Digital transformation is to business today what cloud has been to IT for the past decade. Highly disruptive, it paints a picture of success on the horizon that is so enticing company leaders are willing to brave the dangers of crossing the digital desert despite the unpredictable shifting technical sands to get there. When IT doesn’t readily offer itself up to go along, the business turns elsewhere to find a partner to get there.
Digital transformation is not an option, after all. Page upon page of data shows that digital transformation is now a requirement to compete let alone succeed in this digital economy. Consider insight gleaned from the 2016 State of Marketing report by Salesforce, in which 79% of marketing leaders agree that mobile marketing -- inclusive of SMS, push notifications, mobile apps, or location based functionality -- is core to their business. Eighty-two percent said the same of social media.
All these initiatives – whether e-mail, social, or mobile apps – rely on technology. In turn, technology relies on IT at least in part to deliver the capabilities if not the foundations for digital transformation to take place.
Digital transformation, for most organizations, means an increased focus on people and processes, using technology to reach the former and enable the latter at greater scale and efficacy than ever before. It’s the mobile app that lets me quickly find and purchase whatever I need. It’s the text messages from the bank that alert me when transactions over a specified amount are conducted. It’s the digital footprints that track my delivery trucks, my inbound supplies, and enable just-in-time manufacturing. It’s pervasive, and critical to the growth of every business today.
No matter what form digital transformation takes – internal or external, partner or consumer, mobile or web - it presents itself as some type of application. Applications that are delivered, secured, and scaled by network and app infrastructure. Yet many organizations racing forward with their digital transformation appear to downplay the role of Agile development and DevOps. According to a study by the Economist, there is “limited adoption of key methodologies associated with digital delivery," with only 17% of 821 companies having adopted Agile and 15% using DevOps.
That’s disconcerting, because the growth in apps is not matched by the growth in headcount in IT. According to Computer Economics IT Staffing and Spending 2016, 54% of organizations plan no change in headcount or are expecting a decrease. So, while apps are becoming more numerous, the people who have to ensure they exist and lay the foundations for their delivery are not. This means they must turn to technology – to Agile and DevOps and automation – to assist in scaling operations to meet that demand.
The network also plays a key role. The network is the business’ circulatory system, pumping its life-sustaining data in a constant flow from consumer to partner to supplier and back. Without a fast, secure network, digital transformation becomes impossible, because it relies on apps that rely on services that rely on the network.
Organizations that are failing to embrace digital delivery methods that include automation, orchestration, and the operational scale afforded by those techniques are in danger of sabotaging their own efforts. If NetOps can’t keep pace with development that can’t keep pace with customer demand, digital transformation efforts will certainly fail as customers abandon web and mobile apps, and employees turn to other options.
Doing one without the other – adopting Agile for development without simultaneously transforming NetOps – is fraught with peril. You can’t speed up the back of the train without risking a derailment when the engine isn’t also increasing speed. Without the network, apps don’t get delivered to the market and into the hands of eagerly waiting consumers.
Make no mistake about digital transformation: It’s a holistic effort that must include all of IT, from one end to the other. It does no good to deliver a mobile app plagued by poor performance, or a web app that spends as much time spitting out availability errors as it does content. Without the network and the services that ensure the safe, speedy delivery of the apps behind your digital transformation, your transformation will come to a screeching halt or move off-campus, where it can roll out full steam ahead.
Studies show that a significant percentage of those driving digital transformation efforts are non-IT roles: marketing is often cited. Therefore, it’s important for those non-IT leaders and denizens to remember to reach out and include IT in their efforts to ensure that everyone in the organization is on-board the digital transformation train and moving at the same speed to keep it moving forward. Without the network, the digital train is going nowhere.