Insights from NZ’s IT Alliance Conference 2023
The IT Alliance Conference, held in Rotorua from 23-24 November 2023, provided a front-row seat to the technological future, with standout world-class speakers leaving an indelible mark on our perspectives. The conference was for IT Alliance members, all IT companies, of which GTB is a founding member (www.ita.org.nz). GTB’s own Mark Ternent is the current IT Alliance Chair. The theme of the conference was ‘skating to where to puck will be’ meaning positioning our IT Support businesses now to be in the right place at the right time to best help our clients in the near future.
This article was not written by ChatGPT.
AI for Kiwi SMBs
The overriding theme was just how fast AI technology is moving, just how much time and money is being invested into it, and what massive changes are likely to happen, far faster than any of us have experienced before. To a large extent, we can’t yet see exactly what is coming, as no one really knows yet. But the productivity gains for even small to medium businesses are likely to be large. Coupled with the ability to do things differently, we are likely to see substantial disruption in many existing industries, particularly, but not just – knowledge workers.
Unlike other major disruptive technologies which have appeared in recent decades starting with the personal computer, then the web, cell phones, etc – which took a decade or more each to really take hold at a practical level affecting SME businesses, AI driven changes are likely to arrive a lot faster.
Mark and Sarah at GTB have been around for a while, and frankly, we have seen and heard a great many hyped “you gotta do this” new stuff changes – and often it has been a fizzer, or at least less than promised. So, we have a healthy degree of scepticism and caution whenever FOMO (fear of missing out) is used as a tool to convince, especially in advance of products being available to try. With AI however, as we watch and learn, we do think this is something to keep a close eye on, and be ready to act quickly. And GTB will be doing this.
Please note – we will be doing an article in January that will go into some more detail around how to prepare your businesses for AI, and Microsoft Copilot in particular. There are (as of last week, it may have changed by now as a week has passed!) 11 different Microsoft Copilot products, most of which are only available in strict testing releases to selected large organisations. As the Microsoft tools (365, Office, etc) are used by most SME businesses/organisations, the addition of Copilot for 365 is likely to have rapid market penetration.
AI driving workflows that actually do useful things
The development of AI is not just in the creative “write me an article about” or “tell me how to” spaces of ChatGPT/Bard, etc. They are also likely to manifest in practical and useful areas such as leave application workflows inside SMEs that actually work. Or rostering. Many of our clients put a lot of effort into rostering, for example medical centres. Time consuming tasks such as this have a real potential to be made much easier/quicker.
Again, GTB is committed to keeping a close eye on this and bringing value to our clients - when there is value to bring. We welcome GTB clients engaging with us – what is important to you? Which aspects of your business or its processes would you like to see revolutionised? We are likely to be working with a few adventurous clients to identify and realise early benefits – please let us know if you would like to be part of this.
Industry focused software
In recent years we have seen apps and other software appearing that are focused on specific industries or types of businesses. For example, Fergus or Hnry. This trend is likely to accelerate and get even more niche focused. With AI writing increasingly more and more of the software out there, adapting existing and proven software/apps/tools to provide value focused on a specific industry (vertical) is likely to become a key thing. In English, watch this space for software built to do exactly what you need.
We know that many industry bodies are ‘leaning into’ these technologies, to maintain their relevance and value to their members. Likewise, we expect companies like Xero will be actively looking at how best to use AI to add value. So, expect to see this coming through your own industry and supplier channels.
For our clients, this means future software developments can be aligned with their specific industry requirements, offering tailor-made solutions that significantly boost productivity. Imagine having software designed not just for general use but fine-tuned to the intricacies of your profession, providing a distinct advantage in the marketplace. As your IT partner, we're committed to keeping you at the forefront of such developments, ensuring that your business reaps the benefits of cutting-edge technology.
This remains a space where GTB puts in a lot of behind-the-scenes effort. We have done a huge amount to both improve our products and to roll them out to clients. Please contact us if you are in any way concerned. For our managed service clients – those on SureIT Full or Extended agreements – we will either automatically apply security improvements and upgrades, or if cost is involved or it affects your processes/people, we will be in touch to offer solutions when we roll them out, but please reach out to us if you are concerned in any way.
The message here though is that this war is still accelerating. The attack methods are becoming more highly personalised and convincing as the criminals use AI themselves. We were interested to hear that the physical layer is under increasing attack. Not so long ago the baddies might distract the receptionist so they could steal their handbag or other personal belongings, now there are more incidents of people distracting the receptionist so they can stick a USB drive with a payload into their computer for access into the local network. Be aware of physical security. Don’t leave computers unlocked, even inside your building.
Tomorrow is arriving today
Seeby Woodhouse took us on a journey beyond our immediate IT concerns, offering a glimpse into the incredible pace of future technology, and how much of it is arriving today! Drawing on experiences from the annual Abundance360 by Peter Diamantis, an annual event limited to a maximum of 360 of the best and brightest global entrepreneurs, he highlighted advancements in robotics and ongoing research aimed at extending the human lifespan. It wasn’t just what he talked about; it was also the insight into the mind of a successful technology serial entrepreneur! For more information on this type of thing, check out SingularityU, which is related to Abundance360.
While the impact of robotics may not be immediately evident in your day-to-day IT needs, it underscores the need for businesses to embrace agility and adaptability. As we prepare for the future, our role at GTB is not just to provide IT services but to help guide you through the transformative journey, ensuring your business remains resilient and well-prepared for the evolving technological landscape.
In conclusion, the IT Alliance Conference wasn't just a conference; it was a portal to the future. We, as your IT partner, are excited to share these insights, ensuring that you're not just informed but equipped to navigate the technological revolution. We’ll maintain a healthy degree of scepticism around the hype, but as we delve into the realms of AI, vertical software customization, and the astounding pace of future tech, rest assured that GTB as your IT partner is dedicated to turning these insights into tangible advantages for your business.