Our CEO study reveals: Culture and business are evolving hand in hand

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IBM conducts an annual global survey of business leaders to determine what they are putting effort and investing in and what key issues they are working to address. IBM Finland’s Partner Manager Oscar Michelsson and Executive Partner Juha Sipola chewed through the 2020 survey and summarized the results.

“The point of the study seems to be quite clear. As many as 64 percent of Nordic business leaders say they want to focus even more on the agility and flexibility of their company’s operations over the next couple of years,” says Oscar.

The core question is how to implement agility smartly so that it works even when most of the company’s workforce works remotely.

“One key tool seems to be cloud technology. It is already somewhat familiar to many companies, but they may not be able to use it to its full potential,” says Juha.

However, cloud is not the answer to every single thing, as not all data is worthwhile to and cannot be stored in it. In addition, technology or cloud alone will not solve anything, but to manage and utilize it we need people – those who create the culture, the right agile practices, and who with their actions ensure and maximize the benefits of cloud technology.

Agility also means that data can be processed as close as possible to its origin. This is made possible by edge computing. A relevant everyday example of it is data generated in traffic. Data generated from atypical and surprising situations should not be rotated through cloud, with edge computing, data is quickly distributed where it is needed.

The winners harness technology

In our survey, we also mapped out what factors made companies that survived well last year’s exceptional Covid-19 pandemic stand out from those that suffered more.

The most important factors were:

1. The use of technology as a mean to stand out.

2. Enabling work – from anywhere, at any time.

3. Cybersecurity as an integral part of a company’s data strategy.

“Anyone who understands the operating principles of cloud technology even a bit, immediately realizes that the first two of the factors are possible to carry out with almost any cloud service,” Oscar points out. With the help of cloud technology, operations can be organized to be scalable and partially automated, they can be distributed globally and built in general to be intelligent to take in advance into account, for example, the company’s IoT and artificial intelligence development. Cloud technology also enables the diversity of work from full-time remote work to hybrid work and working at the office.

However, we would argue that the third factor, cybersecurity, is not as self-evident as one might think. It’s something that companies don’t always pay enough attention to.

“Except when you’re already in trouble. In cloud, all the company’s data and functions are conveniently stored and accessible, but often they are also too conveniently available to parties outside the company,” Juha underlines.

Confidential Computing – a trend term with a big meaning

At IBM, we use the term Confidential Computing for cloud security. Directly translated, it means confidential computer use, and it also means that in practice. With Confidential Computing, we ensure that data stored in the cloud does not leak under any circumstances. Not even when someone tries to pull the plug off.

The same thing may be talked about with the term Zero Trust, although its operating model is slightly different. Zero Trust gives a so-called operational certificate, meaning it separately verifies the identity of each user who wants to log in to use cloud-based data. Confidential Computing, on the other hand, uses a technical certificate: it utilizes Keep-Your-Own-Key technology and thus encrypts the data itself using dedicated encryption keys. The management environment remains intact, and it’s impossible for unauthorized people to access the data.

Confidental Computing technology best shows its strength when it comes to the so-called public cloud. It allows data to be encrypted in a public cloud during cloud access. Data remains protected during transmission, use and rest. Even we as a cloud provider do not have access to the data – and that is how it should be. Companies that move sensitive data to cloud often have to trust that the cloud provider will not misuse the data.

A great example of how our cloud safety works is the application we recently developed in cooperation with Hypercell and the City of Helsinki, which is used to monitor and measure the flow of people in the heart of Helsinki. Centrally located Hypercell sensors measure traffic flows and collect anonymous data into cloud. The cloud is based on IBM’s OpenShift cloud service, to which we have integrated our Confidential Computing technology. The interesting topic was also noted by the Finnish national broadcasting company Yle who introduced the application to the general public in a news article.

Make sure your data is safe and sleep well

So how do you know if your own cloud is prone to leaks?

“We would say that if you have to ask yourself that question, you might have a problem,” Juha and Oscar say.

Technology-conscious companies are also aware of the weaknesses and strengths of the technology they use.

“So, you should always think about what data to transfer, why and where. Likewise, it’s smart to think beyond the end of your nose, so to speak. For example, if you’re going to expand your business into new markets, all cloud platforms may not work in them. We are happy to puzzle this over with you,” Juha and Oscar promise.

Cloud and Cognitive Software, IBM Finland

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