

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Research from VMware has revealed that 57% of South African business leaders believe the management of technology is shifting away from IT to other departments, as lines of business take charge of technology-led innovation in organisations.

The research, among 2,000 IT decision makers and 2,000 heads of lines of business globally, including 100 in South Africa, finds that this decentralisation of IT is delivering real business benefits: the ability to launch new products and services to market with greater speed (61%), giving the business more freedom to drive innovation (59%) and increasing responsiveness to market conditions (59%). There are also positives from a skills perspective, with the shift in technology ownership beyond IT to the broader business seen to increase employee satisfaction (63%) and help attract better talent (52%).

This move, however, is not without its challenges. Leaders from across the business believe the shift is causing a duplication of spend on IT services (51%), a lack of clear ownership and responsibility for IT (58%) and the purchasing of unsecure solutions (68%). Furthermore, this decentralisation movement is happening against the wishes of IT teams, the majority of which (58%) want IT to become more centralised. In particular, IT leaders feel that core functions like network security and compliance (50%), private cloud-based services (28%) and storage (24%) should remain in their control.

“It’s ‘transform or die’ for many businesses, with a tumultuous economic environment and a radically evolved competitive landscape upturning the way they operate,” says Matthew Kibby, Regional Director at VMware Sub-Saharan Africa. “Managing this change is the great organisational challenge companies face. The rise of the cloud has democratised IT, with its ease of access and attractive costing models, so it’s no surprise that lines of business have jumped on this opportunity. Too often, however, we’re seeing this trend left unchecked and without adequate IT governance, meaning that organisations across EMEA are driving up costs, compromising security and muddying the waters as to who does what, as they look to evolve.”

The ownership for driving innovation within South African organisations is not disputed among business leaders.  The majority (80%) believe that IT should enable the lines of business to drive innovation, but must set the strategic direction and be accountable for security. This highlights the balance to be struck between the central IT function retaining control while also allowing innovation to foster in other, separate areas of the business.

The move to Cross-Cloud as a Solution

“Discovery innovates at a rapid pace and we require agility to respond to ever changing business demands. Innovation and expansion are part of the Discovery DNA and, as a result, having visibility across our data centre operations is important for the organisation,” says Johan Marais, Virtualisation Manager at Discovery. “Cross-Cloud will enable this, as well as give our business the freedom of choice in data centre location, while ensuring operations deliver a top-class service irrespective of whether the service is delivered on a private, hybrid or public cloud.”

“This isn’t ‘Shadow IT’ anymore, that’s yesterday’s story – this is now ‘Mainstream IT’,” continues Kibby. “The decentralisation movement is happening, driven by the need for speed in today’s business world: we’ve never seen such a desire for new, immediately available applications, services and ways of working. By recognising these changes are happening, and adapting to them, IT can still be an integral part of leading this charge of change. The latest technology or application will only truly drive digital transformation when it’s able to cross any cloud, is available at speed and with ease, within a secure environment.”

Supporting Quote:

“By introducing its Cross-Cloud Architecture, VMware has taken cloud services to the next level, providing improved flexibility for customers to access services from different cloud providers and still be assured that they are in control and that their cloud environment is secure, no matter where it resides,” states Rohan de Deer, General Manager at iSanity.

Decentralisation definition

*The decentralisation of IT is when any employee within any business department of an organisation, other than the IT department, is making IT purchases or installing or maintaining software. It can also include employees using non-IT approved software, such as Dropbox, without the involvement of the centralised IT department.

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Gadget goes to Hollywood

Gadget visited the Netflix studios last week. In the first of a series, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK talks to CEO Reed Hastings.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is no stranger to Africa. He has travelled throughout South Africa, taught maths in Swaziland for two years with the Peace Corps, and visits close family in Maputo. As a result, he is keenly aware of the South African entertainment and connectivity landscape.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last week, he revealed that Netflix had no intentions of challenging MultiChoice’s dominance of live sports broadcasting on the continent.

“Other firms will do sport and news; we are trying to focus on movies and TV shows,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are video that we are not doing: sports, news, video gaming, user-generated content. We don’t have live sport.

Reed Hastings at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

“We’re not replacing MultiChoice at all. Their subscriber growth is steady in South Africa. They serve a need that’s independent of the Internet, via low-price satellite. There is no intention of capturing that audience. If they’re growing, it’s because they serve a need.”

While Reed ruled out any collaboration with MultiChoice on its satellite delivery platform, despite its collaboration with another pay-TV service, Sky TV in the United Kingdom, he did not close the door. He stressed that Netflix saw itself as an Internet-based service, and would pursue the opportunities offered by evolving broadband in Africa.

“If you look in other markets like the USA, how Comcast carries us on set-top boxes with their other services, it could happen with MultiChoice, the same as with all the pay-TV providers.

“We’re really focused on being a service over the Internet and not over satellite. Our service doesn’t work on satellite. Where we work with Sky is on Internet-connected devices. We’re happy to work on Internet-connected devices. We tend to work on smart TVs, but need broadband Internet for that.

“Broadband is getting faster in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa – we can see the positive trendlines – so it’s more likely we will work with broadband Internet companies.”

Hastings is a firm believer in the idea that one content provider’s success does not depend on pushing another down.

“HBO has grown at the same time as we have, so can see our success doesn’t determine their success. What matters is amazing content with which the world falls in love.”

Click here to read about Netflix’s international expansion, and how the streaming service selects content for its platform.

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Take these 5 steps to digital

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By MARK WALKER, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

Digital transformation isn’t a buzz word because it sounds nice and looks good on the business CV. It is fundamental to long-term business success. IDC anticipates that 75% of enterprises will be on the path to digital transformation by 2027. 

However, digital transformation is not a process that ticks a box and moves to the next item on the agenda – it is defined by the organisation’s shift towards a digitally empowered infrastructure and employee. It is an evolution across system, infrastructure, process, individual and leadership and should follow clear pathways to ensure sustainable success.

The nature of the enterprise has changed completely with the influence of digital, cloud and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and success is reliant on strategic change.

There is a lot more ownership and transparency throughout the organisation and there is a responsibility that comes with that – employees want access to information, there has to be speed in knowledge, transactions and engagement,” he adds. “To ensure that the organisation evolves alongside digital and demand, it has to follow five very clear pathways to long-term, achievable success.

The first of these is to evaluate where the enterprise sits right now in terms of its digital journey. This will differ by organisation size and industry, as well as its reliance on technology. A smaller organisation that only needs a basic accounting function or the internet for email will have far different considerations to a small organisation that requires high-end technology to manage hedge funds or drive cloud solutions. The same comparisons apply to the enterprise-level organisation. The mining sector will have a completely different sub-set of technology requirements and infrastructure limitations to the retail or finance sectors.

Ultimately, every organisation, regardless of size or industry, is reliant on technology to grow or deliver customer service, but their digital transformation requirements are different. To ensure that investment into artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, knowledge engines, automation and connectivity are accurately placed within the business and know exactly where the business is going.

The second step is to examine what the business wants to achieve. Again, the goals of the organisation over the long and short term will be entirely sector dependent, but it is essential that it examine what the competitive environment looks like and what influences customer expectations. This understanding will allow for the business to hone its digital requirements accordingly.

The third step is to match expectations to reality. You need to see how you can move your digital transformation strategy forward and what areas require prioritisation, what funding models will support your digital aspirations, and how this tie into what the market wants. Ultimately, every step of the process has to be prioritised to ensure it maps back to where you are and the strategic steps that will take you to where you want to go.

The fourth step is to look at the operational side of the process. This is as critical as any other aspect of the transformation strategy as it maps budget to skills to infrastructure in such a way as to ensure that any project delivers return on investment. Budget and funding are always top of mind when it comes to digital transformation – these are understandably key issues for the business. How will it benefit from the investment? How will it influence the customer experience? What impact will this have on the ongoing bottom line? These questions tie neatly into the fifth step in the process – the feedback loop.

This is often the forgotten step, but it is the most important. The feedback loop is critical to ensuring that the digital transformation process is achieving the right results, that the right metrics are in place, and that the needle is moving in the right direction. It is within this feedback loop that the organisation can consistently refine the process to ensure that it moves to each successive step with the right metrics in place.

There is also one final element that every organisation should have in place throughout its digital evolution. An element that many overlook – engagement. There must be a real desire to change, from the top of the organisation right down to the bottom, and an understanding of what it means to undertake this change and why it is essential. This is why this will be a key discussion at the 2019 IDC South Africa CIO Summit taking place in April this year. With this in place, the five steps to digital transformation will make sense and deliver the right results.

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