Core Compete, a SAS Gold Partner and Reseller, has been migrating SAS workloads to the public cloud for more than five years. The organization has considerable experience in modernising SAS to run natively on various cloud platforms and containers. It uses an approach and methodology that not only reduce the overall migration and modernisation costs but also the overall TCO for the SAS Platform. In March, AWS awarded ISV Workload Migration competency to Core Compete for SAS workload migration to AWS.
Core Compete is an essential global SAS Partner because of its expertise in cloud migration and experience in different verticals and territories. It allows SAS to address customers' needs by helping them understand and adopt analytics effectively. I caught up with Sunil Adlakha, Partner at Core Compete, to understand trends driving the company's work.
At SAS, we believe that analytics is the heart of digital transformation. What is your experience?
I think the digital transformation has only been possible because of two things. First, the vision of organisations adopting data as an asset and using the insights from that data to make better and more informed decisions. And second, the rise in computing power enabled by cloud platforms. Whether you are seeking to create compelling customer experiences, trying to improve productivity or automating a process in your organisation, analytics, machine learning and deep learning techniques are central and are crucial to success. SAS offers a reliable analytics platform, and now with the rise in computing power, organisations can now explore and process additional sources of data to improve the results.
What do you think is the real key to successful digital transformation?
In my experience, it is the focus on value creation. Successful projects have generally focused on how to create value. If you keep a laser focus on the business value that the transformation will generate, it helps everyone at all levels within the organisation to understand the need to transform. Focus on value helps rally the effort from all functions of the organisation and helps everybody embrace the change. One of the big reasons I think that transformation projects fail is that the value statement is not clear at all levels of the organisation and therefore a collective and collaborative effort at all levels to make the project a success is hard to get.
Who is usually the business sponsor of this type of transformation project?
It depends on various factors, but generally, it is not one person who leads the projects, in my experience. For example, for many of our telecom customers in the developing markets, the drive and active participation are right from the CEO because of the cost and level of influence required to make these projects a success. At various places in developed markets, usually, it is driven from the chief digital officer’s office, who drives a board agenda on digital transformation, indeed sponsored and backed by the CEO.
The chief digital officer is responsible for making sure that transformation is successful and that the entire business adopts the new technologies and new ways of working and enhancing customer experience. For the projects specific to analytics and SAS Platform modernisation, in addition to the roles mentioned above, the chief analytics officer and head of technology and architecture roles have been fundamental to success.
Is creating new revenue streams an important area of digital transformation, in your experience?
Yes, very much. In the beginning, I described how central data, analytics and machine learning are to digital transformation. If we double-click on that and try to understand the details, for instance, banks are now looking to move to live negotiations on a credit offer rather than a batch credit decision with the use of machine learning and intelligent decisioning, leveraging the SAS Viya platform on cloud. This helps them gain more market share.
Risk models enriched with additional predictors which were not utilised before due to the rigidity of the environment and lack of computing power can now be used successfully and quickly. This helps the banks make their products available on additional sales channels and helps them come up with new products faster, and at the same time keeps the bank compliant on risk-related parameters.
Another example is from the telecom world, where companies are now competing very differently, and so they have to look for new revenue streams. In one of the countries in EMEA, a telecom organisation is looking to offer hosted analytics services by partnering with organisations like SAS and Core Compete to deliver services to smaller enterprises by providing results using analytics and technology, enabling them to generate an entirely new stream of revenue.
Do you see differences between sectors in maturity and the readiness to implement this type of project?
Yes, definitely. For example, banks have historically used analytics a lot. Although the way that they are doing so is changing now as they try to use additional sources of data. Many banks are keen to move to cloud, too, and we hear the news of large banks announcing partnerships with major cloud providers in the developed markets. Other sectors, like telecoms, are less mature in the use of analytics as compared to the banks. It is primarily seen in the customer experience areas, whereas there is good potential for analytics/AI/ML adoption in core telecom operations.
In the retail industry, as another example, there is a lot of interest in moving to cloud and advancing the use of analytics and AI. We have been involved in some sophisticated deployments of applications for assortment, demand planning and inventory optimisation using SAS on AWS and GCP in the US and the UK. It’s all about what provides value. And increasingly we find that use of more sophisticated analytics/ML techniques to drive value is the crucial reason to modernise and migrate to cloud in addition to lowering the TCO.
Do you see any difference between countries in the speed of cloud adoption?
In the developed markets, where regulation and standards are already clear and have been developed for the adoption of cloud and data privacy, many organisations have now come up with a cloud-first strategy. Over 90% of modernisation and on-cloud deployments for us have been in the developed markets, such as the US and the EU. In the Middle East, we have seen a pattern where customers seem to prefer a local hosting partner, as opposed to a public cloud platform, mainly due to regulation. But in many cases due to the skill gap as well.
Do you think security is a major concern?
I think it is a myth that the cloud is less secure. More and more we see that the IT Sec function is convinced that when precise controls are put in place, cloud-based deployments are more secure than on-premises deployments. The security measures that are taken on cloud are probably more stringent and more robust than on-premises, so I think it's changing. Gartner predicts that in 2020 there will be 60% fewer instances of security incidents on cloud as compared to on-prem deployments. Organisations are starting to focus on the success stories. I think this will drive adoption over time, as people realise the benefits, and appreciate that security is as good in the cloud, and in many cases better, as on-prem.