BIZTALKS Roundtable — Smart Investments for the Intelligent Future of Business
by Shelly Kramer | December 5, 2020

In this BIZTALKS roundtable I recently hosted, sponsored by AT&T Business, I was joined by Kevin Jackson, CEO of GC Globalnet, Helen Yu, Founder & CEO of Tigon Advisory Corp, and Jason Inskeep, Director of the 5G Center of Excellence at AT&T.

Our conversation in this roundtable discussion was focused on the fact that technology is getting smarter at an incredibly rapid pace. From traffic-routing networks to autonomous vehicles, the future of business will be automated, intelligent, and connected. With that in mind, we wanted to tackle the topic of how business leaders can guide their technology investments for the coming year and beyond. Making smart investments in the right emerging and existing technologies will allow organizations of all sizes to not only survive, but also be competitive in 2021 and beyond.

This panel of incredibly smart business leaders discussed:

  • The current mood among business leaders right now and what we see ahead in 2021
  • The essential tech investments that business leaders should make next year
  • How to make long-term plans around investing in technology
  • What processes and skills business leaders should be looking for to make full use of their existing technology
  • The indicators business leaders should be keeping an eye on throughout the next year to guide investments in the years to come
  • The no-brainer tech investments our panel recommends for Q1 of 2021
  • The importance of assessing tech talent, infrastructure needs and other assessments — and why that’s important to do
  • Tips for making businesses more resilient and more capable of embracing and succeeding at digital transformation in 2021 and beyond
  • What to stop doing and/or investing in in 2021 and beyond
  • The skills that businesses should be looking to train and/or hire for in the coming year
  • The role 5G is playing and will play for business in 2021

You can watch the #BIZTALKS video roundtable discussion here:

or grab the audio here:

And be sure and join me, Tamara McCleary, Bernard Marr, Kevin Jackson, Glen Gilmore, Dez Blanchfield, and Jason Inskeep on Wednesday, December 9, 2020 at 12pm CST over on Twitter for another one of @ATTBusiness’s #BIZTALKS Twitter chat, where we’ll be exploring more about 2021 tech trends. You can find the chat here and we’d love to have you participate. Bring your amazing questions and your insights and jump into the chat.

Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.


Shelly Kramer: Hello, and welcome to this BIZTALKS round table on Smart Investments for the Intelligent Future of Business. I’m Shelly Kramer, you probably know me and I’m here today with a group of fantastically intelligent friends. I’m joined by Kevin Jackson, the CEO of GC GlobalNet, Helen Yu the founder and CEO of Tigon Advisory Corp and Jason Inskeep the director of 5G Center of Intelligence at AT&T.

This BIZTALKS round table is going to focus on the fact that technology is getting smarter, from traffic routing networks, to autonomous vehicles, to connected everything. The future of business, as we know, will be automated, intelligent, and connected. And therein lies the challenge for business leaders. Business leaders need to make smart investments in the right emerging and existing technologies in order to survive and in order to have a competitive advantage in 2021 and beyond. So we’re here today on behalf of AT&T business with a little fireside chat about how business leaders can guide their tech investments for the coming year and beyond. So without further ado, hello guests. Hello, Kevin, hello, Helen, hello, Jason it’s great to have you.

Kevin Jackson: Hey.

Helen Yu: Hi Shelly.

Jason Inskeep: Hey, Shelly.

Shelly Kramer: Always a pleasure to hang out with you three. So today we’re going to talk about kind of the essential tech investments that business leaders should think about making in the next year, how to make longterm plans around investing in technology and what processes and skills business leaders need to think about as they’re thinking about how they can make use of their technology investments. So let’s get to some questions. I’m going to say right off and all of you know this we’ve been friends for a long time, we’ve hung out together before there are absolutely no wrong answers and to our audience here also know, there are no silly questions. So if you have a question, please be sure and pop it into the conversation here and we’ll tackle that a little bit later on in our discussion.

So, first off, I want to talk a little bit about what the general mood is on behalf of business leaders right now. And I know that that’s really sort of a broad group, but how are people feeling and are people optimistic about the future? We’re coming into the year end, what’s the general attitude? I’ll start real quickly and say that, I feel like, our clients are mostly in the technology space and I think that people had started out regrouping and refocusing and kind of rethinking how business was done and or at least we morphed into that.

When we first started experiencing pandemic times, I think that business leaders jumped into crisis mode and we had to get people working from home, we had to get customers being served from home, we had to make solutions that sometimes weren’t the best solutions, but they were the solutions that were right at the time. And then what I’ve seen happen with our clients is again, this strategic move to rethink and to refocus and to kind of rethink everything as we move into the latter part of this year and as we move into next year. So Helen, what do you think? What are you seeing out there?

Helen Yu: I echo what you just said Shelly. The pandemic is really an epic test of character and leadership. Most of us really have shifted from feeling powerless, unprepared to seize the moment to adapt, stay ahead and emerge stronger. On a personal level I really miss the face-to-face interactions with friends and family members. However, I’m thankful for having the technology that enables us to see family and friends over video calls regardless where we are. I’m personally cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. I do think that I have realized this is not the year to get what I wanted it is a year to reassess what I really need and appreciate what I have.

Shelly Kramer: Right. Absolutely. I saw something earlier this morning, kind of a reflection on that, not from a business standpoint, but from a personal standpoint. This may not be the year that you get everything you want, but it’s definitely the year to be grateful for what you’ve got, right?

Helen Yu: Absolutely.

Shelly Kramer: So Kevin, what about you?

Kevin Jackson: Yeah, so I think the shock is kind of over and leaders have realized that the old way is never coming back. This cliche it became was, when do we get back to normal? Well, there is no going back to normal. The remote and virtual life is here to stay and the only way forward is to really accept it and update your processes to better take advantage of all the new technologies you will have forced to buy so that you could talk and work with your employees and interact with your customers and business partners. I mean, move forward and expect the future to be what it is now.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. You said it. We were talking before we went live with this show about sending our children off to school or giving them, the death warnings if they interrupted us and I think that speaking of things that aren’t ever going back the way they were, I have freshmen twin daughters who are freshmen in high school and I said, “You realize you all are so good at virtual school you’re never getting a snow day again. I mean, it’s history.” And they’re so sad thinking about that. But that’s a good thing being able to pivot and transition well.

And so talking about technology and how technology is really driving all of our lives right now, from both a personal and a professional standpoint, let’s talk about what the no brainer tech investment for business leaders is in Q1 of 2021. The, if you don’t have this, you really need it and Jason, that’s all you.

Jason Inskeep: Yeah. Great. So funny story, let’s just echo what you were just talking about, right? With working from home and everybody being here. We were having our conversation earlier this week and it’s right when all the kids had got home from school. So what are the first thing they do? Jump on homework, jump on whatever streaming thing they can do. We suffered kind of have a conversation. So one of the things, again, kind of dovetailing back to the prior question, we’ve adapted constantly optimistic. I think some things we can actually do kind of quickly and maybe help that mitigate that challenge I had earlier this week. Luckily I know somebody that works in the network company so that was helpful, but help our employees with some troubleshooting methodology, right?

What are things you can do to optimize your home network? What are some things you can do ahead of time? Obviously this push me to go ahead and call that network guy I know and kind of help put this thing together a little bit better than what it was before. But I know there’s other things we can do from a just configuration perspective. At the same time I think coming out of that, we may have some other technologies if you think about a home version of SD-WAN with dual connections and things like that, what does that look like, right? Which may be able to add some more security, some better routing, and again optimize that network at home. So that’s really one area I think we can look at both from a process and a technology perspective.

Second, when I think about just raw technology that’s really becoming very interesting, popped up a lot prior to this is video, Video as a Sensor, right? It’s coming up everywhere I mean, in terms of manufacturing, in terms of any industrial climate return to work we’re people seeing people use that thermal for temperature setting and it’s just continuing to rise. And as the networks have continued to get better and stronger it’s giving customers more options, right? 5G is driving that, the edge is driving that, letting them rethink how they can use it and really becomes less of a cost in dollars but in terms of cost and capacity, right? How do I manage this solution better as I think about the changes that are going to be in the environment, safer work environment, keep the distance, keep people separated.

Those sort of things aren’t going away, as we said, it’s the new normal. But those types of technologies can not only drive ROI in normal ways, but also new ways we haven’t thought about. So video is a big one I would think about. So then the two I would say is how to optimize the home network  and then to Video as a Sensor super portable, very horizontal solution for myriad of industries.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. I think that’s really exciting and I think that my team and I we’ve worked virtually for decades so we’re experts at it, but for so many people out there getting the opportunity to go back into the physical workforce is important. It’s important for their own sort of mental health and wellbeing, it’s important just for them being able to get their work done. And so solutions that bring safety like Video as a Sensor, I think is a big deal and I think it’s really top of list for a lot of organizations that we talk with. Helen, what do you think?

Helen Yu: I think business leaders really have to make cybersecurity a top priority. If you have really pay attention to the FBI IC3 report, right? They report on cyber complaints have increased from 1000 to 4000 daily. What that that means, right? It means the vulnerability is really there. It’s in the day-to-day life. So making the remote worker, making sure they have the VPN to access the sensitive information data is a must have. In terms of the investments throughout the year, infrastructure and cloud are really important tech investment. There are a lot of IT leaders actively considering distributed cloud nowadays.

Shelly Kramer: Right. Absolutely.

Kevin Jackson: Yeah. Just sort of tail onto that, the cloud services and applications and the fact that everyone is remote, the biggest issue I believe is authentication and access management capabilities. Information and data from your organization is going everywhere. How do you know that the right person is using it or that someone who was using it last week is still using it this week when they shouldn’t. So data loss, protection technology and data rights management capabilities are crucial to any organization. You are really operating in a global environment no matter if you’re communicating with someone in the next room.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s really important. So what indicators do you think we should be keeping an eye on throughout the next year to help guide investments in the years to come? I’m going to start off by saying that we just finished up a research study for a client that hasn’t yet published, but it’s going to go live this week and one of the things that we looked at… We do a lot, of course, all of us in the digital transformation space, but in this particular research study, this client wanted to look at instead of only surveying senior leaders and executives, they wanted to talk to and to get input from frontline workers, mid-level workers about digital transformation within their companies and how they felt their company was handling digital transformation initiatives and how involved they were or were not in those initiatives.

And so what we found was that employees really want to be involved in corporate digital transformation initiatives. They have knowledge, skills and information that can help. But when they’re not tapped to be a part of those initiatives, they very much feel left out and they there’s some contributions that could be being made that aren’t happening. And so I thought that was a really interesting look and at digital transformation as a whole. And so I would say that one of the things that I think companies need to keep a barometer on is remembering that digital transformation doesn’t just happen in the C-suite, it doesn’t just happen in IT, it happens across the organization and part of successful digital transformation initiatives are actually when you have adoption and use throughout the enterprise, throughout the size of any organization, doesn’t have to just be an enterprise.

So I think that to me, that’s an indicator that companies should take a look at and keep their finger on the pulse of how are we involving our people in digital transformation and also how are we assessing our talent, how are we upskilling our employees, what initiatives do we have in place to help employees learn more and upskill and to teach others within the organization and that sort of thing? Helen, you talked about infrastructure and distributed infrastructure and how important that is and I think we’re seeing companies really taking a hard look at their infrastructure and their needs and making assessments there in terms of opting perhaps for infrastructure as a service solutions or things like that. So I think that’s interesting. What else, what else are you thinking about in terms of what companies should keep an eye on? Helen.

Helen Yu: Yeah, I would add the wellbeing of employees, right? If you think about 8 in 10 IT leaders, these days are concerned about the mental health of their team. So we really need to have the programs in place to support our employees and ensure their wellbeing, really maintain the wellbeing. And then you mentioned about upskilling workforce and to me, that’s not just about training is also means that seeking emotional engagement, right? Creating the connected workforce, even though when they’re remote, but they find opportunity for them to connect with each other helping each other and supporting each other. Those are the things that’d be a good indicator for us to measure the success of businesses. The other thing with brand. Brand reputation is another good indicator for business to invest, right? That’s part of the intangible value of a company.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I was also noticing in the news this week that there has been an explosion of sort of wellbeing, focus and apps and technology in the workplace because companies are realizing that employees are stressed. Most of us, many of us working from home report that we’re working more than ever before when you factor out a commute, when you factor out lunches with colleagues or anything like that. We’re just working. And so mental health, I think you make a really valid point is incredibly important, Helen in moving forward. What do you think Kevin?

Kevin Jackson: Well, one of the things we saw at the very beginning of the pandemic was a huge retrenchment from globalization. All of the manufacturing was overseas, speaking from the United States point of view and the supply chains broke. So all the companies were trying to figure out how to onshore everything. So right now all the industries are trying to figure out the sweet spot between globalization and reshoring everything. But no matter the decision, reliable wide area data connectivity is going to be essential. And that means even more rapid deployment of 5G services and solutions. I’m really looking at the industry vertical solutions. These being fielded by all the leading communications service providers like AT&T. These will help companies and organizations find and leverage that sweet spot, what needs to be globally, what needs to be locally.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I think that’s an incredibly valid point. So let’s talk about, now I think you’ve set the stage perfectly. We know that nothing is foolproof, right? And I think that this has been a great humanizing moment for us in the world of business. And when I talk about that, one of the things that, again, we talked about early on in this conversation, we sent our kids away. I know that all of you are on video chats all day long, whether it’s internal, external and somebody’s baby cries or somebody’s dog barks or somebody’s lawn service shows up or whatever it is. We have become human to one another in ways that we really weren’t before. We kind of kept our… I mean I know I kept my personal life pretty hidden.

And so we’ve humanized ourselves, we’ve humanized our companies and we make mistakes along the way. We know that nothing is ever foolproof, but let’s talk a little bit about how leaders can think about making their businesses more fool-resistant in 2021. Jason, I think that’s right up your alley.

Jason Inskeep: Yeah. Enable the employees, right? We got to get their homes, augment it the way it needs to be comfortable so that when we are working those days with no lunch and kids running around, at least that’s one less frustration we’ve got to worry about. I think another opportunity that comes with this that we’ve got to figure out is, as Kevin pointed out, we’ve got industry verticals that are starting to look at new things in 2021. How do we collaborate with them in the same way, right? 5G is basically a user defined type of environment and a lot of the gains that we’ve made and learned about in the last three to five years have come from direct customer interactions, right? Whether it’s sitting on their site, walking through their facility and now that’s taken away. So that’s a big adjustment.

And to your point, the better my environment is to have that interaction and collaboration, we can still get to those gains that we were making strides we were making as an industry. But there’s still a lot of education that’s got to happen and I think that starts with not being frustrated with the things you’re using at home most certainly.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. It’s kind of like getting in your car. You just want to get in your car and turn a key, although, does anybody turn a key anymore? I don’t know. I just push a button. But you know how you just want it to work and that’s how we are about our work environment, whether we’re at home or whether we’re in a corporate office or whatever it’s just… so creating environments where things just work and people don’t have to think about and don’t have to stress about it, I think that’s a really key thing, Jason. I think that digital transformation, we have seen… I’ve heard this phrase so many times I hate to even say it, but what we’ve experienced in the last 8 or 800 months is digital transformation that would normally take the span of a couple of years happening in a blink of an eye.

And that’s good and terrible. I think that the good thing is it’s forced companies to embrace things that might’ve been on the to-do list, but they weren’t quite yet ready to do. And that’s stressful. It causes a reshuffling of budget items and finances and tech allocations and things like that. But really and I know that this is the gospel that you preach, all of you as well is that customer experience is the Holy Grail of everything. And so, one thing that we have to make sure of is that our employees have a great experience, but also being able to enable and empower those employees to deliver a fantastic customer experience is kind of what it’s all about too. Let’s talk a little bit about emerging technology. Kevin, you want to talk a little bit about this and what, what you see ahead?

Kevin Jackson: Well, actually, as I said before, this virtual world is not going away. And a lot of the tools that are emerging are being created to make that virtual world secure and safe, things like blockchain. I mean, everybody’s heard of Bitcoin and I guess it’s hitting its highest points here recently, but that’s blockchain applied to just the financial industry. Blockchain has value in protecting information. Blockchain has value in protecting supply chains. So that is a critical emerging technology as well as the hybrid cloud. All of the organizations are leveraging multiple cloud service providers and manage security services are becoming critical. Earlier I talked about having things like digital rights management and DLP. Well, you also need things like access service management or manage security services. I think these are important to all businesses,

Shelly Kramer: Blockchain, my colleagues here at Future and I tackled the topic of the vaccines that are coming down the pike and the vaccine administration and blockchain was really high on our list in terms of an emerging technology that we perhaps don’t think about enough and don’t talk about enough. But when you’re talking about managing privacy and personally identifiable information, I can say that I know I can. That kind of technology has so many applications, not only as it relates to vaccines, but really just in protecting information and security. So let’s talk a little bit about what businesses should maybe stop thinking about doing in 2021. Where are they putting money and time and effort that perhaps might not be giving the ROI that they think. Helen, do you have any thoughts on that?

Helen Yu: Sure. There are a couple of things that business should really stop doing. Number one is stop creating a false image of your culture and brand. They really need to focus on fundamentals and create a diverse culture. I mentioned earlier about the intangible things, right? Intangible things today really contributed to $21 trillion of value for all the S&P500 companies. That’s 90% of the value. So that’s consists of the IP, the brand reputation, all those things and then the data security and then also employee customer experience, employee retention.

Secondly is business should really stop investing in technology. I wouldn’t say stop investing, I would say they need to start understanding what business issue or pain point they’re trying to solve before jump into technology investment. The three questions I would say they should ask, number one, what is the positive business outcome you’re trying to drive or achieve? And in order to achieve that what capability you really need to reach that outcome and how you measure that success. And then you can invest other than 5G other than the remote access, VPN, everything else when you invest, right? If you go jump into an emerging technology you should really nail down the business outcome and then use case of that before you jump into the investment.

Shelly Kramer: Well, Helen I will add too that real quickly. I think that part of your strategy has to include how do we achieve adoption throughout the organization? Because time and time again, we’ve seen businesses invest in technology, someone made a decision we need this and we spent a whole lot of money on it and yet maybe we didn’t involve others throughout the organization who might actually be using this technology and get their feedback and that sort of thing. So I really think that part of your strategic initiative needs to include, how do we scale this? How do we get adoption throughout the organization? I think that’s pretty important. Kevin.

Kevin Jackson: Yeah. One point I had on that is stop forgetting about formal training and education because unfortunately that’s the first thing that gets cut out of the budget so we can buy that thing would blinky lights. That’s a big mistake because companies need employees that can work independently and efficiently. In order to do that they need to be truly competent in their skills and confident in themselves. A continuous learning environment that values formal training and education really builds that type of culture in your organization.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. I think that’s super important. Training cannot be successful if it’s handled in a one and done manner. Continuous learning is so important. Being able to serve up training in bits and pieces whenever and wherever they need it and training that’s engaging and interesting and that sort of thing. I mean, that really is the key. Really, really important point Kevin, I think that you made. Jason, you had something to add.

Jason Inskeep: Yeah. I would add, we’ve come to a world that is software enabled. Good news of software is we can do almost anything we want and the bad news of software is we can almost do anything we want, right? The old adage, fail fast, right? So we talked about technology fail fast. Typically technology fail fast is easy. It either works or it doesn’t, right? And oftentimes we get so enamored with that, that we forget what is the business case on the other side of the business fail fast, right? So encouraging customers, as they’re looking at again with all the new technologies, blinking lights, 5G, edge, these different topics that are popping up more and more and more, not just look at it from a technical fail fast perspective, but also an operational and business fail fast perspective, which means I’ve got to bring the customer into that discussion, right?

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Jason Inskeep: Let them help you build it because it’s really trying to find goldilocks. What’s the optimal solution on the other end. And if you don’t have the user involved, it’s going to be very difficult to get there. Typically you’ve had dev shops on one side really far removed from the user and it’s hard to get that balance, right? So having that person involved or having someone closer to the customer involved hopefully gets us to that right solution faster, which is ultimately what is going to drive the ROI that our customers and obviously everyone’s looking for from an experience perspective.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. The goldilocks analogy was good because not everyone likes a bed that’s the same firmness, right? So you have to really reflect the fact that your customers are different and they have nuances involved and it’s not just a one size fits all solution and I think that’s probably really important. Kevin, what did you want to add?

Kevin Jackson: Yeah. I want to add that, don’t be afraid of quote, “Failure.” Failure is not bad. Failure is good. You learn from figuring out what doesn’t work. So stop procrastinating on digitalization. Really adopt the virtual tools, the virtual solutions, try them. They may work on one customer set or not work on another customer set, they’ll work on this environment or this situation and not in this scenario. But businesses need to embrace things like everyone is not the same, right?

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Kevin Jackson: You need Omnichannel, you need the SD-WAN so that you can change to match the customers or the user’s preferences. Connectivity and the virtual business models really enable you to better reach and connect with your suppliers and customers and that’s how you differentiate yourself in the marketplace.

Shelly Kramer: I think that you make such a valid point and I’ll make an analogy here. Some of us pre pandemic a million years ago, some of us were used to regularly collaborating by way of video chats, but a whole bunch of us were not, okay. So when you think back to the beginning days of the pandemic and you’d have a conversation with your customers or with your team or whatever, there were always those people who never turned their camera on. What I taught my team years ago, because again, we’ve been doing this virtually for decades, but what I taught my team years ago is that we need to look each other in the eyes we need to see… now I don’t care what you look like. We need to show up, we don’t physically go to an office, this is our office.

And so what I’ve seen happening over the course of the last number of months is that people have become very much more comfortable. And there’s some people that are always going to hate video collaboration, but the reality of it is this is our reality. Turn the camera on. It’s all good. Look people in the eyes, show up, shake hands. This is what we’re doing. And so it’s that easy. So when you think about being afraid to try, it’s kind of like video, don’t be afraid to turn your camera on. Well, don’t be afraid to this other digitization things because soon you will find they become as much a part of your life as anything else and it really wasn’t as much of a hurdle or as scary or as expensive sometimes as you might’ve thought that it was.

Helen Yu: I have to share a personal story with you, right? I’m going through digital transformation myself at home. Remember those days you used to take pictures and you have to develop them? So I had about 20 of such albums. So I decided to buy a scanner, right? We scanned every single one of them. My friend asked me why did you buy that? No one uses those scanners anymore. But I scan all the old pictures I start sending them. Instead of sending them a Christmas card I’m sending them the old pictures I made of the old pictures we used to take together with friends. They loved that right? It’s hard to go in sort of transition. It’s a very time consuming, but it was worth the effort, really love doing that. And then I’m also digitalizing all the documents that you’d have, the tax documents seven years ago. Now I’m scanning all the document and I’m throwing out… shredded all the papers. So actually under my whole office, half office is empty now. I feel so goodabout that.

Kevin Jackson: It’s unfortunate though that some of those problems even when you digitize come with you. So instead of having boxes and boxes of pictures in the storage room, you now have electronic files and files of pictures that you don’t know what they are and there’s no way to search them because there’s no key.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. Human beings are not necessarily wired for change. I’ve always been very grateful and truly my secret to career success has been that for some odd reason, I function amazingly well in a high state of chaos and I love change. And so, the current situation is forcing us to embrace change and to be open-minded and to go out on a limb and do things that you may be a little scared of or you’re not sure how it’s going to work out and everybody’s watching or whatever, but it’ll all work out. So Jason-

Kevin Jackson: Well, the thing about-

Shelly Kramer: Sorry, go ahead.

Kevin Jackson: I was just saying the thing about this digitalization is that it is your job now. I mean, if you are a professional, you need to turn on the camera and be seen. If you are a professional, you need to be on social networks like LinkedIn to be seen to interact. So this digital interaction shouldn’t be seen as something extra or something that I have a choice to do. It’s part of your job in a professional world.

Shelly Kramer: Well, and I think that also you make such a valid point because for those of us present company included and probably people who are hanging out with us on LinkedIn or on Twitter, a lot of us planted a flag in digitization a long time ago and we started building social networks and making friends all over the world and creating relationships and partnerships and everything else and we were as comfortable walking on a stage as we are turning on a camera. And so, we embraced change and we knew that the world was changing.

What I think we’re seeing, certainly since the days of the pandemic is that people and companies who hadn’t done that and who hadn’t realized the power of social, the power of video and all of the things, the technology that drives that are having an, oh my gosh moment and really running to catch up and it’s hard to.

When people look at us and say, “Oh my gosh, how did you amass this gigantic network?” Well, I spent a decade building it. And so some of these things are things that are hard to turn a switch on and just make happen overnight, but you know what, today is the best day to start when it comes to making changes and embracing digital transformation and all that sort of thing. So I want to talk now in the latter part of our show, I want to talk a little bit about what kind of skills that businesses need to be thinking about looking for and hiring for in 2021 and Jason, I think this one is right up your alley.

Jason Inskeep: Yeah. I think the cop-out answer if I was to go there would be going on about 5G but that’s a broad topic, right? So I’ll try to maybe parse that down a little bit. Obviously having tons of conversations with customers on digital transformation, how does 5G affect it and everybody’s got a 5G story which is a good thing, right? So it’s shown how the network has broadened, it’s shown how the network has become ability to be converged and user-defined, and all the fun things that we want to get, to get to the experiences that we need. However, if you try to go take all that in one big bite, you’re going to have a struggle, right? So what I’ve kind of been championing a little bit with customers as we’re kind of going through this process is forget the G right?

Throw the G out the window and start over back at cellular 101, there’s just inherent changes and inherent security pieces that are built into it that you just need to understand at the core level first, right? Because most of our environments… shame on us as operators, right? If you flashback prior to 5G and LTE, et cetera, we didn’t really talk too much about those inherent capability, we knew they were there, but we didn’t really talk about them in detail because the customer, you kind of had what we gave you, right? Now, as that construct has changed and there’s more opportunity you’ve got to get grounded, right? So again, the change, right? Go back and ground yourself on what was before, which again, a lot of the things we talk about with security and 5G interface encryption, those kinds of things they’re already there, right? You ground there and then you can start to look at now what’s the Delta, right? So I mean, I didn’t have quality of service per se in LTE but now I’ve got network slicing.

Okay. What does that difference and what does that mean? All right. You’ve got things like spectrum, shared spectrum versus licensed spectrum versus unlicensed spectrum. And what does that mean, right? So notice, I never said G in any of that, because inside of that whole construct are the standards bodies. And just because it’s in the standards bodies doesn’t mean it’s necessarily in the production view, but those opportunities are there now in the new world because of opportunities in private cellular networks, right, and those kinds of things. So it’s kind of grounding on those elements that are just inherent and then starting to build on top of it in context of the business. At the same time, there’s a whole another piece of this and, you think about 5G really is going to take off because of the end to end nature, because of the converged nature and obviously that brings the edge into the conversation.

So you’re kind of grounding on that at the same time and what is that intersection between 5G and edge or cellular and edge, right? And those two pieces are convergence that aren’t that far away in terms of true, true, integrated, holding each other’s hands convergence, right? As those begin to take shape, if you don’t have the grounding, it’s going to be really hard to go to that next level of that a fail fast methodology we were talking about before. So again, from my perspective, and then when I think about who I’m going and looking for, when I’m looking to build out and increase the team or scale our model is, who are the translators, who are those unicorns that can talk across the network from sailor network to the cloud network because those are the ways that our experiences are going to get better with all the new tech that’s on the rise. So again, that grounding, that understanding of end to end is really going to be telling to really reach those experiences that we’re trying to get to.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. I like that. Important. Helen, I know you have some thoughts on this topic in terms of what kind of skills in study our brains think alike on many topics, because what you’re going to say is exactly at the top of my list I think of skills that we need to be looking for in 2021. Go ahead.

Helen Yu: I mean, definitely the number one, I think is the cybersecurity skillset. That’s sort of 5% of the company really are in need of or their lack of cybersecurity skillset. In addition, it is the change organization or change management, I think Jason touched upon this. It’s not just about technology, right? If you want to adopt the technology, you have to make sure you enable your workforce, making sure they understand how that technology change would have impact on their day to day job and then how do you enable them to upskill, right, to reskill, upskill. So they learn about the new technology and then they feel secure, they feel safe about having a job, but shifting their day-to-day responsibility or day-to-day routines.

And then the other one is under-priced architecture and with the rise of IoT and cloud you have to make sure you have the people who are able to help you architect and maintain those new technologies. And then also advanced analytics, right? Once you have all the technologies, how are you going to monitor to ensure the progress you make and how are you going to measure the success and then making sure you automate the capability to measure the success of the technology adoption.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. I don’t think that people have any idea of the tremendous need for cyber security skilled workers in the workplace. I mean there’s such a huge skills gap there and I will tell you that I preach again, I mentioned I have 14-year-old twin daughters and they’re so sick of hearing me say, forget med school. Forget it really. Even doctor’s lives are going to change. Really think about cybersecurity and all of that that has to offer and everything else. But I think that you make some really valid points and change management is incredibly important as well. I had a conversation with a client and in the last few months and one of the stories that they shared that was really interesting was, we know a lot about low-code/no-code, and how being able to build bots within an organization and automate processes. The back of the house and the front of the house is really important and leads to all different kinds of efficiencies and productivities and everything else.

What happens within an organization when you reskill, when you upskill and you take somebody who has an ordinary average and probably kind of boring job and you teach them to do something that it never occurred to them that they would have the ability to do and then they become this citizen developer, and they have this ability to teach other people within the organization, how to do these really cool things that they never realized they’d be able to do and they’re so grateful for the opportunity. And when you hear the stories of those individuals, and sometimes those individuals are people who’ve been worried that technology was going to come and take their position away. But when you hear those stories they’re so uplifting. I mean, people just love to be able to grow and thrive within an organization within their role in an organization.

So I think when it comes to skills, we have to look at who we need to hire, but also identify those unicorns within our organization who may be ordinary people doing incredibly ordinary jobs, but who have the ability to do so much more. I think as leaders it’s incumbent upon us to be able to find and identify and give those people kind of the skills that will change everything about our companies and about their jobs and their lives as well.

Jason Inskeep: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things I wanted to highlight though, is that change is here to stay, and you need to hire staff and employees that can embrace change. And as you said, Shelly, the perceived chaos, because that’s what drives innovation which in the end is good for us all.

Shelly Kramer: Speaking of innovation, I do want to touch on, we talk about 5G, 5G, 5G all the time and all of us are very much immersed in that space, but for other people sometimes they’re not as immersed in it. You hear about it and you hear about 5G is on our phones and it’s going to change everything and you’re like, “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Jason, talk with us a little bit about more about 5G. It’s so much more than just faster speeds. Where is 5G going to take businesses in 2021?

Jason Inskeep: So you’re right. Speeds are table stakes. I usually have three kind of tenants that I’ve kind of created on top of this. Of course I could lay out the buzzwords, but I broke it down into three tenants, right? And the first one is we kind of hinted as more than just speeds.

The two other areas that are really key coming with 5G in that construct, one is latency. And latency I think we did a commercial, I know we did a commercial back in March and I thought it was the best personification of latency we could do, right, is if any of us have ever proposed or been proposed to the time between the question and the answer is the personification of painful latency whether it’s two seconds or 20 minutes, that time did not move, right? That’s latency. The answer was binary zero, one kilobytes, right? Yes or no, or I don’t know, which is the worst answer you could possibly get, right, in that construct. I didn’t need more payload for that, I just needed a quicker response time so my stomach stop turning, right? That’s latency. That’s one.

The second one is jitter, right? And we talk about low latency, but I can achieve low latency in other types of network. It’s the jitter that becomes the problematic or the enemy of a lot of these robotics and AR experiences, because if the AR or XR experience, augmented reality, isn’t what it needs to be because of jitter I’m going to get car sick, right? And that’s not a good experience either. That’s number one tenant, right? It’s more than just speed that’s table stakes. We’re going to get there with the physics of the spectrum and how we densify the network. Latency and reliability become next.

The second tenant that I talk about and I try to focus on is why 5G is such a big topic is convergence, right? The network is software. We talked about that earlier, how that can be great and bad at the same time. But to get where we need to get to the network and application have to be aware or network and application have to be aware of one another, right? So they can make the right decision at the right time based on the right criteria built around it, right? So that’s convergence. And that’s not just going to be the operator, right? That’s going to be us in a partnerships with the cloud providers, with our customers, really getting to the third tenant, which is user defined, right? Because it’s software, if I want to get to goldilocks, I’ve got to understand what porridge is best for her, right?

And that’s the construct that we haven’t had in cellular up until late LTE and we started to see those changes take shape. And now if I can take those three tenants and start educating around those to define 5G, we get beyond this, how fast is it? We get to what’s the balancing act between application and network. If I’m in a high bandwidth millimeter waves zone, I can ship you 4K video. Conversely, if I’m in that low bandwidth, out in the rural location situation, you know what, I probably want to send you alphanumerics because they don’t have the pipe to do it. So it’s those kind of things we’ve got to balance between network and application. And once we do that in context of our customers, it’s going to be a lot of change it’s going to happen. And you’re starting to see that pick up now, but as that continues that’s going to be the start of 5G. That’s where it really takes off.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. So exciting and just so much ahead and really not far away. I think that that to me is what’s so exciting. These experiences, these digital experiences that have become so commonplace are going to be even more fantastic with the advent of 5G and it becoming just kind of our norm. So I want to talk just a minute about data and security have been big concerns for 2020. Helen, what do you see on the horizon that will help businesses get a handle on perhaps managing data and keeping it more secure? Do you have any thoughts on that? I know you do.

Helen Yu: I always have thoughts, something you know, Shelly.

Shelly Kramer: I know you do.

Helen Yu: So I work with a lot of companies just to help them assess where they are at, right? Oftentimes they don’t necessarily even understand what their current state is not knowing what are the endpoints, right? And one of the companies that I work with, Fortune 300 companies and they thought they had 300 endpoint connections, but it turns out there’s three times more than what they thought they would have, right? So doing for me, in working with them to guide them on where to start is number one important things to really assess the landscape of what are the data, right, you need to protect. You even have today, you’re talking about all the systems and then datas and then what are datas that you have of secure, you can secure today versus the ones that you know for sure it’s secure and then other data points that you know that’s probably at risk.

And then having that inventory list is a first step for them. That’s what we guide them to ensure… And then to me, I also learn about a lot of shadow IT where the business oftentimes get off on their own to invest in systems IT leaders may not even be aware of. So for organizations to really have a holistic view of where exactly they are at with their data points and the potential risk or threat landscape of their current state that’s the first thing that they got to work on to ensure secure environment.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. I see that our time is quickly drawing to an end and I want to address one question that’s in the chat and you our guest indicated that she’s interested in cybersecurity skills and can anyone give some pointers on how ordinary business pros can best upskill? I don’t have time to tackle that in great detail here, but I will suggest if you reach out to any one of us separately and connect with us on LinkedIn, certainly I will be able to help you and be happy to help you point you in the direction of some online courses and some things like that. As I said, I preach this to my children all the time about the importance of cybersecurity and technical skills in general. So we don’t really have time to go into great detail with that.

But I want to just tell you all, thank you so much for hanging out today. It’s always a pleasure to see all of you and it’s a great pleasure for me to see you all in one place and to have a discussion like this. Thanks so much to AT&T business for making this happen and to everyone who watched and engaged and shared, we really appreciate you and we hope you’ll come back again. This BIZTALKS happens every month, I think. It’s a recurring Twitter chat so do look for it. Look for the hashtag and join us next week. We’re going to talk more about 2021 trends on Wednesday, December 9th at 12:00 PM Central Standard Time. So you can get more of a fix of BIZTALKS and all things technology and everything else. But Kevin, Jason and Helen, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.

Kevin Jackson: Thank you.

Jason Inskeep: Thank you.

Helen Yu: Thank you Shelly.

Jason Inskeep: Thank you very much.

Helen Yu: Thank you for having us.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. And with that, we’re over and out for the day. Have a great rest of the day, everyone, and we’ll see you again next time.


About the Author

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”