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4 Digital Transformation Obstacles and How to Overcome Them

John Boutross, SVP, Enterprise Solutions
May 21, 2020

IT is driving digital transformation. But it’s not easy. Faced with a combination of known issues, legacy challenges and a quickly changing technology landscape, agile thinking and collaboration with business owners is the key to a successful transition. During a time of digital transformation like we’re facing now, managing and securing your data is part of the business’ foundation. But reengineering processes to execute on the digital transformation vision comes with obstacles. Here are four obstacles we commonly hear from customers, and ways to overcome them.

Obstacle 1: Dealing with Data Proximity

Organizations are still grappling with how to craft a cohesive strategy made more complicated by data gravity challenges as well as aging data storage methods. The need for data to reside near the applications that consume it presents proximity and bandwidth concerns. We can’t ignore that moving data is challenging and impacts the whole business. IT decision makers and business units need to work together to overcome that challenge. When it comes to hybrid cloud strategy, what once was a differentiator in today’s market, is now a foundational piece of the larger puzzle.

Only 55% of companies have signed on to multi-cloud and hybrid cloud as their preferred approach, according to 451 Research. But because of the elasticity of both the storage capability and the economic efficiencies, it’s become one of the key strategies to help IT organizations actualize digital transformation for their businesses. Santhosh Rao, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner believes that “organizations without a cloud-first strategy — where the cloud is primary, prioritized and promoted — will likely fall behind competitors.”

Obstacle 2: Processing and Storing Increased Data Volume

As we see enterprise use of AI move past the pilot phase and into the production reality, complexities also start to emerge. Aside from the unsurprising resource skill gaps, legacy data systems can’t handle the new volume of data that AI heaps upon them. In addition, their ability to process that information using existing technology infrastructure and turn it into real-time insights is still lacking. Power density and cooling are two major limiting factors for existing data center infrastructures. These challenges are forcing IT to re-architect towards a decentralized infrastructure which removes data gravity barriers and accommodates distributed workflows that vary by participant, application, information and location-specific needs.

“New infrastructures must be designed to allow the business to do what it needs to do, when it needs to do it, anywhere in the world.” – Gartner, Infrastructure is Everywhere: The Evolution of Data Centers, July 2019

Those who fail to tackle their AI hurdles risk being left behind as other companies with more nimble infrastructure investments gain advantage.

Obstacle 3: Keeping Data Safe

Data security has been a challenge since we started collecting data en masse. But with the maturation of evolving technologies like artificial intelligence and the unknowns that come along with it, increased risk follows closely behind. In fact, cybercrime is estimated to cost enterprises in excess of $3.5 billion in 2019.

According to Bobby Ford, CISO at Unliever, interviewed for a ComputerWeekly article, “legacy IT systems are often at the heart of cyber breach incidents….” Although sometimes it's about patching, more likely it’s about rethinking the way it's done from a physical and digital security standpoint. This isn’t just limited to the technology. The business itself needs to rethink the way they collaborate to ensure that risk points across the organization are being addressed in real time. Without evolving the process, enterprises run the risk of losing data and the trust of their customers.

As organizations invest more deeply in cloud services, each additional risk point must be assessed and secured. Understanding where data lives within the hybrid and/or multi-cloud environment and maintaining regulatory compliance is critical to maintaining enterprise integrity at both the technical and business level.

Obstacle 4: Adequately Responding to Disaster

Organizations are still grappling with protecting business revenue, reducing risk of shutdowns, and simplifying the recovery process in times of unexpected interruption. As groups lean more on digital transformation to change the face of their business, the loss of data they collect and interruption of the newly transformed processes will have devastating effects to any progress they make. Nowhere is that better illustrated than with the outbreak of COVID-19. A spotlight is being shone on the business’ need for flexible network capacity and remote access. Enterprises are rethinking their business continuity and preparedness approaches in real-time because “infrastructure teams [are] responsible for making sure those services stay online” according to DataCenter Knowledge.

But pandemic isn’t the only issue. Predicted weather-based uncertainty as well as the steady rate of crimes against data centers all need to play a part in preparing to defend critical data used to serve the customers goes uninterrupted.

The Path Forward: Imperfect Iteration

Regardless which of those obstacles you’re facing, there’s a path forward. Whether it’s a comfort or a curse, no enterprise is starting with a blank sheet of paper to start a new strategy. This is about progress over perfection. Here are the steps we recommend so that your organization can make progress:

Turn your vision into a roadmap

Digital transformation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It starts with a vision with leadership buy-in and then it’s up to IT leadership to set clear targets. But to completely evolve the organization, it needs to go beyond just a plan. It needs to be a roadmap that can clearly show value. McKinsey maps out the ten guiding principles of digital transformation that tidily serves as a way to take the roadmap you’ve sketched out into a full-blown digital transformation plan.

Of course, plans for anything as comprehensive as digital transformation isn’t going to be a one-and-done approach. This process will likely be done with every new initiative to move incrementally towards the more productive business and technology future we imagine.

Facing Barriers

Whether you’re dealing with aging infrastructure or staffers who lack the drive to move away from it, opposition to change is one of the stubborn barriers to digital transformation. Openness to change makes it possible to re-engineer inflexible development processes and commit to new infrastructure solutions. Demonstrating value to those who can help you implement those new solutions both from a budget and an implementation perspective will help you move the needle. To benefit from digital transformation or to even to keep up with competitors in your industry, openness to change isn’t just about the physical infrastructure, but the people and the processes behind it.

Transformation through Iteration

The market is in a constant state of flux, but the extremity of the change we’re facing as we step into the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” makes it difficult to have the perfect plan. Instead leaders need to settle on the next right thing for an organization based on a strong strategy with the customer at the heart of it. Doing the next right thing includes acknowledging that this digital transformation is an imperfect process that requires iteration. Enterprises should face that reality for the foreseeable future. As the technology they have come to rely on will change quickly, and new technology will force them to rework their strategies, iteration is no longer a backup plan, but THE plan. Smart investments in platforms that treat these iterations as a natural part of the process versus an obstacle will ease this stress considerably.

Wrapping It Up

The digital economy is forcing both private and public industries to evolve. It’s transforming how they create and deliver value to their customers. Facing the obstacles head-on will allow them to see inroads to data control, connection and optimization and adapt quickly to rapidly changing consumer and technological landscapes. It’s with this in mind that the organizations can flex their strategies effectively on their journey to digital transformation and emerge as market leaders.

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