Adaptability: The Key to Digital Transformation

Arthur Cole
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Eliminate Technical Debt to Enable a Nimble IT Organization

It’s a refrain that has been repeated throughout the ages: The pace of technological change is so fast, how can anyone keep up?

Most of the changes that have taken place have helped mankind do what we had already been doing, only better. But today’s technological change is not only moving at a faster pace but is having a more profound effect on the way we communicate, socialize and basically live on this planet Earth.

For the enterprise, this is leading to a fundamental shift in attitude toward technology and the digital data transformation it enables. No longer is simply keeping up to date with the latest tools and systems an appropriate driver for new technology deployments. Instead, organizations are being forced to adopt change as a core concept of any new architecture – the underlying assumption being that the systems being deployed, and even the rationale for deploying them, will be gone before you know it, so you need to build for both the current use case as well as the next, even if you don’t know what it is yet.

Few organizations have come to grips with this reality, says ZDnet’s Dion Hinchcliffe. At the average enterprise, more than 80 percent of the IT budget is still devoted to maintaining legacy infrastructure, and hardly anyone is receiving the proper training in DevOps, machine intelligence and data analytics that will define next-gen data technology. What’s needed, he says, is a renewed commitment to digital adaptation through broader adoption of open APIs, agile development and excellence coupled with a steady drive to break those models of excellence almost as soon as they are achieved. In very short order, enterprises that do not learn to adapt will be outperformed by those that do.

Data and infrastructure are only the basic underpinnings of what should become a top-to-bottom revamp toward adaptability, according to ServiceSource CEO Chris Carrington. In the age of “Digital Darwinism,” change will affect the most critical customer and revenue relationships, which means the enterprise needs to maintain flexibility not just in infrastructure but in people and processes as well. In total, there are five key areas that should embrace broad adaptability: data, organization, processes, technology and measurement. As Darwin himself noted, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

To avoid falling victim to digital disruption, it helps to look at those doing the disrupting to see where their strengths lie. As C. Vijay Kumar, president of global infrastructure services at tech consultant HCL Technologies, notes, companies like Uber and Airbnb maintain four key characteristics that are lacking in the old guard firms they are displacing. The first is an experience-centric platform that entices people to use it because it’s fun, not because they need to get something done. Secondly, they focus on service-oriented operating models, again to enhance the customer experience. At the same time, agile and lean infrastructure allows them to optimize their business models for increasingly fast-paced commerce, while an ecosystem-driven architecture encourages collaboration beyond their own enterprise, leading to innovative, even customer-driven, services that, in turn, fuel greater customization and consumer interest. There is no blueprint for success, of course, but companies that fail to even make an attempt at transformation will not be in business much longer.

But if the stakes are so high, why are so few traditional firms capitalizing on these latest advancements, asks Information Age’s Ben Rossi. In a recent study by Capita on behalf of Cisco, 88 percent of business executives agree that there is a substantial financial advantage to be had from developments like Big Data and the Internet of Things, and yet implementation is still extremely low across most industries. Most of the pushback, it seems, is cultural, with many respondents showing a lack of understanding of emerging trends and a tendency for day-to-day issues to take precedence over strategic planning.

If these attitudes persist in the enterprise, then the world economy is in for a world of hurt. Smaller, more nimble start-ups will continue to eat away at the business models that not only fuel trillions of dollars’ worth of economic activity but provide the bulk of employment across the globe.

And if the pace of technological change continues to hasten, then the tipping point at which it produces widespread economic change will arrive suddenly and will leave those who are unwilling or unable to adapt without a means to either produce or consume in a digital economy.

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

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