Cloud puts raw computing power at your fingertips

Anyone who wanted to know the latest developments in the cloud space could listen in October to CloudWorld in Las Vegas, an Oracle multi-day festival. Tech for Executives did just that and then spoke with CFO Ritchy Drost of VodafoneZiggo, who is in the process of moving to the cloud. “Mass computing power puts next-level opportunities at the fingertips of finance.”

Basically, the benefits of moving to the cloud are outlined pretty quickly. Wilfred Scholman, country manager Holland and Stef van der Waals, Senior Principal Applications Sales Consultant at Oracle can almost dream. They spoke at the event. Scholman: “You are relieved of the technical management that you previously had to carry out yourself on your ICT systems. This is an important argument now that there are fewer and fewer IT professionals to be recruited. In addition, you do not have to constantly think about whether you have received all the updates, because the development of the applications that we offer in the cloud continues continuously.” Van der Waals: “What I also see in practice is that a major business decision, such as a takeover or merger of different divisions, is a reason to move several on-site systems to the cloud. To achieve a consolidation of ERP packages and to get rid of a complex ICT landscape. If you can switch off old systems on site, it saves significant costs.”

Turn applications on and off

There are of course also disadvantages. As a CFO, if you have ICT in your portfolio, you have to cough up the subscription fees and you are dependent on the supplier, in this case Oracle. If the supplier goes in a technological direction that the CFO does not want, the CFO is tied hand and foot. Although customization is also possible. To the advantages can be added that the finance director can switch applications on and off individually and thus save costs. Scholman: “Think of it as an app store at Apple or Samsung. You can enable and disable applications. With ERP systems, this mechanism on the platform means that you don’t have to suddenly make a big bang, but you can do it very gradually at the desired pace in the organization.” This is what organizations do in practice, says Van der Waals. “You can activate applications, configure them yourself and configure them. The system helps with that. Intelligence is built into the databases, so integrated reporting is immediately available when the next application is turned on. As a result, information-driven work is within the reach of end users.”

AI in applications

Wilfred Scholman: “You are relieved of the technical management that you previously had to carry out yourself on your ICT systems.”

The latest development is that artificial intelligence is already built into the applications in cloud systems. That intelligence makes suggestions in the application for the user and learns along the way. Scholman: “As a supplier, we have taken the step to build AI into our applications, because otherwise we see that the technology is rarely used. It’s a shame. This is because it is often flown as a pilot in organisations. In addition, the ICT department often knows too little about the business to make a meaningful pilot out of it. The bridge to the business or to self-financing is not built, after which many such pilots fail. That was the reason for us to build it into the applications themselves. This makes artificial intelligence more concrete than ever.” Van der Waals: “It concerns, for example, the detection of fraud. Software can perform an automatic check in the financial systems. On segregation of duties when approving invoices, on bank numbers and whether they are correct, on suspicious transactions or on a strange pattern in the transaction data. For example, that you see amounts from Poland, while you do not have a branch there.” Scholman: “This power is already in the system.”

Virtually infinite computing power

Another obvious advantage of the cloud: There is almost infinite computing power to add to extensive data analysis. Up to the level of a quantum computer. It can perform the same calculations over a very large amount of data at once and in parallel, thus quickly recognizing patterns or deviations. These quantum computers in the cloud can now be used by a company as an online service. Connect and use. Oracle presented on this topic during CloudWorld based on its involvement in the Formula 1 team of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. In the cloud, computers calculate billions of racing strategies to see which one is the best. This happens on the basis of thousands of sensors on the car, but also on the basis of environmental factors such as the position of other drivers on the track. This data blows the systems to the cloud, where possible strategies are reviewed and advised to the decision makers at the pit wall. Team boss and CEO Christian Horner and Verstappen himself had traveled to Las Vegas to tell their story. In the Netherlands, Bob Peulen, Cloud Engineer Analytics at Oracle, gave his explanation. “What we do on the racing team, we also do on Sail GP, Formula 1 in sailing. We also know several Grand Prix all over the world. Basically, it’s about scenario planning based on the data available in the sport and then predicting the best strategy.”

Nine hundred data points per second

A sailboat easily generates nine hundred data points per second, and that data, wherever in the world the Grand Prix takes place, goes via the cloud to London. There, the jury can check whether the boat complies with the rules. But it also makes the dashboard possible. Is it more convenient to sail under or over, based on the data the ship has? Formula 1 is no different. Peulen: “The Monte Carlo simulations are there constantly. This is a simulation technique where a physical process is simulated not once, but many times, each time with different starting conditions. The result is an area that shows the possible outcomes. This is possible thanks to the raw power of calculating data for scenarios. Many questions arise when creating these scenarios. When should we make a pit stop? What is the tire wear? What tires should we take at the pit stop? What is the chance of a pit stop? accident and to put a safety car on the track? Also consider the performance of the driver. What are the chances that if I, as Max Verstappen, want to overtake a driver like Mick Schumacher, there will be a collision? And so on.”

Digital

Ritchy Drost: “I’m not afraid of the possibilities, because I see the limitless possibilities.”

The possibilities seem endless. It takes some imagination to outline the utility of such raw computing power in the cloud for businesses. Were it not for the fact that many companies have outdated so-called legacy systems, and the question is whether they have thousands of data points per second. That is precisely why it is interesting to talk to Ritchy Drost, CFO of VodafoneZiggo. Also because VodafoneZiggo is a merger company and therefore had to deal with a fragmented system landscape at the start of the joint venture on January 1, 2017. During CloudWorld it was announced that the telecommunications company would implement a number of business systems on location (on-premise) for finance , HR and supply chain to the cloud. Drost: “Generally: Many years ago we prioritized digitalisation. It is one of our strategic pillars under the name go digital. In everything we do, we will be the first to consider whether it can be done digitally and without human involvement. Think about customer support, but also internal processes. Please note that we do not leave customers who do not want the digital help or who cannot handle it. We serve them with, among other things, technicians and the call center. But we also have digital assistants for customers.”

Modernize the back

“If you have digital as a starting point, you have to modernize the systems at the back of the company,” continues Drost. “Our starting point there, also in finance, is that the employees must concentrate on their brain power or their creativity. They should not or should be less concerned with collecting or analyzing data. Also because computers in the cloud can often do better. From the central cloud point, this information is then widely available to the entire organization. I call it the democratization of data because anyone who needs to do something with it has access to it. Please note that data-driven work does not happen automatically. As humans, we tend to be risk-averse. So how do we get employees on board? First of all, by creating a derivative of the go digital strategy for finance. What does digitization mean for the economy? Together you make choices in co-creation. For example, a kind of Netflix, an e-learning module, has been released for training employees. All public leaders also underwent a specific digitization training. As a result, seven thousand employees agreed to the change.”

advanced analyses

According to Drost, it makes sense to have raw computing power in the cloud to look for anomalies and patterns in the data. “It must be done within the framework of privacy. This means everything based on anonymized data. I don’t have cold feet for the possibilities, because I see the unlimited possibilities. We have a clear roadmap and vision, where we naturally first transfer our data to the cloud, where we can then use these kinds of options. A good example of such advanced analyzes is how we monitor our network to see where the network might fail before a possible failure. So we can intervene preventively. This is obviously good for the customer experience, but also allows you to perform your maintenance as cost-effectively as possible. We also use artificial intelligence in marketing to predict customer behavior. When will they choose us? Why do they choose us? But also: why are they leaving us?”

Financial firms do not have to worry about job losses as they did in the 1980s and 1990s. Drost concludes: “On the contrary. This is not a threat. These are next-level capabilities that we as financiers must fully embrace.”

Team principal and CEO Christian Horner and Max Verstappen explained in Las Vegas how computers in the cloud go through billions of race strategies to arrive at the best. (Photo: Oracle TV)

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