Looking across AI/ML, Cloud Native Infrastructure, Agile, and Cybersecurity

Feb 22 · 8 min read

We’re only three months into the year, and we’ve been excited by what Fortune 500 technology groups are focusing on across new initiatives, projects, and priorities. Work-Bench connected with a number of experts in our corporate network to share themes and areas they’re actively looking into in 2019. Here’s a sampling of projects (and budget dollars) poised to transform sectors of the industry in the year ahead, across AI / Machine Learning, Cloud Native Infrastructure, Agile Transformation, and Cybersecurity.

If you’re a startup targeting these areas or a corporate executive looking to dive deeper into any of these technology areas, we’d love to connect.

AI / Machine Learning

“Leveraging AI and Machine Learning can release tremendous value.”

We are looking to facilitate DIY Data Science.”

Senior Managing Director, Fortune 200 Media and Marketing Holding Company

  • AI and Machine Learning will be areas of focus in 2019 and beyond. We are focused on more efficient and effective operations — every dollar saved is a 1:1 contributor to our EBITDA performance — and driving new revenue growth through new insights, services, and methods. These were already areas of focus; we are constantly pushing to get better in both. AI and Machine Learning offer the ability to pursue opportunities that were physically impossible to implement or were too labor- or compute-intensive.
  • Specifically, Automation. We’ll focus on automation efforts that utilize AI and Machine Learning to better inform decisions, either through enhanced outcome prediction or increased insight into media mix, media buying, sentiment analysis, efficacy measurement, etc. Tools that leverage these technologies, like Robotic Process Automation (RPA), are particularly interesting, and we have several initiatives underway using this approach.
  • We are developing products and services that increase our professionals’ ability to service customers using novel approaches to the traditional business model. Leveraging AI and Machine Learning to gain insight, reinforce direction, and make faster decisions with greater frequently can release tremendous value by targeting campaigns and investments where they will have the greatest impact for our clients.

Enterprise Architect, Fortune 250 Media Company

  • We will be exploring how we can use Machine Learning to extract and analyze enriched metadata from our various assets, such as content and social activity, for enhanced user recommendations and personalization. We have been doing various deep dives into how far ML can go to help with these efforts.

Executive, Fortune 100 Pharma Company

  • This year, my main AI focus will be to evaluate the use of Cognitive Services from Azure and AWS for tasks that do not require heavy customizations, such as NLP, Entity Extractions, Sentiment Analysis.
  • We are looking into pilots of technologies to facilitate DIY Data Science. This is for tasks that can be commoditized or do not require deep domain knowledge. Simplifying data cleansing and alignment is a big area of focus here.

Cloud Native

“The infrastructure world is still a wild, wild west.”

“Treating all cloud providers as the same in a multi-cloud plan is the same as treating every airplane or automobile as the same.”

“Kubernetes is being positioned as the underlying plumbing for the future cloud native world.”

Head of IT Strategy, Fortune 500 HR Solutions Provider

  • 2019: the year enterprise realizes that fears of cloud lock-in are overblown. They will miss the existential threat faced by cloud agnostic or multi-cloud adoption. It’s understandable to have concerns about multiple suppliers for all critical services, a time-honored strategy that lasted decades. But applying this to multi-cloud results in competition at the lowest common denominator level: infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
  • Multi-cloud has let us hedge our risks. We’re free from a provider changing terms or raising prices. But execution risk remains on engineering and operations teams. This multi-cloud strategy will only please the CFO, and even then, only temporarily, due to the increased operation complexity and risk.
  • Moving up the value chain introduces a “preferred cloud provider,” which can lead to lock-in. Is this a threat? Most large enterprises are at greater risk from the operational burdens of legacy software at scale, running highly-available replicated databases, and migrating clients/users to modern platforms.
  • Skills to operate these systems in-house have been eroding with the aging population. As skilled resources become scarce, they will congregate where the money and opportunities are greatest: major cloud providers.
  • How can you handle hard things in the public cloud without deep engineering talent? Move up into the “Lock-in land” of Aurora and other managed services on AWS. Many of these managed services are already multi-region, fault tolerant, and “infinitely” scalable. Enterprises that risk “lock-in” by adopting these managed services will discover they have bypassed huge engineering tasks to become cloud scale with minimum investment.
  • Lock-in is a data migration and reimplementation risk to be managed, not feared. Today’s tooling and cloud vendors enable modern adoption techniques with minimal costs. Failing first to recognize that the pace of change is accelerating and then to adopt cloud native patterns, including managed services, will be fatal.
  • Enterprise’s hand is forced: They will finally learn that software projects are never “done” and that re-implementing the valuable business logic becomes simpler with every new language, platform, or service.
  • In conclusion: Treating all cloud providers as the same in a multi-cloud plan is the same a treating every airplane or automobile as the same. The difference between driving a Model T and a Tesla is the fundamental error of not using the right tool for the job.

SVP of Cloud Engineering, Fortune 1000 Financial Analytics Company

  • Containerization continues to increase in adoption. Application developers have been carrying the torch for some time. IT executives and infrastructure teams were still reeling from the mass change induced by cloud adoption. Now enterprises are becoming comfortable operating in a cloud native world. Many still have data center teams that are seeing the advantage of cloud native technologies and want to bring that advantage to all their infrastructure in cloud and on-premise.
  • Decision makers and product owners that have seen gains from cloud transformation are in a better position to take advantage of these new technologies. Using containers and microservices will continue to reduce time to market and further their scaling capability.
  • K8s stands as a shining example of how open-source with a strong community can be extremely valuable to the enterprise that is willing to commit resources (peoples’ time) in place of dollars traditionally spent with commercial vendors.
  • The biggest barrier to adoption remains the Kubernetes skill set. But many providers are offering Kubernetes as a service or using it underlying a higher-level platform. This is positioning Kubernetes as the underlying plumbing for the future cloud native world. Kubernetes and many of the popular open-source projects in this space will likely be part of a company’s stack whether they realize it or not. In addition to this, we see some that are seeing value or requirements for some footprints on premise. Even AWS seems to have accepted hybrid as a reality with the release of Outpost, which also shows the need for common abstraction across different infrastructure providers.

Future of Work & Agile Transformation

Technology Lead at Fortune 500 Bank

  • We just rolled out a major Agile enterprise-wide adoption program, which includes both business and technology. We are piloting it with 10 teams within the organization, and then we’ll take another 10 teams. Getting more infrastructure teams to be more Agile is going to be harder, especially in legacy technology areas. But the business loves the idea and they fully support it. It will fundamentally change their current work and workflow style. We are doing a lot of training on both tech and business side.

Technology Executive at Fortune 500 Financial Services Company

  • We have done the foundational trainings, have pockets of scrum masters, and maturity in parts of our organization (though it is not necessarily consistent, depending on the team). We even track metrics around velocity and points that we report out. Now it is about having senior leaders really buy in to Agile, making sure they really understand the principles and can be champions of it.

Digital Transformation Executive at Fortune 1000 Financial Services Company

  • We have done Year 1 of our Agile Transformation, and we are now moving into Year 2. As we do, we are focused on scaling the number of teams. In addition, how do we make sure there is true independence in what each of these squads can produce? We will start to address more advanced Agile process questions around mediating and negotiating between teams who need to collaborate.

Technology Executive at Fortune 500 Bank

  • We are still working on Agile transformation. It is challenging — we did not have consistent tooling across our infrastructure, though it is now getting better. There are coaches in pockets, and we are looking for more consistent scrum masters. We’ve been sponsoring coaches and trainings.

HR Leader at Fortune 500 CPG

  • We are automating work to get the most value from our resources. RPA will play a bit part of this. We are also looking to drive employee engagement through a variety of emerging technology offerings.

Technology Team at Fortune 500 Insurance Company

  • Diversity hiring and removal of unconscious biases remain a top priority.


“Looking for more automation to identify and respond to incidents.”

“Working closely with legal and regulatory peers on compliance.”

“Educating businesses on cybersecurity’s pervasive impact.”

Chief Information Security Officer at Fortune 1000 Market Data Company

  • 2019 Areas of Focus: Security operations, secure application development, and protecting our privileged environments.
  • For Security Operations: We’re looking for more visibility and automation to identify and respond to incidents in smarter and faster ways.
  • On Application Development: The more we can shift security left in the software development lifecycle, the better. We’re aiming to integrate security into the build process, rather than as an afterthought.
  • Privileged Access Management: As the privileged environment grows, being able to provide a secure and frictionless experience for technology teams is a big priority this year.

Director, Cybersecurity & GRC at Large Media Company

  • 2019 Areas of Focus: Information governance, cyber resiliency, updating and formalizing processes for BCP/DR, and continuing to refine our incident response, implementing a risk-based approach to security operations. In addition, we’re looking at improving identity and access management, and working closely with legal and regulatory peers on compliance initiatives.
  • The looming “tech-lash”: The “is technology good or bad for society” debate will directly impact business strategy; a “tech lash” will become real and fundamentally change the underpinnings of today’s corporations.
  • STEM education or bust: To compete in a global economy, America must make substantial investments in STEM education for our youth. Due to the shortage of cyber talent, I foresee companies looking for talent outside core capability indicators (B.S. in Computer Science, Cybersecurity, Engineering) and training internal talent.
  • More room to grow for cybersecurity education: We have a long way to go with educating businesses on cybersecurity’s pervasive impact — especially industries that are not heavily regulated and privately-held companies — and how all functions of the business are accountable for protecting the crown jewels of the organization.
  • Consumers will drive firms to provide better privacy control: We will continue to see increased demands from consumers to control and own their personally identifiable information.
  • Open questions abound: It’s expected that privacy and data security will have increased oversight from state, federal and regulatory agencies given its importance for economic safety and national security. Will there be talks of regulating the internet? Will we see the collapse of a business due to a cybersecurity incident? Will we see the virtual equivalent of 9/11? Can America’s economy collapse from digital terrorism?

We’d love to hear from you. Are these initiatives and priorities in line with what you’re seeing at your Fortune 500 companies? Reach out to us here.


Work-Bench is an enterprise technology VC fund in NYC. We support early go-to-market enterprise startups with community, workspace, and corporate engagement.


Written by

Work-Bench is an enterprise technology VC fund in NYC. We support early go-to-market enterprise startups with community, workspace, and corporate engagement.


Work-Bench is an enterprise technology VC fund in NYC. We support early go-to-market enterprise startups with community, workspace, and corporate engagement.

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