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IT’s role in the digital enterprise

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Kathy Gibson reports from SMEXA 2105 – Smart machines, the Internet of Things (IoT0, big data, cloud computing and social media are all driving business to become more digital, while the way employees work is changing as well. In this environment, companies have to rethink the way they operate.

EY’s Manti Grobler tells delegates to the SMEXA 2015 conference that businesses are more interested in the digital trend now than ever before.

“Mobility is one of the biggest forces driving change in the business,”” she says. “Cloud is also one of those things that is affecting the way we deal with service delivery and support.”

Social media is one of the trends that individuals are more comfortable with than organisations are, and Grobler points out that few companies have an active social media campaign – although some are now using it internally for employee communication.

Smart machines are one of the upcoming trends, where devices have the ability to augment human actions, with robotics now being used in applications outside of manufacturing, she says.

IoT is another technology trend that is becoming pervasive in everyday life.

“So we are experiencing all these things today,” says Grobler. “Companies are looking at employee wellbeing; and people are looking to use IoT for things like asset management and others. This is a reality that many organisations already experience.”

All of these trends and the adoption of new technologies generates data, Grobler points out, and so big data is becoming a huge issue. “Data is pretty much useless if we don’t turn it into information. And we need to analyse this information to improve our businesses.

“If we start looking at the purpose of all these digital phenomena, it is to create a more integrated world.

“And that leads to the creation of the digital workplace, or the workplace of the future.”

Grobler points out that workers are becoming smarter and more demanding in how they work. “Sometimes we are playing a catch-up game, where we are trying to keep up with the workers’ expectations.

“Flexibility is becoming the new balance in the workplace; giving people the ability to work from wherever they chose, whenever they need to.”

Another characteristic of the current workplace is the BYOD (bring your own device) phenomenon – whether the employer has driven this or not.

“In fact its become bring your own tech,” says Grobler. “And linked to that is the question of how the company managed assets – and who is responsible for the assets. How do you manage flexibility? Or when users bring their own cloud.”

How we learn is also undergoing a sea change, Grobler explains, with YouTube having fundamentally changed the way people access information and learning.

“There is an expectation in work today that we are always on. And this puts pressure on to IT in terms of 24/7 availability.”

IT needs to deal with speed of change, Grobler adds. There is a trend to quick releases that are managed on the fly. In fact, people have come to expect that, and to anticipate change.

“Another big reality is that we have legacy solutions within IT that we have to deal with. And this leads to the big conversation in IT – security and how we cope with that.”

All of these issues are inter-related, she adds, and this has become how we work in the digital world.

What IT is being asked to bring to the party, Grobler says, starts with protecting the organisation. “We don’t feel appreciated when it comes to this,” she says. “When we talk about security it has become standard for users to just do what they want – downloading apps, uploading to Dropbox and more.

“When we look at cybersecurity and IT protection, it is a road that IT travels with the organisation to provide the protection.

“The first issue is how to activate security: having put controls in place, how to get users to activate it.”

Monitoring and managing the threats is the next step, she says, and IT needs to aim to anticipate threats and make sure the organisation is protected against them.

On the other side of the coin, Grobler says, IT needs to provide service into the organisation. “It’s about creating an amazing experience for users to they can have a digital workplace with the flexibility and support their needs.

“We also have to work with service providers and manage their complexities to ensure that the organisation is compliant and licenced.”

The requirements for service is changing, Grobler points out, and IT has to be cognisant of the fact that users tend to seek service from their peers or from crowdsourcing rather than from IT.

Google is also becoming more pervasive, and is often used as the knowledge portal for enterprises a well. When they use internal resources, users expect the same kind of experience.

“The also expect the same immediate response as they get from social media platforms.”

Remote working places an additional burden in IT, Grobler says. “Users want to be able to do what they need, regardless of where they are.”

This all ties in with the ability to receive information, make sense of it; and becoming smart, predictive with predicative care, Grobler adds.

“IT has to become bimodal. You need to provide stability for the organisation; but also have to be more and more agile, taking part in the digital conversation to step up and embrace the digital world.”