Mid-year trends: Al everywhere, cloud data push and Power Apps galore

It feels like 2023 is flying by and customers and partners I talk to every day laugh in weary agreement when I mention that.

We are in an incredible period of accelerating change, one in sharp contrast to the pandemic years, which served up their fair share of drama, but seemed to blend into one monotonous blur.

Midway through 2023, economic pressures mount, the war in Ukraine grinds on, and political campaigning ramps up ahead of the election in October. The arrival of generative AI, with ChatGPT as its flagbearer, is also symptomatic of the seismic changes that are going on in the world.

Every organisation, in the space of a short few months, has been given an opportunity to finally put artificial intelligence to work in ways that will yield immediate and tangible productivity gains. But the generative AI revolution has also created a new risk factor as well.

Inappropriate use of this technology, which after all, is barely out of its prototype phase, could lead to security and privacy breaches, and exacerbate the known issues of bias and inaccurate results that were problems identified with AI systems long before the rise of generative pretrained transformer (GPT) technology came to dominate the field.

As we approach the mid-year mark, here are a handful of trends the Deptive team is seeing as we talk to partners and customers.

We are all getting a copilot

As a proud Microsoft partner it has been fascinating to watch how the world’s largest software maker has begun transforming its entire suite of products to incorporate AI into them. Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI has given it unrivalled access to the large language models that underpin ChatGPT.

In a few short months, we’ve seen the debut of Azure OpenAI Service, Microsoft’s generative AI cloud platform, the Bing search engine adopt conversational AI, Windows 11 machines incorporate an AI-powered assistant, and the Microsoft 365 productivity suite receive an AI upgrade. Many of these products are still in pre-release mode.

But they will soon be in the hands of millions of Word, Excel and Windows users. The Copilot AI features of Microsoft 365 could represent the biggest increase in functionality for Microsoft users in decades. At Deptive, we are particularly excited about Security Copilot, Microsoft’s AI-powered addition to its Defender cybersecurity service. Imagine being able to simply prompt a chatbot to gain intelligence about the latest cyber threats or to receive an instant update about the status of your network. This could be a gamechanger for busy IT managers at a time when cyber attacks are escalating.

At Deptive, the whole team is upskilling to embrace these AI tools and we are establishing partnerships with AI specialists where necessary to help our customers make the most of them.

The big data clean-up

We hear so much about the big shift to the cloud, but the reality for many organisations is that they still have masses of data sitting on on-premises file servers.

We’ve had numerous discussions with customers and prospective clients who are increasingly aware of the need to get sets of unstructured data into the cloud so it can be presented in a useable form.

The key driver is a desire on the part of businesses to modernise their infrastructure as a precursor to being able to do smart and productive things with their data, including using AI.

Business leaders are looking with fresh eyes at the business case for investing in data analytics so they can gain actionable insights about their operations. Generative AI will make the job easier because in many cases, it can serve up those insights without requiring a huge amount of work to prepare the data.

Data governance needs to come to the fore here and a cautious approach to using generative AI tools on customer data is recommended. It feels like the early days of cloud computing all over again, where customers were excited about the potential, but nervous about where their data was going and how it would be used.

Every business leader should familiarise themselves with the AI Forum’s AI Principles and check in with their security officer to make sure that early use of the technology is in line with legislation such as the Privacy Act 2020.

The renewed interest in data is reflected in the fact that Azure Data Factory and AWS Data Analytics were identified as some of the most in-demand qualifications by the online learning platform Udemy.

Automation made easy

We’ve helped numerous customers automate manual or inefficient business processes using Microsoft’s Power Platform, often with the help of Power Apps.

Oceania Healthcare was able to streamline its approval processes for new capital expenditure across its network of retirement villages with a Power Apps solution. We’ve developed a new service, Document Bank 365, which sits on top of Microsoft SharePoint and offers an easy solution for managing documents, with the help of the Power Platform.

Maybe you’ve got human resources policies that need to be reviewed annually. With Power Apps & Power Automate, you can automate management of change controls and alert the right people to undertake timely reviews. None of this requires proprietary software, just a Power App that you probably already have access to as part of your Microsoft 365 subscription. We see Document Bank 365 as an accelerator – every customer will have different requirements, but with our approach and leveraging the Power Platform, they can take an easy and cost-effective approach to business process automation.

Hyperscale and local

Finally, we are seeing a lot of interest from customers preparing for the looming arrival next year of Azure, AWS and Google data centre regions on New Zealand soil.

Having serious computing and data storage capacity at our fingertips has big implications for customers, particularly those requiring low latency for applications as well as data sovereignty needs that require sensitive data to remain within our borders.

A move from on-premises infrastructure or from overseas cloud platforms to the shiny new local data centres requires careful planning. But the conversations we are having suggest the appetite for cloud services is growing as a result of these infrastructure investments.

Before we know it, we’ll be preparing for the Christmas break. We can expect a lot more change in the second half of 2023 – and artificial intelligence will no doubt throw up a few new surprises as well.

Get in touch with Deptive to start planning your approach to AI, data modernisation, and business process automation.

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