Digital Transformation: IT Leaders Discuss SD-WAN’s Emerging Role

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Artem Peretiatko

The digital economy is here, and the ability to innovatively meet ever evolving customer expectations has become the new reality.  For most organizations accomplishing this goal starts with digital transformation.

In order to realize digital transformation benefits, companies need to move beyond a legacy network and invest in next generation components, according to participants in a recent IDG TechTalk Twitter chat.

Unfortunately, past investments in legacy technology are still serving as a significant road block.

Of course, continued inaction only puts organizations in a position of trying to play catch-up while still using outdated technology.

Unfortunately, the demands will only intensify as customer expectations evolve.

The inability of that legacy networking technology to keep up will surely push organizations further along the path.

Simply put, businesses can only survive so long without effectively addressing customer expectations. And in a digital world, meeting these expectations means having the technology in place to deliver.

When moving away from legacy networks, a move to a software defined wide-area-network (SD-WAN) is the logical next step.  

Every business today understands the importance of data security. This comes through in the results of the 2019 State of the CIO with 64% of IT leaders saying security strategy is tightly integrated as part of the overall IT roadmap, and 82% expecting the same three years from now.

SD-WAN fits the bill. Specifically, when compared to previous networking technologies, 57% of QuickPulse survey respondents noted significant improvement in data security and 47% cited significant improvement in network management.

And according Quick Pulse survey results, security (52%), intelligent WAN selection (44%) and privacy (42%) are the most valuable features of SD-WAN.

The ongoing multi-cloud movement is also intensifying the drive to embrace SD-WAN.

The growing dependence on cloud apps has been pivotal as IT leaders continue to focus on empowering lines of business with access to create and utilize the innovative offerings fueling the new digital economy. In fact, cloud has been crucial in fueling the evolving CIO role, which according to the 2019 State of the CIO, points to driving business innovation as the primary responsibility over the next three years.

However, the reliance on cloud access/utilization has also put a heavy strain on existing network infrastructures – often shining a bright light on any weaknesses. And, with multi-cloud becoming the new reality, network expectations are understandably intensifying. Unfortunately, with 69% of enterprises expected to implement some kind of multi-cloud environment by 2019, the best time to invest in underlying yet necessary technology is rapidly diminishing.

So, how do you get started with SD-WAN Implementation?

IDGTechTalk participants agree the best plan of attack starts with gaining a complete understanding of your current network stats. Usage, capacity and trends as well as noting areas where your existing technology has struggled or hampered the organization’s ability to achieve performance expectations.

After all, knowing your where you stand establishes the base line needed when develop a clear implementation plan.

And, hopefully that plan gels with your organization’s digital strategy, which for most organizations focuses on effectively delivering an improved customer experience.

Obviously, having a strategic plan that outlines the implementation path serves as a solid foundation. However, because the network is often in the background, the need also exists to build the business case primarily around the touch points that resonate most with today’s leadership: performance enhancements needed to innovate, cost savings as well as improvements in data security.

Being able to also stress the costs of inaction can help as well, especially as customer expectations within the digital economy continue adding pressure to organizational infrastructure.

Beyond building the business case, be sure to involve stakeholders in the process. Knowledge and understand have true power, especially when influencing leadership to invest in technology necessary for digital transformation.

Fortunately, survey results show that two thirds of respondents have been able to implement SD-WAN within 6 months. Twenty-four percent completed with process within 9 months. Furthermore, 82% of respondents said that the time to implement exceeded their expectations.

Okay. But after implementation, does the SD-WAN actually deliver on its promises?

In their words, successful SD-WAN implementations can prove transformational:

  • “I see #SDWAN as a powerful transformation tool for multisite #cloud first organizations by offering better management, security, costing and governance tools.” @Willkelly
  • “Optimizing four call centers in two countries. Unfortunately, #SDWAN wasn’t mature at the time I was working on it, but today it would have been a slam dunk investment.” @nyike
  • “Cannot overlook transformative security benefits of SD-WAN. Example: @zkerravala wrote: One of the low-hanging use cases of an SD-WAN is to use it to extend microsegmentation to the WAN” @JimMaloneIDG
  • “In a general sense, SD-anything is about building the technical flexibility/agility required for change at the speed of business. In an #ITSM sense it may also drive risk out of the change and allow streamlining of once-risky changes into ‘standard’ fast tracks” @CPeterson_CS

That’s a wrap. Over to you.

Where are you on the digital transformation curve? Has your organization invested in the technology it needs to thrive or is legacy equipment still serving as albatross? 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 Business.