Technology trends

The technology industry has had another evolutionary year. Here we unpick the key technology trends that we believe will impact all organisations in the next 12 months.

Service infrastructure

The first trend we expect to accelerate this year is something we are calling Service Infrastructure. Historically when businesses considered their digital infrastructure, great care was required around the technology – both hardware and software – that combined to provide the base upon which the business would run. That “infrastructure” required businesses to worry about server infrastructure, software upgrades, capacity planning and physical security.

We see a new infrastructure emerging. One that is wholly cloud based, that is consumption based, that is evergreen requiring far less administrative overhead. From Unified Communications (UC) and Office Productivity through to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) all have been available as cloud services for some time, but their mainstream adoption is now here and consequently the infrastructure requirements that existed to support traditional onsite deployments are disappearing.

Organisations are now thinking about the services they require (e.g. unified communications) rather than the technical implementation details. New infrastructure is not about software and hardware but about services. Organisations will not be thinking about Microsoft Exchange Server but instead about an email service.

Incremental is already working with organisations adopting the “Service Infrastructure” to allow them to increase agility, streamline operations and enable them to focus on their core purpose.

“The new infrastructure is not about software and hardware but about services.”

Ubiquitous intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been one of this year’s hot topics. Following hot on the heels of Big Data, AI has got the news headlines. From self-driving cars to out of the box chatbots, AI has been everywhere. For businesses though, the key shift that occurred in AI was that 2017 was the year that AI floated into the Cloud.

Microsoft, Amazon, and Google have taken their AI offerings to the cloud, dramatically reducing the barriers for organisations who wish to embrace the productivity improvements that AI can support. AI and Cognitive Computing is no longer the preserve of large organisations, supporting the adage that success is not about big versus small, it is about fast versus slow.

“Ubiquitous Intelligence” enables Robotic Process Automation (RPA) helping organisations supercharge productivity levels and will reverse the trend of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). The embedding of AI into Office Productivity, ERP and CRM supports organisations to do more with the assets they already have. Everything from Lead Scoring and Demand Forecasting to Cash Flow Forecasting and Information Security will have a profound impact.

At Incremental our emerging Intelligence practice is focused on enabling organisations to leverage the full benefit of AI via the use of these new cloud platforms.

“AI and Cognitive Computing is no longer the preserve of large organisations, supporting the adage that success is not about big versus small, it is about fast versus slow.”

Technological refresh

This year we have seen many organisations take the opportunity to refresh, what for many has become ageing infrastructures and solutions. The benefits offered by public and hybrid cloud services, either as an alternative to on-premise infrastructure or as the enabler towards a Service Infrastructure, have become increasingly attractive this year.

We are well placed to take advantage of this trend with our Cloud practice aligned to supporting organisations make the transition from on-premise to public cloud in a controlled manner. Our Dynamics, Intelligence and Applications practices remain focused on the benefits Cloud can bring. This means we can support organisations to fully embrace the benefits of the advancements offered by Microsoft’s Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service offerings.

“Our Dynamics, Intelligence and Applications practices remain focused on the benefits Cloud can bring.”

Partner trends

Microsoft

New platform

Our key technology partner has continued to perform strongly over the last 12 months under the leadership of Satya Nadella. Nadella’s experience in Microsoft’s core platform divisions was evident during our visits to Microsoft’s Inspire and Ignite global partner events and his familiarity with the Dynamics platform has seen Microsoft Dynamics and Microsoft Office emerge as the core platforms for Microsoft.

Microsoft’s recent reorganisation demonstrates its commitment to a Cloud and AI enabled future with Dynamics and Office at its core. Windows, so long the core platform of Microsoft, is diminishing in importance for the organisation as consumers and organisations alike turn toward mobile computing platforms to facilitate day-to-day activity.

Microsoft has started to embrace open source solutions. Microsoft Azure can now host open source operating systems and storage solutions. This makes it a more compelling offering to organisations who like what Microsoft offers from a security and resilience perspective but want the flexibility that this wider support for open source brings.

New partners

Microsoft has always understood the impact its partner community has on its performance. From the global annual partner events to the local partner briefings, Microsoft has always worked hard to ensure that partners feel empowered and a part of the Microsoft family.

Over recent years however, Microsoft has become frustrated with its partner community. The reason for this frustration has been the partner community’s apparent unwillingness to scale to embrace the opportunity that Microsoft sees its products provide.

In 2017, Microsoft announced a complete reboot of its sales organisation. Central to this was a renewed focus on partners and we have already witnessed many of the benefits this brings. As an ambitious Microsoft partner this focus aligns perfectly with our strategy and focus on Microsoft as our core technology partner.

New communities

Microsoft’s recent acquisition of GitHub deepens its long-standing “pro-Developer” stance and demonstrates its new commitment and support of open source solutions. However, it is when this acquisition is viewed alongside the previous acquisition of LinkedIn we see Microsoft’s true objective. Microsoft now recognises that community is at the heart of digital transformation. With LinkedIn, Microsoft already oversees the largest online professional community in the world with over half a billion users. With GitHub, Microsoft oversees the largest online developer community in the world.

By placing community at the heart of Microsoft’s strategy, Microsoft is placing itself at the centre of the digital world. GitHub gives Microsoft the potential to allow itself to be the default option for developers building the applications that will change the way we live and work.

“Microsoft’s recent reboot demonstrates its commitment to a Cloud and AI enabled future with Dynamics and Office at its core.”

Market trends

Prolonged austerity

Since 2008 and the global financial collapse, the UK Public Sector has faced a prolonged period of austerity. Over the last 12 months all Public Sector organisations realise that austerity is not a storm they have to ride out, rather it has become the new norm.

Public Sector organisations continue to look for new and innovative solutions to help them do more with less. For Incremental this continued pressure on budgets provides a significant market opportunity as we believe embracing the power of digital technology is the only way by which the required continual productivity improvements can be made.

“Continued pressure on budgets provides a significant market opportunity as we believe embracing the power of digital technology is the only way by which the required continual productivity improvements can be made.”

Intelligent augmentation

AI is already having a significant impact within the professional services world. Once deemed immune to the impact of automation, much of the activity undertaken by skilled legal and financial professionals is now ripe for automation. This realisation is already focusing the minds of many organisations within the professional services sector as they seek to understand how AI and RPA will reshape the way in which this sector operates.

Incremental is proactively engaging with organisations in this sector to provide our skills and capability to support businesses navigate the significant challenges ahead. Our Dynamics, Intelligence and Consultancy teams are working closely together to enable professional services organisations to augment their human capability with the very best that AI has to offer.

Low-margin energy

Despite the recent recovery in oil prices, the energy industry recognises that the future for the industry is a low margin one. This transition will take some adjustment, however we believe it is energy businesses who embrace this quickest that will be successful. For the International Oil Companies (IOCs), this transition is already underway.

Over the last 12 months, Incremental has engaged with several IOCs as they seek new and innovative solutions to reduce operating costs and increase productivity and we see this trend as providing fertile ground for our approach and service offerings.

“Over the last 12 months, Incremental has engaged with several IOCs as they seek new and innovative solutions to reduce operating costs and increase productivity.”