By Chris Chelliah, Group Vice President & Chief Architect, Technology & Cloud Platform, Oracle APAC
With developments in fields such as artificial intelligence and augmented and virtual reality holding out the promise of new experiences, products and services that were never before possible, technology is once again being portrayed as the enabler of innovation and exciting new possibilities. But for many people who have chosen technology as their chosen profession, the reality can be very different. Look inside many organisations and you will find large teams of IT professionals whose working lives are not dedicated to the application of amazing new technologies to create great new experiences or solve difficult problems.
Instead, they are working hard to maintain, patch and secure systems that may be years or decades old, where the main requirement is simply to keep them running as optimally as possible. Furthermore, while these roles are highly skilled, and can also be highly-rewarding, they often add little new value back to the organisation beyond the essential requirement of keeping essential systems running.
The simple fact is that many organisations are employing people in the service of technology, rather than deploying technology in the service of people.
Gartner shone a spotlight on this problem more than a decade ago when it reported that that eight out of ten dollars organisations spent on IT was “dead money” that “kept the lights on” but did not contribute to business growth. Unfortunately, for many workers, the demands of keeping the lights on are preventing them from even understanding the greater organisation within which work, let alone making a contribution to helping it perform better.
It is a problem noted by the Group CIO of Australian bank Westpac when he spoke at Oracle’s Cloudworld event in Sydney in May, when he highlighted how it was no longer acceptable for IT workers to be largely ignorant of the business within which they worked – and vice versa.
“The concept that an IT person doesn’t understand the business they work in is one that has to end really quickly,” Curran said. “And similarly, the concept that someone can work in a business and not fundamentally understand the IT that supports their business again is something that won’t last as well.”
Shifting such perceptions will be essential for an organisation like Westpac if it is to transition from creating on products delivered through channels to focusing on services.And it will be essential for any technology-powered organisations that wants to be investing in the types of technology that will make a real difference in the eyes of those who are consuming its services.
But what if we could free people up from being slaves to technology? What if we could enable them to turn their skills to solving problems at the front end of the organisation, rather than being trapped in the back office doing tasks that probably should never have been done by people in the first place?
This is the reality delivered by autonomous technology. Combining the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, autonomous technology delivers the capability for IT systems to self-manage, self-repair and self-secure across a wide range of functions and applications.
For IT professionals, autonomous technology means being relieved of the mundane procedural work of keeping an IT system functioning, and allows them to put their knowledge to work solving problems for the organisation.
Take database administration as an example. When applied in a database, autonomous technology can not only automate the process of cleansing and organising data, it can also ensure patches are applied and the data is secured. This means database administrator can move away from performing specialised administrative tasks related to design, security, and troubleshooting, and focus their attention on how a data asset might be better used to assist the organisation.
As Michael Morales, CEO, QMP Health, a user of Oracle’s autonomous data warehouse said, “When you’re dealing with human lives, time is everything. Having Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud automatically tune and manage itself with no downtime means faster response times and quicker decisions – that’s critical for us and our patients”
A further example is provided by sports analytics firm Qualex. Its clients include some of the world’s greatest sporting teams, who rely on Qualex to deliver insights into their performance. The faster Qualex can translate data into insights, the happier its customers become. Oracle’s Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud not only speeds the loading of data, but it frees Qualex’ staff to focus on what matters –running analytics models, generating insight, and creating marketing campaigns for its clients.
This same process of automation can be applied across a wide range of applications and tasks, including for integration tasks, or in functionally-specific systems. Again, it reduces the management overhead and allows those resources to be redirected to where they will be more useful.
Autonomous technology is also fundamentally different to other waves of innovation that have come before it. While technologies such as the World Wide Web and cloud computing introduced a wide range of benefits into organisations, they also brought greater complexity, requiring the employment of yet more teams to manage them. Not only can autonomous technology free staff up from managing these systems, but it also requires no great investment in new management skills – because it self-manages.
While it is probable that many technology management roles have never really been the best use of a person’s time anyway, it is also likely that over time people will become even less suitable for these tasks, thanks to the increasing volumes and complexity of data and the greater speed at which results are demanded. Tasks such as management, maintenance and security of data are ideal applications for artificial intelligence, which can easily handle the scale and speed demands of modern IT environments.
For technology professionals, autonomous technologywill release them from servitude to systems and processes andallow them to make a more visible – and possibly more rewarding – contribution to theirorganisation. It will get them out of the back office, and maybe even let them get their hands on some of the emerging technologies that everyone is so excited about.