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Marketing The Moving Targets of Digital Transformations – An Interview with Dux Raymond Sy of AvePoint®

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Marketing the Moving Targets of Digital Transformations – An Interview with Dux Raymond Sy of AvePoint

Tenth in a series of in-depth interviews with innovators and leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.

Dux Raymond Sy is the Chief Marketing Officer of Avepoint® and has successfully driven business and digital transformation initiatives for commercial, educational and public sector organizations across the globe. He’s a Microsoft Regional Director (RD), a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) and has authored numerous books, articles and whitepapers on IT and business process strategy. He received his Bachelor of Science from Southern Polytechnic University in Telecommunications Engineering. I interviewed him recently about the unique challenges of marketing digital products and services, the future of cloud computing, O365 and the shifting IT career landscape.

Dux, Avepoint specializes in leveraging the breadth of Microsoft technologies including SharePoint and Office 365 to help companies migrate and manage their cloud, on-premises and hybrid environments. There are some trend reports indicating a few enterprises have shifted back toward hybrid stacks after overextending themselves in the cloud. Do you believe most enterprises eventually will evolve, or are there factors such as data protection that will always prevent full cloud adoption for certain entities?

When it comes to enterprise technology, we rarely move backwards. The cloud’s cost, scale, efficiency access, and yes, even security advantages, are too great for on-premises  or hybrid infrastructures to prevail long-term.  What I will say is the transformation will take much longer than the advertising of cloud providers would have you believe. Most organizations are not all-in the cloud today. We did a study in 2017 that showed about 70 percent of organizations were still in hybrid architectures. We sponsored a study with AIIM this year that showed 1 in 3 organizations is maintaining at least 2 versions of SharePoint. Attitudes towards the cloud have changed, now the conversation is mainly focused on how to get there rather than the why. 

Lastly, there are capabilities that the cloud offers that cannot be delivered on-premises s. Cloud-based advanced services, like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data analytics, open new opportunities for technical teams to drive business value.

AvePoint and Office 365 - Information Governance Perspectives

The free e-book “Designed to Disrupt” unpacks this in full detail: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/resources/designed-to-disrupt-reimagine-your-apps-and-transform-your-industry/

How is Infrastructure, Platform and Software-as-a-Service changing the organizational hierarchy of IT departments, reporting structures and collaborative teams? Are companies beginning to hire more administrators and get along with fewer developers, architects and support staff? Where will the best IT jobs be in the next few years at the current pace?

This is a great question! My colleague Hunter Willis recent wrote a piece about this that sparked a huge debate on Twitter. What we have found is that people and organizations evolve more slowly than the technology. Right now, most organizations are just shifting on-premises  roles to the cloud. So if you were the SharePoint admin or the Exchange admin, you are now the SharePoint Online admin or Exchange Online admin. But what about applications that don’t exist on-premises ? Who owns PowerApps? This also ignores the advanced workloads and connections between apps that exist in the cloud. What you do in Microsoft Teams impacts your Exchange and vice versa. What organizations need, and we haven’t seen yet, is an Office 365 admin that truly owns the platform and looks at these platform wide issues. If were seeing some of these issues just within Office 365, imagine what we will see as multi-cloud architectures become more popular. The best IT jobs in the next few years will be business enablers who have a love of learning. You will need to be agile in the era of tech intensity.

What are some of the unique challenges in marketing IT services and products in a rapidly shifting digital landscape and exactly how does the CMO role in an IT company differ from one tasked with promoting traditional goods and services?

The two main challenges in marketing are time scarcity and white noise, which are similar in other areas of marketing, but they are more pronounced in the enterprise IT space.  The IT department is being asked to do more with less and they only have so much time to lift their heads up from their day to day tasks to evaluate the bigger landscape and engage strategically with different solutions. So you have to maximize that time and attention you do have. We try to have a good mix of different content for people to engage with but we always try to be engaging and informative. We will have a 60 second video of me on LinkedIn eating Ramen and talking about digital transformation, but we will also do the 60 minute deep dive webinar on customer challenges related to but not centered on our solutions. Every piece of content must have an entertainment or education value or it’s a waste of time for our audience.

 The other challenge in our industry is white noise. Not only are there a ton of vendors, but they are all making claims, some more valid than others. On top of that, since technology is often new and evolving, all the vendors are defining it or categorizing what they do slightly differently. Its so important to build and maintain your credibility and invest time in educating your audience even when it doesn’t directly relate to selling your audience. That’s why we put a lot of resources into maintaining one of the highest quality blogs on Office 365, SharePoint and digital transformation.

To what extent is Artificial Intelligence and machine learning ultimately impacting and disrupting our traditional Enterprise Content Management systems and strategies and what steps can business leaders take now in order to be prepare for a more automated document lifecycle management future?

AI and machine learning have been impacting enterprise content management systems in mostly positive ways. One of the highest value use cases has been search. Office 365 is getting so good at knowing what document I want to look at or edit based on my past behaviors, its almost scary. Ultimately this is a good thing because there are a lot of industry studies that show employees waste too much productivity searching for content.  However, we have seen nightmare situations where organizations haven’t tagged or classified their content appropriately and payroll data accidentally gets surfaced to the entire company. Ultimately enhanced search and AI is good, but organizations still need to be vigilant about their data.

The other trend is that we are seeing more bots being deployed within the enterprise to help enhance productivity. AvePoint recently launched AVA, a virtual assistant chatbot within Microsoft Teams, that allows end-users to restore their deleted or lost items in Office 365. This helps end-users get what they need more quickly and removes some of the tedious tasks that IT admins have typically had to handle.

Data protection has always been an issue with cloud technology, especially now with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Consumer Rights laws being passed in the United States. How do you prepare clients for highly technical cybersecurity and privacy challenges in a universe where so much of their data and infrastructure is in the hands of vendors and third-parties?

AvePoint was actually recently named a strong leader in a recent Forrester Wave on GDPR solutions, so we help in a lot of ways but I’ll mention three.

You mentioned so much data being held in the hands of vendors and third-parties and this is absolutely true. It’s a risk that organizations must mitigate, but it’s a risk that the industry has been aware of for a few years now. That means things like Cloud Security Assessment documents for SaaS vendors have become standard, but they are still trapped in email and spreadsheet hell. We offer an enterprise risk management solution that helps automate this process and allows organizations to calculate their privacy and security risk as well as map their data flows across their organization and with third parties. (We offer a free version specifically for GDPR to help you get started too).

You mention the challenge of data going to third parties but the reality is the biggest challenge organizations have with their data is internal. More than 60 percent of organizations aren’t classifying or tagging their data!! How can they protect their sensitive data if they don’t know where it is? This is a huge GDPR compliance risk. We offer a data validation and classification solution that can scan structured and unstructured data across file shares and a number of content systems to help organizations classify their data.

The third way we help organizations with data protection is by offering a data classification and protection solution that can identify and help resolve incidents in real time and prevent people from uploading sensitive content to places they shouldn’t.

I’m conducting these interviews in order to gleam global perspectives on information governance from leaders with diverse backgrounds and across many industries. In reviewing your work I came across some business lessons you learned on a recent trip to Kamala, Uganda where you facilitated a web development course for impoverished students. Can you tell me how travelling around the world has informed your perspectives on how data should be governed and what if anything we can learn from STEM students in the developing world?

Thanks for asking, it was an incredibly rewarding trip. What we can learn from STEM students in the developing world is first to be grateful for the opportunities we have been given and made me realize that we have a great responsibility to impart this opportunity that we have. But also the pure joy in being able to learn new things and to have a passion for your vocation that gets you out of bed in the morning.