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SA business out of touch with tech challenges

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New research has revealed that many local CIOs believe that they are not at all prepared for the technological shifts taking place in the economy, with the result that their current business plans will have lost their relevance within only three years.

Most South African CIOs and business leaders believe they are not at all prepared for the technological shifts taking place in the economy, with the result that their current business plans will have lost their relevance within only three years. In addition, many internal departments – notably marketing and even IT departments themselves – seem to be resisting the move from products to data-based services, according to research done by EMC, world leader in cloud-based and converged data infrastructure.

Jonas Bogoshi, Country Manager for EMC Southern Africa, said EMC wanted to explore the business challenges and opportunities facing IT in South Africa today.

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“The research unveiled widely different and often incompatible views, underpinned by a lack of common ground and a common language. It shows that the greatest IT challenge South African businesses face today is the need to manage and extract value from ever greater volumes of data. “However, in the future the challenge will be the demands of real-time business on IT,” Bogoshi said.

The research targeted 2 700 business and IT professionals in equal numbers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, from the C-suite to frontline managers. Most (40%) have 250-499 employees and 68% are in the IT and tech space. This approach illuminated the same technology-related issues from different perspectives: Large and small; junior and senior; technology and business.

Strong concern about the future

Discussing the South African results of the research, Bogoshi says most businesses are increasingly concerned about their ability to manage and extract value not from their current products, as much as from the data generated in the process of selling those products.  In particular, there is a strong upward curve in executives’ view that the impact of business unpredictability and associated demands for rapid scaling are their current greatest IT challenge.

“Most (73%) of respondents agree that, no matter your business, if you are online you are a tech company. But there seems to be a lot of insecurity in the sector, as almost 80% believes their current business models will be out of date in three years’ time. “The reality is that their future competitors will be agile organisations that do not even exist yet.”  More than 80% of respondents find it hard to predict how business will evolve in the current fluid, rapidly evolving landscape. “The key point of concern is that the growth in the tech sector and the changing business environment will put excessive pressure on IT operations, damaging quality, customer satisfaction and brand reputation. The standard response to this fear that growth may accelerate IT complexity faster than companies can adapt, is to outsource.

“In short, executives feel out of their depth as they are working against invisible competitors.”

The way IT departments are run is part of the problem

A point of concern for Bogoshi is that 48% of respondents see IT departments themselves as limiting innovation. Part of the reason may be that 66% of businesses still isolate IT departments, possibly because IT is seen as a behind-the-scenes function that has little to do with customer service. “To make matters worse, two-thirds of IT team members feel isolated within their teams. “So you have isolated people, working within isolated teams, resisting the seismic shifts happening in the economy – quite possible because they are not allowed to see the bigger picture within the company they work for.” Disconcertingly, 93% of executives still believe that their IT department meets the company’s needs.

What if we get it wrong? – Executives feel inept

Most businesses surveyed reflected a mixed response to the perceived tech challenges. Only 42% have initiated processes to help IT departments work more closely with other parts of the business and to become more customer-focused. Also, 57% have started, or are planning to start training employees to implement converged or hyper-converged infrastructure. But when asked whether they personally feel they have the skills to understand what technology could do for their businesses, only 46% of executives agreed. A slightly larger percentage (49%) said they did not, but realised that they ought to.

In their journey towards becoming a digital, customer-focused business, 83% of respondents are not moving forward due to fear of damage to brand reputation, credibility and revenue if they get it wrong. Also, 61% of businesses do not feel ready for the data, operational and technological of offering a service and not just products – although 84% believe that scaleable and flexible IT will reduce risk by laying foundation for growth and innovation.

Business needs technology in order to develop more value-added services and products and get them to market quicker, to meet rapidly-evolving customer demands for a seamless, connected experience. They need to do all this while cutting costs, reducing risk and complexity and improving efficiency.

“Respondents agree that you have to offer customers an experience to stay competitive, but realise that this cannot be met by their existing IT infrastructure, data processing capability and employee skills base.”

“Indeed, most decision-makers are afraid of getting it wrong when it comes to moving to a tech and data-focused approach to business,” says Bogoshi.

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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