Explain IT: Season 3, Episode 1 - 2020 Tech Predictions

Playing now - 2020 Tech Predictions

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In the first episode of series three we cast our eyes over the new year and ask some of the biggest tech brains in Softcat about their predictions for 2020. Alongside host Zac Abbott, Softcat’s chief technologists share their thoughts on what may be emerging in the next 12 months. They discuss simplifying cyber security and cloud, the potential increase in AI tech, improving patient and citizen access, and balancing user freedom as well as ways to improve employee engagement.

From L to R: Zac Abbott, Dylan Foster-Edwards, Dean Gardner, Adam Harding, James Seaman, Craig Lodzinski, Adam Louca
Host:
Zac Abbott
Zac Abbott Senior Account Manager Softcat
Guests:
Dylan Foster-Edwards
Dylan Foster-Edwards Head of the Office of the CTO Softcat
Dean Gardner
Dean Gardner Chief Technologist for Cloud Softcat
Adam Harding
Adam Harding Chief Technologist for End User Computing Softcat
James Seaman
James Seaman Account Chief Technologist Softcat
Craig Lodzinski
Craig Lodzinski Chief Technologist for Emerging Technologies Softcat
Adam Louca
Adam Louca Chief Security Technologist Softcat
Key takeaways
  • This year we are likely to see an increase in vendor consolidation as larger companies look to add cybersecurity to their business and smaller companies are absorbed to provide this service.
  • The focus on intelligence and combining services and solutions to create an outcome will increase, with organisations looking at problem solving and security, rather than just the latest technology.
  • There will be a theme of freedom vs control. Technologists and HR teams are increasing their collaboration to deliver modern IT experiences to improve employee engagement.
  • In the public sector, the focus will be on handing back control to the citizen, patient and student to collaborate and engage directly with care providers, local authorities, universities etc to manage their own data.
  • AI and related tech are going to increase, with organisations focusing on building operational AI platforms with technology that’s easy to deploy and cost effective. 
  • Simplification is a theme – simplifying access, services, control and the whole landscape will mean that users will be able to access the data they need in a simplified, consistent and secure way.

Zac Abbott: Hello and welcome to Explain IT brought to you by Softcat. The show for IT professionals, by IT professionals that aims to simplify the complex and often overcomplicated bits of Enterprise IT without compromising on the detail. Welcome back to season three, I'm your new host Zac Abbott and over the next 20 ish minutes I’ll be challenging our panel of experts to take a different area of the IT ecosystem and, of course, explain it. This is episode one and what better way to kick off the series, and in fact, the year than with a look forward, asking some of the biggest tech brains in Softcat what they predict 2020 will bring for the industry. Here to discuss this with me today are five of Softcat’s chief technologists; Adam Louca for cyber security, Craig Lodzinski for data and emerging tech, James Seaman - public sector, Adam Harding in modern workspace and Dean Gardner in hybrid cloud. And of course, head of Softcat’s office of the CTO Dylan Foster Edwards. Hi guys, welcome to season three, thank you for being part of the inaugural episode. You'll be pleased to know that the interesting fact has been abolished, so no pressure. Having said that, you can only watch one film for the rest of your life, what film is it? Adam 

Adam Louca: It's going to be Anchorman guaranteed. You can watch that thing a million times, it's always average so I feel like it's going to be good forever.

Zac Abbott: Perfect, Craig?

Craig Lodzinski: So I don't have Sky at home, I have ITV2 so therefore, Hot Fuzz because it's on literally every evening, it's a fantastic film.

Zac Abbott: Great choice, James?

James Seaman: Donnie Brasco.

Zac Abbott: Nice. Adam?

Adam Harding: I tell you what I did like, when I was a kid I used to watch Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure on repeat like three times a day.

Zac Abbott: Fair enough. Dean?

Dean Gardner:  Back to the Future trilogy because it’s one film.

All: you can't do that no no no no one film

Zac Abbott: That’s like saying Lord of the Rings is one film

Adam Harding: Yeah or Harry Potter or something

Zac Abbott: I'm going to move on but just know poor choice. Dylan? 

Dylan Foster-Edwards: TV programme whenever I'm bored. Friends. Always.

Zac Abbott: Dodge the question completely thanks very much Dylan. So I've tasked the guys to look at their field and make three predictions; what they think is most likely to happen this year, what could change this year, and an off-the-wall prediction that they would like to see this year. So without further ado, guys what's going to happen in 2020? Starting with Adam.

Adam Louca: So for me the most likely thing to happen in 2020 is going to be vendor consolidation. We've already started seeing this at the business level, so Carbon Black was acquired by VMware, Symantec was acquired by Broadcom, so we’re already starting to see an amalgamation, a consolidation of those vendors as they come together being absorbed into larger companies who are looking to add cybersecurity to their existing business models. From a perspective of the customer, people have made large investments over the last probably 12 to 24 months in cybersecurity and I think we've reached the point where there's a lot of operational overhead to manage those tools and products. We do a number of vendor consolidation assessment engagements where we go out and work with customers to help them understand their whole landscape against a framework and what we've noticed there is on average customers have some between 20 to 25 different security vendors. So it's a massive portfolio and then if you take the average contract length is 28 or 29 months, you do the maths on that and you start to say well I’ve got to be renewing or replacing a product every one-and-a-half months which is kind of pretty crazy just from an operational perspective, so we're going to see that consolidation, people trying to drive more value out of the tools they've got. I think this year we're going to see customers be a lot more ruthless, both with their reseller partners like Softcat and technology partners but also with the vendors, and actually say how are you helping me make life easier for myself, I don't just want a bunch more features, I don't want a bunch more whizz bangs, actually I want you to make my life better. They talk about customer experience and customer outcome, actually what really matters is making the customer happy, that customer experience is going to become key.

Dean Gardner: The simplification really of the landscape is what we’re seeing. What we're finding is that even the public cloud providers AWS, Azure, Microsoft, even Google now, they’re acquiring and building technology to try and simplify what's happening in the data centre as well so they coming back into the data centre and obviously with VMware with the acquisitions and their development, they're trying to create a consistent platform because organisations that are trying to transform applications and data, it's not easy to do that with the technical debt that exists, so this is kind of landscape that exists within the customer state that’s technical debt and trying to simplify that is the challenge because a lot of the time organisations can't move forward and so definitely there's this consolidation that’s happening, simplification of the datacentre, consistent platforms across multiple areas including the public cloud, is where we're seeing a lot of our customers wanting to get to and really starting to accelerate that which is being helped by the vendors and that's where we see containerisation and what's happening around trying to create that consistent application development structure as well because you don't get mobility in the application unless you have that and I think what we're trying to do is to get a platform set up for customers in hybrid or multi cloud way that allows that to happen, it's not something you can flip a switch and just happens, it has to be driven by some of the technology out there and  historically that's not happened, so the vendors now are driving some of that change.

Adam Louca: Interestingly I guess we've reached the point, the same with all of it, where we’re starting to think about the outcome. I think security is probably a bit late to the party but quite often we've been kind of sold on the tech specs rather than asking what is this thing doing, what is its function or requirement? The vendors are now speaking about their products not as a set of skews, but actually what is the thing I'm trying to get from it, so am I trying to find a secure way to share data? Am I trying to find a way to detect malicious events? Am I trying to find a way to respond to an incident that happened in my environment? What are the security stories, rather than actually what is the tech doing by itself?

James Seaman: I think it's bigger than that, I think through the acquisitions you were describing the question isn't ‘how do I share data securely?’, the platform providers and the acquisitions that being made, it's how do I share data and now the conversation’s moved to ‘how do I do that securely?’ because of the acquisitions, it’s intrinsic security it’s not just simplifying it for the people managing it.

Adam Louca: Yeah I guess that the interesting part with that is you think about the vendors fundamentally security has no intrinsic value, the only point of security, the only reason we bother doing it is to enable you to consume more of the thing. You consume more of a service if you believe it’s secure. 

Dean Gardner: But you have to look at what are you securing, because people, and we've seen this, where they are acquiring software and technology for a point solution, essentially or a point fix, and this is where you see that sprawl which, as you have described, and ultimately you can sell more security product, but what is it doing, what is it delivering? And then fitting the technology against that landscape.

Adam Louca: I think just as a final example, I feel bad being a security technologist and saying this, the amount of people I see with vulnerability assessment tools who provide vulnerability assessment services, and they might be paying £80,000, £100,000 for these tools on a subscription model, they have no idea how they are ever going to remediate any of the problems, so what's the point of paying for a tool that you've not allocated any procedure cost operation to fixing what it shows you? You might as well put the £100,000 in your pocket because it's just going to run every month and then tell you you’re still broken unless you actually going to put the process in to fix this stuff, you're wasting £100,000 because you feel better because you got a tool that tells you that doesn't mean you're any more secure, you’re just getting the same information again and again, so I think a lot of this stuff is people are still not operationalising it, it’s just a bunch more dashboards.

Dean Gardner: It's the same for the whole environment - data - we've got unstructured data, we’ve got structured data, we've got tools that can inform you as to what you should do. Are you going to do it? And this is, I think, what's been the problem over the last 12-months, and actually will continue to be a problem, you can invest in technology but it's not going to solve or fix or develop or transform. You have to put intelligence and you have to put service or solutions in as part of a wider roadmap to deliver against that information to create an outcome, ultimately. And I think what we're trying to see is that organisations don’t want to worry about buying an infrastructure and making sure that infrastructure is running, they want a platform that's being run and supported for them so they can develop against it and they can make the data secure, they can make the application secure, they can develop new service against that application or requirement, that's why public cloud is suitable because ultimately you can just use it. I think that consistent platform for me and the other thing that certainly we’ve seen is any operational side of it and just Saas of opps, certainly in my world, is becoming a big thing, not actually installing a virtual machine to do operational services like management monitoring, backup, security, actually looking at the Saas.

Adam Louca: Isn’t there a crazy stat that something like a third of all virtual machines deployed are there to look after every other virtual machines, or something stupid?

Dean Gardner: You say that, but we run cloud assessments and actually the initial analysis of an on-premise vSphere or Hyper-V environment which is running a bunch of virtual machines you can quite quickly profile what actually is critical app against what actually is operational and actually the split is pretty even across the virtual machines. And so you can get to an answer where what are you going to do with the operational side of it when you move to cloud? We talk about application transformation and that's hard when you’ve got legacy applications that are sitting on legacy platforms in databases that are difficult to unpick that is a focus no doubt, and that is where investment should be going, but don't ignore stuff that's running your systems because there are now services out there that they won't solve your problem but they will remove the dependency on running them locally.

James Seaman: In the security market I think that as Adam was saying, that's happening as you are now, you're not building a scrum environment and a CCM environment, and having other third-party tools, you’re using Saas operational services. It’s incumbent in the platform, and I think the security vendors are doing the same now so it's not an afterthought, it's not something that you have to necessarily have a whole team of people, it's incumbent in the product. You can't deliver file sharing without doing it securely, you can't deliver an endpoint without answering the security question.

Adam Harding: I think you're right with the simplification thing and whether people realise it or not that's what they're trying to do. I think sometimes what it actually pulls in though, I don't know if laziness is the right word, but in the same way you said we identify problems and we do nothing to resolve them and we see that on the reports we produce for lots of customers, month after month, we highlight compliancy risks and operational changes that you could make that would make big cost savings, real basic stuff to be honest, but we're not seeing anybody kick into gear and actually capitalise them, and I worry whether at a level above the operational tier in these organisations, people just think, ‘oh you just turn it on and it will sort it out, there is no threat anymore, it's being sorted,’ I worry whether, as part of this, there just isn't enough investment in the people to help them rescale up, skill out, so they can actually fully benefit from it. 

Adam Louca: Sometimes I think there's a missed opportunity to protect the resource. When we look at how busy IT teams are, nobody’s helping them prioritise the short-term, remove the pain, but actually that thing’s going to come back again next week, and again next week, and again next week, versus actually protecting the resource, saying ‘well we’re prepared to live with a month of pain to actually transform and do something that's then going to, moving forward, actually give us continual benefit,’ and I mean this is no disrespect intended because it's a hard job, but it's very easy to get down into the micro and sit in that pain cycle of ‘do you fix the thing, come back, go fix the thing, come back,’ and we sit there and go, ‘I'm very busy,’ but actually you're not; you are very busy but you're not actually getting that maximum value out of your time because you're just coming back round, you’re not actually fixing the problem, you’re just patching it over.

Dean Gardner: You can be busy solving the symptom.

Adam Louca: I think that's a great way of putting it.

Zac Abbott: Something else that came up as a real crucial focus element for a lot of industries in the business tech report was end user computing. Adam what's your prediction for 2020, how is it going to change?

Adam Harding: I think the general theme will be about freedom vs control. I think as we launch into 2020 there's a couple of seemingly opposing themes that have got a bit of a tailwind behind them and mainstream momentum. In one corner you've got employee experience which is broadly translated into greater freedom for individuals, and on the other corner we've got simplified control which on the face of it is completely at odds with that freedom that we’re looking to give to individuals. Employee experience is about how we as technologists can work with HR teams to improve employee engagement by delivering a thoroughly modern IT user experience. Now in practical terms this is about enabling greater employee choice, workforce mobility and trying to implement immersive real-time collaboration tools to help with this new distributed network. Now this freedom in itself to choose how you work, where and when you work and which blend of apps and devices and wearables and whatever you use is game changing for the user but chaos to IT and it feels really at odds, as I said, with that simplified control that's got an equal measure of mainstream support at the moment. So to achieve simplified control of a multi workspace estate that might well include Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, iOS, Android, virtual apps, virtual desktops and a plethora of other bits and pieces then what we're going to need to do is move beyond standardising operating systems and applications and start to treat this like a bit more like we treat a multi-cloud estate whereby we elevate up and standardise data classification and control and conditional access and compliance and even boring stuff like consolidated billing which really does matter to people. So I think that that whole piece is being driven out of employee engagement being top of mind it's all based on the fact that we have one of the lowest rates of unemployment that we’ve seen for a very long time, there's a huge focus on retaining talent and recruiting new skills into the organisation and I think that's only going to keep on going as we push into 2020.

Adam Louca: Adam do you think there's ever a space whereby you can have too much choice? Do you think there's ever a space where you do need to be more prescriptive for people who take maybe less of an interest than we do in these sort of things?

Adam Harding: So I'm not a big subscriber of ‘the only people in the workspace are millennials and genzennials, so just do whatever the hell they want to recruit them’. Whether they are 22 or they are 62, as long as their contributing to us moving forwards as an organisation you need to be there for them so with choice it doesn't mean I’m taking away the old stuff, I mean, I don't know whether you guys would agree but every time, in any of our areas, new technologies become available, I don't really remember us properly retiring the old stuff, we just keep it. Data centres, they’ve just got fuller. So I don't think choice means we have to exclude people that are comfortable with ways of working, or still want to use a piece of paper and a pencil, but yeah it's about inclusion and actually that's one of the other things that will probably come out of this. I think accessibility for absolutely everybody is going to be quite a big topic this year, no matter what your abilities or disabilities.

James Seaman: I think from an EUC perspective we talk a lot about the consumer experience bleeding into the corporate world. It’s this Sky Plus scenario; everyone knows how to drive a Sky box. And I think when we talk about choice and we talk about security in cloud around the process, the people change, If you go and to speak to someone fresh out of university today and ask them, in a corporate world how do you think we get an app on your laptop, they’re going to talk about going to an app store, they’re going to talk about the user experience, the you store they have on their phone.

Adam Louca: Do you think so?

James Seaman: I do, definitely. And I think the choice, the consumer experience, the stuff Adam was describing I think from a stakeholder is going to be easier to consume, I think the step change will be quicker, I think the chaos in IT is a really important factor to focus on.

Adam Harding: Yeah and I understand where you're going from but could confuse the situation but I can't guard people from the outside world. And the consumer space is far more congested. All I’m saying is, if you find a good way of using those technologies in your real life, then if you want to bring those to work with you and enhance what you’re doing, you know, I’ve got one of these watch things, it’s not work-orientated, but I get all my notes and bits and pieces on it, it helps. I like it, I want to use it, where’s the harm?

Adam Louca: Yeah I think that's fair, I just think that sometimes you can over-egg the ‘young person loves apps’ thing.

Craig Lodzinzki: I think just generally it's more about making sweeping generalisations about demographic groups. If you try and group a gen Z or millennial person into a very specific box that’s actually where organisations lose a lot of potential. You look at Softcat, it’s a very young organisation and some of the, even the generalisations that we make would suggest that perhaps people from Adam Louca and my demographic don't know enough about servers or storage or networking because it's something that you have to have been born in 1950 to understand, that you couldn't know what a posix command is because you don't have grey hair. And I think if you make generalisations then you can potentially lose a lot of impactful work in any aspect of corporate IT.

Adam Harding: And I think the thing that I want to get across is that employee choice has been a thing for ten, fifteen years, twenty years, it’s not like we didn’t want people to have employee choice, but the point is, this year there are significant pressures on every organisation who’s trying to thrive, or just survive, to retain the talent they’ve got in their organisation, or attract new staff so they can move forward.

James Seaman: It's not all just around talent, though, is it? In millennials and genzennials and retaining staff. A lot of this depending on the sector is around adding efficiencies and we've used the term simplification a number of times from a vendor and ops perspective. If you can use IT in a more effective way, in a way that’s easier to manage and more subscribable by the consumer as well, there's a value to your business it's not just around talent, and it is important that I think again, very selfishly looking at public sector, clinicians, academics they’re tethered to IT, it becomes a barrier to the student, or a barrier to the patient. Delivering more agile and more consumer focused service that the patient can access, or the citizen can access, it's not just public sector, if you think about multiple industries, think about the AA being able to deliver an engineer on the roadside the right tech to a tablet, that might be an iPad one week or an Android device week after.

Adam Louca: James on that point, just using as an example, where I think that they've done that really well is what they've done is they've elevated it beyond flexibility of a device or delivery of a point…

James Seaman: It’s about function.

Adam Louca: Yeah. What they've done is gone ‘what does the person need to do? and actually what app or service and data and interaction do I need to allow them to have a digital system,’ not ‘can I get Office on the iPad?’ because that's irrelevant…

Dean Gardner: That's it, across the board, IT, that’s it.

Adam Gardner: But people don't do that, and I think that's where people... that was what drove my challenge earlier is not so much I don't agree with you’re saying about abstraction, but unless you take the step beyond abstraction and management where you can manage every different colour of iPad, to does it even matter because if they can't get Salesforce or they can't get the CRM or they can't get the data they need to the roadside they can't get the x-ray image or whatever they need to be a better ‘blah’ then we have kind of failed as IT and technologists because the rest of it's irrelevant, like otherwise they just get Mac on iPad.

Dean Gardner: And that's kind of what I've been saying about focusing on the abstraction, not the device because it's the other stuff that counts.

Zac Abbott: James you mentioned public sector briefly. 

James Seaman: Coming from me there.

Zac Abbott: Do you see similar trends in 2020, in the coming months, or do you see it going a different way?

James Seaman: I think the challenge in public sector is slightly different in each vertical for 2020 but the challenge is definitely around driving that output that everyone said it's the outcome, and in public sector it’s around giving the control back to the citizen, the patient or the student, so there's a huge drive and it’s started already. But in 2020 it's going to be huge around giving control of your record, your care, your service by integrating data and the challenges that brings the public sector, if you think about a student journey, so student being able to know where they're going to be staying before they get to a campus, have interactive maps, being able to engage directly with the university; a patient being able to collaborate and talk directly with their clinicians and manage their own case and manage their own healthcare, the challenges that brings to an IT perspective is huge and that's where my colleagues come in if you think about securing student data and citizen data and patient data, application development, the platforms you need which are more than likely going to be public cloud platforms to deliver that app, to deliver that service, it's a huge paradigm shift, but it's one that has to happen and it's different every other sector, and the reason I say that is in the public sector, we are still technically in austerity measures. Actually the public sector is dramatically underfunded, elements of it have already been privatised, it’s a dirty term, but if you look in education you've got academies and Academy Trusts, these are private entities that are still taking funding from the public sector and a very small amount of funding. So the challenge has to take place, they have to deliver on it because the money isn't there to continue the status quo, so it's very different in that, and I mean no disrespect to this, but from an operational perspective within IT, the NHS has got some of the best clinicians in the world, but from an IT perspective, they're not a bluechip bank, so there's a capacity capability maturity problem in a sense that they have to make this democratisation of data, they have to give the service back to the patient, back to the citizen, back to the student, but the maturity to deliver that, potentially isn't there in all cases, so it's almost perfect storm in the sense that this activity has to take place because the money isn't there for the status quo to continue, but trying to achieve that and achieve that in the timelines that are in place, if a look at some of the legislation some of the literature that’s out there, some of the patient record stuff in healthcare, some of the student challenges that exist at HE and at K12 as well, down at the introductory education level are huge, and the timelines are very short so it's a huge challenge and 2020 is going to be a big year for the public sector, irrelevant of government change, irrelevant of Brexit.

Adam Louca: What impact will purdah have in 2020?

James Seaman: It's already biting.

Craig Lodzinski: Can somebody tell us what purdah is, because it feels like you two have got this secret safe word.

James Seaman: It's a hold period between old government and new government, so major investment, major policy change, major public sector structure changes, things like that can't take place for obvious reasons, in case you have a change in government.

Adam Louca: And you said it's going to be a very busy year. How are they going to do it then? How long are they going to lose and how they going to get round it, I guess?

James Seaman: I've been very lucky of late to be meeting with a lot of senior people in the public sector and I've heard something that has been, on one hand very positive, but on the other hand, to me, very scary in that lots of senior decision makers at sea level in public sector have all said very similar statements to me around the fact that they see the public sector being propped up by the vendor market. And they’re saying that as a positive assurance, not Softcat you've done a great job this year, but in general, the vendor market, the manufacturers, the OEMs, the ISVs, resellers like ourselves are propping up that market and helping them and filling that gap.

Adam Louca: So do you mean we're helping to drive the agenda?

James Seaman: We’re helping not just to drive the agenda, we’re helping to meet compliance. You talked about Cyber Essentials and ISO accreditations and so on, we do lot in that space obviously, a lot of our competitors do. We are helping organisations achieve the standards that they need to achieve. It's massively positive and it’s a point of pride for me and the work that we do at Softcat but it’s also, I'm quite fearful of it because there's a positive nature to that, and obviously I would say this, but I believe what would do is very positive, but there's also that warranted environment problem that exists in the public sector. Local Gov is a prime example of this, healthcare, education have made a step change over the last couple of years so it's not as bad but in local authorities there’s a small number of ISVs that provide product for things like Revs and Bens and housing and so on, and they have a stranglehold on that market.

Adam Louca: So like a duopoly or a monopoly?

James Seaman: Exactly, and they control what tech can be used. You walk into a local authority and you’ll find an election system that's only brought out every four years and lives under a desk on a dusty old box that’ll be running on a piece of technology that is unsupported because that's just…

Adam Louca: Because they can't change it 

James Seaman: That's the operating system it runs on or that the database backend that it needs to be supported on, so I think the fact that to achieve these challenges I think the vendor market, the OEMs, the ISVs, we all need to change, we all need to continue doing the good stuff we’re doing, but we need to be very very mindful of the challenge and the budget constraints. And don't want to bring it down to boring stuff, but things that Dean alluded to; technology is never the answer, it has to be technology, it has to be process and governance change to make sure you get that value from that technology. We need to step up and support the public sector in that.

Zac Abbott: I think on that it seems like a good moment to bring in Craig in terms of emerging tech and maybe counter that and have a look at what you see coming in 2020.

Craig Lodzinski: So it's obviously, in emerging tech it's particularly difficult to see what's going to happen over the coming 12-months and as you can tell from my spectacles I don't have 20/20 vision.

Zac Abbott: Nice .

Craig Lodzinski: Thank you. However the one I can be most certain about is probably that artificial intelligence and the linked technologies to that are going to become a lot more prevalent over the next 12-months. And that's not to say that we're going to see general purpose AI become ubiquitous but actually we're seeing a lot of consolidation in the market but a lot of simplification, so organisations, whether that's the measure public cloud providers that Dean’s alluded to or specialist organisations, companies like Peltarion or data iku who are building operational data science and AI platforms that allowing to reduce the inertia of being able to hire data scientists and maths phd's to do work in the emerging and AI space and actually democratise that platform by bringing up people who have a data background, a mathematics background, and a DBA background and really allow the democratisation of that. What that also is doing is dropping the cost curve down as well, so with emerging tech it's always difficult to make a business case for it and that's what we see a lot of organisations that I work with really closely definitely see the value in AI and machine learning robotic process automation but it's very hard to define a strict business case. They don't know the risk to reward ratio that's available there so with things like security or cloud we have defined techniques, we have tools to understand the cost, whether that’s a 100 million-pound ICO fine for GDPR breach or some of the numbers that we’re seeing coming out of our cloud intelligence platform and what the cost and return is. With emerging tech it becomes more difficult, so I think as we’re starting to see these more cost-effective models and reduce the amount of time that goes into emerging tech, there’s going to be a really big uptake in that area of AI and AI linked technologies because simply it's easier to deploy, it’s easier to understand and that cost basis dropping with demand, if anything increasing.

Dean Gardner: I just want to kind of link them together because James was alluding to the fact that there’s ISVs out there in the public sector that kind of aren’t innovating quick enough to meet the demand and actually I'd say that's across all industries that we work with, is that there are traditional software vendors that have delivered software into specific areas like legal and other businesses and they do have an almost a monopoly because they are ingrained in that particular business and have been so for quite a few years. I think what we’re seeing now is that the benefit of cloud platforms is that you've got a lot of organisations, small startups, idea factory kind of models actually building and developing applications to solve some of those challenges and I think you're going to see that emerging over the next couple of years actually, where these applications are going to disrupt and there's going to be a lot more applications out there than there's ever been before being developed fixing some of those problems. They may not be big, massive applications, but a lot of the functions we see within the applications that these ISVs provide you can take out components and create micro apps if you will, that do the same thing. But you're going to see, I think, a lot of development in that space a lot of small organisations start encroaching and disrupting the big ISVs that have had this monopoly over the next couple of years and I think cloud platforms and consistent platforms across multiple clouds will help that happen and that's when you start getting to subscription billing, you get to, it becomes quite complex, and that's where you move towards standard platform operating models because ultimately the application is important, it's the most important thing and the data under it is important, and that leads onto where you have emerging technologies where you then need engines off the back of that to make intelligent decisions on your behalf and that's where, for me, a lot of these functions that exist in cloud platforms actually allow that to happen and a lot of those traditional ISVs that for me, are holding up business globally they’ll either have to change or they will be removed from the equation. And I think that's going to happen in the next few years and that has to happen for true and real change to happen within business.

Zac Abbott: So we've talked at quite some length about what we think is likely to and what could happen and what has to happen and what change has to be done. Let's have a more light-hearted look and have a look at some off the wall things that you would like to see. Does anyone want to start on that one?

Adam Louca: Go on I'll start as I started the last one. So cybersecurity is going to be fixed. Done Completed it.

Zac Abbott: Bold statement.

Adam Louca: It's all done.

Craig Lodzinski: Collected the whole set.

Adam Louca: Just collected the whole set of cyber securities. All go home. Whole billion, multi-billion dollar industry collapses, world goes under. What do I do? So actually what do I mean? So there is, in research papers currently at the moment and small pilots that, using mathematics, we can do something called a mathematical proof of software. So what this essentially is is the ability to validate mathematically that there are absolutely zero errors in software. Now why does that matter? When we think about cybersecurity, cybersecurity only exists, if you can believe it, because someone messed up. So the only reason we exist as an industry is because the programmer, when they built the piece of software you're using, messed up, and they left a bug, they left a vulnerability in the code that could be exploited. Now it's probably not true to say that’s 100% a cyber security because you still have human error and you still have people messing up, but when we look at traditional, when people think, my bank account got hacked, or we hacked that piece of software, that's what they're thinking about, it’s a software error.

Dean Gardner: Would you class that as user error? A port left open?

Adam Louca: Yeah but it doesn’t matter, if the port is open and there's no vulnerability because the software is perfect you can have all the ports left open.

Dean Gardner: As long as you’re secure, ok.

Adam Louca: Because the only fear we have about the port being open is either A - you can compromise it via an exploit, which is again software vulnerability, B - the authentication mechanism is weak, ie you've used a password that you've used before somewhere else, or C - somebody makes a mistake ie, I shouldn't have sent you that email - the human error aspect of it. We can get of a whole giant class of cybersecurity problems, of which anti-viruses wouldn't need to exist. So the idea essentially is that you can use maths and you can use mathematical techniques to validate, before that software goes out, that that code is perfect. It’s happened a few times in history, so when we had the Apollo missions. When NASA was writing the software to get the guidance to get them over to the Moon they had to make sure that it was correct and given a small amount of code, so a small enough amount of code, you can mathematically prove that software is 100-percent functional. Now the only thing that holds us back from that is the curve of difficulty of how long it takes is exponential to the amount of data you put into it so if you have a piece of software, four lines of code, it’s pretty easy to validate that and check that it's 100-percent correct. Now if that expands exponentially then all of a sudden the problem gets massive and so massive that we can't fix it. But given the fullness of time and this area of research we could reach a point where actually you don't need to update your iPhone for a security patch because there ain't no security problems in it.

Zac Abbott: Cool. James?

James Seaman: Anybody who has anything to do with the public sector is going to, shudder when I say this, but I think there's an opportunity with a new government to see a genuine focus change in the public sector. So in the past people will be aware of the Mpfit in healthcare, there’s a real opportunity for a public sector wide type programme of funding integration and collaboration with the vendors, with the ISVs, the open standards challenge that’s out there to put some money in and actually do something really impactful in the public sector. So it's around funding, it's around a focus change on where the value actually is.

Zac Abbott: Ok. Craig?

Craig Lodzinski: What is extremely unlikely to happen but could, it is within the realms of possibility, is that we will see a commercialised quantum computer within 2020. There's been some controversy over the last 6-months as Google claimed to have achieved quantum supremacy and then IBM went ‘have you though?!’. There is definitely a lot of research going into the area of quantum computing, making that commercialised, but the reason that's unlikely to happen, and that actually applies in a lot of emerging tech. With emerging tech there’s a lot of supporting and utility factors required so in quantum computing we need a lot of areas of software, we need the supporting infrastructure, you can’t just throw one into your average data centre. The supporting utility factors that wrap around it, we look at things like autonomous driving - to take autonomous driving away from motorways in built-up areas requires a very different infrastructure, it’s going to require the purchase of ubiquitous 5G, it’s going to require huge proportions of Edge computing because processing video, Lidar and sensor data in the cloud just isn't going to happen. I mean it could, but you're going to see an awful lot of pedestrians and occupants of cars dying if you want to do that just because of the sheer latency, you have to check the car's ping before you decide to cross the road, which is not likely to happen, but that's one of the issues we see with a lot of emerging tech, is being able to achieve it in a short space of time requires a huge amount of supporting factors that often times you need this, what our illustrious former leader Sam Routledge referred to as ‘the Nexus of forces’ to combine to allow us to productise these emerging techs into something that moves out of the lab and from a testbed into something that actually becomes useful to people and organisations outside of research and academic space. 

Zac Abbott: Thanks Craig. Adam?

Adam Harding: So I was going to throw in there the rise of the citizen developer. I think I would like to see normal people creating task specific applications and automations using low code and no code solutions, may be using RPA where there aren’t API’s available and so on and so forth. The stuff is all out there, so I would like to see that start to make some progress in the corporate world and the reason I think it's important is, realistically technology is about doing stuff faster and every minute does count.

Adam Louca: I think our key challenge as technologists is we have lots of tools, but the hardest thing is, because your job is to have the tools you don't actually know what the problems are all the time, and I think people somehow expect us by magic to just, by osmosis, to know what a doctor needs to have better, what an administrator, what a receptionist, what whoever, whatever job you do, but the person that knows it best is you, like I know what I need to do better to do my life better.

James Seaman: We’ve proven the model, so a very self-serving statement, but myself and Craig worked with an NHS trust on RPA, we engaged with the clinicians, we engaged with the patients, we found use cases, so they came to us, they told us what the problem space was. All we did really was describe the art of the possible and provide the box of tools, the Lego bricks, that they needed, and employed that service now, implemented a number of RPA agents for two use cases, and are seeing, over a year now, thousands more patients because exactly as Adam's just described, there’s a task they don't have to perform now, they have more patient engagement time.

Adam Harding: And I think just wrapping up the reason I don't think it's likely, is actually because of Louca’s lot. I think that many organisations just haven't yet worked through the process of defining the security principles or how to allow people to have access to these, the systems of record that are required and systems of interaction that are required and hands up even at Softcat if I try and go to power platform, it doesn't exist because we've locked it down because we haven't quite figured out who should and who shouldn't have access to it yet. And I think that kind of figuring out how to give that freedom again will unlock a lot of potential.

Zac Abbott: Cool, Dean? Off the wall?

Dean Gardner: I don't know if it's off the wall, but certainly dev teams that are developing everywhere. I just think that they're going to have to actually start working with operations teams and cost and security sprawl will be fixed and I don't think that's going to happen.

Adam Louca: Do you think we’re living in a utopia?
Dean Gardner: Yeah that would be a utopia, but that's for me, I think developer teams are going to grow, that's where budgets are going. We’re going to see a lot more sprawl around codes and I think how you operate and manage that code is going to be huge and it's going to become probably the biggest challenge I think for organisations and as well as managing still what essentially will be technical debt, so it's trying to manage all of that and goes back to, for me, the point was made at the start, the simplification, just creating consistent platforms and consistent operating models to facilitate code development, development across multiple platforms and I think that's going to be a massive challenge and it will continue to be so. I also think that true multi-cloud management is going to become a standard way of operating and the public cloud providers will completely and continuously encroach back into the data centre and the Edge which is what we’re going to see quite aggressively over the next 12-months.

Zac Abbott: Cool thanks Dean. Well that about wraps up the episode. To quickly summarise I’m going to hand over to Dylan - take us through each of the five fields and the key takeaways for 2020.

Dylan Foster-Edwards: So we had Louca and Dean both combined efforts to ultimately suggest that simplification of security and cloud is what's going to happen in 2020. Lodz talked about AI and AI related technologies that are on the increase. James talked about handing control back to the patient or citizen to access their services and Harding talked about balancing user freedom and simplifying control to support employee engagement.

Zac Abbott: Cool thanks Dylan. Guys it’s been really interesting talking with you, thank you very much for your time and that's it for episode one. If you want to know anything more about what was covered in today's episode, please email in [email protected] and don't forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcast. Thank you very much for listening to Explain It from Softcat.