2019 marks the end of a decade of digital transformation and digital evolution as organisations continue on their journey to modern IT, automation and agile ways of working. Here we take a look at some of the key developments and trends of the year.

The Rise of AI and the need for new ethics

 At the start of the year, Amazon reported it had sold 100 million Alexa devices. The company recently slashed the price of its latest model the Echo Dot to just £24.99 (from £49.99). There’s no questioning that smart consumer devices are becoming more accessible with the tech giants like Amazon and Google driving ‘the rise of the machine’.

In the business world, smart technology and artificial intelligence is everywhere, from chat bots enhancing the customer experience to process automation and predictive analytics being used to drive better business outcomes. You can now combine bots, with voice recognition and OCR to interact with the real world making complete end-to-end contact centre automation possible and likely.

“Every company is (or should be) be thinking about RPA (Robotic Process Automation),” James Butler, Chief Technology Officer

According to Trustmarque’s Chief Technology Officer James Butler, AI is becoming “infused” into the majority of products and solutions. However, organisations must cut through gimmicks to find valuable tools that will drive their business forward. He commented: “Every company is (or should be) be thinking about RPA (Robotic Process Automation). Whilst it’s easy to waste money on this stuff without the right strategy or solutions, the companies that find a way to improve service and reduce costs quickest will have a long-term competitive advantage. But they need to do that without compromising on ethics and values.”

Of course the rise of AI, which is moving towards a state of ubiquitous saturation, is intrinsically linked with automation and security. Issues of privacy and bias present new challenges and the need for what some are referring to as ‘a new value system’ for the digital society.

Agility and automation in the cloud: how hybrid became the new norm

Organisations’ data infrastructure is constantly changing. While the turn of the decade may have seen a focus on cloud migration and single cloud environments, we are now seeing a more “cloud appropriate” approach with some cloud repatriation. As a result, organisations in 2019 have increasingly  adopted or factored in a hybrid approach with a complex arrangement of applications running across on-premises, multi cloud environments and the edge.

Vendors have had to embrace this multi-cloud, hybrid trend in order to make the process simpler and more aligned for users. Thankfully, we have seen some amazing collaboration.  For example, VMware extending into Azure and AWS for seamless integration across workloads and platforms.

“Technologies like Containers, hybrid cloud file management, REST APIs and VMware Cloud among others have emerged as the most useful standards for application and data-centric hybrid cloud,” Neel Dev, Cloud Practice Lead

“The containerisation of  legacy applications, the increasing range of multi-cloud management tools,  the use of caching and hybrid cloud data management technologies, as well as improvements in software-defined networking, has meant that a hybrid proposition is far easier to manage than ever before,” says Neel Dev, Cloud Practice Lead at Trustmarque. “Technologies like Containers, hybrid cloud file management, REST APIs and VMware Cloud among others have emerged as the most useful standards for application and data-centric hybrid cloud, since you can easily extend into a mixture of clouds. Tools like Azure Arc now allow management of multi and hybrid cloud environments from a single pane of glass.”

2019 has also born witness to noteworthy automation solutions and general innovation in the cloud. The further development of IoC (Infrastructure as Code) and ARM templates to deploy networks, subnets, VMs and other resources and the rise of Azure DevOps has meant that IT infrastructure can be deployed in hours rather than weeks. Tools including Azure Sentinel, Azure Security Centre and third party tools such as Cloudchekr have provided greater efficiencies and visibility, while PaaS services like DataBricks and PowerBI have brought much needed innovation to data analytics.

Security controls got tighter as the threat widened

Cyber Security is one of the biggest threats in our society and hundreds of millions of data breaches have been recorded in 2019 including some high-profile situations. In May, WhatsApp was hacked with spyware that allowed surveillance technology to be installed on some user’s phones. It’s not disclosed how many people were affected but WhatsApp has 1.5 billion users globally. Even the UK political parties have been under threat with Labour reporting DDoS (denial of service) attack during the election campaign.

“We’ve seen two different angles of security that have run in parallel; a return to good cyber security basics, which is fundamental, enhanced with a focus on leveraging cutting-edge cyber technologies,” James Holton, Cyber Security Lead

But what technologies have been utilised in 2019 and what are organisations doing to outsmart the hackers? According to our resident expert James Holton, Cyber Security Practice Lead, 2019 has been a year of contrast. “We’ve seen two different angles of security that have run in parallel; a return to good cyber security basics, which is fundamental, enhanced with a focus on leveraging cutting-edge cyber technologies,” he commented.

James highlighted a couple of key trends for 2019. Firstly, a shift in cloud security from generation 1 where traditional datacentre tools were “lifted and shifted into the cloud”, to generation 2 where cloud security tools like DevSecOps (application static testing) and CSPM (policy management) have been developed to run in cloud environments. Secondly, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella’s $1bn R&D investment has seen Microsoft rapidly developing its security offering with a 300% growth in security tools like Azure Sentinel and Dark Web Monitoring.

A rise in shadow IT, mobile and remote users, coupled with a boom in unstructured data has led to a growing problem in both device and data visibility, which will be a core areas organisations continue to address and take control of as we move into 2020.

Data as a driver for true transformation

Data is the new currency. Data is your most valuable asset. Data is power. Data is your new best friend.… These mantras have been somewhat drilled into the psyche – and are perhaps nothing new. But we’ve only recently seen a step change in how organisations across the scale are really starting to leverage data to their advantage – moving from business intelligence to predictive analytics. Big Data Analytics in Healthcare is a great example. It is not only transforming businesses; it is saving lives.

To meet the growing demand for solutions that can help unlock value from data, Trustmarque was proud to this year launch an exclusive business intelligence reporting tool for customers. Prism, developed by ITAM Solutions Architect James Moran, is a powerful tool – driven by Microsoft Power BI – that extracts highly targeted and complex information from multiple sources and brings this together via a series of dashboards. The aim is to provide easy access to meaningful information that supports business decisions.

Prism has been such a hit that it was nominated for both the UK Cloud Awards and UK IT Industry Awards.

Prism IT UK awards

Trustmarque transformation and triumphs

We’d also like to take the opportunity to reflect on the many successes we’ve seen this year, either as a business or through collaboration with our customers and valued partners. As we’ve already mentioned, Prism became our award nominated solution of the year. But there were also a string of other nominations and award shortlists made.

Our Government Sales Team successfully made it to the finals for the CRN Sales and Marketing Award, while Public Sector Sales Director Wendy Shearer was shortlisted for the CRN Women in Channel Awards. Paul Hunt, Principal Consultant for Office 365 gained Microsoft MVP (most valued professional) status for the 4th time. And who could forget when our knockout Account Manager Paul Neary came home a victorious champion of the CRN Fight Night.

Our vendor partnerships have gone from strength to strength as we look to deepen and diversify relationships in order to connect our customers with the right solutions. We recently became a partner of choice for Dell EMC Elastic Cloud Storage in the UK and secured 14 Gold accreditations with Microsoft, making us one of the most highly accredited partners.

What now? Can we predict the next year with 2020 vision?

Well it’s probably a safe bet to say that 2020 will bring more of the same. More evolution, more collaboration and more innovation. There will be uncertainties for business as we deal with the extra pressures of an impending Brexit and many customers are expecting ongoing investment challenges, particularly in the public sector. Whatever challenges the market throws, Trustmarque is here to help you navigate the digital transformation landscape.

Thanks and all the best for 2020 – IT’s time to shine

Thanks to all our customers, partners and staff who have been a part of the Trustmarque journey into 2020. We look forward to working with you all more in the New Year and enabling better outcomes through digital transformation. If you would like to talk to a member of the team about your 2020 strategy, contact us using the button below.

We’re in IT together.

By Katherine Murphy, content enthusiast