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Covid-19: Reimagining work with a zero-trust lens

by | Apr 22, 2020 | IT Security

Ensuring business continuity for borderless offices demands more extensive IT security frameworks.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in widespread lockdowns. Commuting to workplaces has been suspended for all but a few essential-service organizations and personnel. To ensure business continuity, many organizations had to rush almost overnight to implement work-from-home (WFH) policies for their entire workforce. Understandably, when viewed from a ‘zero-trust lens,’ few have found themselves fully equipped to handle the surge in WFH scale, which is testing the robustness of the IT security fabric.

The state of running entire operations remotely is unprecedented! IT heads are scrambling with issues such as infrastructure availability and sizing to meet the growing demands. From a security readiness perspective, CISOs are seen doing comprehensive assessments to map the network usage patterns and risk aspects. With more employees working remotely today than ever before, the odds of potential threats have grown manifold. The biggest challenge for CISOs today is to make necessary tools and resources available to their virtual workforce without compromising confidential data.

The practical and effective strategy that works to address this challenge is ‘zero-trust lens’ approach to information security—a contemporary lens that treats everyone who access organizational network as suspicious and distrustful.

The concept of zero trust security framework distinguishes between what’s necessary and what’s not. It stresses that everything cannot be critical and hence need not require full network access. Contrary to the trust-based perimeter defense approach, zero trust defines users and their job requirements. It provides people with adequate permissions to access applications and tools relevant to perform their job virtually, while withholding the rest of the corporate data. For instance, an HR department employee working remotely need not be given access to the sales department database.

In the current setup, it becomes even more important for CISOs to have visibility on what’s happening on the network. Looking at the fact that many employees may be accessing corporate information through personal and unfamiliar devices remotely, CISOs are expected to incorporate strong multi-factor authentication protocols to strengthen the zero-trust security framework. A strong multi-factor authentication protocol ensures controlled access to data repositories and specifies who may access information and under what conditions.

It is equally important for CISOs to educate their users regularly about not clicking insecure links and staying watchful of phishing emails, thereby preventing easy doorways to hackers and cyber crooks.

Even during these difficult times, organizations can operate to their fullest potential, if they enable their people in a right manner, using a ‘zero-trust lens’ framework to secure the borderless networks.

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

How will AI impact enterprise ecosystems in 2021?

How will AI impact enterprise ecosystems in 2021?

In early 2020, no one would have expected an unprecedented pandemic this year that would cause significant disruptions to the industry.  The crisis has ushered in a series of radical and sudden changes that have exerted tremendous pressure on companies around the world. This led to many leading-edge technologies and solutions being adopted overnight. In the wake of digital transformation, artificial intelligence (AI) is viewed as a major technological impact that can play an important role in changing the future of work.

Artificial Intelligence enables organizations to make informed, data-driven decisions and forecast the potential outcome of those decisions.

In India, interest in AI has been prioritized by the government and key institutions. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technologies (MEITY) is actively working on a proposal to implement a national mission for artificial intelligence to increase the use of AI in India. The project is valued at Rs. 2000 crores.

Turbocharge transformation

The experience during the lockdown seemed difficult, but advanced existing digital transformation projects. IT had to rise rapidly to meet the changing business requirements; evolving customer expectations enable everyone to cope up with the crisis. (See: Tech majors extend work-from-home to keep pandemic at bay)

Enterprises that have been slow to embrace digital technologies are realizing the need to fast-track digital transformation initiatives as a result of the increasing uncertainty and closures caused by the pandemic. (See: AI is a must now to speed up digital transformation)

While many organizations have been analyzing AI capabilities and validating concepts for some years, it quickly became a hot topic in boardrooms because of the rise of the remote work environment and the growing amount of ambiguous data.

In 2021, organizations will rely heavily on AI for better resilience, rapid management of IT operations, decision making, maximization of resources, and improvements in supply chain efficiency. Better World expects at least 70 percent of enterprises across all sectors to adopt some form of AI-based technologies and initiate aggressive AI-based production deployments in the next twelve months to establish a competitive edge.

AI will be fundamental to the development of the client experience. In a fast-growing virtual environment, technology leaders would require intelligent models to manage and use the huge amount of data wisely. AI led solutions have the potential to derive concrete insights and help enterprises break down the data intelligently with a tremendous speed (See: AI-driven analytics is CIOs’ mantra in the new normal).

Evolving operating models

The year 2021 will be marked by important business model changes that can help deliver a continuous and exceptional customer experience in a secure and transparent manner.

Businesses in the retail and banking sectors will rapidly launch AI-based conversational chatbots, virtual assistants, fraud detection and face recognition tools to generate a personalized customer experience, strengthen security, compliance and improve their customers’ life-cycle value (See: How artificial intelligence is transforming Indian retail sector and AI in banking now geared for a takeoff)

Similarly, for the health sector, AI is expected to act as a smart intermediary between patients and doctors. The AI-based cloud analytics and fitness monitors will be dynamically deployed to maintain a regular review of a patient’s history and biometric information. This can help experienced physicians monitor their patients remotely even in the most remote regions. For example, a startup called Feebris has been using an AI-powered remote monitoring tool to enable community healthcare workers in India to diagnose respiratory conditions for 10,000 children.

Companies engaged in the manufacturing sector will invest in automated processes and AI algorithms to monitor and inspect production quality and quality assurance activities. German multinational Bosh, for instance, has been extensively testing deep learning techniques to identify production defects through images of the manufactured products in its industrial units in India.

Many global enterprises are expected to use AI to disrupt their work ecosystems. Back office employees will be replaced with a robotic process automation technology based on artificial intelligence to perform repetitive and time-consuming tasks such as document retrieval, invoice processing, operational audits, and application management. For workers in physical offices, AI will be harnessed to develop biometric and facial recognition tools to enable a safe and pandemic-free environment.

Another area where the AI data models will be widely used is cybersecurity.  According to a recent report by Wipro, titled state of cybersecurity (SOCR), there has been a massive increase in R&D on AI in the field of cybersecurity, with approximately 49% of the world’s cybersecurity patents filed over the past four years focused on AI and machine learning. It is interesting to note that cybersecurity threats are coming forth on such a massive scale that 87% of the organizations surveyed were eager to implement a zero-trust architecture,  an integrated AI and ML-driven security approach for users, applications, data, and networks, in the post-Covid era.

Better support and research for successful AI models

AI’s success also suffers from numerous determinants. Inefficient data, poor data quality, lack of trust, and inadequate support tools make it difficult for many organizations to step up efforts.

Over the next 12 to 18 months, there will be further inroads into AI-enabled smart tools to make them more responsive to varying business needs. Businesses are also expected to invest in these technologies and develop research and development wings to better analyze metrics and improve data response time.

The focus of the enterprises will also be on updating the AI toolkits to look at the behaviors of their users and employees to develop a strong retention strategy.

Twitter hires Zatko to strengthen cybersecurity resilience

Twitter hires Zatko to strengthen cybersecurity resilience

Social media behemoth Twitter hires Peiter Zatko! That’s the big news making waves this week in the cybersecurity circles. Zatko, who is better known as ‘Mudge,’ has been roped in as the security chief by Twitter to further beef-up its cybersecurity architecture. Zatko, aka ‘Mudge‘ is considered one of the world’s top hackers and has held top research positions at Google, Defense Advanced Research and Projects Agency, and Stripe.

Peiter Zatco

Peiter Zatco

In his new role, Zatko will evaluate and make necessary policy changes around Twitter’s cybersecurity, physical security, and platform integrity. Zatko will directly report to Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter. A couple of months back, Twitter also appointed Rinki Sethi, an ex-IBM executive, as its new Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). This position had been vacant since December 2019.  (See: Twitter hires Rinki Sethi as CISO to keep hackers at bay)

Twitter’s new appointments are part of its targeted efforts to enhance its cybersecurity infrastructure and prevent unauthorized access to its systems. The company has been facing severe criticism in the recent past because of its vulnerable IT systems

In July this year, Twitter witnessed a massive cybersecurity breach in its systems that resulted in many high-profile accounts getting hacked and created a massive furor in the digital world.

The infamous hacking incident, also known as the bitcoin hack, involved the widespread hack of several high-profile verified Twitter accounts, including ex-US President Barack Obama, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The cybercriminals gained unauthorized access to the administrative controls of Twitter and hacked the accounts of famous personalities with millions of followers, and offered forged bitcoin deals.

The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has forced businesses to enable full remote work environment and has opened the floodgates of security breaches. Threat actors and cyber-criminals are increasingly looking at opportunities to take advantage of cybersecurity loopholes in an organization to gain access and use it for personal gains (See: Top enterprise cybersecurity trends of 2020).

To mitigate the cybersecurity threats, security chiefs across organizations are expected to take a massive overhaul route to enable the best identity and access software and policies that could timely prohibit any unauthorized access.

Will Joe Biden’s victory accelerate India’s IT sector’s growth?

Will Joe Biden’s victory accelerate India’s IT sector’s growth?

The selection of Joe Biden as the United States’ next President is likely to be a new starting point for India’s information technology industry. Under Biden’s leadership, industry onlookers hope that restrictions around H1-B visa will be relaxed soon, enabling many Indian technology professionals to work in the US.

While the policy matters may not change immediately, Biden’s presidential campaign statements reflect his strong will toward a more focused approach in strengthening US-India bilateral economic relationship. Looking back at 2017,  the outgoing Donald Trump’s government squeezed the US immigration policy, making it challenging for Indian tech companies to send their staff to their US offices for training and work.

According to NASSCOM, the industry association for the IT and IT-enabled products and services sector in India, since 2005, the bilateral trade between India-US increased by over 400%, with a total increase in value US $37 billion from 2005 to US $149 billion in 2019. NASSCOM states that the technology sectors of both countries have played a critical role in driving this bilateral trade.

Major enterprises in India and the US focusing on digital transformation and immersive technologies as part of their growth strategy. In view of this, the IT Services are sitting on a hotbed of opportunities to help businesses harness digital channels and modernize their IT infrastructure to innovate faster and reimagine the business landscape. (See: Salary hikes at IT firms on cards as COVID disruption eases)

In Joe Biden’s regime, the favorable trade ecosystem could also encourage American technology companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, HP, IBM, Facebook, and Uber to make further investments in India and develop their outsourcing centers to leverage the Indian talent. (See: Tech Cos take M&A route for digital transformation supremacy)

India as an emerging IT power

India’s IT industry is currently experiencing tremendous growth due to the rapid demand for cloud-based remote-working and transformative solutions. There is an enormous rush to upgrade digital infrastructure, leveraging technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence, and automation. And numerous Indian IT companies such as TCS, Infosys, HCL, and Wipro are broadening their horizons across the US to accelerate their growth. (See: Growth of Indian IT sector set for revival in 2021 )

Over the last few years, the Indian technology industry has made a more profound presence in the US economy, driving local investments, job creation, community services, and upskilling their US employees. For instance, TCS has been ranked among the top two US recruiters of IT services talent. The company has hired over 21,500 employees in the last five years, taking its total US workforce strength to about 40,000 employees.

The Mumbai-based company has also mentored more than 25,000 students across the US and Canada, enabling them to learn new-age technology skills.

Similarly, India’s second-largest IT company, Infosys, is also betting big on its US expansion plans. During the last three years, Infosys has unveiled six technology and innovation centers in the US across Indiana, North Carolina, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Texas, and Arizona. The Bangalore based IT firm has plans to hire 12,000 American workers by 2022 to support the growing client base, who are modernizing their IT infrastructure in the wake of increasing remote-work trend.

Wipro, too, is not far behind when it comes to expanding to the US. The company is setting up new offices of its strategic design arm, Designit, outside of conventional presence in Silicon Valley and New York City. Through its design arm, the company works with leading enterprises such as BMW, Cisco, FedEx, and GM to design innovative business offerings and processes.

Another tech major, HCL is also beefing up its capabilities in the US to build information security and cyberthreat intelligence solutions.

Additionally, there are many American technology companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, HP, IBM, Facebook, and Uber that continue to make substantial investments in India and develop their outsourcing centers to leverage the Indian talent

Opportunity to address the talent gap in the US

According to Nasscom, one of the significant challenges being confronted by the US economy is the lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) professionals in the country. The US has millions of STEM sector jobs that remain vacant as it doesn’t have enough workforce to fill those positions.

NASSCOM says that it looks forward to working together with the new US Administration, finding solutions to the STEM skills gap, and enabling America to be more competitive, grow, and create more jobs.

The US government is increasingly facing demand and skills gaps in several IT sector branches, and under Biden’s leadership, the US is anticipated to call for concrete steps to bridge those gaps. And given India’s strong talent pool in this area, this will certainly offer more opportunities for the country.

Nevertheless, a lot will be dependent upon the transition process to the newly elected government, local sentiments of people, and the dollar to rupee currency stability in value.

 

 

It’s time to invest in a Chief Transformation Officer!

It’s time to invest in a Chief Transformation Officer!

In the current VUCA (Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) times, most organizations are under constant pressure to innovate and transform themselves to compete well and offer exceptional client service. This has intensified the importance of employing a specialist executive, Chief Transformation Officer, who can supervise the change in real-time and enable organizations to deal with the shift and changing dynamics.

Any transformation program entails risk around existing processes, technology and culture. A well-supported transformation leader at the executive table can play a pivotal role in reducing the risks and successfully executing a digital transformation initiative.  (See: How is digital transformation shaping the new future?)

While such roles have been in existence for some time, their demand has grown recently. This may be primarily due to the massive expansion of digital transformation programs by various organizations at all levels.

Chief Transformation Officer

According to a recent report by EY , the CEO and Chief Strategy Officer are traditionally charged with formulating strategy. But executives now indicate that a broader group is joining them, including the Chief Growth Officer, Chief Transformation Officer, and Chief Sustainability Officer. The report notes that this may sign the pace of change and the importance of non-financial measures, such as environmental and regulatory factors in a company’s market value.

Why do firms need transformative leaders?

When the coronavirus pandemic confronted enterprises, not many were well-equipped to manage the crisis. The pandemic’s outbreak pushed enterprises of all scales to control cost, find a workaround for business continuity, integrate various digital technologies in their business ecosystem, and remain innovative.

At the beginning of the pandemic, several organizations had a hard time managing the turbulent business environment and sought expert advice to drive change. After all, creating healthy balance sheets and maintaining relevance in an ecosystem of significant change requires a targeted approach that can only be carried out by a specialist. The disruptions caused by the pandemic were no different from a global war-like situation. And events like these have far-reaching economic repercussions than we think. (See: Online project management tools: Top office suite analysis)

Tech leaders were trying to catch up with the growing uncertainty and interrupted cash flows. In addition to allowing a thriving remote work environment and protecting their workforce from the pandemic’s impacts, there was also a blur around political and economic agendas, testing the mettle of businesses, and technology leaders. Most small- and medium-sized businesses were concerned about shutting down soon.

In this context, the importance of Transformation Leader or Chief Transformation Officer has been widely relayed through numerous leading companies’ executive committees. Businesses have increasingly realized that someone must take responsibility for leading change because transformation requires strength, attention, collaboration, and clear accountability.

The Transformation Leader’s role is to lead the transformation program and enable all employees, external stakeholders, or customers to drive change. This is about guiding the organization through the disruption and getting buy-in from all stakeholders.

A paradigm shift

A few years ago, not many organizations had this role, and it was also short-lived. The main reason was that the transformations were relatively infrequent and that companies were afraid of investing money in a temporary role. However, today, in growing complicated circumstances, businesses realize the importance of developing a consistent goal-oriented transformative strategy that can bring both short- and long-term value to their stakeholders while keeping operational costs under check.

The Chief Transformation Officer is responsible for analyzing the customers changing behavioral patterns and continually look at the market dynamics to help organizations stay competitive. They work in partnership with the company’s technology, human resources, and financial leadership, improving processes and metrics.

As transformation programs move forward, the Chief Transformation Officer will focus on the evidence-based perspective and a managing behavior resistant to change. They play a crucial role in enabling employees to embrace new changes through training and necessary information sharing.

Given that in 2021, technologies such as robotic process automation and the internet of things (IoT) will take center stage to drive productivity, new age models, and standardization, investing in the role of Chief Transformation Officer will help enterprises accelerate their business strategy. (See: RPA-led tools helping enterprises sail safely through a storm)

 

AWS pumps $2.77 bn in India to retain cloud supremacy

AWS pumps $2.77 bn in India to retain cloud supremacy

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has committed US $2.77 billion (INR 20,761 Crores) to strengthen its cloud infrastructure services in India. Amazon’s cloud computing arm will use this money to launch a new cluster of data centers in Telangana, Hyderabad.

“Happy to announce the largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the history of Telangana! After a series of meetings, AWS has finalized an investment of Rs 207.61 bn ($ 2.77 bn) to set up multiple data centers in Telangana. The @AWSCloud Hyderabad Region is expected to be launched by mid-2022,” tweeted Telangana state minister for information technology and industries, KT Rama Rao (KTR).

Within its lexicon, AWS identifies its data centers cluster as Availability Zones. AWS set-up two data centers in Mumbai in 2016. It added another data center in Mumbai last year. Across the Asia Pacific, AWS already has 26 Availability Zones spanning India, Australia, Greater China, Japan, Korea, and Singapore.  

The investment will further enable AWS’s position as a leader in India. AWS currently has around 30% market share of India’s cloud service market, followed by Microsoft’s Azure.

AWS leases server space and bandwidth to enterprises of all sizes with cloud computing capabilities. This allows businesses to accelerate their digital transformation goals without building up their in-house servers or data centers.

Growing cloud services market in India

Over the last few years, Indian enterprises are quickly embracing cloud computing services to upsurge agility, deliver innovations, and modernize their infrastructure. With businesses focusing on well-carved out cloud strategy in the wake of the digital transformation rush, there is a bigger emphasis on getting experts on-board who have the experience to help organizations prepare for a new tomorrow. (See: Bharti Airtel gears up for digital transformation opportunities and IBM to split into two companies for better cloud opportunity)

The pandemic-induced work-from-environment has made the market even more lucrative, and cloud players are taking strong initiatives to strengthen their presence in India. These fast-evolving dynamics have made India one of the biggest and fastest-growing cloud services markets in the Asia Pacific, which is likely to touch $10 billion in another five years. Industry body NASSCOM projects that the market will grow to $7.1 billion by even 2022. (See: Technology trends for businesses in 2020)

The top players dominating the Indian market include Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Google Cloud, and Nutanix. Amongst all, Amazon and Microsoft are leading the market and intensely vying to be the market leader in India’s cloud services market. While AWS’s position at the top is indisputable, both Azure and Google are growing at a remarkable rate, posing a threat to Amazon’s dominance in the cloud services space.

Early this year, Amazon and Bharti Airtel, India’s leading telecom player, entered into a strategic collaboration to deliver cloud computing solutions to enterprises. The partnership was formed to combat a similar engagement announced by Microsoft and Reliance Jio to provide enterprise cloud solutions powered by Microsoft Azure.

AWS had the first-mover advantage as it started its operations seven years earlier than many of its competitors. It gave Amazon an opportunity to get its offerings tested and make it more functionally rich as compared to the others.

In August 2019, Amazon inaugurated its biggest campus globally in Hyderabad, which supports 15000 employees. Through its AWS Academy and AWS Educate initiatives, AWS has also been providing ready-to-teach curriculum to higher universities in India to upskill local developers, students young IT professionals.

AWS’s client in India includes Ashok Leyland, Aditya Birla Capital, Axis Bank, Bajaj Capital, ClearTax, Dream11, Druva, Edelweiss, Edunext, Extramarks, Freshworks, HDFC Life, Mahindra Electric, Ola, Oyo, Policybazaar, Quantela, RBL Bank, redBus, Sharda University, Swiggy, Tata Sky, YuppTV, Zerodha, and several others.

AWS registered a 29% year-on-year growth in revenue to posting $10.8 billion in revenue in the second quarter of 2020.

 

 

 

RPA-led tools helping enterprises sail safely through a storm

RPA-led tools helping enterprises sail safely through a storm

The unprecedented COVID-19 environment has thrown up several challenges for industries across the globe. The growing distributed workforce environment is pushing businesses to deploy new-age digital operational methodologies to deliver a tailored and personalized experience to their customers.

Amidst the digital transformation wave, a technology that has been swiftly gaining ground worldwide to enable businesses to revolutionize their conventional processes is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The pandemic has made organizations rethink their operational models and integrate artificial intelligence and automation in their processes to ensure that there is no pause.

Incorporating AI and machine learning capabilities, RPA uses software robots that allow organizations to automate multiple high-volume, repeatable tasks. It includes calculations, approvals, invoice creation, server maintenance, merging data from other sources, and copying and pasting data.

There is a growing emphasis on deploying digital bots to reduce employee workloads and accelerate business transformation. Through the RPA bots, organizations are able to empower their employees to concentrate on productive tasks and respond to new challenges more effectively.

Customer centricity driving new automated models

Business process management solutions are widely adopted to streamline processes and transforming enterprise value propositions. Customer-centricity is a highly discussed subject today across the CXO boardrooms, and businesses are rapidly exploring the best ways to cut down on time lost on repetitive tasks.

By automating a business process, organizations can minimize work as it enables them to provide round the clock support to their clients from the bots.

At Better World, our recent interactions with several technology leaders and senior executives suggest that approximately 15 to 20 percent of all human hours are unexploited across industries due to repetitive tasks. The ratio is even higher in the IT sector, where about 25 percent of working hours are lost due to repetitive transactional tasks. With RPA enabled tools, companies can let employees focus on high-quality tasks with better efficiency and productivity. (See: Anshuman Tiwari, Global Head of Delivery Excellence, DXC Technology)

The RPA workforce comprises different software robot levels, performing monotonous and admin-driven tasks at an exceptional speed with minimal human intervention. Take the case of German automaker Volkswagon in India. Its Indian arm has substantially leveraged the capability of RPA to transform several of its processes. From its finance department to the customer service department, the company has automated over 80 processes successfully through RPA tools. Amongst the highlights, it deployed a bot to help its customer service team fetch real-time data that can be utilized to address customer queries.

A similar case in point is Thomas Cook India, a leading travel management firm. To navigate the lockdown-induced disruption, the company partnered with an RPA solution provider, ‘Automation Anywhere,’ to support its virtual workforce and drive automation in several of its processes.

Sectors such as BFSI, healthcare, and travel are aggressively exploring the best ways to implement software bots to improve their bottom lines and automate back-end operations.

Mushrooming market          

In India, RPA growth has been primarily driven by the need to optimize various back-end processes in accounting, IT operations, and human resource management. Many companies are finding it tough to keep up with the increasing demand for services in an environment filled with anxiety. And this is where technologies like RPA are creating a strong impact.

According to several industry estimates, in the next four years, the RPA market is expected to reach around $80 million in the country, helping organizations manage growth in a sustainable manner. 

The RPA vendors are expanding their presence in India, and 2021 will be a crucial year for this technology to thrive in the domestic market. The industry onlookers expect several rounds of consolidations and collaborations that will strengthen the RPA models in the country.

Besides top vendors like UiPath, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, and WorkFusion, several exciting startups are gearing up to make a mark in the RPA space. Most of the vendors are investing heavily in research and development efforts. There is an increased push to launch ready to deploy bot solutions that can quickly take on human-intensive transactional work.

 

 

 

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