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Cloud lets you innovate without disruption

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For decades, a CIO’s responsibility was to reduce costs and keep the a company’s IT infrastructure running. Now, CIOs and IT departments are tasked with driving business innovation, writes CAMERON BEVERIDGE, Director: Cloud at SAP Africa.

Businesses acknowledge they are buried under mountains of inefficiencies and missed opportunities. CEOs understand that digital is an opportunity or a threat. So, the question is not about awareness, but how to unleash the power of digital transformation while finding a balance between maintaining a healthy business and current infrastructure, and innovating without disruption.

The mandate from business to IT has shifted. For decades, a CIO’s chief responsibility was to reduce costs and keep the lights on just enough to run mission-critical processes.  Now, CIOs and IT departments are tasked with driving business innovation. To stay competitive in a digital economy, it is no longer sufficient to have a system landscape whose primary role is to keep records.

Most organizations invest a great deal to maintain and customise their IT landscapes to meet their unique business needs. Today, nearly every organisation has some level of cloud presence, typically for customer relationship management (CRM), human capital management (HCM), or procurement. The question we hear most often from customers is not how to make their first foray into the cloud, but rather how to design a comprehensive enterprise cloud strategy that:

  • Protects existing investments
  • Accelerates innovation
  • Keeps an organization’s unique business processes intact

Moving to the cloud does not mean breaking off some parts of the business in a piecemeal fashion or taking a rip-and-replace approach.

Cloud is one of the key drivers of digital transformation.  Cloud has disrupted the traditional IT model by drastically reducing time to market and TCO for innovative solutions.  With its ease of use and ubiquitous access, cloud has democratised the decisions about software purchasing, access, and usage.

Cloud computing offers immense opportunity for companies to improve their business operations, regardless of sector. Modern cloud offerings reduce IT infrastructure complexity and free up resources that can be better applied to driving innovation. And with security topping the list of concerns among business and IT leaders, cloud providers today invest talent and energy into ensuring their offerings are able to meet even the most stringent security requirements.

According to the IDC, cloud spending is expected to surge by 25% to reach more than $100bn, with cloud data centres expected to double in number. In a separate study, analysts found that an astonishing $237bn in profits were lost by the top 200 global companies alone, mainly due to the hidden costs of complexity.

Despite these clear signs, cloud migration of key business applications is still met with reservations and, often, resistance. IT leaders list concerns such as possible downtime, security, potential loss of control over key business processes, and cost.

Managing increasing complexity

As technologies like artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, AR, VR, and the Internet of Things become mainstream, enterprise IT systems and the digital processes they drive are getting more complex every day. Companies need to find new ways to reduce complexity while ensuring that their IT systems are flexible enough to adapt to the requirements of a shifting technology and business landscape.

Many organizations choose to migrate some or all their mission critical applications to the cloud to increase flexibility. To do this efficiently, it is critical to understand some of the key success factors for a cloud model. The high ground in any mission-critical application cloud solution comes down to four promises:

  1. A comprehensive, end-to-end SLA approach that avoids unproductive time-wasting by disparate service providers.
  2. Integration across your application landscape.
  3. Access to industry and engineering experts and best practices to support ad hoc and ongoing needs.
  4. Ability to leverage new skills and resources across infrastructure, technical management and cross vendor application management.

SAP’s cloud offerings provide companies with the global expertise and local knowledge needed to free up internal resources and shift focus away from IT management – i.e. ensuring systems are up and running – and to innovation, the driving force of all successful businesses in today’s digital economy. The benefits of this are clear:

The cost benefit of cloud

Running business applications in the cloud means less maintenance, especially in comparison to on-premise solutions, as many subscription models include company-specific maintenance and support in addition to hosting. Investments to replace outdated hardware are also no longer necessary, as these are already included in the monthly fees and service agreements.

Using managed cloud services allows companies to scale the scope of applications they pay for to what they really need. While existing on-premise solutions might have numerous functionalities that companies pay for (although they are often unnecessary), companies in the cloud only pay for what they really need and for what they use. When business requirements change, companies can flexibly adapt their services and applications in the cloud as required.

Unlocking business value

By partnering with a leading cloud provider such as SAP, companies can accelerate business processes that were previously limited by the performance of their on-premise systems. In addition, they can swiftly replace outdated applications with new ones and make sure that different company locations with previously diverging software releases are all upgraded at the same time, reducing the overall complexity of their IT landscape.

Support is similarly simplified: by moving insulated business applications to the cloud, companies are able to work with a single provider that assumes total responsibility. With a comprehensive, managed cloud offering such as the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, organisations can further optimise their IT landscape to future-proof their business. This allows them to focus on the functional and business layer of their stack – driving innovation, business value, and growth – while handing off the technical aspects of system and application management to a reputable cloud partner such as SAP.

With 125 million cloud subscribers and 44 state-of-the-art data centres in 27 locations around the world, isn’t it time you spoke to SAP about how the cloud can fit into your company’s digital transformation journey?

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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