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Creating digital value at scale: thoughts from Gartner Symposium / ITxpo 2017


20 . November  2017

Wouter Belmans

Posts nach Autoren: Wouter Belmans, VP of Advise & Industry Practices, BT


At last week’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, the topic of the year was very much how to create digital value at scale. And I’m not surprised. Many of BT’s customers are asking us how they can scale their ‘digital mushroom’ projects into a successful digital transformation. In Gartner´s view, their focus should be on network effect technologies - think Internet of Things which is scaling the physical world, APIs, which are scaling relationships, or AI, which is scaling people.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) was everywhere during the conference, and rightly so because it will change everything. We´ve been talking about it since 1955, but now that graphics processing units (GPUs) moved the needle on processing power and we’re able to ingest enough data to accept bigger Deep Neural Network models, it actually works! For banks for example, smart vision systems, virtual assistants and smart advisors will be important weapons in the war against Fintech.

AI today is centered on deep learning and natural-language processing. Its applications are numerous, but as Gartner´s Tom Austin is eager to point out, it´s applications are narrow and training an AI for new use cases is expensive. An AI that drives an autonomous car will probably never be able to fly a helicopter. Gartner advises us not to worry about doomsday statements of ignoramuses like Stephen Hawkins and Elon Musk, who say that an AI that thinks like humans is not in sight - “There is no intelligence in artificial intelligence.”

And AI is still young. Less than 7% of companies have AI in production or are testing for production.

The focus of organisations today should be on experimentation, and investing in specific applications that contribute immediate business value. Gartner expects the main AI use case to be Human-Machine symbiosis (known as “Centaur Computing”) for the near future. It then leaves us with good news to bring home to the kids: AI will be a net positive job creator from 2020. Some will disagree with this.

Digital dexterity

But the key to digital is analog, so there also needs to be a focus on digital dexterity. Businesses need to cultivate a culture and a workforce that can handle these technologies while putting a business hat on. This promises to be a challenge; for example, worldwide, there are only 1,300 people with AI experience. So get creative if you want to attract talent!

Enterprise cloud wars are not over

It was also clear from the event that the enterprise cloud wars are not over. Google Cloud was everywhere. The company that streams 1 billion videos a day, has 2 billion containers under management and handles 2 trillion searches a year, feels like it has something to offer in the fields of infrastructure, analytics, AI and security. And Bill Hippenmeyer, Senior Director, EMEA Cloud Sales Engineering at Google was there to prove it. His team of cloud engineers is growing 400% annually to work with customers and help them move workloads to the cloud. This means fierce competition for Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

Laying patiently at the foundation of all these technologies sits security. Every session mentioned it, but it only really kicked off when BT´s own Luke Beeson presented on Wednesday morning. If you missed it, you can read his summary on LinkedIn.

So I’ve highlighted the technologies that everyone was talking about. There’s nothing new in there, I know. The true challenge is taking these ideas and scaling them to transform your business (you can read my blog about that here).

To that aim, Gartner advises all of us to develop our strategy on multi-sided digital platforms. In other words: What will Uber look like in your industry? And should you try to be it, or just participate in the platform ecosystem?
There´s opportunity everywhere, but which multi-sided digital platform will transform your industry? Is it already here? All we can do is continue learning, innovate relentlessly, and be unafraid to disrupt ourselves.

Read more on BT’s presence at Gartner Barcelona.