The race is on to transform today’s enterprise to a digital entity, which sounds like a reasonable goal until you stop to consider that no one knows exactly what a digital enterprise is.
The template at the moment is Uber. With little more than a mobile app, the company has not only upended the worldwide taxi industry but is causing ripples throughout the entire transportation industry, from the way cars are being built to the entire concept of single ownership of the automobile.
If it can happen to someone else, it can happen to you, which is why organizations across the board are analyzing how they might be vulnerable to a digital business model and then quickly develop one before someone else does.
A key to this remodeling is agility, according to a recent blog post on Raconteur submitted by Basis Technologies. As the pace of business increases, so too does the need to adapt to new market conditions and customer demands, so the static model of application support has to go. In its place is agile development and flexible infrastructure that supports rapid and continuous creation of the kinds of services that will keep the enterprise a step ahead of rivals. Tools like Hadoop, SAP HANA and the software-defined data center (SDDC) are crucial in this transformation, but business leaders have to act fast because a new generation of digital enterprises is already on the rise, and they don’t have legacy infrastructure holding them back.
But what, exactly, are the characteristics of a digital enterprise? How will you know if you are heading in the right direction? According to Piers Fawkes, founder of business consultancy PSFK, the four key attributes are: continuous connectivity, data-driven operations, a digital-savvy workforce and a more robust security regime. The idea is to support seamless collaboration across all platforms and all devices at all times, which means that not only will the enterprise have to undo the physical silos within legacy infrastructure but the entrenched mindsets that are resistant to change as well. And, of course, this has to be done quickly and securely without disrupting existing processes and workflows.
This is causing many organizations to supplement IT executive leadership with a chief digital officer, says Quinton Wall on appstechnews.com. By focusing on the entire digital value chain – from development and deployment to user satisfaction – the CDO gives the enterprise a view of the interrelationships that exist between data, infrastructure, knowledge workers and users, thus helping to keep all the components of the digital enterprise in sync. It’s a tall order, and one that is bound to ruffle many feathers within longstanding enterprise hierarchies, but the transition to digital must have a guiding hand or else the process itself gets bogged down in confusion and disillusionment.
Few organizations have the means to put legacy infrastructure on a digital footing within a reasonable time frame, says NetScout’s Michael Segal, which is why the cloud is proving to be such a valuable asset. With state-of-the-art infrastructure and architecture readily available, the cloud can greatly accelerate the transformation process, giving the enterprise at least a fighting chance against nimble start-ups. The cloud is not without its challenges, of course, but many of these involve integration into legacy systems, something that is of less concern when dealing with cloud-native and mobile applications.
It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and it is also true that nothing spurs the call to action like a crisis. Companies like Uber have made it clear what will happen to organizations that do not embrace digital transformation, and the executive suite at most organizations seems to have gotten the message.
The challenge now is to impart that sense of urgency to the mid-level workforce and then craft the right set of resources, tools and processes to implement a successful transformation.
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.