The role of a CTO within the ICT distribution sector differs greatly from one within the industrial or financial sectors.

Instead of looking for new technologies that can benefit the organization itself, it involves identifying new technologies and discovering how they can be shaped through a distribution channel and enabled to consume.

So says Jacques Malherbe, CTO of ICT -added distributor, Axiz, adding that this is far from a simple task. “It means digging through mountains of information. Remember, everyone thinks that their solution is the answer or the silver bullet’ that will be game-changing.”

According to Malherbe, the era of digital transformation brings previously unimagined benefits, but also new and great challenges. “Disruptive trends and technologies are challenging the old guard. At times, it’s a question of holding one’s breath and scratching around in the dark a little bit to figure out which of these trends will survive, and which ones will still make sense in a year or two or even three from now.”

He says working out which technologies will survive and which won’t, takes years of experience. “There are surface currents and there are deep currents, and it’s crucial to be able to distinguish between the two. If you react too quickly to what turns out to be a surface current, it could end up costing you a lot of money.”

Listening to the market

Listening to the market, to end-users, and to business helps to make the right decisions, he says. If something does not make business sense, more than likely it’s a fad or a bubble that is busy developing.

“You need to question how this particular can translate into value for the business. This could be either in terms of costs or efficiency or strategic advantage – but it needs to be in some form where its value can be clearly articulated to the board and to customers.”

There are several technologies that he believes will do exactly that.

“The industry has become fatigued by the cloud conversation. There is a general consensus that we are at the point where the ‘de facto’ way we will consume technology in the future will be in a hybrid environment. The cloud is a massive part of that – if we examine all its benefits, such as flexibility, scalability, the additional services, the cost advantage, accessibility – we know that all of these will translate into value for businesses.”

The ‘secret sauce’ is data

“But it’s not the ‘secret sauce’,” he adds. “The ‘secret sauce’ is data. I have heard data referred to as oil, I prefer to think of data as water. Once you burn oil it is gone forever. Water, on the other hand, is a sustainable resource that continually provides life to the organization.”

Because of this, Malherbe sees technologies that center around data as becoming more prominent in the future. “We need to find ways to view, access and mine data more effectively, as well as find ways to automate insights back into the business. To solve these challenges, I believe data technologies, and the intelligence we glean from data, are going to be a game-changer in the future.”

Industrial systems

Another game-changer, he says, is ICT’s move into the industrial sector. “The industrial sector comes with a very dusty or ‘uncarpeted’ environment, that has never housed ICTs in the past and could open up many opportunities for ICT practitioners.

“Much in the same way we saw the old analog PABXs and voice services make way for IP, we will see the same IP taking over in the industrial sector. However, it comes with security risks. Most industrial control systems were never designed to connect to the Internet, and their remote locations often make manual updating and patching very difficult. In addition, there are implementation considerations and risks, given the current, very stable technologies that have functioned effectively for decades at a time.”

A connected, ‘censored’ world

The third trend that Malherbe sees as being significant, is how connectivity technologies, be it 5G or one of the other lighter technologies, have been affected by the advent of the Internet of things, and the connected or ‘censored’ world.

“There are billions of devices and sensors talking to us, and to each other over the Internet, and all of them need to be connected. However, the old, traditional ways of connecting are either unable to reach the remote areas where they are now required to go, such as the isolated environments where we find mining and manufacturing concerns, or the costs are prohibitive. I believe we will witness an evolution in the way we connect the world, and a variety of new services will be born out of that.”