By Alison Weiss
It’s no surprise that in 2019 digital transformation is a huge driver for enterprises and startups alike. Digital technology has already disrupted so many industries—think Netflix in entertainment, Airbnb in travel, and Lyft in transportation. It’s clear that the stakes are high and the payoffs huge for organizations that can harness digital processes to modernize business operations and upend entire industries.
A 2018 study by IDG finds that 44% of organizations have already started implementing digital-first methods and technologies to streamline business processes and customer engagement. In terms of financial impact to the bottom line, startups can increase revenue by 34% by implementing digital-first strategies, and all enterprises can boost revenue by 23%. Deloitte’s 10th annual "Tech Trends" report reveals that blockchain, AI, and the cloud continue to gain digital transformation momentum, but advanced networking, intelligent interfaces, and serverless computing are some of the newer digital technologies predicted to disrupt businesses between 2018 and 2020.
Although every company has its own approach to digital transformation reflecting unique strengths and challenges, it is imperative for leaders to continually identify new innovations that can support their digital-first goals. Oracle OpenWorld Europe, which took place in London in January 2019, provided more than 10,000 attendees with a two-day immersive experience to explore leading-edge technologies; engage with peers; and listen to innovators, disruptors, and thought leaders—to discover their digital tomorrow, today.
Oracle experts presented transformative technologies and programs—including Oracle’s Second Generation Cloud—to help companies future-proof their businesses. And, forward-thinking customers, such as the World Bee Project, YellowDog, and Interactive Scientific, took center stage at breakout sessions, keynotes, and experiential demonstrations to illustrate how Oracle Cloud solutions are revolutionizing their operations.
In a keynote on the first day of the conference, Oracle EMEA Senior Vice President of Technology and Systems Andrew Sutherland highlighted how technologies such as the cloud, IoT, blockchain, and AI are bringing definite business benefits to organizations. However, these digital technologies are also disrupting entire industries, forcing enterprises to rethink relationships with customers, suppliers, and employees. “Change is being driven by a rate of innovation that is faster than anything we’ve seen before,” he said. “Put together smart people, a rich collaborative environment, and lots of data, and you get innovation.”
Innovation requires the right platform, and Sutherland underscored that reality by engaging in discussions and demonstrations with Oracle experts to showcase Oracle’s new Second Generation Cloud. Built for the enterprise, it enables customers to easily move data and applications from on-premises environments to the cloud. Second Generation Cloud protects critical data and is built for all enterprise workloads running in public clouds or at customer sites. Further, it is the foundation not only for Oracle Autonomous Database but also Oracle Fusion Cloud applications.
While all layers of Second Generation Cloud offer significant benefits to businesses, Sutherland focused on business applications, because everyone uses them on a daily basis across organizations. He noted, “Business applications are there to really make productivity happen.”
Change is being driven by a rate of innovation that is faster than anything we’ve seen before. Put together smart people, a rich environment, and lots of data, and you get innovation.”— Andrew Sutherland, EMEA Senior Vice President oF Technology and Systems, Oracle
In the last 18 months, Oracle has taken a huge leap forward with its new intelligent business applications. Embedding machine learning and AI into applications means they are no longer passively responsive to a user’s needs. Instead, intelligent business applications can function as active business advisors by using vast amounts of information and experience to make suggestions and predictions, alerting users to trends and patterns gleaned from data.
Sutherland observed that Oracle has always looked at applications holistically with its complete, integrated suite of business applications, which are now augmented with intelligence. “It’s given us the knowledge to build in machine learning and artificial intelligence,” he said. “And there’s an embarrassment of opportunities to apply artificial intelligence in business applications.”
One of the most compelling examples of innovative digital technology during Oracle OpenWorld Europe was the experiential, interactive demonstration of the World Bee Project’s Hive Network. Attendees were able to see firsthand how leveraging cloud technology can help protect pollinators such as bee populations, which are under threat. This is a critical issue, because 77% of the globe’s food supply depends on pollination.
Percentage of the world’s food supply that depends on pollination
The London-based World Bee Project, founded by Sabiha Malik, is working with scientific partners and Oracle to manage an international network of remotely monitored hives that connect to Oracle Cloud to provide a scalable, secure, global honeybee health system. Because one of the most important metrics of hive health is how it sounds, a microphone—along with humidity, temperature, and weight sensors—helps predict whether a colony is about to swarm or if food stores are low. Image detection, using pictures of the hive and its surroundings that a beekeeper submits via a chatbot-driven app, can flag both bad and good signs. One might reveal predators such as Asian hornets, while another could show pollen sources such as a field of wildflowers.
Malik observed, “This partnership with Oracle absolutely transforms the scene. We have potential to help transform the way the world grows food and to protect the livelihoods of many hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers.”
Number of countries in which YellowDog customers are running more than 1,400 computer animation and digital effects studios
Digital transformation is essential to moving business forward, a reality that Gareth Williams, founder and CEO of Bristol, UK–based startup YellowDog, discussed at a breakout session on the first day of Oracle OpenWorld Europe that focused on the payoffs of moving enterprise workloads to Oracle Cloud. His company has reinvented the film industry in that it uses computing technology to significantly reduce the time to render a computer-animated film. According to Williams, he and his team can deliver a film in just days rather than several weeks.
The startup has fully embraced Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, the enterprise IaaS platform for organizations that want to run and secure mission-critical databases, workloads, and applications in the cloud. Using Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, YellowDog can quickly convert hundreds of thousands of computer images to digital animation. Today, the company has more than 1,400 computer animation and digital effects studios in 42 countries as customers for its software. “It’s all possible because of Oracle Cloud,” said Williams.
The digital landscape is constantly changing, but it is possible to successfully navigate the digital shift by incorporating the right cloud technology, an insight Becky Sage, CEO of Interactive Scientific, shared during a keynote panel on the second day of Oracle OpenWorld Europe. Her Bristol, UK–based startup was born with cloud as a strategy, and today the company uses Oracle Cloud to develop immersive virtual reality software for science education and research.
Interactive Scientific’s software is called Nano Simbox and depicts 3D properties of more than 100 molecules. According to Sage, the software makes it possible to teach chemistry in a much more immersive way than flat representations on screen or plastic models. Today it is used in more than 40 schools in the UK, China, and Germany, but the software could eventually be used to simplify scientific presentations or speed up drug discoveries.
“So much of the scientific world is invisible. We’re using technology to virtualize that world so we can essentially step into the atomic world,” said Sage. “We can start to create products that help with science experience, science understanding, and science collaboration.”
For Sage, and all other innovators, disruptors, and thought leaders at Oracle OpenWorld Europe, the event was the perfect platform to demonstrate that although digital-first is a critical future-focused goal, success does not result from merely adopting innovative technologies. It’s also about considering the impact innovative digital technology can have and the problems it can solve—today.
Photography by Shomos Uddin/Getty Images and Oracle