How Enterprises Will Survive The Digital Shift

By: Brian Farrar

Across all industries, demand is increasingly driven by consumers who value products that are rich in digital experience and rapidly brought to market. Large enterprises’ prevailing processes and technology were largely unequipped to meet these requirements when they took hold, so it became apparent that fundamental change was needed. A glaring spotlight shone on the issue when scrappy startups “born in the cloud” began launching offerings at breakneck speed that sustained a better pulse on the customer than seasoned market leaders ever had before. Because the cloud unlocked the liquidity of data, it enabled companies using this flexible technology, no matter their size or age, to become more consumer-driven. 

A buzzword that—while sometimes used ad nauseam—accurately captures the adjustment companies must make to adequately serve an evolving marketplace is digital transformation. The term essentially points to whatever technological and procedural changes are required to serve today’s more demanding consumers, who expect companies to be customer-obsessed and anticipate their needs, now and in the future. Since virtually all legacy enterprise applications resided on inelastic platforms and were supported by slow-moving processes, transferring everything to the cloud presented an incredibly daunting task. That’s why enterprises instead chased a slightly older buzzword, bimodal IT, whereby old applications are essentially maintained “as is” and new, consumer-focused ones are deployed on scalable, next-generation platforms and supported by a nimble DevOps discipline.

Only a few years after bimodal made its debut, the concept of deploying only new applications on flexible infrastructure was deemed insufficient, and it died with a whimper. Neglecting legacy applications was one culprit, but certainly not the only reason bimodal IT fell short. Even if an enterprise migrated wholesale to the cloud, it wouldn’t be well-positioned to deliver the kinds of data-driven products, services and experiences that today's consumers expect. Moving to the cloud accomplished a lot more than adding scalability to IT. The shift from non-virtualized, on-premises, single-tenant environments to virtualized, off-premises, multi-tenant cloud services signified an unforeseen willingness to relinquish control. It highlighted companies’ subsequent need to retool their cultures to complement the agility now offered by information systems. Simply adopting the technology provides no use unless it’s wielded properly to effect change.

Today, the two primary objectives of digital transformation are to (1) achieve more seamless collaboration internally to expedite delivery schedules and (2) effectively utilize data analytics and machine learning to secure real-time, granular customer profiles. Tomorrow, efforts will be focused on facilitating the Internet of Things (IoT) and the rise of “smart everything,” which would enable enterprises to garner an even more in-depth appraisal of demand profiles. Here are some recommendations on how enterprises ought to embark on their digital transformation journeys and the benefits they could extract today when adopting cloud services and managing them correctly.

Change and Culture Management

Because cloud is now universally considered a safe and beneficial technology, companies must establish a highly disciplined approach to change management in order to transition successfully and keep pace with evolving technology. Too often, the advent of new tools and techniques elicits a knee-jerk reaction, resulting in companies spinning up new, multidisciplinary teams for exploratory projects that fail to align. Also, your IT staff may not be experienced in cloud migrations or experts yet in working with cloud products and services. Therefore, it’s important to enlist the assistance of people who are. Digital transformation is as much a cultural adjustment as a technology shift. In order to truly seize the full benefits cloud offers, the entire organization must be educated to understand how cloud, once adopted, can expedite product launches. That way, they can create in kind and follow more agile business processes. Since large enterprises tend to be stuck in their ways, it’s often necessary to bring in outside experts who aren’t bogged down by company history and incumbent processes to work with each division and serve as the heralds of change.

Companies should not expect to get married to their digital partners, but rather aim have an intense two-to-three-year transformative run. They ought to be thought of as cultural disruptors that have the ability to change the way in which thousands of people across a large enterprise consume technology. It’s imperative they examine and incorporate the second-order impacts and challenges that must be overcome in order to achieve success. It’s typically necessary to bring in neutral eyes and ears to distill the dependencies and ramifications inherent to taking on such a challenge.

Building awareness of the full cloud products and services with your key stakeholders will open up possibilities, not just for your existing application workloads but also for net new cloud architecture. Taking advantage of some initial ‘proof-of-concept’ cloud workloads helps an organization to understand the cloud potential and justify an enterprise migration. Start with disaster recovery or test production environments. Other solid starting points include “Lift and Shift Workloads,” since they allow you to avoid capital-intensive refresh cycles by moving an entire workload to the public cloud. Replication technology moves data and workloads with minimal time and expense.


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