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AI, blockchain and the future of work in 2018

AI, blockchain and the future of work in 2018

“Adaptability remains the prime trait of interest, and a key determinant of success for both the individual and organisation alike,” reports Nathan Bryant-Taukiri of Potentia.

Emerging technologies continue to be at the forefront of demand from companies who are driving meaningful change, reports Nathan Bryant-Taukiri is managing director of Potentia.

While some great local talent exists, employers are looking for both increased capability and capacity, often working to aggressive project timelines, he states.

For the enterprise, this results in a dependence on local and offshore partners to deliver key innovation projects, a short term but addictive fix that sees deliverables met but without moving the needle of in-house capability.

“We foresee 2018 being the year to devise strategies that develop in-house capability to a greater extent, to help ensure that cadence, innovation, culture and change is controlled in house,” says Bryant-Taukiri, as he discusses the highlights of the latest Innovation, Digital and Technology (IDT) Insights report by Potentia.

The mainstreaming of Agile across the organisation is a prime example of this, he cites.

For vendors - including systems integrators, product vendors and consultancies - the big resourcing move this and into next year is around strategic alliances.

“Leveraging the talent synergies between multiple partners to offer diversified yet lean services is a key focus and gives rise to powerful ecosystems,” he says.

“As we see waves of change come through in the new year, adaptability remains the prime trait of interest, and a key determinant of success for both the individual and organisation alike.”

He then drills into how organisations can prepare for major technology disruptions in the next year.

Future design trends include seamless digital and 'real' experiences...This means multiple interfaces working together to augment a user's experience, not a typical back and forth interaction.

Nathan Bryant-Taukiri, Potentia

Artificial intelligence

While AI is still in its infancy in New Zealand, impactful initiatives are currently underway, he says.

Firms are seeking to create better, leaner experiences through bots and smart interfaces. Inside the business, gains are being sought through deploying algorithms and other tools that can glean insights, expose opportunities and automate processes where possible, he states.

“NZ is a world of opportunities,” notes Josh Comrie, CEO of AI/Smartbot firm Ambit.

“Our market has moved beyond the forming stage and into developing some amazing products and bespoke uses of technologies. Our relative maturity in AI aligns with our history of previous adoptions of technologies.

“Those that are making the foray are finding they have to go through repetitive executive education to achieve buy in and when they do go to market,experience a shortfall of experienced talent.”

The key challenge right now is to align the supply of AI people with demand, given the fledgling state of the domain here, says Comrie. “From our own experience smart, enthusiastic, people with a passion to learn is a more likely approach than finding experienced folk.”

Data and analytics

Bryant-Taukiri says the report last year forecast movement into more big data technologies, including cloud-based products.

These trends were largely realised, he states.

“As we head into 2018, the shift in focus will be from ad hoc consulting style insights delivered by data scientists to more product-driven visualisation platforms that draw upon advanced analytics, delivering value which can be realised by less technical resource.

“This will mean that the skillsets within data science will be influenced by those required for product development such as software development, testing and product management. The flow-on effect of this will be that the demand for data scientists who have both consulting and technical capability will not be as high.

“Where we thought the role of reporting analysts would diminish in 2017, we’ve actually seen these analysts move into roles that leverage the visualisation platforms mentioned above,” says Bryant-Taukiri.

“We believe this will also enable a strategy to scale data teams with non-technical people who can utilise these more business centric products to essentially supercede the role of the traditional reporting analyst.”

Integrated solutions

Bryant-Taukiri says the connected world provides wide-ranging opportunities for business to advance.

But companies have to choose whether to buy a product and customise it or partner with a software consultancy to create integration technology for themselves.

Andrew Somervell, COO at Practiv, a custom solutions provider says of embarking on the integration journey: “The iceberg under the water is vastly larger than what you see above.”

Custom and product solutions are created to help SME and enterprises embark on embracing SaaS and cloud offerings, which are hindered with the legacy of their past technology decisions.

“To be successful, development teams must be very technical, and business or domain focused, whilst still aware of all the new out-of-the-box SaaS and cloud platforms integration tools,” the report states.

It points out enterprise adoption of middleware has led to a dearth of talent here, particularly MuleSoft. Consultancies are poaching key talent from one another and feverishly trying to train these skills in-house.

Bespoke integration solutions require developers and architects who understand Cloud, microservices and can use API-specific technology.  

The report says organisations can expect RAML, WebAPI, RestfulAPI as well as AWS and Azure demand to peak next year.  

For technical product managers/owners and testers who understand the daisy-chain of relevant technology, can educate customers and can identify unique value, remuneration rates will skyrocket.

Salaries of more typical software development roles and skills will stabilise, countering this.

“Employers will have to scramble to find experienced talent to deal with a real-time, event-driven, connected business world,” says Bryant-Taukiri.

The key challenge right now is to align the supply of AI people with demand, given the fledgling state of the domain here.

Josh Comrie, Ambit

The prime of CX and UX

Local tourism business Jucy is an example of an organisation driving a digital revolution.

Kris Lander, the CDO at Jucy, notes that “Integrated digital and physical experiences are increasing, furthering the phrase ‘the best UI is no UI’. AR/VR is already taking this to its logical conclusion. Good customer experience design always takes a holistic approach and this will become absolutely critical to success in the future.”

User expectations are now to talk, not just touch.  People want more human-style interaction through verbal or written natural language.

Digital experiences now incorporate friendly bots to interact with customers using modern communication channels like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.  

As this shift continues, expect to see the skillset of your typical UX/CX team diversify greatly. Drawing on visual designers will still be important, but design priorities will be jostled by behavioural psychologists, ergonomics experts and industrial designers.

Engineers specialising in 3D modelling and AI will work alongside UX researchers and visual designers to deliver experiences that look, feel and respond in ever more natural ways. Demand for UX designers, Researchers and visual designers will still run hot, but expect new titles and roles to emerge.

Challenging the ‘cloud-only’ strategy

Bryant-Taukiri says over the past year, local organisations have progressed their transition to consuming cloud services in ernest after trialling these services in the non-production environments.  

The nirvana of a cloud-only strategy is continually being challenged across many domains. This is leading to a hybrid consumption model ranging from on-premise to co-location to private cloud and ultimately to public cloud and in some cases multi-cloud.  

As a result, he says, the demand for cloud orchestration, fabrication and performance optimisation skills is giving way to cloud cost management expertise. As cloud providers proactively differentiate their service catalogues as evidenced in New Zealand, cloud commercials are becoming exponentially more complex - evolving a newly defined job family around cloud contract negotiation and monitoring - the Cloud Commercial Manager.  

Sri Gazula, chief operating officer of cloud services provider Revera, notes that “this will become more complex in terms of both costs as well as data security - especially if multiple business units start consuming public cloud without the knowledge of their traditional centralised IT Teams. There needs to be strong governance particularly in large organisations.”

Key agenda: Information security

As organisations become increasingly reliant on technology, securing the firm’s digital assets remains a key agenda item at the highest levels.

The New Zealand Institute of Directors continues to promote this as a board-level accountability, recently publishing the Cyber-Risk Practice Guide urging Boards to “put cybersecurity on the agenda before it becomes the agenda”.  

These strategies are manifesting in further demand for skilled cybersecurity personnel - especially those with expertise across the full InfoSec lifecycle from prevention and detection to incident response.

We are now seeing startups emerge in New Zealand to fill the skills gap with more sophisticated and comprehensive service catalogues across the InfoSec risk lifecycle, says Bryant-Taukiri.

Nigel Everett, CEO of startup Defend, notes, “Information security (InfoSec) has long since stopped being the sole responsibility of IT departments. The entire organisation must take accountability and responsibility to increase awareness and mitigate risk and threats that can impact an organisation and its customers.”  

This broadening of the InfoSec agenda has significant implications in a talent-challenged market - simply put, there are not enough experienced cybersecurity professionals to address these needs.

The NZQA Level 6 Cyber Security qualification currently under development to address this shortfall can’t be launched soon enough.

The entire organisation must take accountability and responsibility to increase awareness and mitigate risk and threats that can impact an organisation and its customers

Nigel Everett, Defend

Blockchain: New partnerships and ecosystems

It is without doubt that blockchain, the underlying technology for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, is one of the biggest technology trends this year.  

Several New Zealand companies have embraced this technology and we are starting to see the emergence of specialised jobs in this domain.  While enterprises such as Air New Zealand and Fonterra are leveraging this through international  partnerships, local startups such as Centrality, Nyriad and Power Badger Energy are at the forefront of creating native platforms to deliver compelling ecosystems based on blockchain technology.  

This is now generating roles in this exciting technology stack across the comprehensive product development lifecycle and skills are hard to come by locally at this time.  

In recent discussions with several of these startups, they inform that they are acutely aware of this shortage and are encouraging blockchain enthusiasts with upskilling and retooling opportunities to meet this upsurge in demand, says Bryant-Taukiri.

Jonathan Ewing, co-founder of Powr Badgr, which works on blockchain apps in the energy sector, says, “We are woefully underprepared in New Zealand for the tsunami of crypto-enabled applications and smart contract-based systems that will be required for this second coming of the internet - the blockchain era.

“This upsurge in demand in many industry sectors will see advanced talent having great new career opportunities.”

Send news tips and comments to divina_paredes@idg.co.nz

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