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An explosion of cloud-based collaborative networked offices in 2016

Explosion of cloud-based collaborative networked office

More companies in Asia are moving towards a cloud-based, “collaborative networked” workplace to harness greater productivity and teamwork, overcoming geographical or physical barriers and offering more flexible working arrangements.

As Singapore is the regional hub for most global companies and their employees are often road warriors, a borderless collaborative networked office infrastructure is needed to keep them connected. This trend also opens opportunities for those who need flexible working arrangements such as working mothers or millennials who don’t view “office as a specific location” and prefer “virtual” offices in more relaxed environments. 

In 2016, we saw an explosion of cloud-based unified communications offerings, especially those with mobile applications, with smartphones being the mobile device of choice. In 2017, the trend will continue with greater impetus.

Having said that, we believe that the growth will gravitate towards the hybrid options, rather than the pure cloud-based platform, largely due to the cybersecurity vulnerabilities associated with the latter.

Need for enhanced cybersecurity

2016 also saw the need for enhanced cybersecurity. Incidences of ransomware, which holds business data hostage until a fee is paid, have taken a sharp upturn this year. In fact, a recent industry study found that nearly half of all U.S. businesses have experienced at least one ransomware attack in the past year alone.

Instead of trying to break through cutting-edge perimeter security attackers capitalised on the carelessness of employees to infiltrate corporate networks and take data hostage leveraging crude techniques.

Cloud-computing has taken off in a big way. Unfortunately, cloud security has also been compromised as highlighted by the aftermath of the Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack on domain name service provider DYN. Household names such as Paypal and Twitter experienced disruptions in service. Amazon’s AWS service was also affected. Many companies which host their environments on Amazon’s cloud found themselves unable to serve their customers during the attack. 

And closer to home, we saw the first attacks of its kind when Starhub confirmed in October that its service was disrupted due to “…intentional and likely malicious distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on our (Starhub’s) domain name servers (DNS)...”

The momentum towards cloud computing will continue in 2017 but the damage wrought by simple attacks have exposed cracks in many organisation’s cybersecurity strategies. Cloud providers can offer better security but it can also introduce new risks.  Businesses must develop plans to mitigate these new threats if they hope to fully utilise the potential provided by the cloud.

The interoperability challenge

While the proliferation of mobile productivity collaboration applications such as Slack, Spark, and Skype in the enterprise space shows no sign of abating, these tools can in fact create a case of “too-much-technology” as they are not interoperable.

Non-integration of such collaborative applications defeats their raison d’etre as the data are non-transferable and need to be redone and resubmitted, thus creating more work and complexity resulting in tension rather than increased productivity among users.

Enterprise interoperability is therefore fundamental to achieving business agility. Thus, in 2017, we hope to see more efforts being channeled into breaking down such cross-barrier constraints within the industry. 

Lack of right digital talent

In 2016 we also saw increased momentum towards digital transformation, which is all good except that not only do enterprises now need to rethink their businesses, they also need to find the talent that can make it happen. 

Enterprises need talent that not only know technology but they also need to know the intricacies of the business and understand how to optimise the technology for customer engagement - both internal and external.

For example, in the specific area of security, the skillset needed has been largely ignored by organisations so the demand for security workers is going to be at an all-time high worldwide.  Even economies like Singapore will have trouble matching wages of security professionals when the median salary in US cities for such skilled expertise is US$200,000 per annum.  Consequently, we forecast that there will be strong demand in 2017 for outsourcing or co-sourcing and managed services providers will play an important role.