How digital transformation affects IT goals, staff

Digital transformation is about people: the customer, user, and IT. Here’s how to connect all three.

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Every day, vendors are trying to sell you on digital transformation, but are they truly helping you transform? Most are simply looking for a sales pitch to move you to their latest and greatest products. They’re plying you with stories of operational savings and productivity numbers.

However, they’re missing the key to a successful digital business: the experience. Be it customer, user, or administrator experience, the human interaction with technology is the difference between successful digital transformation and simply being on the cutting edge of technology.

At Extreme, our tagline is Connect Beyond the Network. We understand the importance of the experience. Yes, we’ll offer you scalability, security, simplicity and all the other buzzwords touted throughout the industry; however, what we really offer are experience-driven outcomes.

Customer Experience

Every company talks about customer satisfaction, but the real measure of a modern business is customer experience. Retail is a perfect example.

Traditional retailers have been struggling to compete with e-tailers for the last decade. At the end of 2016, the market value of Amazon was greater than the top 7 retailers combined.

The massive shift in consumer behavior hasn’t been about traditional metrics, it’s been about the customer experience. Retailers aren’t competing with price or choice or quality. They’re competing with…the couch. The experience of simply launching an app on your phone to purchase something with expedited delivery is preferred by many over actually going somewhere for (what feels like) the same thing. 

While department stores have been fighting this for years, grocers have only recently been challenged. The smart ones have been watching, and recognize how to compete.

Imagine a grocer’s app that requires you to join their Wi-Fi, but offers an Apple Store-type experience. As you get your items, you simply scan them with your phone and put them in your basket. Once you’re done shopping, you “checkout” on the app and go about your day without ever considering the WLANPolicy and Analytics technologies that made the experience possible. Picking up those ingredients for dinner on your way home is no longer a big deal. You’re just launching an app like you would with an e-tailer, but you’re gaining the instant gratification of being on site.

The benefits of customer experience for a business are perfectly aligned with the goals: drive revenue and increase loyalty. 

You drive revenue by creating preference and applying intelligence. I’d much rather pick the perfect avocados for my guacamole than trust some anonymous person tossing them in a box hastily as they rush to fulfill multiple orders. If you recognize that I’m picking up all of the ingredients for Taco Tuesday, you may also want to guide me toward your deli department to pick up some of your house-made queso that happens to be on sale for loyal customers using the app. You just added another $5 item to my tab (…and another 5lbs to my waist line). More importantly, you have a real business driver for your technology investments versus just following industry trends.

User Experience

Newsflash: most of the people who use technology don’t work in IT. One of the best examples of this is healthcare.

I was recently in a meeting with a healthcare client that made a profound statement: 90% of what they do in IT is for the employees of the hospital, not the patients. 

Yes, ultimately, the benefactors of the technology are the patients, but they aren’t the drivers. 

The fact is that IT in healthcare is driven by the workflows of doctors, nurses, and other staff. A patient monitoring system like Philips IntelliVue Information Center iX (PIIC iX) ensures that hospital staff can provide quality care for their patients, but it does so by providing the staff an optimized experience in consuming all of the available information. 

Of course, that information has to get from the devices in the patients’ rooms to the application dashboards on staff devices. That’s where the infrastructure comes into play. Just as the application optimizes patient data for hospital staff, the tools and infrastructure secure and optimize the delivery of that data for the application. That means quicker, more reliable access. Over the course of the day the staff gains extra minutes of productivity related to every patient. Those minutes add up to extra hours of actual patient care, and the efficiency translates to more immediate care when it matters.

In the end, a happy worker is a productive worker. Healthcare professionals don’t go into their field to battle technology. They do it to make a difference in lives. If they can spend more time doing that, then they’re truly serving their passion. So, you get the added bump of productivity from letting them focus more on what they actually enjoy.

In the end, a happy worker is a productive worker. Healthcare professionals don’t go into their field to battle technology. They do it to make a difference in lives. If they can spend more time doing that, then they’re truly serving their passion. So, you get the added bump of productivity from letting them focus more on what they actually enjoy.

Administrator Experience

The fact that IT staffers spend most of their time and budget just trying to “keep the lights on” can be frustrating. All of the industry buzz around digital transformation has leadership enamored, but there are more practical matters to deal with… like making sure Windows is patched to avoid Goldeneye or planning for that 2AM maintenance window that’s scheduled for this weekend. With their plates already overflowing, the network shouldn’t add to their woes.

Yet, networking is about far more than just passing frames. With an explosion of devices looking for access and the clamor about digital transformation, the treatment of data at the edge is critical. That means policy and analytics are becoming table stakes. Yet, they have to be simple to implement and operate in order to maximize the backend value derived from the data.

This is a key focus area for Extreme Networks. Not only do we provide industry leading policy and analytics capabilities, we also provide them through a true single pane of glass. These functionalities are completely integrated with our overall management system, allowing administrators to access them with only a few additional clicks.

We all understand that the job isn’t done once we’ve addressed the edge. Data flows traverse the entire infrastructure. That means that we need to support and secure services across the network to accommodate those flows.

We’ve discussed this extensively at Extreme Networks regarding our Automated Campus Fabric solution. The key is to leverage a simple technology that provides security and automation natively without having to patch multiple things together, complicating both design and day to support.

With our Fabric Connect solution, IT doesn’t have to think about how to isolate services from one another or the underlying infrastructure; they don’t have to worry about defining services on individual elements throughout the network. And there’s no need to navigate the complexity of both underlay and overlay networks when you’re trying to isolate business-impacting issues that arise throughout the lifetime of your network.

So, what does this mean from an experience perspective? Freedom.

If IT isn’t constantly bombarded with the tactical tasks of running a network, they can focus on the more strategic opportunities that have potential to evolve the business. Digital transformation can become a practical reality that helps set the business apart and sparks growth. Once again, IT saves the day!

The Extreme Experience

As you can see, we take Connect Beyond the Network quite literally. The Extreme experience is about connecting people…because people are the most valuable asset for any company. Focus on them for your digital transformation, and you’re sure to achieve your goals.

Randy Cross is a Senior Director of Product Management at Extreme Networks.