4 Best Practices for Easing the Pain of Digital Transformation

Most businesses liken digital transformation to taking a spoonful of medicine. It has to be done but often doesn’t taste good going down. However, digital transformation, while a necessity to staying competitive, can have less bark than bite with the right tools at your disposal.
 
An IDC study found that global spending related to digital experiences is set to reach $1.7 trillion in 2019. The problem is that companies are spending heavily on digital transformation, but not getting results. More than half of those polled in the study (59%) identified as stuck in an early stage of maturation and struggling to move forward. It’s digital or die, but the path to get there can be complex and challenging.
 
The C-suite sets top-down goals, and the IT team is often left to execute -- transforming application and network stacks to meet the new objectives or initiatives which range from cloud migration to integrating omnichannel into the user experience to introducing DevOps processes and toolsets. Sometimes there is a disconnect about what is required and what needs to be done.
 
Recently, an executive at a major global organization admitted that it had no digital transformation plan, particularly in regard to migrating its data. No blueprint exists. So, it was planning to go in cold and take the good with the bad. It’s not the first time I’ve heard a comment like this.
 
So, what can businesses do to start taking control of their efforts and avoid the unknown? Four best practices come to mind:
 
1. Set a baseline
It’s not news that enterprise applications are increasingly complex. Hybrid assemblies of a wide mix of digital technologies have taken over. For example, in retail banking it is no longer about applications to support ATM machines. It’s now about 24/7 multi-platform online banking apps that access information from legacy servers to SaaS and cloud components. All of these are designed to improve the user experience, but it comes with a price. It creates complex application chains interconnected by multiple networks that live in private and public clouds.
 
Businesses need to create an analysis of how everything performs before they go through any major transformative upgrades. When you know where you start from, you are able to compare metrics to see if a certain move affects the user experience, such as moving applications from a private cloud hosted at a data center to AWS. If you have visibility into your performance before you start, you can then track improvement or delay.
 
2. Minimize risk by moving assets out of your control
Today’s networks are often comprised of complex hybrid applications and cloud infrastructure components. Thus, there are many possible points of failure and layers of complexity that can degrade user experience. With so many components, many of which are outside the control of the enterprise, isolating and resolving performance issues quickly is mandatory, but largely impossible to achieve with tools designed to monitor static, private data centers and pre-SDN networking environments.
 
Businesses are incentivized to move assets outside of the network because it’s cheaper to house data and applications elsewhere. Lack of visibility is often a concern, however, and IT departments are struggling to understand what is going on within the infrastructure. You can’t manage what you can’t see. Solutions that offer data center-to-enterprise connectivity can change this by delivering total visibility and network performance assurance.
 
3. Measure
As enterprises manage more data and applications, they need to incorporate measurement criteria. This requires having a level of insight about what is going on and where, in order to guarantee a better user experience. If enterprises attempt to keep track of their increasingly complex web of applications, they have to embrace the unenviable task of monitoring all endpoints, and at the same time correlate the information from individual monitoring tools.
 
Here is where establishing a unified view into applications, networks, servers, users, and teams are critical to success. Creating a ”single source of truth” that provides visibility across the stack can help in understanding network and application usage and performance via a holistic view of the entire digital infrastructure. Businesses can learn how certain activities impact performance and see where any bottlenecks exist.
 
4. Collaborate
It’s time for businesses to redefine how they work together. Digital transformation demands cultural change, driven by the need to unify silos and their diverse toolsets, procedures, and levels of visibility into the user experience. Many enterprises use solutions that only monitor a specific part of the application chain, with little or no visibility into what happens outside specific IT silos. So, a developer can see how the code is performing but won’t have visibility into the network that links servers to each other, to the cloud, and to the end-user.
 
Meanwhile network operations staff are monitoring Local Area Networks (LAN) and Wide Area Networks (WAN), but don’t see how application transactions and server responsiveness are impacting users. A higher-level vantage point is essential to uniting both of these. Not only can it bring silos together, but it can shorten the Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR) which can improve internal team as well as end-user performance.
 
Finding success in digital transformation is nothing short of challenging. For enterprises, new digital services and pressures from end users mean increased complexity across all touchpoints. While this presents several obstacles, it also presents a myriad of opportunities to optimize the IT stack in a way that increases performance, boosts Quality of Experience (QoE) and Quality of Service (QoS), and sees a reduction in operating expenses.
 
And in the end, IT teams may be pushed out of their comfort zone but they will be armed with more data to make more informative decisions in the future. Isn’t that what a successful digital transformation strategy should do?