Get ready for a seismic shift in business structure for 2020 – underpinned by cloud

Get ready for a seismic shift in business structure for 2020 – underpinned by cloud
Henrik Nilsson is vice president EMEA at Apptio.

The technology industry is advancing at a rapid pace, with new developments like IoT and AI moving on leaps and bounds within the span of mere months. The broader impact of this is that the very structure of business is being altered by this acceleration, and the management of such technologies is becoming a discipline – and a necessity – in itself.

In 2020, it will be more important than ever to have the proper protocols and systems in place to manage the ever-expanding technology estate, particularly as we continue to see yet more new cutting-edge technologies such as quantum computing come to the fore. If not properly assessed and assimilated into the organisation, these innovations can become a real headache for the IT and finance teams, as well as for the operation of the wider business.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts on what 2020 will look like as this seismic technological shift in business gets underway.

Roles within IT are going to change and demand broader skillsets

The past 10 years have seen many new roles crop up in IT (CDO, Head of Cloud Excellence, TBM Manager) that weren’t conceived of the decade before. The pace of change in technology means this is only set to continue, and as a result there will need to be a concurrent improvement in both hard skills (such as AI development skills) and soft skills (to manage IT’s relationship with the rest of the business).

AWS, Azure and GCP will continue to enhance their specialities in 2020 – focusing on scale, or sector, or bringing AI capabilities – to provide differentiation

While individual business units will be the ones driving forward with new technologies in order to pursue innovation, the CIO and the expanding IT team will now be the ones to ensure those demands align with overall business needs. This shift in scope of work – and the greater level of responsibility it entails – means that IT professionals need to upskill in order to meet the new demands of the role.

AI and IoT adoption will need to be matched with better alignment of IT with the business 

The adoption of AI and IoT is on the rise, as many organisations increasingly realise the business benefits of the technologies. However, as these technologies move into the mainstream, companies will struggle to quantify their value over time as their IT finance systems aren’t set up for this. In 2020, the ability to calculate long-term ROI from technologies with costs that aren’t fixed will be increasingly important for CIOs and CTOs looking to justify their technology investments.

IoT, for instance, will widen the cost base for the IT team as smart devices proliferate. While this may reduce other costs, such as labour, over time smart devices are likely to become another layer of legacy technology. This makes it hard to assess the total cost of ownership without having dedicated tools for doing so. Similarly, AI will produce fast results in the short term, cutting down laborious manual processes, but its value is harder to quantify over time. For both of these technologies, as with other emerging innovations, CIOs and CTOs will need to have a defensible strategy for proving their value in order to align with the needs of the business while balancing their budgets.

IT finance management will need to change for agile to work

Agile is becoming an increasingly popular way for forward-thinking IT teams to work, but IT finance systems aren’t set up to properly assess costs and business value. As the way companies work moves from a waterfall methodology to an agile one, it’s not just the IT finance team that needs to change to keep up, it’s also management of the organisation in general.

Product development has shifted, with multiple iterative trials now taking place for each incremental improvement. It’s imperative that the rest of the business also change to align with this shift, particularly the CFO. The CFO needs to ensure that the organisation’s capital is spent wisely and in the right areas to support both the short- and long- term goals of the organisation.

CIOs will need to have a defensible strategy for proving their value – aligning the needs of the business with balancing their budgets

The office of the CFO needs to introduce governance and controls that don’t hinder and slow down the benefits of agile but provide a helicopter perspective across all of the organisation’s investments. This will ensure that the team’s efforts are supporting the business’ short- and long-term plans, as agile takes centre stage and becomes the accepted way of working.

Cloud providers will specialise their offerings instead of price-warring – and businesses need to get wise to the cost implications

As seen in other software industries, overly aggressive price wars have the potential to upset the cloud market. Given this, I expect that AWS, Azure and GCP will continue to enhance their specialities in 2020 (for instance focusing on scale, or a specific sector, or AI capabilities) to provide differentiation.

This will have a knock-on effect on costs. Apples to apples comparisons of pricings is already difficult but moving forward, businesses will have to do a much better job of tying value to cloud to make the right decisions for their business needs. Cloud services constantly scale to meet demand, which increases cost – but how do you compare providers or services with one another? How do you know the exact value you’re getting for your money?

To combat this uncertainty, in 2020 companies will need to establish a cloud centre of excellence and a “FinOps” mindset, whereby all areas of the business have greater understanding of, and accountability for, cloud spend. Currently, most IT functions don’t have the right set-up to manage cloud spend, with disparate instances of “Google here” and “AWS there.” This needs to change as organisations mature their cloud strategy and should start with the development of a central company IT strategy.

Conclusion

While it’s an exciting time to be in the technology space, it’s clear that there’s still a lot of work to be done in 2020. For starters, it will be important for businesses to be able to properly anticipate the advancements that are forthcoming. Get ready, or you risk being left behind.

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