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Riding the wave of IT trends in 2018

01 February 2018

As featured on Networks Asia (Online) - 23rd January, 2018 

As we face the first few weeks of 2018, all of us will be looking through our New Year resolutions of how we can improve our lives and businesses for a more successful year. Businesses here in Singapore for instance will be looking at how they can transform themselves to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. As we look ahead to all that 2018 will bring, I have identified a few key business trends that will play a significant role in the way growing organizations do business and some salient questions that will help lead you identify steps that your business might need to take.

Trend 1: Digital transformation is here!

Digital transformation has been a popular term used by many businesses for the past few years.

Recognizing the inevitable need to embrace and prepare for digital transformation, the Singapore government established GovTech (Government Technology Agency of Singapore) last year to boost Singapore’s efforts towards becoming a Smart Nation. GovTech is currently enhancing the Smart Nation platform, which is a common sensor and communications platform that facilitates collection and sharing of data across the island, by multiple agencies.

In addition, building on iSPRINT, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore (CSA) will work with agencies such as SPRING on a “SMEs Go Digital” programme. These initiatives will help raise SMEs’ overall level of digital readiness by giving them step-by-step advice on technologies to use at each stage of their digital journey.

No matter how the local digital economy grows, it is clear that digital transformation and growing volumes of data are driving a change to fast, hyper-connected cities. With technology continuing to impact the business world at a fast-moving pace, we are seeing several companies shift their focus from merely adopting new technologies to developing a fully digital management strategy.

Digital transformation is no longer just about upgrading to a new software program, it is about making sure any new adoptions will work for your business long-term. In 2018, we can expect to see smaller businesses emulating the enterprise by placing more emphasis and budget allocation toward finding new ways to work more efficiently in order to better their business. As such, we’ll see companies better harnessing all the data that resides in various departments of the business to help inform strategic planning and improve decision-making.

Trend 2: The (inevitable) move to the cloud

Cloud technology is impacting businesses of all sizes. As business systems become increasingly cloud-based, we will continue to see more companies move to cloud technology platforms in 2018. With mobility, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) coming into play, businesses will look to cloud platforms to streamline operations and maximize productivity. Having easy access to the cloud levels the playing field for businesses, making advanced technological capabilities such as application customization, security, sales and marketing optimization, personal assistants accessible and affordable to organizations of all sizes. Cloud technologies offer great agility, flexibility, scalability, and mobility, making the cloud imperative for today’s businesses.

Furthermore, today’s technology requires businesses to operate at a fast pace so that they can serve customers in any time zone. The cloud enables you to compete on a global level without many resources. IDC predicts that by 2020, as much as 70% of software, services, and technology spending will be based in the cloud.

In Singapore, the IMDA recognised the growth of cloud highlighting that the number of local and global cloud providers in Singapore has more than tripled to 187 in the last six years.

As many companies prepare for a new fiscal year, here are some helpful questions to consider: What is your cloud strategy? What’s your vision on how the cloud can help your business? What improvements can be made to your business operations and customer service that will ensure your ability to secure a connected business? What cloud technologies are your competitors using today which you can adopt or solutions you can leverage as your pathway to cloud?

Trend 3: Globalization in our local market

We talked about how cloud-based technology and digital transformation allow businesses to compete in a new way. In 2018, the hyper-connected economy will start to become a necessity for companies.

Many businesses in Asia are going global due to a faster economy driven by the tech industry. Businesses will begin to feel the pressure to meet increasing customer demands and competitive pressures, which will require them to shift to an always on-demand model. Businesses that develop a data-driven digital culture will be better equipped to meet the rising demands of the future. Globalization requires organizations to streamline their processes and shift to an agile mindset.

As you prepare for a fast-paced economy and a shift to a global operation, answer these questions: Are your systems able to support the speeds of delivery that your customers demand? How do your systems support global locations and employees? Is your organization taking advantage of new technology such as AI to reduce repeated tasks to enable more time for value-added activities?

Trend 4: Big Data and analytics: Insights for a better tomorrow

Big Data has been a hot topic for many businesses in the last few years. Today’s digital culture is generating massive amounts of data. Companies are now able to use this data to gain insight into customer behavior, learn more about their workforce, improve decision-making, and drive growth.

In 2018, companies will learn how to effectively manage this data to their advantage by taking a deeper dive into analytics and insights to improve their growth strategy. Data is experiencing explosive growth, doubling every two years as everything in the business becomes digital. This rapid rate of growth can easily overwhelm existing infrastructure, technology, and people, which may have adverse impacts on the way data is being handled and prioritized. Businesses will need to find resources to mine all of this data and provide actionable insights to inform and support strategic planning.

How are you putting your data to use for the growth of your business?

Trend 5: Securing your assets: Reducing risks

In this new year, we will also start to see businesses build upon their infrastructure to make sure their data is as securely protected as possible. Just as AI, IoT and mobility create opportunity, they also open the door to new potential risks.

Singapore took a huge leap in ensuring their security defenses were up by announcing that more than S$16 million will be invested to strengthen Singapore's cybersecurity research and development, under two separate government programmes that aim to produce more commercial cybersecurity solutions.

Security threats are everywhere, and companies must ensure they have a data security strategy in place that is continuously reviewed and updated to keep up with ever changing threats. Cybersecurity should be a boardroom issue with buy-in from all levels and departments rather than being led by IT alone. Organizational alignment, as well as a refined assessment of the potential liabilities in play, will be key to preventing security breaches in the coming year.

Is your business thinking about the trends that will impact daily operations in 2018 such as security? How are you preparing to be ahead of the curve with these new technologies?

Though some of these IT trends sound familiar, the different countries within Asia are at differing stages of adoption and validation of these new technologies. As with all New Year resolutions, the key action to take is the first step, in this case, towards education and eventual implementation of these technologies most relevant for you. Each of us will have over 300 days to ensure we take the right steps forward in this new year.

By Robin Chao, Vice President and Managing Director of Sage Asia.

This article first appeared in Networks Asia (Online). For further information about the publication, please view here.