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Ready for future of work?

Dell recently teamed up with the Institute for the Future to project into the next decades, and predict how emerging technologies like AI the IoT will reshape how we live and work by 2030. CHRIS BUCHANAN, Client Solutions Director Dell EMC South Africa, gives some insight into data collected from South Africa.

Futurists have long envisioned a brighter tomorrow, full of A.I. helpers and automated environments that run on the sound of our voice. Now that we stand on the edge of that reality, it’s time to realize what it requires of us to make this new world work. With immense possibilities on the horizon comes expanding responsibility. Businesses need to act now to transform their IT, workforce and security to stay ahead of the curve.

Recently, Dell Technologies teamed up with Institute for the Future to project into the next decades, and predict how emerging technologies – such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) – will reshape how we live and work by 2030. With those insights, we extended IFTF’s forecasts and surveyed 3,800 business leaders from around the world to gauge their predictions and preparedness for the future.

What companies will need

It is clear that companies need to change in order to reap the benefits of this new era. Many already are. According to the survey, more than half of the businesses interviewed will be investing in advanced AI and self-learning technologies. Converged infrastructure, which greatly reduces the burden on back-office systems, is attracting nearly as much attention, as are the emerging worlds of augmented and virtual reality.

Three other areas that attract the attention of most businesses are next-generation apps, ultra high-performance compute technologies such as all-flash, and new capabilities to accelerate applications. The business of the future is looking for increased performance, be it for insight, training or business applications. But don’t think this is a technology revolution…

What they need from people

In South Africa, there is great concern about the impact of automation on our employment situation. This is an uncomfortable reality that cannot be ignored. In such a light it may seem the above revelations are not good for people. But it’s quite the opposite: this is a people revolution and, if we address it correctly, it can help all humans.

Even our survey respondents don’t regard technology as leading the change. For example, despite all the talk of remote conferencing, 67 percent feel that face to face interaction will remain very important. Humans are overwhelmingly the secret ingredient to success: today’s businesses still value creative drive and logic as the most valued employee skills, something that remains unchanged even when looking at the future year of 2030.

But some things are changing. There will be a higher emphasis on emotional intelligence and technology literacy, finding space alongside traditional business skills such as project management and complex decision-making.

It is clear that the future depends on empowering people through technology.

Human-machine Partnerships

Automation is a fact: a whopping 96 percent of respondents believe it will happen. Nor does it make sense to avoid. But instead of wondering about what jobs could be lost, we should explore the opportunities technologies bring to current and new roles. If done right, there will be work for everyone.

But then we must consider where the work won’t be. In business, the areas of inventory management, invoicing, troubleshooting, logistics and administration are considered prime candidates for automation. These are where jobs will disappear as new technologies take root.

The human edge will come from partnerships with machines. Humans and machines will work together as integrated teams – 26 percent already do and 30 percent expect it in two years. Take that view to five years and 82 percent of polled businesses expect to have human-machine integrated teams.

But business leaders are torn by what this means for their roles, their businesses and the world at large. 50 percent think automated systems will free up their time, while 42 percent believe they’ll have more job satisfaction in the future by offloading the tasks they don’t want to do to machines.

Supporting Your Workforce

Success will be determined by how a workforce is supported and initiated into this new world. Here there are still challenges, considering that 38 percent of companies struggle to change their workforce’s mindset and culture. More alarming is that 61 percent say their workforces are not ready yet, a number only slightly lower than businesses that lack a digital strategy. This suggests that companies are not strategically prepared for digital changes, so it’s no surprise they aren’t able to change gears on their cultures.

But there are some winning strategies. Of the companies that reported progress in their digital transformations, 53 percent have put policies and technologies in place to support a fully remote, flexible workforce, while 60 percent make customer journeys a boardroom concern. Other successful strategies include tasking senior leaders with spearheading digital change and aligning compensation, training and KPIs to a company’s digital goals and strategy.

Education and training are also major ingredients for success – and something that many employees seek to pursue on their own volition. Creating such opportunities is invaluable. Instead of forcing employees to upskill, give them the means to do so and they will. At least 54 percent of successful digital transformations involve teaching employees coding and software development. In today’s drag-and-drop/low code environments this is important, since even non-technical employees have the capacity to make meaningful changes to systems.

This is an interesting time for business: four separate generations are currently part of the employable population and they all should be brought along on the digital revolution. These employees, regardless of age, seem to thrive most when they are provided training in digital ways of working (54%) and equipped with the latest personal technology tools (54%).

A future with AI systems and automation is not a threat to workers, not if companies invest in training and facilitating them, as well as provide the right digital tools for their jobs. This can’t be divorced from a company’s need to digitally transform – and it is imperative if organisations expect to remain competitive. So as we prepare for the future of work, we must remember that the change begins not with technology or processes, but with our people.

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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