The elephant in the business transformation room

The elephant in the business transformation room
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It may be the phrase on the lips of every C-level exec, but digital transformation is a big ask. Even before the Coronavirus crisis, Gartner was predicting that digital transformation was likely to take twice as long and cost twice as much as most enterprises anticipated. Post pandemic those numbers can only go up.

About the author

Andrew Fitzgerald, Sales Director for Western Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, Cohesity.

The biggest stumbling block, however, isn’t the need for new IT infrastructure and skills or the work involved. Rather it’s a fear of upsetting the status quo and causing imperfect, yet still perfectly adequate, systems to come crashing down.

Digital anxiety about transformation

Who can forget the havoc caused when TSB switched from sharing Lloyds Bank IT to systems of its own? Havoc that caused as much harm to the bank’s reputation as its ability to do business, and all in the name of progress. The same could easily happen to any company making big IT changes. 

Not least because most have an incomplete understanding of the applications and data driving their businesses. And that, in turn, gives rise to understandable fears that, by meddling and making changes, something untoward is bound to happen.

Make no bones about it, digital anxiety is a real affliction. Moreover, it can really slow the rate of transformation as a result of IT teams feeling obliged to re-evaluate, modify, delay or even cancel projects because of their inability to quantify the risks.

But it doesn’t have to be that way and, while there is no simple solution, here’s a basic 3-point plan of attack:

1. Understand what you’ve got

Don’t overlook this first step even if it sounds daunting. Knowing what applications and data you’ve got, where it’s all held, how it fits together and how it’s protected is essential to building digital confidence. Equally, don’t underestimate the scale of the problem. Previously centered on the secure on-premises data center, modern data management needs to encompass a much broader and diverse resource spectrum. 

You might, for example, think business-critical apps share a clearly defined set of databases, but is that the case? How many ETL (Extract/Transfer/Load) chains connect to that data, what other apps rely on them, how often are they updated and how automated are the processes? And what about unstructured data - estimated to be 80-90 percent of all business data and just as likely to be generated by machines as humans. Plus, legacy systems which may not fit with transformation plans at all. 

Lastly, it’s crucial to get a handle on data volume and its rate of change. Especially given how easy cloud services are making it to acquire new apps and data stores, often without any input from those able to understand the wider implications, such as the cost and risk of moving data.

2. Organize, consolidate and integrate

Chances are that by following step 1 you’ll unravel a worryingly large and complex mesh of apps and data resources, raising anxiety levels even further. The next step, therefore, should be to look at ways of organizing and better managing what you’ve got. 

Ideally, through an over-arching data management platform equipped with ITSM tools to simplify, consolidate and integrate applications and their data, with a simple to use interface, in a single environment. The aim here is to reduce both the scale and complexity of the problem. Not by throwing out the old in favor of the new (a hugely risky exercise, as TSB discovered), but by consolidating and upgrading where possible and integrating everywhere else., expanding incrementally when needed, and with minimal disruption. 

Add in tools to see and manage digital and legacy resources together – whether on premise, in the cloud, physical or virtual - and you’ll have a much better understanding of what’s driving the business. And that, in turn, gives greater confidence when it comes to releasing the transformation brakes.

3. Plan for failure

The third step is to understand that while “Failure to plan” may be “planning for failure”, you still have do the latter. Digital transformation is a huge undertaking, making it essential to have access to tools capable of modelling the impact of planned changes on data flow dynamics, whether for good or bad. 

And don’t forget the importance of an effective backup and disaster recovery regime as yet another way of boosting confidence. Not least by making it possible for a business to remain open in a 24/7 digital world.

Getting digital transformation right

In the end getting digital transformation done is as much about quantifying the risks and  managing confidence as it is the processes involved, but it needn’t be difficult. Understanding what you’ve got, how it works and what effect changes might have is key, as are tools to provide and manage that insight which are all there to be had. 

They may not banish digital anxiety completely, but they will help to make the process simpler, and in the digital world this can only be a good thing. They will also help raise confidence, making it much easier to move forward and deliver successful transformation sooner rather than later.

Andrew Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald is the Sales Director for Western Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa at Cohesity. His role is to  lead the Cohesity's business development strategy across the European and African markets while empowering customers and partners to embrace the company’s modern data management capabilities. Fitzgerald has more than 30 years of IT solution sales experience across major enterprise IT businesses including Palo Alto Networks, NetApp, IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Hitachi Data Systems. He has a deep understanding of the data management sector which will play a key role in helping companies address mass data fragmentation challenges, where data is trapped in silos that make it hard to protect, expensive to manage, and difficult to analyse.