Hosting its IDC Predictions 2017 event in Johannesburg this week, the global ICT research and consulting services firm predicted that innovation will continue to disrupt the traditional ICT mix and that there will be a much stronger focus on ensuring that technology enables business outcomes.
Mark Walker, IDC's associate vice president for sub-Saharan Africa, said 2016 had been a difficult year for economies, and the South African economy had not emerged unscathed.
He said the country's GDP growth was 'genuinely depressing'.
“For sustained economic growth and job creation we need something in the region of 5%. We’ll be lucky next year to see 1% GDP growth year-on-year.”
Walker said marginal economic growth and political instability have made the business environment difficult to navigate, and organisations are looking at technology to drive down their costs while improving the way they operate. He also pointed to the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s business confidence index, which was now at a similar level to that seen in 1985.
He said IDC had seen a strong focus on datacentre infrastructure and operations during the past year, with security and enterprise software among the top three priorities for CIOs during the same period. He said cloud computing had only registered at number seven of CIOs top priorities, which was surprising considering the global rush to the cloud as a driver of digital transformation and business agility.
Jon Tullett, research manager for IT services at IDC South Africa, said the country had lagged in cloud adoption due to the lack of local infrastructure, data protection concerns, and conservative investment strategies. "IDC believes 2017 will see at least one major global cloud provider establishing local datacentre infrastructure to service the region," he said.
"This will address key concerns and spur competition and adoption while putting pressure on local providers. New public cloud spend will overtake on-premise in areas such as collaborative applications, application development software and platforms, and customer relationship management."
Map to cloud
Tullett recommends that organisations continue to invest in a private cloud, but develop the capabilities to transition workloads into public cloud as circumstances change.
He said private cloud was a perfectly acceptable route into the cloud.
“Just because there’s hype around the public cloud, doesn’t mean you have to do that. You can still get most of the cloud benefits within the walls of your own datacentre.”
"Organisations should reassess their application capabilities with a view to cloud capabilities and invest in cloud skills around critical workloads, as well as integration and management. They should also reevaluate contracts and relationships with software providers to ensure that they meet their business requirements."
“You also need to have some conversations with your vendors around their own maps to cloud and around how they’re helping you get there -- and if you don’t want to go there -- around their ability keep providing a long-term roadmap for you in-house.”
IDC expects the number of mobile enterprise applications to almost double as the shift from devices to mobile apps accelerates.
"In 2017, near field communication will start pushing mobile payments to the fore, but will still remain peripheral and will be niche," said George Kalebaila, the senior research manager for telecommunications.
Kalebaila added that organisations should plan for mobile apps as a natural part of all workflows in the organisation: "The focus should move to mobile app development platforms as a critical tool and security must be integrated across the mobile app development lifecycle."
He said 5G was going to transform the connectivity industry as well as the applications that run on top of them. He said it was important that CIOs had a good understanding of the potential of 5G.
Turning to analytics, Tullett said it was a reality that cognitive computing and AI were going to revolutionise the business world and would have an enormous impact on digital transformation.
There was however little uptake in South Africa, but IDC had seen “dabbling and little sparks of interest here and there” in the top tier organisations, such as banks and some healthcare groups.
“Part of the challenge here is that there’s going to be an AI divide. The rapidity at which early adopters will pull away is going to surprise a lot of people."
Tullett said he expected to see specific fraud reduction activities around analytics. He said business analytics could be used to detect ongoing fraud in, for example, supply chains within the HR function.
“This is the kind of area where analytics really shines a light and leaves nowhere to hide. A good example is call centres. Mobile operators have a big problem with illicit activity conducted by call centre agents. It’s a tremendously clear use case for analytics.”
Tullett said 2016 had been a very tough year for those in the security space, which had bought big data breaches, ransomware and IoT malware.
“2017 is going to be another tough year in pretty much every respect. We speak about the digital transformation that we are going through as organisations; so are the criminals, and in many cases are going through it faster.
"What we are creating is some fantastic tools for them, and we really need to stay on top of that. Expect more badness to happen, and also look out for legislative overreaction.”
He South Africa would be increasingly targeted by cyber syndicates.
“I’m expecting to see one very public, very noisy breach in this country next year. I’m looking at either a very public ransomware incident -- retail groups are a particular target -- or a data breach."
He also said that South Africa had some of the best security research in the world and IDC saw solutions coming out that are 'not just good at old-style security, they’re good at next-generation as well.'