Digital Transformation Update: Challenges & the Road Ahead

Fast, faster, fastest. The pace for digital transformation has escalated such that, if your company hasn’t started, it will be left behind in a legacy bubble, according to participants in a recent IDG TechTalk Twitter chat.

And yet 33% of companies still place themselves on the legacy end of the digital maturity curve, according to a recent IDG Quick Pulse survey among 51 IT decision makers. These companies have not yet committed to DX. In networking terms, they are limited in their network access and WAN technologies, which in turn is limiting their ability to take advantage of cloud services.

Another 31% classify themselves as “aspirational.” They’re taking advantage of DX opportunities, but they need to step up their efforts — such as adding networking capabilities and investing in tech like SD-WAN, which offers greater flexibility to the business.

Standing in their own way: The impediments to DX

The “change is hard” mantra might be overused, and yet it still has meaning. Many companies are finding it difficult to push through challenges that are holding back their transformational efforts.

One of the most common impediments: misalignment between IT and executive management around DX objectives. This obstacle was cited by 75% of respondents in the Quick Pulse study, and called out by several of the IDG TechTalk participants.

To get around this challenge, IT leaders should seek executive buy-in.

Achieving management buy-in means launching a focused educational effort that includes demonstrating valuable business outcomes, while mitigating concerns about risks. For example, IT leaders can show that SD-WAN technology is a win-win; it not only provides greater visibility and network control for the IT team, the business also stands to gain tangible benefits, including:

  • Cost reductions: the business saves both CapEx and OpEx by eliminating the reliance on legacy hardware, which is expensive to support and maintain.
  • Agility: a flexible network based on software technology enables the business to move more quickly, for example setting up a remote site in days rather than weeks.
  • Security: the network can be protected from security threats in real time, thanks to the greater granularity and perimeter visibility provided by SD-WAN.

In other words, have a plan:

OK, so what’s in the plan? What is driving DX efforts?

The Quick Pulse respondents cited IT strategy as their top driver for digital transformation ­— ranked #1 by 43%.

While having a considered approach is certainly crucial, the fact that only 16% of the survey respondents listed customer satisfaction as the primary factor points to that misalignment between IT and the business. Not having a keen understanding of the business’s bread and butter could set up organizations to fail, according to the IDG TechTalk participants.

The bottom line for most organizations is that revenue generation takes precedence. CIOs are starting to move in this direction, according to the 2019 State of the CIO, becoming more strategic by “immersing themselves in understanding customer needs.”

That being the case, one of the problems for enterprises, and by extension for IT, is that customers today have a “want it now” expectation.

But here is where the need for strategy comes into play. Although the IDG TechTalk participants pounded on the customer experience imperative, they also cautioned about not having a plan to sufficiently address it.

Thus, it’s about balance.

Finding a balanced path forward with critical DX technologies

Whatever your industry, the technology for transformational efforts should provide flexibility. The tools should enable the organization to shift and grow with changes — in the economy, with customers, and the business itself.

While the IDG TechTalk participants circled around various DX-enabling technologies — including cloud, analytics, collaboration tools, and automation — they all related these solutions to the user or customer experience.

In their words, good experiences result from:

  • “Technologies that are intuitive with a killer UX that allows intuitive ease of use. You’re driving change in so many areas, let the technology be something easy and delightful, not another hurdle.” @DianaNolting
  • “Technologies that have long time-to-value, require extensive training, enable too much configuration, do not easily plug into data/collaborative ecosystem -> all damage #DigitalTransformation@nyike
  • “I don’t believe DX is based on any single technology. The key technologies are those that are modern and embraceable by the business and customers. Without adoption, #DigitalTransformation is an utter failure.” @itlinchpin
  • “I am going to put forward "seamlessness.” Is that a technology? Not as such, but technologies that enable seamlessness will likely win people over.” @StevenPrentice

But before the organization can deliver these experiences, the network has to be responsive and flexible. It must be able to accommodate all of today’s technologies — cloud workloads, mobile apps, digitization — as well as tomorrow’s emerging solutions, like Internet of Things (IoT).

That flexible network infrastructure tops the priority list among IDG Quick Pulse respondents, along with high-speed connectivity and cloud.

But they also recognize that a lack of IT skillsets is holding them back. To overcome this, the survey respondents cited a move toward managed services to provide the necessary expertise, reduce complexity, and support IT strategy.

That DX curve: Get on it and keep moving

The IDG TechTalk participants had many words of wisdom — in terms of getting started with DX and the need to keep battling on.  

First, for those companies that haven’t gotten over their legacy mindset: It’s time to act.

And once you’ve started, don’t stop. Most of the IDG TechTalk participants used the word “continuous” when talking about the DX process. To stay ahead of the transformational curve, they advised that IT leaders must continue focusing on: customers, business value, ways to improve, collaboration across the organization, among others.

That’s a wrap. Over to you.

Where are you on the digital transformation curve? And what are your plans and strategies to either get moving or stay ahead?

Let us know in the comment section below. And as always, please join us every Thursday at 12pm ET for the #IDGTECHtalk.

Meanwhile, for more information on developing the underlying flexible network necessary to support digital transformation efforts, visit Comcast.