The pace of innovation has increased, and employees and leadership now require “available-anywhere” collaboration and productivity tools. IT leaders must help their organizations orchestrate collaboration transformation by leveraging new, cloud-based collaboration technologies.
“Hey, Siri. What’s that Chinese restaurant I like to order from on Wednesdays?”
Just a few years ago, the level at which AI would be integrated into our lives would have been unfathomable. Between the helpful voice assistants that live in our phones and the technology that allows us to predict a patient’s hospital stay with stunning accuracy, AI is deeply important to how today’s society and businesses function.
2019 was a strong year for advancements in AI, particularly in academia. Open source and academic frameworks are instructing how data scientists build their models. We’ve seen cognitive services that understand how to pick off pieces of data from text streams and videos to identify patterns, opening the door for a wide range of potential applications.
We’ve worked with clients like Steward Health Care to implement AI and predictive technologies which impact the daily lives of patients and improve health outcomes. Digital care delivery tools tailored to patients’ specific needs can improve recovery time and the daily management of chronic diseases. With these tools, we also helped Steward predict their entire patient census according to diagnosis code up to two weeks in advance with 98% accuracy. The result eliminated under- and over-staffing, as well as paid overtime, using predicted patient data.
Through AI, we have developed powerful and highly reusable predictive models for clinical data. These models allow hospitals to proactively prepare for patients with higher risk for re-admissions and design personalized intervention plans. Ultimately, Steward reduced the patient length-of-stay by an average of 1.5 days, saving significant costs and improving care. The changes helped to prepare centers and reduce gaps in the care continuum.
There remains a skills gap regarding AI. While impressive tools exist, the industry lacks experts who know how to wield them. Companies are engaging with AI models, but don’t necessarily have the wherewithal to support their systems. The complicated technology requires deep knowledge to debug and problem solve, but as the skills gap closes in coming years, AI has the potential to further explode.
“Karen is always sending emails that should be Slacks.”
A new generation of digitally native users is joining companies, changing the way the workforce communicates. Younger generations are used to collaborating digitally on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. These workers expect the same ease of collaboration and efficiency that these tools bring, which is driving adoption in the corporate world at a grassroots level.
This year, we’ve seen user-friendly, intuitive interfaces like Slack explode in growth – a trend that will likely continue into 2020. Between Microsoft’s Teams, Google’s collaborative Drive and other digital communication platforms, the way people communicate at work has become more efficient, streamlined and collaborative.
It’s not just communication tools that have gotten a consumer-like refresh – the way employees receive their technology is also changing. Keeping end-user devices up to date is key to maintaining a productive workforce and minimizing potential security threats. It also simplifies the integration process when new technologies emerge, allowing for faster innovation. Employees and their companies increasingly expect their devices to come ready to use right out of the box, with little disruption when it’s time for updates.
We’ve worked with companies like an international airline as they’ve refreshed flight attendants’ fleet of iPhones and iPads as the devices neared the end of their lifecycle. By configuring the new devices and kitting them with cases, screen protectors and credit card readers, they were ready to use upon receipt.
Streamlining the device deployment process and incorporating efficient communication processes to align with the new tools creates a better experience for employees while easing the burden on busy IT professionals.
“What does this button do?”
“I don’t know, but don’t push it.”
The way IT leaders manage their consoles is adapting as data center and storage solutions change. Organizations are dealing with multitudes of different data streams – many a mix of cloud and on-prem technologies. When faced with managing heaps of information located in various places, IT leaders turned to OEM solutions to help streamline the process.
Technology like Microsoft Azure Sentinel is one of these platforms: it glues everything together (multi-cloud, on-prem, etc.) into a repository, which then aggregates all of the data. Rather than dealing with 50 security consoles, OEM platforms are like a single pane of glass. OEMs are akin to a security guard facing a single screen with 16 camera feeds, rather than switching between screens constantly to see each image.
Now that IT leaders have seen what’s possible regarding streamlining their data management systems, they’ll likely never go back.
“Can you even see through those weird-looking ski googles?”
Harkening back to predicted trends for 2019, many people guessed that augmented and virtual reality would be the next big thing to come from the technology industry.
While advancements in technology have certainly increased access to AR and VR, the tools are far from achieving ubiquitous adoption. There’s a disconnect between the enthusiasm around AR and VR and actual democratization.
Despite the circulating fascination and its immersive capabilities, fully committing to these technologies comes with hesitation as entrenched from the limited solutions offering. Mass adoption will follow when AR and VR have successfully integrated accessibility and control to its core. Although superior in innovation, the hardware design itself is yet to reach its mature level.
Challenges such as eyestrain, sound disorientation and comfortable headset fit are deal breakers for users looking to invest in technologies that are for habitual use. To penetrate the mainstream, AR and VR devices necessitate broad, flexible features that put the user in the driver seat.
Gradually reducing these aforementioned limitations have been the center of the new AR and VR products that have been surfacing progressively throughout the years. The enhanced hardware versions are polished through every release with recalibration, increasing the field of vision, seamless hand and voice commands, high-resolution displays and expanding available features. Ultimately, offering a wide portfolio of revolutionary, immersive AR and VR solutions in tackling business challenges is what will make the people stay.
While the technology hasn’t yet reached its full potential, it remains something to keep an eye on as companies continue to innovate and close the gap between excitement around the technology and its accessibility and use cases.
“Goodbye buffering, hello 5G.”
There was a lot of talk around 5G in 2019 – cell phone and internet providers claimed that it would revolutionize the way that people and companies consume data.
While 5G certainly has potential to shape the industry – particularly technological feats on “the edge” – it isn’t yet a reality. Infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, must first catch up to the updates necessary to adapt 5G.
When it does become largely available, however, its persistent connectivity and ability to process more complex workloads at lightning speed will fundamentally change the way providers architect solutions.
“Data insights are pots of gold.”
Many businesses are looking to break free from yesterday’s on-premises storage solutions and embrace a cloud-first mentality. It’s no wonder why: legacy storage hardware has increasingly become a burden to manage, is difficult to upgrade, and in many cases unable to keep up with growing workload demands.
While the decision to modernize storage environment is a shrewd one, the idea of going cloud-first requires deeper thought.
In recent years, a number of businesses have made cloud-first their standard, simply because they could – and not because they deemed the workload an especially good fit for the cloud. Consequently, many of these businesses have experienced pitfalls that limit – or altogether negate – the benefits they were hoping to realize from migration.
Along with the countless benefits of running apps and data in the cloud are a handful of challenges that might lead to a lower return of investments when not managed properly or the workload is not the right fit, specifically the excessive cost, provider lock-in, poor data visibility and significant latency.
Businesses should take a more thoughtful approach to storage modernization. Rather than committing all applications and data to the cloud regardless of their fit, one should assess which applications are good candidates. Those looking to achieve lower costs, greater agility, or less complexity can leverage a combination of physical and virtual technologies, such as solid state arrays for apps in need of the highest levels of performance or hyperconverged infrastructure for traditional on-premises workloads. Sometimes, going back to your roots may be the best answer to support your critical applications.
“No assembly required.”
With the advent of the cloud and cloud-type solutions, software companies are bringing baked solutions to the front lines of businesses, where decisions are being made. Providers can administer agile solutions to solve problems almost as quickly as businesses run into them, with little to no building requirement from IT. Advancements in the cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) help end users keep these tools up to date with little effort, creating efficiencies through streamlined device management.
These low-code, no-code quick-fixes like Slack are easy to use, intuitive platforms. Looking ahead to 2020, digital assistants are likely to become a larger presence in our professional lives. Bots, like calendar managers, will work alongside employees in the workplace to help them streamline workflows and manage their time.
“Far out, man.”
Innovations in 2019 have laid the landscape for the intelligent edge moving into 2020. Manufacturers are driving innovation around enhanced edge devices and cloud providers are offering solutions that allow the deployment of workloads to the edge, like Kubernetes. We’re seeing technology build on itself as advancements in AI and the cloud are being pushed to the edge – solutions that would have been simplistic sensors a few years ago are now running algorithms and sending data back to cloud processors. Much of the processing and computing is happening on the edge, on-site where the data is being collected. These solutions make equipment run better, faster.
Intelligent edge tools are helpful across a variety of industries, including railroads. Rather than relying on a human to manually inspect rail lines and alert the railroad to maintenance issues, the Internet of Things (IoT) enables automated rail inspections, real-time alerts for maintenance issues and reliable data collection and control for continual process improvements. Taking advantage of the intelligent edge in rail systems allows for faster response time to safety issues, as well as a lower cost of inspection, protecting workers and decreasing labor costs.
“Don’t get held hostage.”
In 2019 and in years past, entire businesses, and even cities, were held hostage by ransomware attacks. There are typically two types of data in a business: the data essential to business operations and the data subject to regulatory standards like the GDPR. Organizations have become very good at protecting the data that falls at the intersection of those two types – what many in the business call the “crown jewels.” In the event of a ransomware attack, companies are likely to have measures in place that ensure that data is still available. The trouble, however, comes with the other data that may have been breached and is subject to regulatory protection. Without protecting this data, organizations are opening themselves up to a whole host of issues.
To sufficiently protect their data, organizations should be looking to protect its confidentiality, integrity and availability in the event of an attack. As we look ahead to 2020, expect to see a renewed focus on these items as organizations look to improve their data protection practices.
The solutions we’re seeing today and the ones that will come in 2020 wouldn’t have been possible without the advancements in the cloud, AI and automation that have come in recent years. In 2020, expect to see the aforementioned trends in technology work together to create solutions to improve how businesses and society work together.
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