I recently led a meeting of the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), which I chair. When the Forum was originally launched approaching a decade ago, its purpose was clear – the cloud was a young phenomenon and its rapidly developing business impact demanded attention. An early CIF white paper was on the impact of the cloud on channels to market.
The cloud is now a well-established part of the fabric of our industry. A competitive diversity of vendors, a continuous spread of innovation… So the focus of the members’ debate at the recent CIF meeting was – where now?
One clear intention of these columns I have written for the Horizon CIO Podcast since September last year has been to focus attention on the range of innovative new capabilities that are springing from the power and capacity of the cloud. Here is the list I have shared with my fellow members of CIF:
- The contemporary internet;
- Social Media;
- Machine Learning;
- The Internet of Things (IoT);
- Robots/Robotic Process Automation (RPA);
- Big Data;
- Big Analytics;
- DevOps/Low Code
- Artificial Intelligence (AI);
Many are in their youth as business capabilities, but all are developing fast and already having initial transformational impact in aspects of the contemporary enterprise. For example, take Guy’s November 2017 newsletter that accompanied the box of organic vegetables delivered weekly from Riverford Organic Farmers in the depths of Devon.
Guy Singh-Watson, founder of Riverford Organic Farmers has built a £60m business and just handed ownership to his staff – it is now a cooperative. ‘Our young and techie IT team are excited about us starting to farm with drones and robots. The possibilities are exciting, but the intricate stuff inside needs a pristine environment that is free of damp and dust, so our gale-driven mud-encrusted leek pickers are safe for a while. Logistics and delivery drivers are another matter…. ‘ he writes in the newsletter, giving you a clear understanding of how ownership structures and the next wave of technologies can combine to benefit customers and organisations together.
The V&A museum in London currently has a new show titled The Future Starts Here (until 4th November, 2018). Journalist Tim Abrahams opens his review of the exhibition in the current issue of ICON thus: ‘This month, serial technology entrepreneur and billionaire Elon Musk was forced to admit that problems with his Tesla Model 3 all-electric cars were due to an over reliance on artificial intelligence (AI) on the production line.’ ‘Excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake.’
But in Australia, at the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, a chatbot called Parker’s first day at work involved 1,000 ‘phone conversations with potential clients, guiding them to the best corner of the law firm to address their specific needs [‘Chatbots join the legal conversations’. FT Friday 8th June 2018 .]
And from the USA Robert B Cohen (Economic Strategy Institute, Washington DC) writes to the FT (5th July 2018) to criticise two earlier authors writing on the future of work to protest that ‘neither recognises the vast economic shift to software and services (cloud computing, open source, containers and micro-services) that is changing the future of work….While AI-based robots will displace jobs, innovative cloud-computing based software will open a wealth of new opportunities. My own work estimates that from 2015 to 2018 companies’ use of such software contributed between 140,000 to 320,000 jobs to the US economy.’‘
In London, the Mayor Sadiq Kahn has hired consultants CognitionX to plan how the city can best harness AI. Mayor Khan ‘believes that London is already in a strong position in the data economy’ (City AM 23/03/2018). But McKinsey Global Institute warns that Europe is the laggard in the race to master AI. ‘The US and China dominate AI in everything from research to investment. Europe spent about $3bn-$4bn on AI on 2016: investment in North America was up to $23bn.’ (Richard Milne FT 7th June 2018.)
Perhaps validating the view of McKinsey, tyre manufacturer Continental, concerned at new data privacy regulations, has banned the use of WhatsAp, Snapchat and other social media apps from company mobile ‘phones, citing Europe’s new GDPR (FT 5th June 2018).
As you will have noticed I am a fan of Guy at Riverford Organic Farmers. But he is not alone! ‘Alibaba looks to bring home the bacon – AI is coming to the farmyard, helping to ensure that pigs are active, bacon lean and crop yields are improving.’ (FT 7th June 2018).
So the new cloud compute capabilities are being taken up by challenger companies, are being tested, and are ‘failing at the first hurdle’ in some cases.
As I have written in earlier columns, the CIO’s role is to bring her/his colleagues on board to test and develop the way forward in ways relevant to their business. And to learn, learn, learn!