Digital transformation is fast becoming a priority as enterprises seek to drive efficiency, increase productivity, and become faster, more intelligent, more agile. In a word, more competitive. One of the keys to enabling digital transformation is the move to cloud applications and services, and we know that a majority of enterprises have begun that migration with Office 365 and the use of public clouds like AWS and Azure.
Recently, Zscaler commissioned a report entitled State of Digital Transformation—EMEA 2019. We sought to find out how organizations in the UK, France, Germany, and Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg) regions are progressing on their digital transformation journeys. The key findings have been compiled in the report along with recommendations to help organizations overcome common challenges and address concerns they encounter along the way.
We often talk about transformation as a journey, and it is, indeed, a long-term initiative. It effectively requires an overhaul of technology ecosystems. The networks most organizations have in place were designed long ago to connect local users to local apps, all safely inside a security perimeter. Then private links were added to connect branch offices to headquarters and regional hubs to keep that traffic safe. But with apps moving to the cloud and users connecting from everywhere, the perimeter has crumbled, and traditional hub-and-spoke networks are have become outdated. This changing environment has created a challenging backdrop for organizations looking to take full advantage of modern technology while controlling risk as they navigate digital transformation initiatives.
To gather the data for our report, we commissioned Atomik Research to survey 404 CIOs, CISOs, and heads of network architecture within enterprises with more than 3,000 employees. Our research aimed to gain insight into the status of companies’ digital transformation efforts, what challenges they have encountered and their biggest concerns about digitization. The research evaluated how the on- and off-network application landscape is changing, how users are accessing the data in the corporate network and the cloud, and the concerns associated with increased staff mobility and their remote access.
The results showed that 72% of organizations have a majority of their employees accessing applications and data in the cloud or the data center on their mobile devices, with 29% of companies claiming that number to be more than 75%. The high rate of mobility coincides with the top drivers for digital transformation initiatives revealed by respondents, which include enabling greater flexibility for employees (37%) and implementing more efficient processes (38%). When asked about the biggest obstacle to digital transformation, security topped the list across the board. Eighty percent (80%) of enterprises reported having security concerns about the way in which employees remotely access data and applications, with the primary focus on the use of unsecured networks (34%) and unmanaged devices (21%) as well as blanket access to the entire corporate network (20%).
Companies embarking on digital transformation initiatives are beginning to recognize that the traditional way of providing remote access connectivity to their applications residing in the cloud or corporate networks are riddled with security risks. With the extension of the perimeter to the internet, segmentation on the application level is needed to strengthen security, as mobile employees, consultants, and third parties require access to certain applications.
The research also found that digital transformation remains an IT decision predominantly; however, business decision-makers are increasingly playing a role. Indeed, CIOs (54%) and chief digital officers (47%) are driving digital transformation, while just under a fifth of businesses (18%) claim their CEOs are pushing for or owning digital transformation. The stated “top” reasons for digital transformation were nearly equally distributed and included increased flexibility for employees, a new business strategy to focus on core competencies, improved profit margins, and increased cost savings.
It is encouraging to see that digital transformation is a firm priority for enterprises across EMEA, with initiatives being driven from the very top. However, companies have to consider the effect that application transformation has on their network performance and bandwidth consumption, as well as the latency added by hub-and-spoke architectures from the outset. Moving applications to the cloud needs to be considered alongside new network infrastructure and security requirements. And this is where the report did not present consistent findings in line with a strategic approach to transformation. Just 9% of enterprises consider application, network, and security transformation equally important when planning their journey to the cloud across EMEA at this point.
The main hurdles to digital transformation and the key concerns that the survey brought to the surface, such as providing secure remote access to applications and data stored in the cloud, will be explained in the second part of this blog series.
Download a copy of our new report today.
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Stan Lowe is the Zscaler Global CISO