Thought Leadership

Facing the four new horsemen of the IT landscape


So soon after battling disruptions caused by the pandemic, technology leaders must roll up their sleeves once again to address four major trends that will determine if their organisations are future-ready. Except that the future has arrived earlier than expected.

‘Four Horsemen’ are emerging on the horizon of the IT landscape as a combined once-in-decades wave. Amid increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks, and the need to squeeze more productivity despite tighter IT budgets, corporations must also be able to handle the imminent adoption of generative AI and quantum computing.

Until recently the main IT challenges revolved around mobility, cloud computing and the catch-all phrase of ‘digital transformation’. But now, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) must deal with all four challenges simultaneously to avoid losing competitive advantage or, worse, the risk of major IT breaches.

The beating heart of most modern corporations is a software platform to manage processes and improve decision making. Generally referred to as enterprise resource planning (ERP), variants of this platform have been re-tooled by bolting on new applications, services and sensors.

As guardians of the platform, CIOs seek to make sense of that data to improve efficiency, solve problems or crises, or decipher trends in order to predict or to re-align corporate strategy.

But all that will likely change with the imminent advent of quantum computing. Instead of the linear, or classical, approach to processing data, quantum computers rely on superconductors with zero electrical resistance operating at ultra-low temperatures.

This ‘horseman’ can work alongside classical computers in quantum-hybrid systems to process qubits instead of bits. But it is much, much faster and exponentially more powerful. Those who can master it will harness its virtually unlimited power for machine learning and AI.

Corporations can capture new revenue streams, adopt new approaches to engage customers or suppliers, and better handle a restless workforce with evolving mindsets about work and purpose. Developers will offer new applications, but they cannot be bolted on if the ‘pipes’ are old.

On the flip side, cyber-hackers are also eyeing that accelerated processing power to plan and mount attacks to steal data for ransomware, to ‘phish’ or steal, or worse to destroy an organization.

Hence, IT platforms that had served well in recent years may not be able to handle this combined wave. The success or failure of any future-ready ERP platform will hinge on the reliability and scalability of its network infrastructure in this new world order.

That network infrastructure combines hardware, software and devices and related services to connect users and devices. These are the arteries that ensure that lifeblood flows smoothly throughout the enterprise.

Healthcare stands out as one sector which may face more challenges than others. Planners must deal not just with productivity but also life and death issues. The great battle until recently was to find enough hospital beds, vaccines and ventilators or allocating doctors and nurses.

Amid this new wave, hospital administrators must now also grapple with how not to be left behind.

Accelerated computing is already being used for genomics, precision medicine drug discovery and predicting clinical outcomes of therapies. Quantum computing will be able to process huge amounts of data, transforming X-rays, CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) diagnosis and accelerating early detection.

Proton beam therapy can treat cancer cells precisely without impacting surrounding healthy cells. Such treatment requiring detailed computations can be greatly accelerated when combined with quantum computing.

Hence, the challenge for healthcare administrators is how to keep up while working on tight IT budgets that ensure doctors, nurses, lab technicians continue to deliver clinical outcomes in an affordable and efficient manner.

Decision makers must be able to weigh the costs carefully and integrate multiple technological advances. Very soon they may not be able to avoid using generative AI to crunch data on patient records to detect symptoms, decipher trends and predict outcomes.

The patient, the doctor, the pharmacist and even the insurer all will seek such data and insights delivered at the speed of light.

A successful digital transformation that embraces quantum computing can greatly improve the patient experience, enhance asset management, and save more lives. Real-time patient data can be processed faster to include genetic information, medical history, lifestyle factors, and treatment outcomes, and enable personalised treatment plans.

Hospital workers can use wearable devices connected seamlessly to IoT sensors to optimise the use of healthcare assets including equipment, medicine or hospital beds.

This delivery model needs to operate securely behind encryption keys to protect patient data as well as the network itself. A breach can compromise privacy, disrupt critical services, or endanger lives. The financial and reputational impact on the organisation can be severe.

Already, Singapore has unveiled its National Quantum-Safe Network Plus (NQSN+) programme to protect its banks and hospitals against future quantum threats; the U.K. and Japan have also outlined similar quantum computing strategies.

It is time for corporations to meet the Four Horsemen head-on.

Lim Kok Quee is the Group Solutions Head and Country Manager of Singapore for SGX Mainboard-listed Nera Telecommunications

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