In the age of disruptive business models and constant competition, the travel and hospitality industry, like most industries, needs to deliver services in real-time. The Covid-19 pandemic has created a significant shift in the industry with a greater demand for competitive pricing to prevent loss of market share, targeted marketing to build loyalty, optimizing company staff, real-time inventory tracking, all of which require real-time data analysis. Companies must reinvent themselves into agile, connected travel platforms that go beyond the realms of smart phones and other wearable devices. 

Technology advances can enable highly personalized user experiences across a host of devices. For instance, form factors would not be limited to AR/VR glasses alone but extend to other wearables like contact lenses as well. Hearing devices could cater to selective hearing or provide real-time translation. However, these personalized experiences will further increase the need for heavy data management and processing as well as requirements for improved data privacy and security.

Meanwhile, customer preferences for better sanitary facilities, improved travel insurance coverage on trip cancellations, medical coverage, health checks and screening, touchless payments, etc. have also increased pressure on the industry.

Driving change to anticipate your needs

The travel and hospitality industry has risen to these concerns and opportunities in a revolutionary way, with cloud at the center. Here are a few purpose-built solutions targeted to anticipate customer needs.

Personalizing experiences  

Processing data at scale and generating predictive insights can help deliver highly personalized experiences to surprise and delight customers. Towards this, cloud partners like AWS use a comprehensive range of AI/ML services coupled with targeted communications, marketing campaigns, and tailored recommendations across a variety of channels, to deepen brand loyalty.

For instance, McDonald’s says it has enabled a faster, easier, and more rewarding drive-through experience using AWS technology. 

Staying connected 

An IOT suite of products can help achieve seamless connected experiences across a host of devices. Computer-vision technology that analyzes images and videos, aids in identity verification and surveillance during travel. AI-enabled chatbots with natural-sounding human speech capabilities, engage with customers to manage bookings, field inquiries, collect feedback, and deliver 24×7 automated assistance. AWS provides customers omnichannel engagement, over scalable cloud solutions with reliable and personalized customer service.

For instance, Priceline, a leading online travel company, states that it has optimized customer service during 3x call volume increase.

Optimizing operations and IT 

The airline industry uses forecasting for crew scheduling, fleet, and equipment management. Similarly, hotels predict guest inflow, make inventory adjustments, and release dynamic pricing offers. With real-time streaming and data processing capabilities, apps can be built to analyze video streams and live feeds from IOT devices. These detect fraud, which improves security and operational efficiency. AWS’ forecasting capabilities also provide actionable intelligence, based on ML, to help companies meet upcoming demands. It reduces IT costs by offering access to unused compute capacity at discounted prices and providing serverless technologies with pay-for-use billing model. 

For instance, Domino’s Pizza says it has increased the speed of its service delivery by using AWS for predictive ordering.

Reducing carbon footprint

Hotels use smart IOT sensors and automated systems for facility management, energy management, predictive equipment maintenance, and water metering. AWS brings together AI, ML, and IOT devices to make travel more sustainable. By monitoring fuel consumption, AWS provides recommendations that can be used to reduce emissions. Route optimization using AI/ML models reduces flight lengths and therefore fuel use.

For instance, Qantas Airlines cloud-based flight simulator helps to save millions of dollars in fuel costs each year.

The travel and hospitality industry has witnessed a massive slowdown due to the Covid-19 crisis. However, the cloud has presented effective ways to swiftly innovate, deliver personalized connected experiences, improve security, and contribute to a greener environment.

Author Bio

tcs

E-mail:  u.sircar@tcs.com

Ujjal Sircar is a technology leader within the Travel Transportation & Hospitality unit at TCS. Ujjal and his team helps enterprises build their digital transformation roadmap to enhance customer experience, increase operational efficiency, and enable digital growth. He along with his team have built solutions primarily for the Travel & Hospitality industry that enable enterprises to remain viable through agility and innovation. In his 20+ years of progressive IT career, Ujjal has assumed various responsibilities which include technology consulting, delivery direction, program management, and agile coaching. He is a distinguished Contextual Master in TCS and has a successful track record of working with leading enterprises spanning domains like Travel, Manufacturing, Life Sciences, and Human Resources.

To learn more, visit us here

Cloud Computing

The cloud offers limitless scalability and flexibility, powering digital transformation across every industry. But when not managed strategically in the long run, cloud spending can quickly escalate and impact margins, cost of goods sold (COGS), and cost of revenue (COR).

To optimize cloud investments, C-level executives are increasingly adopting cloud financial operations (FinOps). This framework positions organizations to manage their cloud investments more effectively, driving increased accountability to maximize business value. In this article, I’ll explore common cloud optimization and FinOps challenges and strategies for overcoming them.

1. Cloud usage & costs

Most enterprise companies have shared infrastructure, and managing cost allocation across marketing, HR, accounting, and other departments can be tricky. How they handle this depends upon the business-unit driver and the organization’s culture, typically defined at the C-level.

The business unit must tie back to the key performance indicators (KPIs) associated with the domain and the objectives and key results (OKRs). Managing and aligning cost allocation to the business unit requires real-time visibility and reporting around cloud costs and usage, with cost allocation constructs aligned to departmental needs. Organizations must examine shared resources, storage costs, network costs, platform services, monitoring, logging, and licensing. Then they must choose a financial model, whether an even split, fixed, or proportional model.

From a strategic perspective, some organizations set up executive sponsorship focusing on the FinOps maturity model and decision framework. Others start with a FinOps maturity assessment, establishing an actionable roadmap that defines the FinOps domain and organization roles and objectives, all aligned to business spending, efficiency, transparency, and compliance.

2. Performance tracking and benchmarking

When it comes to performance tracking and benchmarking, organizations frequently face challenges around resource utilization and efficiency. Utilization and efficiency provide vital insights for understanding the business value of expenses incurred. However, it can be challenging to measure the business value associated with each type of cloud resource based on performance, availability, and other factors.

Overcoming these challenges goes back to KPIs and OKRs. Organizations must define and track KPIs that meet efficiency and utilization objectives and deliver value-creation. For example, if the goal is to reduce hot storage, a KPI must be defined to meet the efficiency objective and deliver value creation—and it must be measured. This requires adopting the right FinOps tools, processes, and people.

3. Real-time decision making

A framework and accountability structure form the foundation for real-time decisions around usage, costs, and performance to meet organizational goals. However, establishing a FinOps decision framework and accountability structure can pose a challenge, particularly for those organizations with low FinOps maturity.

The organization must first perform a maturity assessment to understand the role of FinOps within the context of the overall organization. Once in place, the organization can develop and assign a repeatable process that enables real-time decision-making to a center of excellence, steering committee, or governance structure, depending upon the organization.

4. Cloud rate optimization

In this domain, organizations define and adjust pricing model goals based on historical data and make purchase decisions based on goals and discounts being offered—all to optimize cloud spending. Cloud service providers provide slightly different offerings with unique embedded discounts – some providers have computer unit discounts, and some have utilization-based pricing.

As a result, organizations often face challenges around data analysis, show-back, and managing commitment-based discounts. To address this, many enterprises use a KPI-driven, hybrid-cloud purchasing strategy to align their commitment period with infrastructure workload characteristics and lifecycle. This strategy aligns well with the concept of a smart cloud.

5. Cloud usage optimization

Dynamically matching cloud resources to demand to optimize cloud usage and ensure sufficient business value can also pose challenges.

That’s why organizations increasingly implement automated workload management solutions that match running resources to workload demand, scaling, de-scaling, and even turning off unused resources in real-time to maximize ROI while minimizing the TCO. Business-driven KPIs and OKRs help organizations define outliers and set the thresholds that inform alerts and actions.

6. Organizational alignment

FinOps capabilities are embedded within organizational processes and units, and often, this is where companies fail at FinOps. Unfortunately, many start with technology (tools) instead of organizational alignment, creating conflicts and challenges around policies, governance, and areas of responsibility.

Organizations must establish a FinOps framework at the C-level, complete with policies, processes, best practices, and a playbook that help ensure organizational alignment and buy-in. Once aligned, organizations can harvest the benefits of FinOps including:

Centralized smart-cloud cost managementAlignment to and accountability of cloud roles and usersImproved confidence and accuracy around budgets and forecastsAdvanced communication throughout the organization, creating a FinOps culture

Improve cloud optimization and FinOps maturity

As data volumes and usage grow, cloud FinOps enables organizations to manage cloud investments more strategically, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Understanding FinOps maturity can help organizations identify and resolve trouble areas to improve cloud optimization and accelerate business outcomes.

GDT can help your organization improve cloud optimization and FinOps maturity. By engaging with GDT, you’ll get a portfolio-level analysis of your FinOps maturity, along with cloud service optimization opportunities and recommendations to help you maximize spend efficiency, reduce cloud costs, and develop strategies for proactively and dynamically managing future expenses and utilization.

Contact the experts at GDT to learn more about improving cloud optimization and FinOps maturity.

Cloud Management

The public cloud offers plenty of tantalizing advantages to enterprise customers. The appeal of scalability, security, and performance — not to mention the elimination of massive capital expenditures — can be hard to resist. Countless enterprise businesses have flocked to the public cloud and never looked back.

Yet, for some, the benefits that looked alluring on paper can prove elusive in practice. That’s because the advantages of the public cloud are not ubiquitously available and synonymous for all. The reality is that while the public cloud works incredibly well for plenty of enterprise customers, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

However, that doesn’t mean that the public cloud’s signature pay-for-use pricing model can’t work in a private-cloud scenario. If you’re seeking the pricing and scalability of the public cloud, an on-demand private cloud may be the solution.

The public cloud is remarkable, but it isn’t for everyone

The public cloud has transformed business and can be an incredibly cost-effective option, especially when it comes to replacing a data center full of end-of-life equipment (or even eliminating the data center itself). The public cloud alleviates massive capital and operational expenditures associated with running a data center and the equipment it houses and spreads the costs into a pay-as-you-go and pay-for-what-you-use model. Organizations can scale up and down quickly and turn off workloads they aren’t using — all without the costs and headaches of on-premises infrastructure.

At the same time, the benefits and suitability vary depending on each enterprise business’s needs, challenges, processes, and infrastructure.

Possible unexpected costs

Predicting public cloud costs can be difficult. For example, we know that, by and large, putting data into the cloud isn’t the problem. Pulling that data out is where costs can add up. Such costs can be tricky to estimate due because needs may fluctuate from month to month or season to season.

Furthermore, well-intentioned organizations relish the idea of scalability and the capability to turn off unneeded workloads. The problem is, they often lack the processes and discipline to proactively manage these resources, and usage volumes and their associated costs can balloon quickly.

Then there’s shadow IT. It’s challenging to monitor unsanctioned applications and workloads in the public cloud, and their associated usage costs (and risks) can pile up.  

Potentially unfamiliar architectures

Public cloud providers have developed excellent solutions to secure data and ensure compliance. However, cloud architecture differs from traditional on-premises infrastructure, and the skillsets required to support these environments vary immensely.

Migrating to the public cloud fundamentally changes the security boundaries, accessibility, behaviors, and skillsets required to support your infrastructure. Employees who are not highly trained in the cloud can inadvertently introduce security gaps and misconfiguration. Because information sits in the public cloud, these risks can pose much bigger threats than they might in a traditional on-premises infrastructure.  

Application behavior impacts

Application behavior can also be an issue, particularly for workloads not optimized for the cloud or workloads that rely on decentralized edge processing. Sometimes, organizations shift their workloads to the public cloud but find that as data gets passed back and forth, application performance decreases as latency increases — as do egress fees for cloud bandwidth — in turn negatively impacting the user experience.

Scalability and pricing of public cloud in a private cloud

Fortunately, cloud-based pricing structures can exist in private data-center infrastructure. Some models allow organizations to enjoy demand-driven, consumption-based pricing without moving to the public cloud and without the need to adopt a CapEx-driven private infrastructure.

Predictable, pay-as-you-go OpEx model

In the on-demand private cloud model, organizations enjoy the flexibility and future scalability of a public cloud without the CapEx outlay of traditional IT infrastructure. This pay-for-use consumption model works well for organizations that understand their future sizing needs but don’t want to assume capital expenditures. The costs are predictable. Furthermore, organizations have increased visibility into resource usage — something that can prove more challenging in the public cloud.

Familiar on-premises architectures

As mentioned, the skillsets required to support public-cloud architectures differ from those needed to support on-premises architectures. By deploying a private-cloud architecture, the enterprise can leverage traditional security architectures, which may better align with an organization’s culture and the available skillsets.

Predictable application performance

Finally, in an on-demand private cloud, there’s no need to move applications, no need to refactor applications to be cloud-native, and no risk of unwanted behaviors turning up unexpectedly. You don’t have to worry about how your move to the public cloud will impact application performance.

GDT delivers on-demand private-cloud solutions on HPE GreenLake

Whether your organization is considering repatriation from public to private cloud or embracing the scalability and pay-as-you-go pricing in a private-cloud model, GDT has experts who can help you assess your needs and architect the right solution for your enterprise.

Leveraging HPE GreenLake, GDT can deliver a purpose-built, on-demand private-cloud architecture that suits your needs today and in the future. GDT has some of the world’s leading, most experienced experts across cloud, data center, and hybrid multi-cloud. Whether you’re looking to move to a private, public, or hybrid multi-cloud, GDT has the experience and expertise to ensure a successful journey. 

Call us today, and we can discuss how to architect a best-in-breed solution to meet your specific enterprise needs.

Cloud Management

By Andy Nallappan, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Software Business Operations, Broadcom Software

Last month at Gartner Symposium in Orlando, Fla., I enjoyed talking with ZDNet’s Chris Preimesberger and Sahana Sarma, leader of Google Cloud’s transformation advisory, about the enterprise software landscape and how it is growing more complex and business-critical daily. Transforming and modernizing software are key priorities for global organizations and critical to achieving the highest level of security and compliance. Many industries, from manufacturing, to automotive or financial service are becoming increasingly software-driven, changing their traditional portfolio mix and business models.

Here are some key points from that discussion:

Investing in R&D

At Broadcom we are seeing some of the same challenges our customers face that lead them to transform their software including: business transformation, talent risks, and managing costs. In a hyper competitive market where start-ups are challenging the established enterprises, companies are looking to pivot their business models through digital transformation. For Broadcom, who is experiencing some of the same challenges, it’s interesting to note that R&D spend has out-paced our revenue by almost 50%. That tells you quite a bit about how we approach doing our business and the importance we place on innovation.

Broadcom wasn’t originally a software company – it started in the early 1960s as the processor-making division of HP – but we got into the software business when we acquired CA Technologies and the Symantec Enterprise business. They were not modern cloud-based software companies and their portfolios were a mix of traditional on-prem software, cloud services, and some cloud-native.

One of the biggest challenges Broadcom had was to standardize platforms and processes of our acquired software companies, and so Broadcom Software worked closely with Google Cloud on this transformation journey, leading us to modernize and transform our own enterprise software. We wanted to standardize and put into a single, cloud-native platform all of our software, where it could give the biggest benefits to customers, and so it could scale, be resilient, and secure.

Continuous Innovation

With our Google Cloud journey, we’ve brought all of our software platforms onto a single SaaS platform. One of the reasons our customers want SaaS applications is that they want to see innovation happening at a faster rate. If you’re using a traditional on-prem application, you have to do upgrades and reinstalls, and it takes years to get it completed.

So as a software provider, we’ve got to deliver those SaaS apps in that space and the new features that go with them, and we need to do them in a speedy DevOps manner. Going to the cloud and modernizing (these systems) enables our developers to deliver all of this to the expectations of our customers in order to help them transform their businesses.

At Broadcom, we worked to give each of our software divisions a single pane of glass to better manage the business and track what was happening from the sales motion to customer adoption to R&D spend.  We also centralized software operations so the engineers could focus on delivering technologies that solved big, complex problems for our customers — in a way we liberated them to focus on great innovations and stronger customer experiences.

Sahana shared that at Google Cloud what they see from their customers when they transform their software is that they get to introduce more modern practices into their technology stack like containerization. So by having a more modern software stack, you can easily add in newer technologies — which introduces innovations. And by developing, adopting and promoting Open Source technologies Google Cloud ensures the neutrality of cloud and helps safeguard investments. Finally, by using Google Cloud as the backbone, you can free up software engineers to focus on new technologies and new ideas since they are not bogged down by complexities of different architectures and platforms.

Exceptional Experiences

Transforming and modernizing your software stack can help customers deliver better experiences for their customers and employees including:

Always available and auto-scalable: Clients deliver improved experience to their end customers with an always available and auto-scalable technology stack to meet customer demands with unparalleled responsiveness leveraging our fastest and safest global networkModernizing applications: Using solutions like Apigee and Anthos customers are unlocking their traditional systems to leverage the flexibility and agility of Cloud. If systems are unified, end-users can get what they need done in fewer steps. It improves the overall experience the end users have with the product or brand.AI & ML: A modernized technology stack allows them to leverage AI & ML tools, making it easier for our customers to anticipate the needs of their end-users to deliver better experience, besides significantly improving operational efficiencies

Reducing IT Complexity

Obviously the benefit of reducing IT Complexity helps customers to see a large range of benefits like faster delivery of products, improved compliance, and higher level of security when they modernize. The more complex your IT architecture is, with different platforms or silos, the more risk you introduce. By modernizing and having an open system, you can reduce IT complexity and therefore reduce risk. Most importantly, a modernized technology stack helps to quickly adapt and respond to the market, economic and customer demands. By transforming and modernizing you can lessen IT complexity and not only lower risk but deliver more success for your business and your customers.

To learn more about how Broadcom Software can help you modernize, optimize, and protect your enterprise, contact us here.

About Andy Nallappan:

Broadcom Software

Andy is the Chief Technology Officer and Head of Software Business Operations for Broadcom Software. He oversees the DevOps, SaaS Platform & Operations, and Marketing for the software business divisions within Broadcom.

Cloud Security, IT Leadership

Changes Microsoft made to its cloud licensing of Windows and application software to “make bringing workloads and licenses to partners’ clouds easier,” the company says, have drawn the ire of those cloud partners, some of whom have jointly filed an antitrust complaint in the European Union.

They’re concerned that Microsoft is using software licensing to limit European businesses’ choice of cloud service provider for services including desktop virtualization and application hosting.

Microsoft’s licensing changes came into effect on October 1, 2022.

Microsoft chief partner officer Nicole Dezen described the changes as making it easier for enterprises to bring software they had licensed to a partner’s cloud — for example running applications on Windows 11 on multi-tenant servers — and for service providers to build and sell solutions more easily in their preferred cloud.

However, changes also include some notable restrictions. Enterprises can’t move their existing licensed software to the clouds of Alibaba, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure or any outsourcer relying on their infrastructure, and they would instead have to acquire new licenses from the relevant hosting service.

That’s great news for small regional cloud hosts — unless their services, like those of Netherlands-based Leaseweb, include the creation of hybrid clouds involving their own infrastructure and that of Microsoft Azure, or one of the other hyperscalers on Microsoft’s exclusion list.

It was those restrictions that annoyed Cloud Infrastructure Service Providers in Europe (CISPE), a Belgian non-profit whose members include Amazon Web Services, a raft of French web and application hosting companies (of which the best-known is OVH), Leaseweb in the Netherlands, and other domestic and multinational hosting companies based in Finland, Italy, and Spain.

Formal complaint

On November 9, 2022, CISPE filed a formal complaint with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition (DG Comp), the top antitrust authority for the European Union’s 27 member states. It said, “Microsoft uses its dominance in productivity software to direct European customers to its own Azure cloud infrastructure to the detriment of European cloud infrastructure providers and users of IT services.”

CISPE declined to provide full details of its complaint, citing the need to give the European Commission’s case team time to read it first, but has released an executive summary.

A European Commission spokeswoman said that CISPE had informed the Commission it would submit a complaint against Microsoft, and that the Commission would assess it based on its standard procedure.

The first step in that procedure is to determine whether Microsoft holds a dominant position in the market the complaint concerns. Then, it may choose to open an investigation into whether that dominance is being abused. At the end of that investigation, it may issue a statement of objections, to which the parties to the case may respond before the Commission reaches a formal decision, which may result in enforcing action or a fine.

Three in a row

It’s not the first such complaint the Commission has received from Microsoft rivals, though. In early 2021, German online storage service provider NextCloud filed a complaint with DG Comp regarding Microsoft bundling Onedrive with its Microsoft365 software suite. Its complaint later won the support of a host of European online service providers, different from CISPE’s membership.

OVH, along with fellow CISPE member Aruba.it and a consortium of Danish cloud service providers, then followed, filing a joint complaint about Microsoft’s practices in early 2022, an OVH spokeswoman said.

After those two complaints became public, Microsoft president Brad Smith acknowledged on the company’s blog in May the validity of some claims and announced plans to support European cloud providers through changes to licensing — the changes that came into effect on October 1, 2022.

Whether the third complaint, CISPE’s, will prompt further changes in Microsoft’s stance remains to be seen. But this is perhaps the best hope for enterprises and service providers affected by the licensing rules. While European Union antitrust cases can result in big fines, they proceed extremely slowly.

Previous European antitrust actions against Microsoft over the bundling of one its products with another have dragged on for years. In 2004 the company paid a $611 million fine after the Commission found it guilty of illegally bundling media player software with Windows XP (launched in 2001), and then $357 million in 2006 and another $1.3 billion in 2008 for failing to comply with the 2004 ruling.

In 2013, it was also fined $731 million for bundling its Internet Explorer browser with Windows 7, a case that began in 2011 against an operating system launched in 2009.

Cloud Computing, Cloud Management, Cloud Storage, Microsoft, Software Licensing

Based in Italy and with more than 20 years of experience helping enterprises, from large international firms to emerging mid-sized operations, grow their businesses with technology, WIIT serves a rapidly expanding and diverse customer base. With a full portfolio that includes an extensive array of cloud offerings – including private, public, and hybrid cloud services – the company is well-known for its track record of success in helping organizations realize the full potential of the cloud while bypassing the complexity often associated with large-scale digital transformations.

Serving leaders in the energy, fashion, financial services, food, healthcare, manufacturing, media, pharmaceutical, professional services, retail, and telecommunications industries, WIIT works with organizations that have stringent business continuity needs, mission-critical applications, and crucial data security and sovereignty requirements. Customers draw on the company’s full suite of solutions which includes everything from digital collaboration tools, a full cybersecurity stack, extensive software development services, and innovations that let customers embrace the Internet of Things.

We recently caught up with Alessandro Cozzi, founder and CEO of WIIT to learn about the company, what he’s seeing in its burgeoning cloud business, and what he feels will be the next big thing. We also took the opportunity to learn why it was important to achieve the VMware Cloud Verified distinction, not just for WIIT, but the companies it serves in Italy, Germany, and around the globe.

“The traditional IT model is no longer sustainable,” says Cozzi. “Often the most value of the cloud lies in hybrid architectures that for the vast majority of enterprises are complex to design and manage. We offer a platform that secures and optimizes the full mix of disparate infrastructure, from edge computing to public cloud, that many organizations need. We also govern it with specialized expertise, certifications, and top-tier proprietary assets that enable us to exceed the most demanding service level agreements.”

Notably, WIIT offers a highly customized Premium Cloud that is uniquely tailored to each organization, a Premium Private offering for critical applications, and a Public Cloud that offers seamless connectivity to Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. The company’s Premium Multicloud services enable customers to combine elements of each to best address their needs.

Cozzi notes that WIIT’s Premium Private Cloud ensures extremely high levels of security, scalability, and data reliability, while the public clouds are complimentary especially for applications that aren’t critical. He also points out that hyperscalers are becoming specialized, prompting more companies to rely on services from different cloud providers.

“The hybrid cloud is often the answer when there is a need to host systems in more than one location for international processes, regulatory needs, network latency, data sovereignty, or application requirements,” he adds. “At WIIT we engineer, implement, and govern custom hybrid cloud and multi-cloud models in conjunction with the complex IT architectures our customers need. And we make the most of the unique capabilities of different clouds and data centers to ensure that our clients can continually evolve their businesses.”

Cozzi stresses that VMware’s trusted technologies and new innovations play a pivotal role in these efforts. It’s what led the company to achieve the VMware Cloud Verified distinction.

“WIIT is among the most innovative cloud solutions and service providers in Europe,” he says. “Most of our customers rely on VMware technologies for critical services. Showing that we have deep expertise with them is yet another way that we provide peace of mind and a serene cloud journey.”

Not surprisingly, Cozzi only sees cloud adoption increasing in light of customers’ success in growing their businesses with the cloud and the new capabilities a flexible, hybrid approach makes possible.

“It gives me great pride that today we’re able to remove so much of the complexity involved in even the largest, most involved cloud deployments so that customers simply experience the full potential of the cloud,” says Cozzi. “But I’m also really excited about the innovations we are seeing in the world of applications and the advancements in cloud microservices now taking shape. The impact of the cloud will only increase.  We’re intent to grow a business that continues to offer customers secure and innovative cloud services that recognize not only people, but also the environment, as a strategic priority.  Ultimately, we are committed to being a key player not just in the realm of digital transformations, but also in just and sustainable transitions of infrastructure and the businesses processes and practices it is used for.”    

Learn more about WIIT and its partnership with VMware here.

Cloud Management, IT Leadership, VMware

Contact centers are evolving rapidly. The days of single-channel, telephony-based call centers are long gone. This old model has given way to the omnichannel customer experience center.

In legacy call centers, the customer’s pathway through sales or service was relatively linear. Call in, speak to an agent, and (hopefully) resolve the issue. In this system, the manager’s focus was strictly on ensuring there would be enough well-trained staff to handle every call as efficiently as possible.

Nowadays, however, the customer journey is more complex, and the path to successful customer experience (CX) may weave its way through various channels, touching both human and robot agents along the way. Today’s managers must not only build an adequate staff, but they must also choose the right solutions to effectively meld together technological and human elements to deliver a near-flawless CX. 

Although many solutions have proved important for managers seeking to create successful contact centers, none are more important than the cloud and conversational AI. You might think of these as the twin pillars of success for today’s contact centers. However, as we’ll discuss here, they’re not sufficient on their own. There’s a third pillar to consider: quality assurance, or dedication to ensuring a finely tuned customer experience at every stage in the customer journey.

The cloud makes the contact center omnipresent

It looks like we’ve reached the tipping point for cloud adoption in contact centers. Deloitte reports that 75% of contact centers plan to migrate their operations to the cloud by mid-2023, if they haven’t already done so. IDC forecasts that investments in cloud solutions will account for 67% of infrastructure spending by 2025, compared to only 33% for non-cloud solutions. Genesys, a major contact center provider, recently announced that, going forward, it will focus its efforts on its Genesys Cloud CX software rather than its on-premises solutions.  

Considering the cloud’s potential, it’s not surprising to see that it’s taking over. Fundamentally, the cloud allows contact centers to keep pace with the changing expectations of employees and customers simultaneously.

The pandemic quickly changed what both groups were looking for. Employees came to expect more accommodating remote work arrangements, and those expectations have held strong even in 2022. According to research by Gallup, only 6% of workers who can do their jobs remotely actually want to return to a full on-site arrangement. Expectations for CX, meanwhile, have continued to rise to new heights, whether in terms of omnichannel service or personalized experiences.

The cloud makes it much easier for contact centers to meet these expectations. Without the need to rely on legacy, brick-and-mortar infrastructure, remote agents can deliver service to customers from anywhere at any time. Plus, the cloud more effectively facilitates seamless omnichannel service delivery and efficient software updates.

From setup to ongoing execution, the cloud is simply easier to manage. With no telecom hardware to purchase, installation and setup happen more quickly. And contact centers can rapidly scale up and down as needed, and when needed, allowing them to effectively manage costs.

The net effect of these benefits is that the cloud creates a new kind of contact center — one that’s omnipresent to deliver a modern customer experience from anywhere and to anyone.

Conversational AI transforms CX

One of the key benefits of moving to the cloud is the availability of conversational AI that can power self-service solutions. This technology, which is indispensable to chatbots and IVR, enables bots to interact with customers in natural — even human — ways.

Thanks to powerful components of AI, such as natural language processing and machine learning, bots are increasingly able to provide much of the service customers seek. In fact, in today’s self-service economy, conversational AI allows consumers to solve many of their own issues. Even more, the machine learning capabilities of AI allow it to easily and quickly collect customer data and use it to personalize the service experience. Unsurprisingly, organizations that employ conversational AI see a 3.5-fold increase in customer satisfaction rates.

That boost in customer satisfaction stems not only from offering personalized self-service, but also from organizations making the most of their human service. While bots handle many of the simpler requests, they reserve agents’ time for handling more complex matters. Ultimately, companies that deploy them can improve customer service while also cutting costs by between 15% and 70%.

This AI-powered CX transformation is already well underway in many industries. Banks use conversational AI to power customer self-service with simple tasks, like money transfers and balance inquiries. Hotels employ it to offer streamlined booking and concierge services. And retailers put it to work engaging customers in more personalized ways.

These are only a few of the basic benefits that forward-thinking companies can gain from deploying conversational AI. Its more advanced forms will power a new kind of proactive CX in the years ahead, shaped by powerful tools like sentiment analysis. 

True success requires a third pillar: quality assurance

Although critical for today’s contact centers, those two pieces are incomplete without the third pillar of quality assurance.

The expanded service capacities enabled by the cloud and conversational AI add new layers of complexity to a contact center’s CX delivery. Cloud migration, for instance, often involves bringing together many disparate legacy systems and remapping the entire customer journey. It requires extensive testing and mapping to make sure it’s done right. 

And as powerful as conversational AI is, it still requires a lot of human guidance to ensure it’s doing its job correctly. Without the capacity for that guidance, IVR or chatbot solutions may cause more CX problems than they solve. They can also be more costly — defects discovered in the IVR or chatbot production environment are much more expensive to undo than they would be when discovered in design.

The best way to provide cost-effective quality assurance is through a robust set of testing solutions that can work with any cloud, IVR, or chatbot solution that a contact center uses. As a platform-agnostic CX assurance solution, that’s exactly what Cyara is designed to do. 

With a powerful solution like Cyara, businesses can speed up cloud migration, correct voice quality issues, load-test IVRs, and performance-test chatbots, regardless of which solutions they use. They can even run more advanced chatbot tests to see how well they follow natural human conversation flows and recognize various speech patterns.

This kind of quality assurance allows contact centers to jump to the cloud and deploy conversational AI with confidence, knowing that both will push their CX forward. Together, these three pillars provide a firm foundation for contact centers of the future.

Ready to get started? Cyara can provide assurance for your cloud migration so you can start building these pillars. Reach out to get started today.

Digital Transformation

In a world where sustainability has become the new norm, technology is a key driving force for innovative businesses. Today, companies are looking for sustainable ways to reinvent the entire ecosystem of customers, suppliers, contract manufacturers, logistics service providers, and partners to support their supply chains from product design to operation.

Let’s look at last year’s SAP Innovation Awards (SIA2022) winner cases to see how future-minded companies are harnessing cloud technologies to create economic, social, and environmental impacts to improve people’s lives.

Improve decision-making with real-time planning

The 50th Anniversary Legend of the SIA2022 program, Freudenberg Home and Cleaning Solutions GmbH (FHCS), used different planning approaches and sources, which made it difficult to get a consolidated enterprise-wide view.

FHCS integrated its landscape built on SAP ERP and SAP Business Warehouse with specialized forecasting in SAP Integrated Business Planning (IBP). Having a single, centralized source of data enabled the company to generate simulations, planning, and reporting solutions based on SAP Analytics Cloud. It now takes FHCS only two days to create an initial top-down production plan. By standardizing forecasting processes across its consumer products division, Freudenberg achieved 10x faster planning despite larger data volumes and greater granularity.

Agile decision-making is key in volatile business environments. The process involves several factors that create complications. That’s why having a closed-loop planning process based on a single source is essential for companies to plan not only values but also volumes at any level of detail, which helps them avoid discrepancies between financial and operational plans.

Utilize machine learning and artificial intelligence for sustainable logistics

As more and more companies step into the sustainability game, ensuring sustainable logistics processes is now less of a trend and more of a necessity. Companies that realized the importance of moving beyond financial measures have been using artificial intelligence and machine learning for having full visibility into the supply chain operations.

Arpa Industriale, the SIA2022 building products industry social catalyst award winner, needed to respond to explosive growth in demand. The company was looking for a way to optimize and stabilize that production process while meeting ambitious targets for renewable energy use and reduction of waste and resource consumption.

The Italian manufacturer connected all vehicles in the factory warehouse in real time to work autonomously 24/7 with the goal of loading and reloading bar-coded rolls of raw materials. The sales orders in the system automatically update SAP Extended Warehouse Management, SAP Manufacturing Execution, and SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence for raw material provisioning and production-line scheduling.

With real-time data and machine-learning algorithms analyzing every millisecond of their daily operations, the company reduced energy and water consumption by 80%. By using scrap monitoring dashboards in manufacturing operations, Arpa reduced scrap waste by 96% and saved €750,000 in the first year.

Synchronize physical and digital worlds in Metaverse

Imagine a digital world independent of physical conditions in which you can provide real-time information and a collaborative working environment for employees, business partners, and customers all around the world regardless of distance and physical barriers.

Automotive industry leader award owner Martur Fompak created a metaverse that synchronizes a convergence of the physical and digital worlds. The Turkish car manufacturer created digital twins of 45 robotic welding cells and integrated them into the virtual environment to monitor product and process parameters and calculate real-time carbon emission and energy consumption. The digital twins are implemented using two-way IoT connections with the SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence and SAP Manufacturing Execution platform and synchronized with the physical world.

By running real-time analytics, Martur Fompak reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 12%.

Generate renewable energy with predictive maintenance

As one of the most eco-friendly energy sources, solar panels are the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source that helps companies save time and cost to reach net-zero emission goals.

ENGIE, the utility industry leader and winner of SIA2022, has moved to renewable energy with predictive maintenance in solar farms. The French energy giant utilized 7,600 solar panels in the scope of the digital twin project for maintenance management. This allowed the ENGIE subsidiary in Chile to get an insightful combination of data for optimizing maintenance activities under a cost-benefit evaluation. Generated alerts were 100% reliable, which helped ENGIE reduce the overall cost by 45% for the maintenance of solar panels and inverters.

Focus on end-to-end digitization, not on the problem

Even though companies started their digitization journey a long time ago they can end up with fragmented systems that hinder them to extract meaningful data. Focusing only on the problem area or one aspect may not be the most substantial solution when it comes to digitization.

SIA2022 transformation champion category winner, Fulton County Schools (FCS), is the fourth largest school system in Georgia, with more than 17,600 employees. The school’s existing ERP was more than 12 years old. In addition, the asset management was handled via a third-party solution and not integrated with SAP. Moreover, the system required business users to perform complex manual tasks in multiple disparate systems which increased the risk of human error.

With SAP S/4HANA, FCS created the foundation for a centralized asset data repository, work order management, and equipment tracking to increase overall equipment effectiveness, reliability, and audibility. And with SAP Intelligent Asset Management, the school could identify items that it needed to order and capture while having insights into on-hand assets.

By focusing on transforming the entire organization, FCS is now able to proactively make decisions based on real-time actionable data. This enabled FCS to achieve 52% more accuracy and insights into invoices related to vendors and suppliers while increasing real-time reporting and analytics by 23%.

Discover how future-oriented business leaders embed sustainability within operations to accelerate advancements in both sustainability and operational outcomes: IDC Spotlight: Integrated Supply Chain Planning.

Cloud Computing

Developing a strategy for controlling hard-to-predict cloud costs, remains difficult, especially when considering the new decentralized model of procurement.

Consider this: “Any person who can commit code to the cloud can commit your organization to spend,” said Jennifer Hays, senior vice president of engineering efficiency and assurance at Fidelity Investments and the FinOps Foundation’s governance board chairperson.

Yet there may be solutions. Hays – along with National Grid CIO Andi Karaboutis, McDermott CIO Vagesh Dave, and Accenture’s Cloud First Global Strategy and Consulting Lead Ashley Skyrme – are among the speakers at CIO’s Future of Cloud Summit, taking place virtually on November 8.

The event will drill into key areas of cloud innovation, challenges, and leadership. It also will feature insights and tactical tips from the winners of IDC’s Future of Digital Infrastructure Awards.

The summit kicks off with an introduction to the new era of digital fluency from MJ Petroni, CEO and “Cyborg Anthropologist” at Causeit. Petroni will move beyond the latest industry buzzwords explain exactly how advanced technologies can and will affect their business. Petroni will return later in the day for an interactive discussion with attendees to give more context and answer questions live.

One challenge for today’s CIO is to get beyond the cloud hype and determine where it’s useful and where it’s not. Arthur Hu, senior vice president and global CIO of Lenovo, will talk about the company’s strategy on building scalable architecture with resiliency and agility in mind. Hu also will share how Lenovo incubated its own hybrid cloud module and spun it out as a new business unit.

Corralling the complexities of the cloud is another challenge. Stu Kippleman, CIO of Parsons Corporation, will give practical tips for business success.

One way to streamline operations is to migrate to an industry cloud. Discussing the pros and cons of these specialized clouds are Chad Wright, CIO of Boston Dynamics; Kumar Iyer, business technology senior leader at KeyBank; and IDC Research Manager Nadia Ballard.

What does a functioning cloud strategy look like in practice? Jeremy Meller, CIO at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, will share how it’s using cloud to advance data analytics and provide new patient services.

Finally, listen in to conversations with the winners of IDC’s Future of Digital Infrastructure Awards. Mary Johnston Turner, IDC’s research vice president of digital infrastructure will go inside the strategies and process of the winners in three categories: Autonomous Operations winner WSP, featuring Director of Global Networks Services Richard Evers; Cloud Technology winner Pac-12 Networks, featuring Ryan Currier, senior vice president of engineering and products; and Ubiquitous Deployment winner Utah Division of Technology Services, featuring Chief Operating Officer Daniel Harmuth.

Throughout the summit, sponsors including IBM Cloud and Freshworks will offer thought leadership and solutions on subjects such as creating a modern digital infrastructure.

Check out the full summit agenda here. The event is free to attend for qualified attendees. Don’t miss out – register today.

Cloud Computing, IDG Events, IT Strategy

The air travel industry has dealt with significant change and uncertainty in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, JetBlue Airways decided its competitive advantage depended on IT — in particular, on transforming its data stack to consolidate data operations, operationalize customer feedback, reduce downstream effects of weather and delays, and ensure aircraft safety.

“Back in 2020, the data team at JetBlue began a multi-year transformation of the company’s data stack,” says Ashley Van Name, general manager of data engineering at JetBlue. “The goal was to enable access to more data in near real-time, ensure that data from all critical systems was integrated in one place, and to remove any compute and storage limitations that prevented crewmembers from building advanced analytical products in the past.”

Prior to this effort, JetBlue’s data operations were centered on an on-premises data warehouse that stored information for a handful of key systems. The data was updated on a daily or hourly basis depending on the data set, but that still caused data latency issues.

“This was severely limiting,” Van Name says. “It meant that crewmembers could not build self-service reporting products using real-time data. All operational reporting needed to be built on top of the operational data storage layer, which was highly protected and limited in the amount of compute that could be allocated for reporting purposes.”

Data availability and query performance were also issues. The on-premises data warehouse was a physical system with a pre-provisioned amount of storage and compute, meaning that queries were constantly competing with data storage for resources.

“Given that we couldn’t stop analysts from querying the data they needed, we weren’t able to integrate as many additional data sets as we may have wanted in the warehouse — effectively, in our case, the ‘compute’ requirement won out over storage,” Van Name says.

The system was also limited to running 32 concurrent queries at any one time, which created a queue of queries on a daily basis, contributing to longer query run-times.

The answer? The Long Island City, N.Y.-based airlines decided to look to the cloud.

Near real-time data engine

JetBlue partnered with data cloud specialist Snowflake to transform its data stack, first by moving the company’s data from its legacy on-premises system to the Snowflake data cloud, which Van Name says greatly alleviated many of the company’s most immediate issues.

Ashley Van Name, general manager of data engineering, JetBlue

JetBlue

Jet Blue’s data team then focused on integrating critical data sets that analysts had not previously been able to access in the on-premises system. The team made more than 50 feeds of near real-time data available to analysts, spanning the airline’s flight movement system, crew tracking system, reservations systems, notification managers, check-in-systems, and more. Data from those feeds is available in Snowflake within a minute of being received from source systems.

“We effectively grew our data offerings in Snowflake to greater than 500% of what was available in the on-premise warehouse,” Van Name says.

JetBlue’s data transformation journey is just beginning. Van Name says moving the data into the cloud is just one piece of the puzzle: The next challenge is ensuring that analysts have an easy way to interact with the data available in the platform.

“So far, we have done a lot of work to clean, organize, and standardize our data offerings, but there is still progress to be made,” she says. “We firmly believe that once data is integrated and cleaned, the data team’s focus needs to shift to data curation.”

Data curation is critical to ensuring analysts of all levels can interact with the company’s data, Van Name says, adding that building single, easy-to-use “fact” tables that can answer common questions about a data set will remove the barrier to entry that JetBlue has traditionally seen when new analysts start interacting with data.

In addition to near real-time reporting, the data is also serving as input for machine learning models.

“In addition to data curation, we have begun to accelerate our internal data science initiatives,” says Sai Pradhan Ravuru, general manager of data science and analytics at JetBlue. “Over the past year and a half, a new data science team has been stood up and has been working with the data in Snowflake to build machine learning algorithms that provide predictions about the state of our operations, and also enable us to learn more about our customers and their preferences.”

Ravuru says the data science team is currently working on a large-scale AI product to orchestrate efficiencies at JetBlue.

“The product is powered by second-degree curated data models built in close collaboration between the data engineering and data science teams to refresh the feature stores used in ML products,” Ravuru says. “Several offshoot ecosystems of ML products form the basis of a long-term strategy to fuel each team at JetBlue with predictive insights.”

Navigating change

JetBlue shifted to Snowflake nearly two years ago. Van Name says that over the past year, internal adoption of the platform has increased by almost 75%, as measured by monthly active users. There has also been a greater than 20% increase in the number of self-service reports developed by users.

Sai Pradhan Ravuru, general manager of data science and analytics, JetBlue

JetBlue

Ravuru says his team has deployed two machine learning models to production, relating to dynamic pricing and customer personalization. Rapid prototyping and iteration are giving the team the ability to operationalize data models and ML products faster with each deployment.

“In addition, curated data models built agnostic of query latencies (i.e., queries per second) offer a flexible online feature store solution for the ML APIs developed by data scientists and AI and ML engineers,” Ravuru says. “Depending on the needs, the data is therefore served up in milliseconds or batches to strategically utilize the real-time streaming pipelines.”

While every company has its own unique challenges, Van Name believes adopting a data-focused mindset is a primary building block for supporting larger-scale change. It is especially important to ensure that leadership understands the current challenges and the technology options in the marketplace that can help alleviate those challenges, she says.

“Sometimes, it is challenging to have insight to all of the data problems that exist within a large organization,” Van Name says. “At JetBlue, we survey our data users on a yearly basis to get their feedback on an official forum. We use those responses to shape our strategy, and to get a better understanding of where we’re doing well and where we have opportunities for improvement. Receiving feedback is easy; putting it to action is where real change can be made.”

Van Name also notes that direct partnership with data-focused leaders throughout the organization is essential.

“Your data stack is only as good as the value that it brings to users,” she says. “As a technical data leader, you can take time to curate the best, most complete, and accurate set of information for your organization, but if no one is using it to make decisions or stay informed, it’s practically worthless. Building relationships with leaders of teams who can make use of the data will help to realize its full value.”

Analytics, Cloud Computing, Data Management