Digital transformation is fast becoming a “must have” as opposed to a “nice to have.” However, many long-serving IT professionals are struggling to embark on the transformation journey. With IT leaders having gone through multiple cycles of transformation in various organisations, they are reluctant to start again, especially as the current digitisation trends differ considerably from past transformation waves. The maturity level of transformation, as well as their themes and drivers, have adapted over time.
None of the previously implemented changes are anywhere near as complex as the experiences that companies currently face as they prepare for the age of cloudification. Today, too many stakeholders within an organisation must be gathered around the table to drive the current change process effectively. It is not only the business division asking for new software; IT and network infrastructure teams have to get involved along with security and legal functions to align policies. Business leaders need to be convinced by the ROI of the modern transformation—with a long-term view on the benefits—before they are willing to face the disruptive forces involved in transformation today.
Originally, transformation was as simple as getting the right technical people involved in the organisation to shuffle deck chairs around. In the early transformation waves, outsourced people were brought in-house, and companies were moving from near-shore to off-shore, all with the aim of delivering quick cost-saving wins. However, these initiatives were not delivering long-lasting effects, and the technological landscape has matured to the point where that level of effort for fast wins is no longer sufficient.
Through the use of new technologies, the world is a different place and there are several factors that are pushing transformation forward in the digital age. One of these is the way in which business is changing and how people want to work. Over the last decade, employee location has become increasingly fluid, with many wanting the option to work from the office, their home, or the coffee shop around the corner. Embarking on the digital transformation journey is key in making this happen. Indeed, one of the greatest, most well-understood benefits of migrating to the cloud is the flexibility and mobility it brings to a business. When done right, it allows employees to work when and where they need, and it enables businesses to open up branch offices more quickly and easily, each with little impact on business performance.
However, as a result of the rapid cloud adoption necessary to drive digital transformation, the corporate perimeter is being eroded. This erosion is turning the traditional security model on its head. Visibility across the entire enterprise network, as well as connected device traffic, is now critical in defending corporate assets from attack. Whilst traditional network security made sense when every application was hosted in the data centre and users were connected to the network, cloud applications and mobile users are making the stacks of appliances sitting in the data centre more and more irrelevant. This traditional security model forces all traffic through the centralised data centre for security and access controls—a complex configuration that often results in a terrible user experience.
The move to the cloud showcases how transformation has changed over time. As a powerful business enabler, it is continuously compelling businesses to fundamentally change their technology ecosystems. As the geometry of the network changes with the move to implement cloud-based applications, a lot of other screws have to be adjusted as well. It starts with adapting the network infrastructure, which allows local internet breakouts for every subsidiary, and continues with internet security and new policies. As applications are no longer physically located inside the enterprise perimeter, but instead stored in the cloud, a perimeter-based approach is no longer appropriate. The mobile workforce compounds the need for a new longer-term solution that takes advantage of today’s sophisticated technology and is able to control risk, whilst taking user experience into account.
As they tackle the complexities of digital transformation, organisations need to be looking at modern, cloud-centric solutions as opposed to quick fixes that save costs in the short run. With the cloudification aspect of digital transformation, businesses will see continuous cost reduction and customer service improvements, greatly increasing their digital preparedness.
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Louise McCarthy is a London-based CIO