AI to shape SaaS trends in SA

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Gerhard Fourie, channel lead at Commvault Africa.
Gerhard Fourie, channel lead at Commvault Africa.

Data governance, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are among the top trends that will have an impact on the software as a service (SaaS) market from this year in SA, says Gerhard Fourie, channel lead at Commvault Africa.

The local SaaS market has been on a growth trajectory as companies were pushed to reposition their operations due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The local SaaS market has ballooned in the past year, mainly because the SaaS model removes the need for organisations to install and run applications on their computers or in their data centres, which was ideal during the COVID-19 induced lockdowns, as most people worked offsite.

Fourie tells ITWeb that while the pandemic and its associated challenges remains, these challenges have also become an opportunity, with many businesses in SA anticipating growth going forward.

Added to this, the accelerated digitalisation due to COVID-19 related lockdowns has had a lasting positive impact on local SaaS firms, as they were forced to re-evaluate their plans, he notes.

“Digitalisation was well and truly on its way before COVID hit us in 2020. However, most companies did not feel or see the immediate impact and/or benefits of digitalisation prior to the pandemic, as most companies had a five-year plan of moving their business to more optimally used business-oriented tools and technology to spearhead their future growth.

“The onset of the pandemic just highlighted how ill-prepared or slow most businesses have been in adopting smart technologies.”

The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to rethink their short- to medium-term strategies and move quickly in their adoption of smart technologies, Fourie says.

“The net effect that we have seen is that companies achieved their five-year digitisation plans or goals in a matter of weeks. Businesses re-invented themselves by finding and adopting new optimised ways of doing business while ensuring they achieve the best service levels while keeping their workforce safe. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa and across the Africa region are recognising digitalisation as essential to staying competitive in a transformed business and economic environment.”

Topping the list

Turning to the trends that will shape the SaaS market in SA in the near future, Fourie cites data governance, ransomware, AI and machine learning at the top of his list.

“Ransomware and other attacks will morph and mature to adapt to our modified connectivity models that accompany a remote workforce. As this happens, there’s no doubt we’ll be relying on other parts of the infrastructure to start playing a role in securing our ever-eroding perimeter. Constructs such as secure access service edge and containers are two areas we expect will bloom and thrive as security enrichments.”

On AI and machine learning, Fourie says: “The AI technology is becoming more widespread; it's becoming a real game-changer. Artificial intelligence (as well as machine learning, in many cases) provides an advanced degree of responsiveness and interaction between businesses, customers and technology that unlock the ability to refocus time and energy potentially on more high value needs while letting the intelligence in a connected and AI-driven environment manage the mundane tasks.

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning will become a requirement for new solutions for simplified operations. Time is critical in business and, much like driving in traffic, backup and data management operations all can benefit from AI-assisted operations.

“The ability to self-optimise operations, schedules and activity towards the destination or SLA your business defines, without your constant management and involvement, changes the complete experience you have in ensuring your business is protected, recovery ready and able to meet the next level of governance and compliance requests that come your way.”

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