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Digital Transformation: What Lies Ahead

Arthur Cole

Everyone wants to know what will happen to the enterprise when the “digital transformation” has run its course. But while it’s fair to say that this process will affect individual organizations in different ways, some of the major trend lines are starting to emerge.

Gartner released a report this week highlighting three megatrends that will likely drive digital businesses over the next decade. These are artificial intelligence (AI), which will permeate all corners of IT infrastructure; transparent immersive experiences, in which the relationship between humans and devices becomes intertwined; and digital platforms that will break down the compartmentalization of infrastructure to produce a broad ecosystem of interactive tools and processes. All of these trends will be driven by the desire for organizations to shift their focus from building and maintaining technical systems to creating and supporting digital services that drive revenue.

Within each of these megatrends, however, you’ll find numerous smaller trends that will impact how the enterprise manages the transition and maintains its balance in the aftermath. Kamal Brar, vice president and general manager of Asia Pacific at Talend Inc. notes that AI encompasses numerous iterations ranging from machine learning and deep learning to human-enhanced AI and full systems autonomy. In each case, the enterprise is confronted with disparate technology innovations and skill requirements that all must be integrated on a strategic basis in order to prevent the same kind of silo-based architecture that exists in the data center from evolving all over again.

Within the immersive experience category, we’ll also see developments ranging from augmented, virtual and mixed reality to 4D printing and even direct computer-to-human interfaces.  All of this is going to put pressure on infrastructure, says Chad Holmes, principal and cyber CTO at professional services organization EY. In an interview with Computerworld, he notes that today’s back-office systems aren’t up to the task of supporting the dynamic workflows that accompany immersive reality technologies, nor do they address the added security requirements of legions of remote wireless devices. To succeed at digital transformation, organizations will have to begin provisioning new systems today that can handle the workflows of tomorrow.


And of course we can’t expect the new digital platform to be a flat, federated construct. Rather, says CIO.com’s Ima Buxton, it will house numerous layers to address the key service functions of emerging digital business models. These are: engagement, integration, development, data and core IT functions. The key challenge will be to integrate these layers in a holistic fashion so that top-level executives from various departments can manage the flow of data in ways that are both meaningful and productive. That’s a tall order, and there is little industry experience to draw from, but in a general sense it will require all aspects of the business to embrace a culture of innovation instead of the current practice of protecting one’s own turf.

Few organizations will be able to carry out this mandate unscathed. Technology disruptions will likely produce process disruptions, which will likely produce personality clashes as everyone determines the best way forward based on their own past experiences. And some long-standing practices will either be shelved or automated, leading many knowledge workers to wonder about their jobs.

Ultimately, however, organizations that survive this trial by fire will emerge harder and stronger in the new digital economy, with a renewed sense of purpose and the technological foundation to implement the business strategies that create high value while consuming only a modicum of resources.

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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