Digital transformation. While it may have become the latest business buzzword and even the cornerstone of many business strategies, there is a lack of awareness and agreement as to what the term actually means.
At its most basic, digital transformation is concerned with the application and exploitation of technology across areas of an organisation’s activity. Its success doesn’t come as a result of the technology itself, but more from the organisation’s ability to implement that technology, rethinking its operating and business models, its strategy, culture and talent in order to do so.
Established organisations can no longer rely solely on size for their success, and must now be responsive, adaptable, agile, insight-driven, connected and collaborative. In fact, smaller, more nimble start-ups are often better placed than larger businesses to take this approach to serving their clients and growing their business.
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An increasing number of CIOs are, therefore, changing their IT strategies to keep up with these new, disruptive companies and capitalise on the benefits offered by their technology investments.
But rather than simply following their peers or blindly obeying the orders of their CEO, CIOs should be looking for ways to build a digital transformation strategy that will drive genuine value for the business.
In recent years, a technological and material shift has led to customers seeking products and services that meet their specific, individual requirements. This has filtered through from the retail into the business community where many organisations are now looking to digital transformation as a means of offering the “single complete view of customer” that will allow them to hyper-personalise their interactions.
In addition to implementing the data analytics that will provide the necessary insight, businesses must also take steps to “SaaSify” their products, and ensure their applications are supported by platforms sufficiently robust to cope with the peaks and troughs in demand that will come.
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Of the applications owned and managed by an organisation, however, the most challenging to transform in this way tends to be those housed on on-premise legacy infrastructure or co-located.
Gaining greater agility or faster response time from these particular applications can prove frustratingly complicated, especially when taking into consideration requirements around regulation, data sovereignty, security, integration complexity, contractual certainty and service level agreements.
No “one size fits all” approach
Following competitors into the cloud without proper planning can often lead to mistakes. With no “one size fits all” approach, consideration should be given to how a move to the cloud works as part of a broader transformation strategy, and how it meets the demands of a business and its customers.
Public cloud, for example, is most suitable for highly scalable workloads that require flexible or short-term computing resources, and that can be easily switched on and off. For workloads requiring predictable levels of resources for at least three years, and with more complex security requirements, the most appropriate option might be a private cloud.
For high performance computing or big data workloads with a three year or greater lifecycle, managed hosting can save money over cloud, and be supplemented with bare metal for short term workloads and run in a custom security environment.
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Finally, older applications, which have reached the end of their lifecycle, can simply be left alone or moved into a colocation environment from where they can be integrated into other venues.
Ultimately though, in offering the flexibility to choose the best execution venue for each application and integrate into other environments, a hybrid IT model is the key to a successful digital transformation for those organisations with a legacy estate.
More and more often, organisations with a strategy which encompasses both public and private options will require a number of cloud providers. While this may be a more flexible and efficient approach though, it can be a lot for a CIO to juggle. A less stressful option, therefore, may be to seek a managed services provider that can provide a management layer, delivering any promised savings, and keeping complexity to a minimum.
Change is inevitable
Customers’ purchasing and consumption habits have changed forever, along with the demands that these put on a business. Businesses must embrace this change and take steps to adapt if they hope to avoid being overtaken by more flexible and agile competitors.
However, before embarking on a digital transformation, it’s important for businesses to consider where they are, what they want to achieve, and how they’ll face the challenges and opportunities that arise during that transformation.
Crucially, a business should give thought to its cloud migration strategy to ensure its customer-facing applications are sufficiently robust. Instead of just “putting them in the cloud”, the business must ensure that the environment in which they’re housed, as well as how they’re managed, are all right for the needs of the business.
Change is inevitable, and only by thoroughly preparing for it can businesses transform from the caterpillar to the butterfly.
Sourced by Matt Leonard, solution engineering and marketing director, CenturyLink EMEA
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