The folks at Dell Technologies aren't psychic, and they don't have access to a crystal ball, but research conducted as part of the company's effort to draw conclusions about its customers' future needs indicates that neither of those things would be particularly helpful.
Businesses globally are eager to base their operations on the efficiencies and insights promised by the movement to "software-defined" technologies and artificial intelligence, but are deeply uncertain about whether that promise will ever be realized, Dell Technologies CMO Allison Dew said during a keynote address at the Dell Technologies World conference in Las Vegas this week.
"Business leaders have a very mixed view of what the future will bring," Dew said. "I kept staring at the data wondering what does this say? What it said is that the consensus is divided. Fifty percent believe that machines will free up time, which means 50 percent of you think they won't. Fifty percent say we'll be more productive, which again means 50 percent think you won't."
Dell Technologies conducted its survey with the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Institute for the Future. The results will help inform the Dell Technologies' "Realize 2030" efforts, as well as its Dell Technologies Institute think tank, Dew said.
And while consensus was illusive, there were important areas of clarity. For example, 82 percent of customers plan to be a software-defined business within five years, Dew said, pointing to the fact that while uncertainty reigns, there is nevertheless a great appetite for insights into how to lead organizations into the future.
Dew has been Dell Technologies CMO for less than a month. She moved into the role to replace Jeremy Burton, the EMC veteran who stepped down in late March. Dew has been with Dell for 10 years and most recently headed up marketing for the company's client solutions group.
For Michael Tanenhaus, CEO of Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider that works with Dell Technologies, the confusion and uncertainly around technologies like AI creates opportunities that should seem familiar to solution providers.
"AI isn't a product, it's a technology," Tanenhaus said. "People struggle with deep learning, AI, automation, but they're just labels for trying to get certain outcomes done. AI looks at the raw data and does something with it. The solution provider term came into being because you were taking pieces and putting them together so the customer could reach an outcome. AI and all of those things are just part of the puzzle. The outcomes we can get to now are more complicated. They're not just, 'I need to store stuff for ten years,' it's 'I need to deliver this outcome to my customer and I need to do it in real time.'"