As CIO at The Hut Group (THG), the British ecommerce firm behind such brands as Lookfantastic and Myprotein, Joanna Drake has been navigating some serious headwinds.

Responsible for global operations and technology services across company and customer websites, staff technology, and THG’s direct-to-consumer Ingenuity service and hosting business, Drake has looked to support the rapid growth of the Manchester-based firm through IPO, a global pandemic, supply chain instability, and the onset of recession.

Speaking at the CIO UK 100 awards ceremony at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London, Drake explained what it meant to be ranked the top CIO in the UK, how her tennis background shaped her leadership, why automation is freeing up her IT team, and how THG is supporting engineers relocating from war-stricken Ukraine.

CIO 100 winner, sports leadership and being ‘too friendly’

Having featured in the CIO 100 in 2021 and 2020 prior to topping this year’s list, Drake says the award is for her team, not just her.

“If this was about me, as an individual, I’d struggle to do a [CIO 100] submission,” she said. “So it’s about the team and I’m blessed and honoured to work with some amazing people every day, with so much grit, determination and creativity.” She also added that it was also an opportunity to stop and reflect on how far they’ve come in the last year, and how she fell into IT after a career in tennis failed to materialise, first starting out in help desk support before progressing into service management and engineering positions.

As she climbed the ranks, taking on more senior technology roles at Diageo, Accenture, Yahoo, Betfair, BBC and Skyscanner before joining The Hut Group in 2018, she realised that her sports background could shape her leadership style.

“Sports taught me about teamwork, putting players in the right positions, team formation, understanding your strengths and weaknesses, practice, hard work, discipline and how and when to apply coaching or mentoring,” she says, adding that she continually analyses the ‘ingredients’ of her team, to find details that can make big differences.

This isn’t to say that Drake’s ascension to the higher echelons of business leadership has come without difficulty. In particular, throughout her 20-year career, Drake has often been chastised for being too friendly, an unfamiliar quality perhaps in a results-driven business world.

“A lot of times in my career I’ve been told I wouldn’t make it as a senior tech person,” she said. “Actually, I think it’s about being my true authentic self because it’s exhausting if you can’t be yourself. I’ve learned through being me that actually, that’s okay.”

Digital workplace, automation and ‘IT as consultants’

Drake highlights THG’s digital workplace and automation initiatives as her team’s most notable achievements over the last year, alongside its Ingenuity Compute Engine (ICE), through which THG is hoping to build ‘hyperscaler experiences’ across more than 50 data centres.

As part of the ‘infrastructure reimagined’ programme, ICE provides a software-defined, infrastructure-as-code (IaC) platform where teams can run containerised applications on Kubernetes, ultimately speeding up infrastructure procurement and deployment. Drake says THG has built the platform in four of its data centres so far, allowing developers to build new platforms on ICE, and migrate existing THG workloads onto it.

Speed and simplicity have also been the essence behind THG’s digital workplace initiatives.

The e-commerce firm has also rolled out zero-touch device provisioning, built app stores for Microsoft and Mac-based devices, offered technology drive-through and click-and-collect services, as well as numerous enhancements to the office environment from digital signage, wayfinding screens and universal desk set-up for hot desking, to meeting room technology, video editing suites, device lockers and digital packing benches in warehouses.

Automation, meanwhile, has been introduced to free-up IT team members to become consultants to the business, removing their operational toil while empowering their line-of-business peers to focus on more strategic work.

Leveraging a combination of RPA, low-code and no-code technologies, THG has sought to streamline processes, particularly in HR such as joiners, movers, leavers and role-based access control.

“Automation has been about [IT] almost automating themselves out of the jobs they had, so they could go on to more interesting roles,” says Drake. “Where they’ve removed a lot of operational toil, we’ve had to re-skill our engineers and this is great for retaining talent.” So instead of churning or doing tickets, engineers go out as consultants in the business and speak to different departments about processes. “They follow things that hold them back, how they could do more, so they can actually remove their operational toil,” she adds.

Stalking talent and supporting Ukrainian staff

Despite such technological innovation, Drake is adamant that people remains her top priority, and she’s taking to stealthy methods to find prospective talent.

“I do a lot of stalking on LinkedIn,” she says. “I think about the sort of people and skill I want, and I go and hunt them out. I’ve got to build the team and I want the best players so I’ve got to go out there and find them. And when I’ve got them, I need to make sure they’re successful and making a difference. And if they’re successful, we’re all happy.”

Yet she recognises that the ongoing recruitment challenges, cost-of-living pressures and deepening mental health concerns mean the focus must be as on talent retention and attraction in equal measure.

To further help with the former, Drake oversees a series of stand-ups during the week to keep the team engaged. There’s a Monday session that tackles how the IT team plans to ‘win’ that week, a Tuesday one is called take-over Tuesday, Wednesday’s focuses on wellness and development, and Friday offers an opportunity for team shout-outs and general updates.

The Hut Group has also looked to help engineers get out of Ukraine at the onset of the war with Russia, helping to evacuate them and their families to Poland, paying for accommodation and providing homeware, toys and jobs at a local warehouse.

“For a lot of our staff in Ukraine, work has helped them lead as normal life as possible in these circumstances,” says Drake. “Ensuring they are very actively involved in and heard every day is a really important part of supporting them.”

Financial strife puts the CIO’s focus on efficiency

Much of last year’s progress has been about laying the technological foundations for the next 10 years, yet Drake acknowledges that the next 12 months could be a bumpy ride.

The Hut Group has seen its growth stunted in recent times by rising raw material costs, cost-of-living pressures on customers, declining shares (down 86% year-on-year), and a market valuation that recently plummeted from £5bn to £600m amid market headwinds.

In October, Japanese investor SoftBank announced it was selling its 6.4% stake to company founder Matthew Moulding and Qatari investors for just £31m, having bought the stake in the shopping group for £481m in May 2021.

Such uncertainty means Drake’s focus is now on efficiency.

“[My priority is] continuing with all of that efficiency stuff—ICE, composable compute, which means we can deliver more, more quickly.”

Drake is also spearheading THG’s ‘match-fit programmes’, looking at ways the group can improve customer service, operational efficiency and team development for when some semblance of normality returns.

She says THG is consolidating toolsets, decommissioning legacy technology and migrating customers to the latest platforms, as well as making sure the firm gets the best ‘bang for buck’ when working with suppliers.

“We thought of using it as an opportunity to get in really good shape, ready for the fight when the world turns the right way up again.”

CIO, CIO 100, IT Leadership

Ivneet Kaur, Chief Technology Officer at Silicon Valley Bank, joins host Maryfran Johnson for this CIO Leadership Live interview, jointly produced by CIO.com and the CIO Executive Council. They discuss the evolving digital customer experience, secure cloud migrations, agile-first, API-first strategies, competing for tech talent and more.

Watch this episode:

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CIO, CIO Leadership Live

Ergonomics is often one of the most overlooked health concerns within the office. While there are OH&S regulations for lifting, moving heavy objects, and safety when working with chemicals and electricity, and there are guidelines for how long a person should be “sedentary” (i.e sitting), there are no formal governance requirements for the chairs that people use, or their computer equipment.

Sitting for long periods of time day in, day out, has been associated with repetitive strain injury, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, chronic pain and metabolic syndromes (heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure). Musculoskeletal conditions costs $4.8 billion, and back pain costs $2.8 billion in Australia per year. This can be a serious cost to both businesses and the economy, and can also cause deep levels of dissatisfaction in working conditions and lifestyle.

Poor ergonomics is, by stealth, one of the greatest productivity costs in Australia, and IT has a big role to play in helping to address it.

Consider the eyes too

Staring at the wrong screen all day long can cause issues for two reasons:

It can force the head into a position that causes strain, tiredness, and potentially causes damage to the neck muscles. It can also lead to poor posture habits in the long term.A poor quality monitor can also cause eye strain.

The expectation for professionals to sit in front of screens for long periods of time – whether working from the office or remotely – does not appear to be wanning, despite the health issues being well-known. So, with the needs of professionals in mind, Samsung has worked hard to develop a business monitor range to help promote healthier working habits.

Firstly, Samsung’s entire range of business monitors feature VESA mount compatibility, and a variety of tilt, swivel, and pivot control points designed to give the user fine levels of control for just about any environment. This is important because modern wisdom suggests that people should vary how they work through the day. In recent years, standing desks have become popular, because they are proven to improve blood pressure and reduce lower back pain. At the same time, standing at a desk all day can cause new problems, such as foot pain.

So, most office workers are encouraged to alternate between sitting and standing positions throughout the day now. However, shifting between sitting and standing reorients the body and requires fine control of the monitor to help maintain a comfortable head and neck position each time. This is what the VESA mount compatibility facilitates.

Meanwhile, the business monitors have also all been given TÜV certification for intelligent eye care. TÜV Rheinland is one of the world’s leading testing service providers, and it tests displays against the ISO 9241-307 standard to ensure that they reduce annoying reflections, are designed to safeguard image quality from different perspectives, facilitate adjustable blue light content and helps to ensure displays are flicker-free.

With as many as 90 per cent of digital device users experiencing the symptoms of digital eye strain, investing in monitors that are proven to minimise the strain on the eyes is a quick pathway in ensuring that the majority of the workforce are comfortable while at work.

The best practices while using a monitor

Of course, technology can only be part of the solution, and with ergonomics, best practices really need to be built into workplace policy and education to help protect the employees. With regards to monitors and computers, employers should complement the investment in ergonomic equipment by encouraging their employees to:

Keep the monitor at a good distance. Larger monitors are actually good for this as they encourage the employee to position themselves further away to have a good view of the whole screen.Take quick and regular breaks to move away from the screen for a short time. This could be a quick coffee run or even a moment to step away from the desk and stretch out. It’s a good idea to leave the mobile behind when doing that, so that they avoid the temptation to look at a screen at all.Adopt a neutral posture. If sitting make sure to use the backrest, rather than hunch over forwards. If standing, be mindful to split the weight between both feet to distribute the weight evenly.

By looking after the ergonomics at a workplace, the organisation will enjoy better productivity and a more positive workforce. At a time where skill shortages are severe, it’s more important than ever to make sure that employees are healthy, well looked after, and happy in their jobs.

To learn more about the Samsung business monitor line, and its ergonomic benefits, click here: https://www.samsung.com/au/business/monitors/

Ergonomics, Monitors

Contact centers don’t look like they did 10 years ago. Technology has fundamentally changed the way they do business.

Alongside that transformation has come steady growth. In 2022, 80% of contact centers planned to expand their workforces, with half of those expecting to create entirely new roles. Only 1% planned to cut staff. Yet, as they grow, they must find new ways to scale effectively. An expanded contact center brings a more expansive technology stack, and it becomes more important than ever to assure that stack is up to the task.

Most contact center leaders would agree that investing in new technology can help contact centers maximize growth and drive future success. Still, they’re left with an important question: What technology should they invest in? With so many solutions available on the market, the true challenge is choosing the ones that will deliver the greatest return.

Toward the flawless CX of the future

Imagine what the customer experience (CX) could look like in the near future. A customer may start their support journey on a brand’s website, interacting via chat. They then seamlessly send the conversation to their smartphone to continue on the go. After they resolve their most pressing questions with the chatbot, they request a call from support for a more complicated issue. 

Ten minutes later, an agent calls them, fully prepared with all the information from the chatbot session. Unbeknownst to the customer, that agent receives live insights during the call, with AI directing them based on the tone and content of the conversation. This allows for a smooth, frustration-free call. Later, the system generates an automatic email follow-up with personalized tips for the customer and the option to reconnect with an agent. There were no award menus and no hold times — just seamless customer service.

Many of the pieces required to deliver this level of CX already exist. Yet, in 2019, Freshworks reported that sales and service agents in the U.S. wasted 516 million hours a year trying to use their contact center’s software. Customers, for their part, have mixed feelings about their experiences with AI — 61% of them still dislike IVR. 

The possibility for flawless CX is there, but contact centers haven’t quite cracked the code.

4 technology solutions every contact center needs

Where should contact centers direct their resources, then? There are five types of technology they can’t afford to ignore.

Omnichannel communication: Given how we communicate today, many people feel less tied to a single way to connect with brands. We move seamlessly between social media, text messages, emails, and voice communication, so we expect the same from businesses.

This is true whether it comes to sales or service. Seventy-three percent of consumers prefer shopping across multiple channels, and 80% want brands to communicate easily across these channels. When brands make these options available, customers are happier and spend more. 

One of Cyara’s customers does this exceptionally well and points to what a truly fluid CX can look like in the modern call center. Agero delivers premium roadside assistance through intuitive, omnichannel service. Customers — who may be in life-or-death situations — can create their own tickets via mobile or get on the IVR and receive a link to create a ticket via text. While they create the ticket, the IVR stays online to ensure everything goes smoothly. This type of CX meets customers where they are to ensure they get the service they need.

Conversational AI: According to NICE’s “2022 Digital-First Customer Experience Report,” 81% of consumers want more self-service options from businesses. Today’s customers realize that many issues don’t require a long conversation with an agent, and they want the option to solve their own problems without the hassle. 

Conversational AI is the key to creating more self-service options. This technology, which powers IVR systems and chatbots, is what enables bots to have more effective interactions with customers and solve many of their simple requests. Brands that don’t utilize it are severely limited in their ability to meet customer expectations and control the costs of service.

Advanced analytics and sentiment analysis: Today’s contact center managers have an enormous amount of data at their fingertips. Many already have the tools to automatically collect information about every call and every customer interaction. Few actually put that data to use. 

With the capabilities added by AI, it’s possible to quickly and deeply analyze troves of customer data. For instance, contact centers can map and analyze keywords from call logs to assess their relationship with customer satisfaction and handle times. Or they can examine trends in how individual agents handle calls, allowing for more productive coaching. At the most advanced level, contact centers can deploy sentiment analysis technology to capture a live view of a customer-agent interaction and provide real-time direction. 

Together, these advanced analytics enable a more flexible, nimble form of customer service.

Quality assurance: None of the above technology investments can be fully realized without a simultaneous investment in quality assurance (QA). Just as you wouldn’t add on to your house without increasing your insurance coverage, you shouldn’t grow your contact center without investing in a way to ensure your technology truly allows customers to get the help they need, regardless of which channel they use.

It doesn’t matter how advanced a contact center’s AI and analytics are if it can’t execute a consistently great customer experience. Whether it’s problems with voice quality or downtime, the end result is bad for customer satisfaction and the bottom line. The technology that Cyara offers enables comprehensive call center QA to serve as an expanded insurance policy for an expanding contact center.

QA requires continuous testing and monitoring across every CX channel and throughout the entire software development cycle. On its own, this would be a massive undertaking for any contact center. That’s why Cyara’s suite of products is designed to automate this process and enable contact center managers to catch and correct glitches before they become CX problems.

Agero’s exceptional CX delivery wouldn’t be possible without a robust, automated QA program. Especially since the company deals with customers in life-threatening situations, service must be fast and flawless. With automated continuous testing from Cyara, Agero can regularly monitor its IVR and text and web service portals to ensure they’re performing well. Thanks to IVR monitoring, for instance, Agero deflects 25–30% of its calls and creates a smoother, better CX. In a sense, Cyara has become Agero’s insurance policy for flawless CX.

By automating the QA process like Agero, contact centers can assure high-quality CX without their QA costs running wild.

Invest wisely in your technology solutions

Contact centers that succeed in the years ahead while have scaled their business while delivering an increasingly flawless CX. There are countless options for where to invest your resources to make this happen, but no tools are more important than these five. Start here, and you’ll build a strong foundation for delivering flawless CX at scale.

Ready to invest in automated testing and CX assurance for your tech stack? Try a Cyara demo today.

Digital Transformation

The first half of 2022 was busy for M&A activity in the IT and business services market, according to deal advisor Hampleton Partners. They counted 699 deals in the period, almost double from last year.

Larger IT services players were among the hungriest acquirers, driving up company valuations in their haste to snap up niche players and fill gaps in their domain expertise, Hampleton said. CIO.com’s research shows NTT Data and IBM were particularly busy in this area.

There’s also increasing demand for IT security consulting companies, the advisor said. Our colleagues at CSOonline have the rundown on cybersecurity M&A activity.

For CIOs, these deals can disrupt strategic rollouts, spell a need to pivot to a new solution, signal the potential sunsetting of essential technology, provide new opportunities to leverage newly synergized systems, and be a bellwether of further shifts to come in the IT landscape. Keeping on top of activity in this area can help your company make the most of emerging opportunities and steer clear of issues that often arise when vendors combine.

Here, CIO.com rounds up some of the most significant tech M&As in recent months that could impact IT.

NTT Data buys Mulesoft consulting firm

Integration platform MuleSoft still belongs to Salesforce, but NTT Data is buying itself a bigger slice of the MuleSoft consulting market by acquiring Apisero. Around 1,500 of Apisero’s staff are certified on MuleSoft, for which it provides system integration and managed services from offices around the world, although the majority of its staff are in India. Also in September, NTT Data snapped up the much smaller Umvel, a Mexican digital engineering company.

Big Blue buys little Texan firm

IBM has continued a run of small acquisitions in niche markets, this time buying Dialexa, a software product engineering firm with offices in Dallas and Chicago. The company develops software for other companies’ products — anything from robot mowers to energy trading — and will become part of IBM Consulting.

Ricoh enlarges office communications division with Cenero

Ricoh has bought audiovisual services specialist Cenero to expand its IT services offering in North America. Ricoh already offers managed services around Microsoft Teams Rooms, and its acquisition of Cenero will help it add other unified communications capabilities. Ricoh is trying to reinvent itself as a digital services provider, with a target to make over 60% of its revenue from such services by 2025. It has a way to go: in the second quarter of 2022, digital services accounted for only 40% of revenue, with office printing still making up almost half.

SandboxAQ buys another slice of the crypto auditing market

SandboxAQ, an enterprise SaaS company that spun out of Google in March, has bought young French SaaS provider Cryptosense. SandboxAQ’s first product was a tool to help enterprises inventory and audit all the cryptographic systems they use. Cryptosense is in the same business. Both companies want to help enterprises secure their systems against the threat posed to traditional cryptography by quantum computing.

Stratus Technologies joins Smart Global Holdings

Edge computing vendor Stratus Technologies is now part of Smart Global Holdings, a memory module maker and owner of the Cree lighting brand and an IoT company called Penguin Solutions. The company sees the $225 million deal as a way to expand the range of enterprise IT services it offers.

Zaloni sells its data governance platform to Truist

Zaloni has sold its Arena data governance platform to US bank Truist Financial. Zaloni’s chief product officer and chief technology officer will also join the bank, hoping the analytics and metadata management platform will help reduce its IT costs.

Sage marches into workflow automation

Accounting software vendor Sage has acquired Lockstep, a small Seattle company that automates inter-company accounting workflows. The move will help Sage customers exchange financial data not only with other Sage customers, but also businesses using the 40 other accounting platforms that Lockstep works with.

Signal AI extends its trend monitoring reach

Signal AI, the developer of a platform for identifying business trends in news coverage, has acquired Kelp, a reputation monitoring firm. Kelp is a Signal AI customer, using its External Intelligence platform to monitor corporate reputations and the factors that influence them to help enterprises develop data-driven ESG strategies.

DocHub joins airSlate to consolidate workflows

With its acquisition of DocHub, workflow automation company airSlate will be able to expand its e-signature offering for enterprises.

MariaDB buys CubeWerx

MariaDB has bought CubeWerx, a developer of geospatial software. It plans to add the capabilities to its managed cloud database service, MariaDB SkySQL. The company is named for the open-source database MariaDB, which forked from MySQL when Oracle acquired it in 2010.

Salesforce rallies Troops with Slack

In July, Salesforce completed its acquisition of Troops.ai, which provides tools for delivering up-to-date revenue information to sales teams. Salesforce will fold Troops into its Slack communications platform.

Infosys builds base in life sciences consulting

Consulting giant Infosys has swallowed small Danish firm Base Life Science to help it expand its offering for European enterprises in the life sciences industry, particularly around clinical trials and drug development.

IBM observes gap in its portfolio, buys Databand.ai

IBM has acquired Israeli data observability specialist Databand.ai to beef up its IT operations performance management portfolio alongside Instana APM and IBM Watson Studio. Since CEO Arvind Krishna took over in April 2020, IBM has been pursuing a strategy of making small acquisitions — over 25 of them so far — to fill gaps in its offerings.

Ensono adds AndPlus to portfolio

Managed solutions provider Ensono has bought AndPlus, a data engineering firm, continuing a run of acquisitions of small cloud consulting companies: In January, it snapped up ExperSolve, which specializes in moving and modernizing mainframe applications, and last year bought Amido. Ensono is owned by KKR, the owner of BMC Software.

IFS adds Ultimo to its EAM offering

IFS has expanded the enterprise asset management (EAM) capabilities of its ERP platform with the acquisition of Dutch software vendor Ultimo. IFS will continue to offer Ultimo’s software as a stand-alone solution.

ParkourSC adds IoT to SCM

ParkourSC, a Silicon Valley supply chain software company backed by Intel Capital, has bought IoT networking company Qopper, which was founded by ParkourSC CTO Alok Bhanot.

Zendesk goes private at knock-down price

CRM vendor Zendesk has agreed to be acquired by investment firms Hellman & Friedman and Permira. The two investors will pay around $10.2 billion to take Zendesk private, they announced on June 24. It’s a bargain for Permira and H&F, which also own stakes in cloud customer contact center vendor Genesys. In February, as part of a consortium of bidders, they offered $17 billion for Zendesk, which turned them down saying the offer undervalued the company. At around that time, Zendesk abandoned plans to buy Momentive Global (formerly Survey Monkey) for around $4 billion.

IBM to buy Randori

IBM has bought Randori, a specialist in attack surface management and offensive cybersecurity. It’s Big Blue’s fourth acquisition this year, after buying cloud consultants Neudesic and Sentaca in February, and environmental performance management company Envizi in January.

ServiceNow to buy Hitch Works

ServiceNow has agreed to buy skills mapping company Hitch Works, with the goal of helping its customers fill talent gaps through staff training.

ICF cements links with government health agencies

Digital transformation consulting company ICF is adding to the services it offers US government clients with the acquisition of SemanticBits, a health services software provider. Late last year it also bought health analytics vendor Enterprise Science and Computing (ESAC) and service provider Creative Systems and Consulting, both of which serve US federal agencies.

Epicor adds EDI to its ERP platform with Data Interchange buy

Epicor continues to expand its ERP platform capabilities through acquisition. On June 7, it bought UK-based Data Interchange, the operator of a global EDI network and developer of software for order processing and EDI mapping.

ScanMarket joins Unit4

SaaS ERP vendor Unit4 has bought source-to-contract cloud software vendor ScanMarket to beef up its source-to-pay offering to midmarket service industry customers.

McKinsey buys data architecture and engineering company

McKinsey doesn’t just advise on mergers and acquisitions, it also makes them. Case in point is its June 1 purchase of Caserta, the company that built its internal knowledge management platform. McKinsey expects the acquisition to benefit its data transformation work for its clients.

Instaclustr continues acquisitive streak for NetApps

NetApps closed its acquisition of Instaclustr on May 24. The service provider supporting open-source database, pipeline, and workflow applications in the cloud will join the Spot by NetApp portfolio, the collection of SaaS tools built around the cloud management and cost optimization company NetApp bought earlier in 2022.

Zoom zooms into AI chatbot market

With the video conferencing software market becoming saturated, Zoom has turned to a new customer base: bots! It has acquired Solvvy, a customer service automation specialist. Solvvy develops AI-powered chatbots that Zoom plans to deploy as part of its Zoom Contact Center offering for enterprises.

Oracle acquires HR tools to expand NetSuite

Oracle has acquired workforce management software vendor Adi Insights. It plans to roll the company’s overtime management, demand forecasting and shift scheduling into SuitePeople, part of its mid-market SaaS ERP NetSuite.

Panasonic plans IPO of recent acquisition Blue Yonder

Barely a year after buying Blue Yonder, a vendor of supply-chain management SaaS, Panasonic is looking to sell it again as it pursues a new strategic direction. Panasonic said in mid-May it will combine Blue Yonder with its Gemba Process Innovation activities, and seek a stock exchange listing for the new entity. It has not set a timetable for the sale.

Augury adds process intelligence to machine health offering

Augury, an industrial IoT vendor specializing in monitoring machine health, has paid over $100 million for process intelligence vendor Seebo. Augury plans to combine the two companies’ AI-based tools to help manufacturing companies balance quality and throughput with energy consumption, emissions, and waste.

SAP service providers join forces

Codestone Group has bought Clarivos. The two provide services around SAP’s ERP, analytics, and enterprise performance management (EPM) tools.

Perforce Software buys Puppet

Perforce Software, a privately held provider of software development tools, has agreed to buy the infrastructure automation software platform Puppet. Perforce already owns development tools such as Helix and the testing tools, including Perfecto and BlazeMeter.

Infosys buys oddity for digital marketing capabilities

The appetite of Indian IT service companies for European acquisitions is still unsated. Infosys has bought oddity, a German provider of digital marketing services that also has offices in Taipei and Shanghai. Infosys will fold oddity into Wongdoody, the US consumer insights agency it bought in 2018.

Microsoft buys Minit to optimize process automation

Microsoft has bought Minit, a developer of process mining software, to help its customers optimize business processes across the enterprise, on and off Microsoft Power Platform. The acquisition will help it extract process data from enterprise systems such as Oracle, SAP, ServiceNow, and Salesforce to identify process bottlenecks that can be optimized or automated.

NTT Data adds Vectorform to service portfolio

Global IT services giant NTT Data has bought another sliver of market share and added some new capabilities with its acquisition of Vectorform, an 80-person digital transformation consultancy based in Detroit. With Vectorform, NTT Data is looking to grow its customer experience and product development services across industries.

Celonis buys Process Analytics Factory

Process mining giant Celonis has snapped up Process Analytics Factory, a small German company specializing in process optimization on Microsoft’s platforms. Celonis started out helping enterprises optimize SAP workloads, and now its acquisition of the developer of PAFnow will help it broaden its access to the Power BI and Power Platform markets.

Equinix buys West African data center company for $320 million

Global data center operator Equinix expanded its capability and connectivity in West Africa in early April with the $320 million acquisition of MainOne, which offers services in Ghana, Nigeria, and Côte d’Ivoire. MainOne has just opened its fourth data center, in Lagos.

Salesforce absorbs Phennecs data management tool

Phennecs, developer of a privacy, compliance and data management tool for the Salesforce platform, is now part of Salesforce. The acquisition closed in April.

SS&C buys Blue Prism

Robotic process automation vendor Blue Prism is now part of SS&C Technology Holdings, a private equity and hedge fund that also owns a stack of niche finance and healthcare software vendors. For now, SS&C plans no changes in Blue Prism’s business, other than tacking SS&C on the name.

SAP closes deal to buy most of Taulia

Working capital management service provider Taulia is now majority-owned by SAP. Investor JP Morgan will retain a stake in the company, which will operate independently within the SAP group.

Nvidia buys block storage software developer Excelero

With $40 billion in spare cash to spend after its bid for chip designer Arm fell through, Nvidia is turning to smaller acquisitions to build its capabilities. In early March, it announced its second of 2022, Excelero, which develops software for securing and accelerating arrays of flash storage for use in enterprise high-performance computing.

NetApp buys Fylamynt for cloud ops automation

NetApp added some new functionality to its portfolio of cloud management tools in late February with the acquisition of Fylamynt, a young low-code cloud ops automation company. Its aim is to help customers automate the deployment of Spot by NetApp services.

Vendr buys SaaS platform Blissfully to simplify buying SaaS

SaaS vendor management platform Vendr is buying SaaS management platform vendor Blissfully. Vendr aims to offer finance and procurement teams savings on the purchase of SaaS services, while Blissfully helps enterprises identify what software they own and where they can save money.

Test automation: Tricentis buys Testim

Software test automation vendor Tricentis bought Testim, the developer of an AI-based SaaS test automation platform, to expand its continuous testing solutions. Tricentis hopes Testim’s platform will make it easier for customers to create tests that scale and change with their software.

Phenom pairs with Tandemploy on talent experience management

HR technology company Phenom has snapped up another talent experience management company. This time it’s the German Tandemploy, which Phenom hopes will help it better recommend pairings among peers, mentors, project leaders, and subject matter experts.

Atlassian buys Percept.ai

Atlassian has acquired chatbot developer Percept AI and plans to add its virtual agent technology to its Jira Service Management IT support tool. The idea is to automate the gathering of necessary context before passing it to human operators to help resolve cases faster. It’s Atlassian’s sixth ITSM acquisition in four years.

Microsoft to buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion

Microsoft has agreed to buy games developer Activision Blizzard, it said on Jan. 18 this year. The price tag, a whopping $68.7 billion, dwarfs even the $19.7 billion Microsoft paid for Nuance Communications last year, or the $26.2 billion it paid for LinkedIn in 2018.

Activision Blizzard’s apps are not typically authorized on enterprise networks, but there’s a chance its technology for creating and animating virtual worlds could make it into the workplace. Microsoft said the acquisition will give it the building blocks for the metaverse — a term for a virtual reality space where people interact for purposes of work or entertainment.

If so, that could make the virtual office a more pleasant sight than the blurred backgrounds and disembodied heads we see in Teams today — and prompt a wave of hardware refreshes to support the additional graphics workload.

Lansweeper acquires UMAknow

IT asset management platform Lansweeper has acquired UMAknow, the developer of Cloudockit. As Lansweeper scans on-premises computing environments, Cloudockit compiles architecture diagrams, and documents users’ assets in the cloud.

Precisely buys PlaceIQ

Data integrity specialist Precisely kicked off 2022 by buying PlaceIQ, a provider of location-based consumer data. It’s Precisely’s fifth acquisition since itself changing ownership last March. Other purchases include weather data provider Anchor Point and MDM software vendor Winshuttle.

Aptean jets into Austrian ERP market

Continuing along its flight path of acquiring small regional or industry-specific ERP vendors, Aptean has bought Austrian software vendor JET ERP, its fourth recent acquisition in the country.

Indian IT services companies acquire near-shoring operations in Europe

Indian IT services provider Tech Mahindra is expanding its offering to insurance, reinsurance, and financial firms with the acquisition of Com Tec Co IT, a custom software developer with 700 staff in Latvia and Belarus skilled in modern technologies, including AI, ML, and devsecops, for €310 million, while another Indian company, HCL Technologies, has acquired Starschema, a Hungarian data- and software-engineering service provider with offices in Budapest and Arlington, Va.

Sage swallows Brightpearl

Midmarket ERP vendor Sage closed its acquisition of Brightpearl on Jan. 18 this year. It plans to integrate Brightpearl’s e-commerce management software with its Intacct cloud-based financial applications.

Nvidia buys Bright Computing

With its giant bid for microprocessor designer ARM now abandoned, Nvidia is turning to smaller deals to bolster its capabilities. In early January, it bought Bright Computing, a developer of software for managing the high-performance computing clusters that Nvidia’s chips are used in when they’re not mining cryptocurrencies or rendering games.

Oracle buys part of Verenia’s CPQ business

Oracle has acquired Verenia’s NetSuite-based configure-price-quote business in order to add native CPQ functionality to NetSuite. Verenia retains its non-NetSuite product lines.

Mergers and Acquisitions, Technology Industry

The shift to e-learning has changed education for good. Students and educators now expect anytime, anywhere access to their learning environments and are increasingly demanding access to modern, cloud-based technologies that enable them to work flexibly, cut down their workloads, and reach their full academic potential.

This means that institutions need to take a holistic approach to education technology (EdTech), including platforms used for teaching and learning, to not only meet these demands but to address ever-present challenges such as student success, retention, accessibility, and educational integrity.

However, for many embarking on this digital transformation journey and looking to more fully embrace EdTech, it can be daunting. Not only are IT leaders often faced with issues related to cost, infrastructure and security, but some solutions can make it challenging for schools to deliver inclusive, consistent educational experiences to all of their students. 

For example, some solutions may require an upheaval of existing tools and infrastructure, placing a strain on already-busy IT teams. Technology leaders are also looking to ensure the security of their schools’ digital ecosystem and that educators and students receive sufficient training in order to use these tools in the classroom.

Other EdTech solutions offer a one-size-fits-all approach to education, making it difficult for some students to keep up with online learning and for educators to adapt to pupils’ different needs. Similarly, while some solutions enable teachers and students to work and learn remotely, they struggle to adapt to hybrid teaching models.

Anthology’s learning management system (LMS), Blackboard Learn, takes a different approach. Designed to make the lives of educators and learners easier, Blackboard Learn creates experiences that are informed and personalised to support learning, teaching, and leading more effectively.

With students and teachers alike demanding more flexibility, Blackboard Learn can be used to replace or to supplement traditional face-to-face classes, enabling institutions to recognise the full benefits of a hybrid environment while ensuring nobody is left behind. For example, by providing personalised learning experiences, students are empowered to learn on-the-go and in ways that best meet their individual needs, ensuring educators can deliver inclusive, consistent experiences for learners of all abilities.

It also allows students to gain independence and become more autonomous. By providing real-time, data-driven insights, learners can keep track of their own progress, identify next steps, and get the support they need when they need it. These insights also enable educators to identify disengaged or struggling learners sooner to help promote more positive outcomes for students, while Blackboard’s customisable feedback ensures all students are on track for assessment success.

Anthology’s LMS can make life easier for IT leaders, too. The SaaS application code was built with security and privacy in mind and is LMS agnostic, ensuring seamless integration into the learning management system and existing workflows. What’s more, by using Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud, institutions benefit from continuous deliverability of smaller updates – which require zero downtime.

This also means that Anthology has the agility to develop capabilities and features quickly, such as its built-in accessibility and plagiarism tools. Because these features are out-of-the-box, institutions can save money while benefitting from a streamlined, scalable EdTech stack that can continue to evolve as they do.

With Blackboard Learn by Anthology, educators can rest assured they have the foundation of an EdTech ecosystem that equips all students and teachers with the flexibility to create more personalised learning experiences that support student success, while improving efficiency and setting their institution up for what’s to come in higher education.

For more insights into understanding student expectations, click here to read Anthology’s whitepaper.

Artificial Intelligence, Education and Training Software

You don’t have to be in the retail to know what a big deal Black Friday is. The promotions for sales the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday are everywhere, from billboards to online. The Balance, a personal finance content website points out that Black Friday is one of the biggest and most profitable retail days of the year. 

And the phenomenon extends far beyond the U.S.: Bustle.com reports that nearly 20 different countries have Black Friday sales of their own. But what if a retail company faced the prospect of its core digital systems being down during this pivotal four days?

Building on a solid foundation

And that brings us to Carrefour – a French group and a leading global retailer. Carrefour has been a pioneer in the large food retail business for 60 years. The company reaches more than 100 million households a year and gets over a million single visits to all of its online shopping websites every day.

That’s impressive, right? But the leaders of Carrefour’s Brazil unit were concerned that their old Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system would not be able to keep up with the demands of a post-pandemic world. It was time to take their technology to the next level – a new ERP in the cloud, that would be able to move more quickly and at the same time. Plus, save a great deal of money.

For whom the clock ticks

As they confronted this reality, the people at Carrefour were hearing the loud sound of a clock ticking. Black Friday was just a few months away. “If there was any delay in the delivery of the project, the current data center would have to be shut down. In other words, the company would increase its costs for demand in November, when Black Friday takes place,” said Paulo Henrique Farroco, the CIO of Carrefour Brasil. At that point, they had a little over three months to get it done.

The power of partnership

Carrefour chose SAP S/4HANA as the only system that would cover their entire process from origination, risk management, and logistics through back-office processes like finance, accounting, and tax to operational processes. And they picked partner Mignow for the project because it was the most innovative option, where all the steps of their data migration could happen automatically, through software. Using artificial intelligence tools, it understands the database, diagnoses the project, automates the conversion steps, and performs automatic updates.

Hitting the mark

With all the pieces of the plan in place, Carrefour completed the migration to a new data center and connectivity services structure in just three months. The highly complex project included migrating from the old on-premise system to a Cloud Software-as-a-Service environment – updating the integration architecture using new middleware, and installing the very latest version of the new ERP.  It was a major step into the future, and just as important, everything was ready well before Black Friday.

Adding it all up

Carrefour is already seeing the benefits from the project. It’s reducing operating costs by 40%. The migration opens up the possibility for stores to predict whether the quantity of products ordered will increase or decrease, being ready for whatever their customers need. With more robust and faster analysis of sales orders, they’re predicting an increase in profitability.

Carrefour is even reducing energy consumption by 45% by moving from on-premise data centers to the cloud. The project minimized service disruption for shoppers and employees with seamless migration across on-premises apps. And Carrefour’s Paulo Farroco adds, “As we continue to implement best practices and adapt our operations to the cloud, we’ll be able to reduce our costs even further into the future.”

This project earned Carrefour a winner’s position at the 2022 SAP Innovation Awards, honoring organizations that have used SAP products, services, solutions, and offerings to benefit both business and society. You can read the details behind Carrefour’s accomplishment in their Innovation Awards Pitch Deck.

Digital Transformation

Technological disruptions continue to redefine the CIO role within corporations. As innovators and value creators, CIOs are charged with managing developments like low-code/no-code (LCNC), which is revolutionizing user-generated innovation by enabling people with little to no coding experience, or “citizen developers,” to quickly and easily deliver new capabilities on demand without having to rely on established development teams.

We are experiencing an undeniable shift toward this kind of democratized technology. Industry research shows that in 2021, LCNC platforms accounted for 75% of new app development, and Accenture’s own research says that 60% of LCNC users expect their use of the platform to increase. But sustaining this type of development in a declining talent market isn’t easy.    

With nearly one in five business leaders experiencing constraints due to the decline in tech talent, CIOs need to look beyond their traditional pool of IT professionals to a broader community, and cultivate and nurture new talent networks that bring together citizen developers with their professional counterparts.  

As the borders between business and IT blur, there’s a massive opportunity for forward-thinking CIOs to rethink how they work and lead their organizations, and accepting LCNC platforms to operate smarter and faster achieves sharp breakthrough gains in corporate profitability and efficiency.

What’s accelerating LCNC adoption

Diana Bersohn

The main areas fueling LCNC adoption are ease of use, ease of integration with existing solutions and technologies, and faster value creation. Corporations are under pressure to innovate and solve problems quicker, and those that focus on delivering experiences outperform their peers by six times in year-on-year profitability over one, three, five and seven years. So how do SMBs utilize LCNC platforms and stay relevant among larger businesses?

Tech waves have shown to accelerate SMB business growth, and LCNC will have an equal, if not larger, impact on SMBs. Today, there’s a growing set of SMBs utilizing LCNC delivering value in every facet of the business by enabling and simplifying everything from customer acquisition to back-end processes. This comes at a time when SMBs are looking for ways to compete and differentiate against larger companies and other SMBs.

There are three factors that make LCNC relevant for SMBs in today’s business environment:

Digital maturity as a competitive necessity: More than 70% of small businesses worldwide are accelerating digitization, and 93% say COVID-19 made them more reliant on technology.Challenging access to digital talent: One in five SMBs surveyed said their LCNC platform search was driven by the scarcity of digitally fluent staff.Enterprise IT solutions do not meet SMB needs: Up to 47% of SMBs think enterprises don’t understand the challenges they face and movement towards LCNC illustrates that point. 

New people are engaging with technology within the enterprise and broader ecosystems, and “bring your own” is fast becoming “make your own” as citizen developers take advantage of rapidly advancing LCNC tools.

Embracing a new operating model

Putting the power into people’s hands requires careful management. LCNC operating models must simultaneously balance the need of innovation, stabilization, and scaling for the business and technology so the CIO and IT teams can better enable crucial business change and innovation, rather than act as technological gatekeepers.  

Christian Kelly

CIOs should also think of capabilities falling into different categories, particularly those that are customer-facing, enterprise-wide or departmental. This categorization will help determine optimum team structures, like determining the right mix between new citizen developers and pro-code developers within the IT organization.

Plus, there’s a need to create new engagement models to enable better collaboration with CISOs and chief data officers for security and data governance. To do so, those teams must have clear roles and responsibilities to deliver user experience and foster innovation. The technology portfolio should also be segmented to work within the new model by evaluating existing applications to be migrated into LCNC.

Another model includes creating a new pool of funding for innovation with LCNC. CIOs should take charge in this way and drive LCNC platform providers to expose more of the inner workings of the platform, create joint options for supporting the citizen developers, and simplify the effort to address CISO’s concerns.

Over time, CIOs need to develop operating models by balancing a mix of pro-code and citizen developers within LCNC platform providers to drive maturity. CIOs will continue to be the guardians of technology, but they must become stewards and co-innovators as well, guiding others, including citizen developers, to realize the promise of innovation at scale. This change requires new operating models designed to support co-innovation, enable personal productivity, and ensure that access to data by LCNC platforms is managed and backed by robust governance and security. Companies with a clear approach to LCNC that empower their people with the right tools and systems will achieve innovation at the next level and beyond.

Sriram Sabesan, senior manager, Technology Strategy, Software and Platforms at Accenture also contributed to this article.

CIO