Kathy Gibson is at IDC Cloud and Data Centre Roadshow in Sandton – IT has to change the way it works if it is to be an effective partner to the business as it embarks on digital transformation.

Jonathan Tullett, research manager: IT services in Africa at IDC, believes the data centre of the future will look very different.

The trends driving change are data centre modernisation, workload rationalisation and hybrid IT operations.

By 2020, more than half of organisations will have begun modernisation of their data centres, Tullett points out. This will support latency, integration, support and performance.

Within two years, 50% of organisations will rationalise operating workloads for analytics and machine learning. They will do this by close co-ordination with cloud architectures.

By 2019, 70% of companies engaged with digital transformation will adjust hiring metrics for on-premise IT operations. They will aim for data-first, hybrid, API-driven and – above all – adaptable skills.

By 2020, consumption-based procurement will account for 30% to 40% of infrastructure spend. This will address the cloud offerings of elastic procurement and pricing.

In 2019, 60% of digital services will fail to meet their customer experience targets. “They will do this because of some deficiency on the part of IT,” Tullett says. “So we will have to explain to the board why the business is a bad business because of us. And 60% is a lot.

“This is why the customer experience focus that the new guys bring to the table is gaining so much traction They will point to you and ask why it takes so long to get through to the call centre, or use a mobile app, or why we lost data.”

Tullett recommends that IT be relentless in pursuing a customer experience focus in everything they do.

When it comes to the cloud environment, change is happening much quicker, Tullett says.

By 2020 more than 80% of enterprise will commit to multiple cloud services and platforms. This model is no longer ad hoc and opportunistic, but repeatable and managed.

Within three years, 75% of organisations will have cloud APIs at the centre of their digital transformation architectures.

These will enable partner ecosystems, standardisation, security, Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile strategies.

“This should be non-negotiable,” Tullett says. “You have to be able to hook all this stuff together. And it talks back to the data centre too.”

In the next year, 30% of enterprise will spend more on public cloud operations than their own data centre operations.

“There is a tremendous emphasis in South Africa on that common ground of co-location,” Tullett points out. “This allows CIOs to gradually uncouple from the on-premise architecture.”

Platform as a service (PaaS) is maturing and, by 2020, 25% of enterprises will have separated SaaS from application development and PaaS.

This will enable microservices, agile and API-centric development.

Analytics, big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning are fast-growing technologies that could cause massive disruptions in any company and IT organisation.

IDC predicts that, by 2019, augmented agents will directly influence 10% of sales, and execute 1% of transactions.

By 2020, 20% of large enterprises will use machine learning-based software to create new materials, Tulletts adds.

Technical hires will be screened for analytics and AI skills as soon as 2020.

On the security front, by 2021, 90% of new intelligent systems will embed decision-centric computing that detects and responds to anomalies.

Tullett points out that today’s analytics will be tomorrow’s machine learning, and it is happening quickly.

The timelines that we think we have to work within are shrinking: the definition of long-term is contacting every year, Tullett says.

“Most of our expectations of what we will be using AI for are out by at least one order of magnitude,” he adds. “It is happening way faster than we think.”

Analytics are advancing so relentlessly largely because they are the “stickiness” in every cloud vendors strategy. “It’s relatively easy to move your data out of the cloud, but moving the meta data and intelligence is not so easy.”

Betting on one camp or another – either on-premise versus cloud, or one cloud versus another – is not an option, Tullett says,

More than 80% of organisations will strategically commit to hybrid, multi-cloud strategies within the next two years,

Stop forcing the business to make impossible choice, Tullett urges. “If you tell them it’s your way or the highway, they will probably choose the highway.”

He recommends that IT work collaboratively with the business, avoiding confrontations and allowing for graceful compromises.

To avoid lock-in while maintaining compliance, disaster recovery and hybrid workloads, Tullett recommends that IT separates data and logic.

“Cherry-pick the best solutions,” he adds. “And use cloud to maximise the lifespan of your current infrastructure and applications.

“Importantly, leverage your existing investments through integration and APIs.”

This will help IT to leverage the existing investments in infrastructure and skills; unify security, risk and continuity; and provide integration to avoid technology debt.

The result will be benefits for line of business that include productivity, agility, data and service depth; business value, product and time to market sustainability; and customer experience beyond he “known generation”.

IDC recommends that CIOs take the following steps:

* Build IT modernisation battle plans, then run war games that include all stakeholders until they start winning.

* They should innovate within their own space, and encourage their reports to do the same.

* Get ahead of incoming skills metrics, and assess current staff and partners.

* Internal disruption is rarely healthy competition – partner or keep your peace.

* Grow towards a venture capital model – reward mentorships, not pet projects.

* There is no such thing as being too critical with your APIs.

* Evaluate new technology through new lenses. Ask how it can be best deployed, and how quickly that can change; who should own its value; and how will it integrate with the company’s standards?