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There can be no doubt that collectively we have all been through a unique couple of years in living memory. Although it has been a traumatic, stressful last two years for many people personally and professionally, Covid-19 and the resulting lockdowns have had an indelible impact on the tech sector. Before the global pandemic, the tech sector was poised (and had already started), disrupting many other industries, but, as humans, there was a slowness to our acceptance of this change. The last two years have forced change on the world – catapulting us unexpectedly into a new way of work, as the world economy scrambled to adapt to and excel in the new normal.

The first movement, of course, came as a result of national lockdowns. Employees as well as customers couldn’t leave their homes, so businesses had to bring operations to the employees and products to their customers – and fast. A whole new world of online business models supported by Work from Home and hybrid work models was born, and, for the last year, businesses have been strengthening their models and strategies to reflect this new future.

Suddenly, even the smallest or most traditional businesses that still relied on interpersonal trade had to develop an online presence and use digital means to keep their businesses afloat. Out of nowhere, many companies had to implement a customer-facing, employee-connecting digital operation to deliver their services and products to customers, who have, in turn, come to expect and more from businesses, whether large or small.

The pace of digital transformation seen in last couple of years has never been seen before and is accelerating even faster.

Enter the hyperscaler 

With this digital evolution, the move to the cloud was a question on every CEO’s and CIO’s mind. Even before the pandemic, the likes of Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) began investing heavily in the South African market. Today, they probably cannot respond to their sales leads fast enough. The time of the hyperscalers is here.

It is no longer a matter of transition; it is a matter of radical transformation. Companies are not just asking how they can embrace cloud effectively and immediately but how can they create innovation, business value and personalized competitive offerings to their clients faster than their competition.  With hyperscalers such as Microsoft, AWS and Google scaling up their capabilities, businesses are also moving forwards and tapping into technology as a service.

It is still early days, especially in a South African context, so expect more investments to be made by global hyperscalers and well as businesses who are now moving beyond just lift and shift but unlocking the true value of the cloud to bring in velocity, innovation and transformation.

More and more, you will see how the hyperscalers of the world will continue to grow as they partner with (and even buy out) further services to add to their offerings. Consider how AWS partnered with Salesforce. This partnership has given developers the ability to build and launch custom applications that extend the power of both platforms. We will see more aggression on the front and thus more capabilities and options to be available South African businesses in 2022 and beyond to unleash innovation and velocity in the market.

Business models are now platform-based

While platform-based business models are not new, they are gaining momentum in South African business landscape. Moving into 2022, when most businesses are or digitally transforming, leveraging the capabilities around modern cloud-centric operating environment, the foundations are being established to scale further and the thinking around creating platform-based business model is rapidly evolving and businesses are seeing this as a new opportunity. It is no longer about simply embracing the cloud; it is about creating a functional and profitable business model with the cloud capabilities at its center along with design thinking and agile capabilities. This is what we call being ‘cloud-native.’

Cloud-native computing is not only enabling businesses to react faster to changing market environment but also helping organizations build new mindset, processes and people to deliver new kind of value and innovation to the customers, at the speed we never experienced before.

It might sound simple and perhaps obvious, but this kind of business model is seriously disrupting the status quo. A cloud-centric platform-based mentality will undoubtedly be the central theme on the path to progress in 2022.

Unlocking the power of data

In the post pandemic world, hyper personalization, increasing competition from new data driven business models, options around the cloud and its promise and remote working have created a complex and diverse ecosystem that will further drive organizations to build modular data architectures and modernize processes to bring in velocity and flexibility that the business will demand.   With so much effort being already put into unlocking the value of data generated by existing environment, these BI platforms will be further augmented with AI / ML driven decision model and data science capabilities to deliver not only insights to business but also suggest quick decisions.

As this evolved AI/ ML driven data environment takes mainstream, big data analytics will be even more crucial.  By integrating data sources across platforms and users through cloud-native services,

building automation and leveraging cloud capabilities available today, there is no telling how far we can push the boundaries of efficiency.

And with organizations embracing hybrid multi cloud environments, they also realise the need for powerful architecture that would standardise and bring in consistency around data management practices and practicalities across cloud, on premise and also edge devices. Thus, businesses would be investing in to create Data Fabric as a data management approach to drive enterprise wise  data and analytics, and to automate many of the processes and tasks around data value chain.

Once again, in South Africa, it is still very early days, so the number of data-driven business models is only beginning to surface, but we will undoubtedly see increasing investments in more new products and services to be launched into the market in the year to come.

They say that data is the new gold, and this gold rush has only just begun. The growth of data sharing capabilities through secure platforms is empowering South African businesses to change the face of what it means to have a competitive advantage. The possibilities are endless, and South Africans are not afraid to innovate. Of course, this is another area to watch in 2022.

Delivering Secure experience

While the pandemic has led to accelerated pace of digital transformation, it has also led to a definite increase in cyber-attacks. Online business models, workforce connecting and delivering services from home and distributed environments leveraged by business to bring in efficiency and velocity have created opportunity for cyber criminals to attack and gain advantage.

The rising tide of data, the ever-expanding perimeter of the organisation, customer data collection in this online world are also creating vulnerabilities. While the new technologies like cloud and AI/ML are helping organisation deliver that innovation and experience to their clients, they are also being leveraged by hackers to design new attacks. Recent global SolarWinds hacks are examples of the most sophisticated attacks of all times.

Cloud Complexity is the next big security challenge along with complexities around hybrid work models and platform business models, which are here to stay. Organizations will increase their focus and investments in strengthening their Security operations Center (SOC), expand automation and analytics to detect threats, adopt a zero trust security models and invest in their internal capabilities and training.

Ever growing regulations and customer data with businesses, this will inevitably increase the burden of those responsible for information security in businesses. This is another and may be the important area of investment by business in 2022 to ensure the trust of customers is maintained and organizations are able to deliver Secure experience which their clients can rely on.

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