Cloud Cruiser Blog

April 5, 2017

Business and IT: Together on the Digital Transformation Journey

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By Deirdre Mahon | CMO | @dbmahon


Digital transformation feels like a buzzword that’s been “buzzing” around for a few years. Unfortunately, the term gets thrown around in conversations too liberally which tends to dilute its meaning. Listeners start to either ignore it or discuss it at a detailed tactical level that’s only meaningful to the specific project team. The result? The larger goal of digital transformation gets buried or lost in the noise and well…it’s not exactly business “transforming.”


To become more digital means you reduce or move away from the physical experience and start to leverage new and innovative ways to communicate with customers and do business.  Often it’s a cultural phenomenon which means becoming more digital encompasses just one piece of the puzzle, albeit a challenging one. But to actually do so across the entire enterprise in terms of how you acquire, transact and retain customers is an entirely different set of challenges. For that it must have a tops-down, across all functions “written-down” purpose.


Inside any enterprise today, there is some form of technology cloud services being deployed.  I would be shocked to find a business of any size that only conducts business on paper or uses only the physical world.  Today’s healthcare and educational institutions have long since turned the corner on becoming more digital and for the most part they are usually the laggards when it comes to tech adoption.  No disrespect to them but it’s unfortunately more to do with funding (or lack thereof) and nationwide institutions dealing with a very complex services supply chain.  Our healthcare records are now online accessible and can be shared with any number of care providers with the added challenge of keeping it all secure and scalable.  And boy, does it make a huge difference.


What is critical in any digital journey is that the business stakeholders need to work more closely with the technology providers.  For most, that’s an internal group of professionals we have fondly referred to as IT, but of course it could be a third-party provider outside the enterprise, such as your favorite public cloud services provider – AWS or Microsoft Azure – and in many cases, it’s a combination of both.


What was interesting to me when I read a recent research study by the Altimeter Group called The 2016 State of Digital Transformation was that many organizations have formed a steering committee or internal group with cross-functional leaders to head up the various digital transformation initiatives.  As you would expect, marketing and chief data officers are commonplace in addition to CIO’s, but within these groups, 63% of team-members came from IT.  Let’s face it, digital transformation is not even possible without technology services provided in a timely manner to meet project needs and most importantly delivered with cost efficiency.


Cloud services are without question easy to turn on.  What slows provisioning down is really the questions surrounding SLA’s and security issues.  Once the DevOps team gets past the proof points of scale, accessibility and availability, they can move ahead with servicing the business. However, the challenge comes not in the exact type of services being delivered but the quantity and the cost of those services, especially when the business stakeholder is accountable for P&L operations.  A business leader knows what they want the outcome to look like and they want to make sure whatever new application or product they happen to be launching will be supported over its lifecycle. What’s more critical is understanding what it will ultimately cost as adoption patterns change over time.


That’s why the on-demand nature of cloud and pay as you go are perfectly suited to going digital.  Don’t overspend or over-provision.  However, you must understand clearly what the key requirements are from the business because what an IT professional thinks will satisfy may actually change in weeks or months.  Not being prepared for unexpected trends or spikes would be a very bad thing.  The days of the DevOps support team getting awakened in the middle of the night for an unforeseen outage may not be over if you don’t work together to fully understand the details of any digital project.


As you’ll see from this Altimeter report, the statistics tell a clear picture on where we are today and how far we have to go.  Only 29% of those surveyed say they have a multi-year roadmap.   More encouraging is the top three initiatives at surveyed organizations are focused on accelerating innovation (81%), modernizing IT infrastructure with increased agility, flexibility and management including security (80%) and thirdly the majority (79%) are focused on improving operational agility to more rapidly adapt to change.


Transformations of any kind are hard.  They are disruptive and cause tremendous upheaval.  It also feels like you are not moving the needle at all when you are mired in the day to day operational details.  You really need to stand back and look where you came from over the months and even years.  It really does encompass people, process and technology and clear goals with agreed upon, quantifiable metrics to keep everyone on the same path.


There’s one thing we do know for sure.  Not transforming digitally will be disastrous and put you out of business or at a minimum give your competitors a clear advantage.  You have to move forward and we recommend starting with the baby steps.  Sandboxing and testing new technology services is one step in the right direction.  I encourage you to listen to our on-demand webcast, Digital Transformation: How IT Ops and Business Users Optimize Technology Services, and stay tuned for more from our learnings on the digital transformation highway.