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New Zealand Organisations That Aren't Cloud Ready Won't Be Ready For An AI-enabled Future

The acceleration of cloud computing adoption across New Zealand businesses has transformed operations to enhance efficiency, scalability and innovation; but this digital transformation has also brought into sharp focus the vast number of businesses lagging behind in this area.

As New Zealand’s largest telecommunications and digital services provider, Spark believes that Aotearoa doesn’t yet have the tech ‘backbone’ we need to innovate into an AI-driven future. While we have our eyes firmly on AI as a nation; this is all in vain without widespread migration to the cloud.

“A move to cloud technology is one of the most important technology shifts a business can make in preparation for an AI-enabled future. Expecting to reap the benefits of AI, but failing to put in place a cloud computing strategy is a strategic oversight; and one happening with increasing frequency," says Kallol Dutta, General Manager for Data and Automation for Spark New Zealand.

Dutta is referring to the surge in interest from local and global businesses wanting to integrate AI into their organisation; but without a major upgrade to their cloud infrastructure, deploying AI (including generative AI) will be near impossible.

CCL (New Zealand’s largest locally-focused IT services and hybrid cloud provider within Spark Business Group) released a report in July 2023 on the state of cloud transformation in New Zealand, which states that although 88 per cent of organisations in NZ consider cloud as important to their future strategy and growth – up six per cent from 2022 – only 57 per cent are ‘operators’ or ‘leaders’ in this area.

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Surprisingly, the same research shows AI has experienced a decline in maturity, dropping 13 per cent from the previous year. This shift may be attributed to the emergence of generative AI into mainstream (led by OpenAI’s ChatGPT), leaving many organisations grappling with the integration of these innovations into their operations. The dynamic nature of emerging technologies necessitates the continuous adaptation and exploration to fully leverage its potential.

Cloud as a backbone in Spark’s use of AI to enhance marketing operations

Over the past three years, Spark has advanced its own approach to data-driven marketing with the development of a world-leading AI platform integrated into the company’s MarTech stack called B.R.A.I.N (an acronym for ‘Build Robust AI for Next-best-action’). This platform is now delivering 10x improvements in campaign outcomes.

“B.R.A.I.N leverages cloud infrastructure to efficiently process and analyse these vast amounts of data. This cloud-based approach not only enhances the platform's computational capabilities but also facilitates seamless integration with other technologies and services, allowing us to harness the full power of artificial intelligence for data analytics, pattern recognition and predictive modelling,” explains Kallol.

“Machine learning models utilise the rich data and turn this into valuable insights to help predict with a high level of accuracy - usually 80 percent - if a customer is in market right now for a new phone. This means customers will only get a message if they have been deemed likely to be looking for a product or service that Spark can provide."

He adds, “This also means we are only targeting you when one of our models tells us you are in market and by doing so, we generate a 10x improvement in conversion rates through the channels we are using.”

Because the platform is based on cloud data architecture and a Snowflake data platform, the journey to deploying B.R.A.I.N involved migrating Spark’s existing on-premises data architecture to a cloud-based infrastructure. This significant shift required careful planning and execution over a two year period from 2020 - including tackling the complexities of cloud migration through rigorous change management and delivery of skill development programs.

“The move to cloud isn’t a lift and shift from existing on-prem systems but is an opportunity to simplify, automate and make your ecosystem more resilient. It also means retraining people on cloud technologies and a different governance model to manage and maintain cloud assets.

"Without the significantly scaled uptake of cloud technology, a lot of NZ organisations will miss out on an AI-enabled future," concludes Kallol.

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