What Digital Transformation Means for IT
Research by the advisory group CED indicates that 40 percent of IT spending is outside of IT control.Today’s business world is characterized by disruption. Rapid changes in technology have gone beyond simply changing the pace of business and are disrupting entire business models and industries. Look at what cloud computing did to retail bookstores, or Internet connectivity to the home thermostat. Social media has created radical transparency into business operations and customer experiences. No industry is immune to the impact of the growing Information Economy. Businesses are also changing from within as the behavior and habits of the workforce shifts. A new generation of workers chooses not to have a landline telephone at home. Many avoid owning desktop computers, printed magazines and televisions, preferring instead to use tablets and laptops. They increasingly bring these expectations for social collaboration and connectivity to work with them. But you already know all this. Virtually every business is on the front line of these changes. And nobody is closer to the change than the IT organization, responsible for keeping business technology running, relevant and cutting edge. Nobody is closer to the transformational change than the IT organizationClick To Tweet Organizationally, most IT departments and cultures originated in a world in which technology was a scarce resource, provisioned and controlled by the business from the inside out. Yet today, cloud computing and mobile devices are moving essential computing workloads and data outside the enterprise data center. IT isn’t the only one buying technology – IT leaders are recognizing and adapting to this reality. The technology world is moving from a model of scarce computing resources (one that puts technology first) to one of abundant processing and data with ubiquitous connectivity. This is empowering individual departments and business users to become agents of technology change. Today’s IT environment is turning itself from an inside-out model of central control to an outside-in model that puts the business user in control – what we call Digital Transformation in IT.
It’s About Putting People First, Not TechnologyTechnology doesn’t disrupt businesses – people do. Social, mobile and cloud technologies are changing our behavior, at home and at work. With smart phones and tablets, people have come to expect constant connectivity, with the ability to access information, make a purchase or connect with others around the world, at any time. Employees are bringing those expectations to work, wanting to use technology that makes them faster, smarter and better at their jobs. They have little patience for outdated technologies, long ramp-up times and extensive training. They want to collaborate with colleagues and customers, without barriers. With cloud computing and personal devices, people have more options for working around perceived barriers to their productivity or effectiveness. Cloud computing and personal devices allow employees to work around perceived barriers to their productivity.Click To Tweet
Current IT Models Aren’t SustainableThis situation poses a real challenge for legacy IT organizations built on the premise that technology is a scarce, expensive resource centrally purchased and managed for a select few, from the inside out. IT organizations understandably want visibility into and control over enterprise data. Data privacy and security regulations often require it. At the same time, cloud adoption is growing rapidly, and evidence tells us that people are using cloud services and personal devices for work, with or without the blessing of corporate IT. People are using cloud services for work with or without the blessing of corporate IT.Click To Tweet The scope of the problem emerges in the ‘war stories’ told by IT and security professionals. One major technology company discovered that its employees were using 19 different file sharing/collaboration services. Blocking specific cloud sites is a task with no end, as another new site is always popping up. And as many companies discover, blocking a file-sharing app at work does not prevent employees from synching their files at home, beyond the reach of the corporate network. Both mobility and cloud computing are trending upward. People aren’t bypassing enterprise IT systems or policies out of any malicious intent to thwart the business. On the contrary, it’s because they want to be smarter and faster at their jobs. IT needs to find a way to empower employees to work the way they want, while protecting the common business interests.
Rethinking ITTechnology is forcing people to rethink many industries. Educators, for example, are exploring the concept of ‘flipping the classroom’ – with lectures taking place online, and discussion and problem solving happening within the classroom context. Technology enables a radical new vision of how education can happen in which the user, or student, is in control with the aid of a teacher. Enterprise technology is due for a similar shift. What happens when computing workloads don’t take place in the data center? When the corporation isn’t the one purchasing all the equipment, corporate networks don’t carry all of the data, and the concept of enterprise perimeter evaporates? Traditionally, IT practitioners think in terms of linear application stacks, with “back-end” servers and storage connecting through “front end” servers. The end-user is irrelevant. This model is less useful in today’s enterprise IT environment. The stack is everywhere – in the cloud and in the data center – and people are everywhere. If you flip your perspective and make the person the starting point, a new vision of IT falls into place. Digital Transformation inverts the traditional approach to technology by starting with the business user. Instead of a linear stack of technology, Digital Transformation and IT is more like a series of interrelated systems, where data and applications interact on behalf of the business user. Digital Transformation inverts the traditional approach to technology by starting with the business user.Click To Tweet The layers closest to the user include access-related services (devices, locations), directory/identity layers and applications. Supporting these services are other systems and layers, including underlying services, controls and infrastructure. These last layers are the domain of the enterprise IT organization, and are generally transparent to the user, yet essential to the overall IT environment. Using the image of a sphere, these are the layers that hold everything together.
The Guiding Principles Behind Digital TransformationDoes Digital Transformation represent a technology shift? Yes – but incremental changes in technology aren’t going to get you all the way to Digital Transformation. You need to embed new guiding principles in the organization, culture, and technology systems you implement. These core operating assumptions can be boiled down into the following five principles.
1. Digital Transformation serves the business by empowering people.IT’s evolving role is to empower people to work better and smarter. Getting people to engage, connect and act in real-time adds incredible velocity to a business. IT leaders need to look for ways to optimize how individuals and departments work, while protecting the business interest in data security, compliance and governance.
2. Digital Transformation adapts to the way people work, not the other way around.Instead of requiring people to adapt workflows to meet technology needs, or to delay projects by weeks while waiting for configuration or special-request reports, business technology should fit seamlessly into the workflow. It should be easy to use, flexible, and customizable to fit the style of each individual and department. This requires new IT systems to be extremely flexible at the edge, while maintaining consistency and security at the core. IT systems should be extremely flexible in order to fit seamlessly into workflows.Click To Tweet
3. People, information and knowledge must connect in real time.Collaboration is a growing imperative for today’s knowledge-based workers. Hoarding knowledge is out, sharing and collaborating are in. In the Digital Transformation environment, people have intuitive and natural ways to share and collaborate with colleagues, partners and even customers. IT empowers collaboration rather than impeding it.
4. Mobility is a work-style preference, not a device.When worrying about managing mobile devices, it’s easy to lose sight of the people using them. Mobility is a way of life. People expect access to information from anywhere at any anytime via any device. Digital Transformation goes beyond simply allowing mobile access to limited services, instead supporting the mobile work style from any device. The digitally transformed organization empowers people to be productive from anywhere, using the best device for the task.
5. Security should be inherent and transparent to the user experience.Security and compliance are both mission-critical. In fact, security is more important than ever as the information economy continues expanding. But when security goes head-to-head with convenience, convenience almost always wins. Heavy-handed security measures or cumbersome processes are counterproductive, as users will find workarounds. Security must be ever-present, inherent but invisible, integrated into the systems presented to the user without creating friction or delays.
***End of the first part of the article Digital Transformation Means Putting People First by Tallyfy. In the second part that will be published next week, you’ll learn how IT’s role is evolving in the era of digital transformation and what IT culture encourages digital transformation most.