by Nicholas D. Evans

Digital transformation needs a modern, mission-critical infrastructure

Aug 21, 20146 mins
Digital TransformationIT Leadership

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Digital transformation is about a lot more than your front-end digital customer experience. It requires a modern, mission-critical infrastructure on the back-end as well. If “rogue IT” is what happens when business doesn’t speak to IT, then “rogue digital” may soon be what happens if the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) doesn’t speak to the CIO or vice versa.

What’s needed is a focus on a number of aspects that span the roles of the CDO and CIO: a focus on the customer experience across all new digital channels, processes and devices; a focus on mission critical “interactions” as well as “transactions”; a focus on new forms of mission critical infrastructure such as fabrics and software-defined principles to cost-effectively deliver increased service levels; and a focus on new approaches to provide mission critical security against today’s emerging threats.

So what’s up with digital?

Today, the concept of “digital transformation” is being applied by CEOs worldwide to re-think and re-design their traditional, existing business models and processes in the context of today’s disruptive technologies, the consumerization of IT, ubiquitous low-cost computing, and our globally connected society.

These disruptive technologies, including social, mobile, big data analytics and cloud, are being applied not only for IT transformation, but for widespread business transformation as well. In fact, according to a PwC US CEO Survey, “When business leaders considered the megatrends rocking our world, 86% cited technological advances as the global trend that will most transform business”.

This notion of “digitization” is now affecting all aspects of business operations from innovation within and around actual products and services, to customer engagement, to business models and processes – and no industry is exempt. From my perspective, it represents a continuation from the e-business era in the late 90s, but with powerful new technologies and intelligent insights that can enable businesses to extend these digital advantages much farther and more pervasively across their channels and operations than ever before.

Here’s a few examples of the financial potential of digital transformation. In terms of economic value, Booz & Company found that an increase of 10 percent in a country’s digitization score fuels a 0.75 percent growth in its GDP per capita. McKinsey found that digital transformation can boost the bottom line by more than 50 percent over the next five years for companies that pull all value levers.

Connecting digital to modern mission critical

To embark on a digital transformation journey strategically, as opposed to a window dressing approach or an ad-hoc, piecemeal approach, I believe it’s important to think about the highly-virtualized, highly-distributed, data center of the future and the key capabilities that will need to be in place from an enterprise IT perspective.

After all, although a rising percentage of data center workloads are migrating to the cloud, the fact is that we’ll be living in a hybrid IT environment for many years to come and it will be comprised of a mix of traditional data center, outsourced, public and private cloud deployment environments supported by a multitude of providers.

For pioneering CIOs, the challenge is therefore to support the CDO’s digital transformation objectives in a highly agile, flexible, manageable, and secure manner by putting in place an innovative IT infrastructure that can serve as a foundational platform. This platform will need to blend the “old” with the “new”. It will need to retain the mission critical capabilities of the traditional data center, yet expand this to support modern, digitally-transformed business processes and their associated users, applications and devices.

Emerging requirements for modern mission critical infrastructure

As the IT industry moves into the next wave of corporate IT, built upon a foundation of social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies, new paradigms are being set for the digitization of business models and processes, the future of work, and the way in which we deal with information inflection point brought about by big data. IT organizations need to embrace these new paradigms by making the data center of the future become the workhorse that hosts, manages, and delivers this compelling new digital experience for end user computing.

The emerging requirements for modern mission critical systems are that they can no longer be siloed, proprietary technology restricted to a few core applications – they have to be part of an agile and flexible, mission critical fabric, running on low-cost, industry standard platforms, which supports today’s highly consumerized applications and tomorrow’s Internet of Things (IoT).

This is the premise of the modern mission critical data center: being able to support and democratize mission critical computing so that it is available at lowered cost, with increased scalability, predictability and performance, all with greater security.

Some of the essential requirements for today’s mission critical systems are as follows:

·         Seamless and compelling customer experience across all new digital processes, channels and devices – With reputation increasingly being defined by the customer’s experience through an organization’s digital channels, the quality of the digital customer experience is now mission-critical.

·         Mission critical coverage for customer “interactions” as well as “transactions” – In today’s environment, where IT-enabled processes and informational insights are a key differentiator of business value, customer interactions, both before and after the transaction, are now as important as the actual transaction itself.

·         Mission critical infrastructure to cost-effectively deliver increased mission critical service levels – With the expanding scope of mission-critical applications, and rising expectations for mission-critical service levels, organizations need to find approaches that allow them to meet these new requirements in a cost-effective manner to do “more with less” using low-cost, industry standard platforms, without having to increase data center footprint or labor requirements.

·         Mission critical security against today’s emerging threats – A totally new approach to cybersecurity is required that will ultimately enable the transformative benefits and usage of new disruptive technologies without increasing the risk of sensitive data loss and jeopardizing mission-critical operations.

Today’s mission critical infrastructure and operations need to serve as a foundation for future needs and to be aware of the new and constantly evolving scope of mission critical computing. It requires re-thinking process scope, application scope, service levels and business continuity plans, and risk management strategies – all in the context of today’s IT operations and data centers running low-cost, industry standard platforms to “achieve more for less”.

So doing will help digital transformation initiatives avoid “rogue digital” and achieve the best of both worlds where “modern” meets “mission critical” and the CDO and CIO work in close collaboration to harness the full potential of their respective organizations.