IBM Cloud evan­ge­lists storm Lagos, preach digital trans­for­ma­tion

Data has been de­scribed as the world's new nat­u­ral re­source and key to com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage, fu­el­ing vast eco­nomic growth and so­ci­etal progress.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - By Obinna Ig­we­buike

Ad­if­fer­ent type of cloud evan­ge­lists stormed Lagos last month, as most parts of Nige­ria (and West Africa) ex­pe­ri­enced pro­longed pe­ri­ods of rain­fall in­ter­spersed by sunny skies and heavy cu­mu­lonim­bus clouds.

Amidst the city's flooded, traf­fic­jammed boule­vards and the wet, hu­mid environs, the friendly geeks at IBM hosted busi­ness and pub­lic sec­tor chief ex­ec­u­tives, chief tech­nol­ogy, chief hu­man re­sources, and chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cers at an IBM Cloud In­no­va­tion Fo­rum, to dis­cuss cloud dis­rup­tion strate­gies and how to ac­cel­er­ate in­no­va­tion with Hy­brid Cloud.

An old friend and col­league, and an IBMer (as IBM staff call them­selves), had in­vited me to this event. I had some idea about IBM's cloud so­lu­tions, but I ab­so­lutely looked for­ward to un­der­stand­ing more about the use cases for these so­lu­tions. The learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was great as IBM's sub­ject­mat­ter ex­perts clearly ar­tic­u­lated the com­mer­cial and so­cial ben­e­fits of cloud, big data, an­a­lyt­ics and the emerg­ing era of cog­ni­tive com­put­ing. This event of­fered me an op­por­tu­nity to gauge the in­ten­sity of IBM's cloud mes­sag­ing, and I was ea­ger to see how well IBM's cloud ca­pa­bil­i­ties could im­pact the quest for com­mer­cially-vi­able digital trans­for­ma­tion ini­tia­tives in cor­po­rate Nige­ria.

It was in­ter­est­ing to learn that more than half of IBM's work is now fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing and sell­ing soft­ware, as well as pro­vid­ing man­age­ment and tech­nol­ogy con­sult­ing ser­vices to gov­ern­ments and busi­nesses all over the world.

Africa is now home to two IBM re­search labs, lo­cated in Kenya and South Africa. Nige­ria, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco and South Africa also have IBM Client In­no­va­tion Cen­ters. Ac­cord­ing to my friend, these fa­cil­i­ties are part of IBM's global net­work of tech­nol­ogy hubs, which sup­port lo­cal tech in­no­va­tors and de­vel­op­ers.

In­ter­est­ingly, as much as 70% of the world's data is cur­rently man­aged on IBM sys­tems. As I was pon­der­ing on the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of this fact, a par­tic­i­pant spoke about the need for IBM to do a bet­ter job of preach­ing the gospel of big data, cog­ni­tive and cloud com­put­ing to Nige­rian busi­nesses and govern­ment agen­cies., The par­tic­i­pant said this was im­por­tant, es­pe­cially as IBM is well equipped and well po­si­tioned to do so, con­sid­er­ing that 80% of Nige­rian banks cur­rently drive their crit­i­cal back-end and ser­vice de­liv­ery op­er­a­tions with IBM en­ter­prise sys­tems.

In my role at Sawubona Ad­vi­sory Ser­vices, I lead a con­sult­ing and an­a­lyst team that helps clients across West Africa start and grow busi­nesses. We sup­port them with fund rais­ing and strat­egy ad­vi­sory, busi­ness plan­ning and fi­nan­cial mod­el­ing. Over the last year or so, the role of soft­ware and data an­a­lyt­ics in achiev­ing these ob­jec­tives has be­come more ob­vi­ous. Dipo Faulkner, IBM's coun­try gen­eral man­ager for Nige­ria told me IBM's pres­ence in Nige­ria dates back to the early 1960s. “I think you will find out that as economies and com­pa­nies grow and ma­ture over time, they be­gin to be­come more so­phis­ti­cated in their use of tech­nol­ogy, and smart soft­ware so­lu­tions be­come in­te­gral to their op­er­a­tional ef­fi­cien­cies and ser­vice de­liv­ery,” Faulkner said.

Cloud com­put­ing is es­sen­tially about man­ag­ing data ef­fi­ciently and op­ti­mally. Data has been de­scribed as the world's new nat­u­ral re­source and key to com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage, fu­el­ing vast eco­nomic growth and so­ci­etal progress. I get the feel­ing IBMers be­lieve they have the obli­ga­tion to pro­mote the phi­los­o­phy of cloud and cog­ni­tive com­put­ing. But clearly, Nige­ria's cloud adop­tion rate is not as fast as IBM would like. Could the ex­tant macroe­co­nomic cli­mate be in­flu­enc­ing busi­ness ap­petite for tech­nol­ogy adop­tion?

I was also very cu­ri­ous to see how Sawubona's busi­ness model could evolve more rad­i­cally by build­ing the com­pe­tence re­quired to cre­ate value for clients around data and cloud. I knew that for many dis­cern­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions, cloud adop­tion has moved be­yond the stage of sim­ply ac­quir­ing tech­nol­ogy to us­ing cloud tech­nol­ogy to power busi­ness in­no­va­tion. Ex­perts also say the most in­no­va­tive com­pa­nies are us­ing the cloud to move into new in­dus­tries, trans­form cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences, de­velop new rev­enue sources and in­vent new busi­ness mod­els.

So, cloud tech­nol­ogy is about digital trans­for­ma­tion. As each IBM sub­ject­mat­ter ex­pert spoke about how com­pa­nies could adopt the cloud to dis­rupt and ac­cel­er­ate in­no­va­tion, it

be­came clear that the de­ci­sion to move to the cloud was also al­ways go­ing to be a con­ver­sa­tion around stream­lin­ing IT in­fras­truc­ture and costs.

Cloud in­fras­truc­ture of­fers in­sti­tu­tions a cost-ef­fec­tive plat­form for an­a­lyz­ing so-called “Big Data”, and al­lows them to pro­vi­sion, test, and de­ploy ser­vice in­no­va­tions far faster than tra­di­tional IT sys­tems. Abiye Koko, Ac­cess Bank's CTO spoke at the fo­rum on how the bank's IT trans­for­ma­tion ex­pe­ri­ence was an on­go­ing jour­ney of in­no­va­tion and dis­cov­ery – from fi­nan­cial prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and ser­vice de­liv­ery op­ti­miza­tion, to tech­nol­ogy re­source man­age­ment. IBM says it is best po­si­tioned to lead these phases of the cloud build.

“Hy­brid Cloud is the new norm,” said An­thony But­ler, CTO, IBM MEA. But­ler told par­tic­i­pants that cloud is now at a tip­ping point to be­come a true busi­ness plat­form for in­no­va­tion – a plat­form on which or­ga­ni­za­tions will be able to cre­ate new busi­nesses, con­sumer mod­els and pro­cesses; con­nect and un­lock bil­lions of value in ex­ist­ing ap­pli­ca­tions and data; and op­ti­mize ev­ery work­load ac­cord­ing to its best fit (pub­lic, pri­vate and/or on­premises) and ac­cord­ing to eco­nomics, flex­i­bil­ity, per­for­mance, data lo­ca­tion, etc.

So just how big is this cloud op­por­tu­nity? In­ter­na­tional Data Cor­po­ra­tion (IDC) pre­dicts that over 80% of en­ter­prise IT or­ga­ni­za­tions will com­mit to hy­brid cloud ar­chi­tec­tures by the end of 2017. Gart­ner, a world lead­ing re­search and ad­vi­sory com­pany, es­ti­mates that the world's in­for­ma­tion will grow by 800% in the next five years, with 80% of that data be­ing un­struc­tured – in­clud­ing health records, au­dio and video files, sen­sor read­ings, e-mail mes­sages, web pages and more.

This growth in data is ex­pected to drive in­no­va­tion in an­a­lyt­ics, nat­u­ral lan­guage pro­cess­ing, ma­chine and deep learn­ing. This will help cre­ate more ro­bust set of tools for the world to make sense of the data avail­able (es­sen­tially, gen­er­ate in­sights from this data).

Nige­rian firms all need to in­put cloud con­sid­er­a­tions into their plan­ning. There al­ready ex­ists a rich body of use cases that show how age-old in­dus­try ver­ti­cals from medicine (and es­pe­cially pub­lic health) to ed­u­ca­tion, fi­nan­cial ser­vices, mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion, ur­ban re­newal and media & en­ter­tain­ment, have been en­hanced with the help of in­ci­sive points of ref­er­ence pro­vided by the range of hy­brid cloud ser­vices avail­able.

When we jux­ta­pose the world's fast­grow­ing vol­ume, va­ri­ety and velocity of data with the data man­age­ment and an­a­lyt­ics in­vest­ments firms like IBM are mak­ing around the world, it be­comes clear that com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ments that can 'cloud' their op­er­a­tions are in­deed in for a very ex­cit­ing fu­ture.

Let's be­gin to put on our cloud and cog­ni­tive lenses. Cloud should not just drive strat­egy. Cloud should 'be' strat­egy. Cloud and cog­ni­tive com­put­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties will un­der­pin the In­ter­net of Things (IoT) in­fras­truc­ture re­quired to ex­ist and thrive in the emerg­ing fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion.

Obinna Ig­we­buike

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