We've recently seen companies speak on their goals to shift their focus from collaboration and productivity tools to platforms that enterprises can use as the backbone of their business workflows. This shift is part of the larger digital transformation journey that every organization is on, but few truly understand.
While certainly digital transformation efforts can improve traditional measures of efficacy like productivity and collaboration, what this shift from siloed tools to platforms enables is the less measurable spirit of innovation and adaptability.
This insight is brought to you by the digital piano just delivered this morning and now occupying the space once reserved for my baby grand. Its form factor is greatly diminished, but its sound – and capabilities – are more robust and have dramatically changed the music game in my house.
Yes, the first thing my teenager did upon discovering the Bluetooth connectivity was to Rickroll me, but more importantly, the new capabilities of what is effectively a music platform have reignited his interest in the piano and fueled a flurry of new ideas.
Current enterprise architectures are based on fixed and static technology, not unlike my baby grand piano. It served its purpose well – and still does – but it does not allow for adaptation to new technologies. Music, like business, is constrained by the foundation of the technology upon which it is built.
By embracing digital transformation, organizations can benefit from the same burst of creativity and innovation I see in my teenager today. The ability to connect in new ways and combine old and new technologies to create more robust experiences will inevitably increase the pace of innovation.
It will also foster greater adaptability. Platforms are designed to be extensible, encourage experimentation, and allow for more rapid integration of new technologies. While certainly organizations that settle on a platform approach will enjoy a benefit in terms of productivity from greater automation of workflows, they will also net rewards as employees begin to see the possibility of better workflows and new tools that can dramatically improve the employee experience.
This flexibility also infuses the organization with the ability to adapt more quickly to new business needs. New workflows can be developed in hours instead of days. New capabilities can be added without incurring the cost of lengthy development cycles.
This more adaptive approach carries over to all aspects of technology in a digital business. From applications to app delivery and from security to automation, adopting a platform approach provides the foundation for future innovation and integration that enables business and technology to pivot – adapt – more rapidly to technology and societal change.
The Impact on Operations
All this change is not limited to tools and the employee experience. Someone still has to operate – at greater scale and speed – the services and platforms put in place to modernize the business. That largely falls on the shoulders of operations teams – whether network, infrastructure, or security.
Operating a digitally capable enterprise requires new skills and different approaches, approaches that, in large part, rely on modern tools and new capabilities that turn technology into a force multiplier and enable the scale and speed needed to adapt quickly to changes.
This is not just a screed about automation. Automation in the form of scripts and playbooks is the first – and simplest – form of digital transformation for operations. It still largely relies on a human operator to create and – more importantly – invoke. Human intervention introduces a greater possibility of error and delays that can cost time and money. A more integrated – and data-driven – approach is needed to achieve the scale and speed required of a digital business.
Think of applying the capability to “auto-scale” an application or service to a broader set of functions. We already see this happening in the security space, with more automated, data-driven actions taken by security services and platforms to address the speed and scale of modern attacks. The same principles can be applied across the app delivery chain to rapidly address performance degradations, identify the source of an outage, and even remediate problems before they begin.
This is an adaptive approach to operations, one that relies on the digital transformation of IT to put in place the right tools and technologies. It's a necessary shift if organizations are to "go digital" and enjoy the benefits of greater digitization for the business.
It, too, will spur innovation – in how apps and services are operated, secured, and delivered. It will introduce new possibilities for more efficient and faster workflows and begin to make the important connection between the technology we use and the business outcomes we desire.
A platform approach is one that will radically transform organizations if they commit to the hard work of modernizing their enterprise architecture and recognizing that digital transformation is as much about IT as it is the business.
Before you start, just be sure you institute Digital Transformation Rule Zero: No Rickrolling.
Trust me on this one.