SD-WAN viewpoint: How can companies go about tackling the digital transformation?

How to wrestle a ball of snakes to ensure digital transformation

Digital transformation projects are increasingly high priority for businesses, for very clear reasons. A recent survey by Axians found that 42 per cent of network managers believe that their organisation’s network doesn’t fully meet the needs of the business. This is despite 76 per cent agreeing that the CIO has 100 per cent visibility of the network.However, as the digital strategy becomes a priority, the network changes necessary to sustain secure and agile businesses are being missed. For example, fashion retailer Jaeger recently went into administration part way through a digital transformation project, and our survey found that 49 per cent believe that networks problems are down to legacy technology still holding back the organisation.The question is how to progress in spite of, and even because of, legacy technology. Doing nothing is not an option, but modernisation takes time and money, and as demonstrated by Jaeger, can be risky. Legacy technology might be monolithic in nature, but it is not monolithic in form. It is a multi-headed composite, tangled up like a ball of snakes.

Addressing the customer experience with a digital strategy

One of these snakes is the impact legacy technology may have on customer experience – crucial to long term business success today. 44 per cent of network managers cite customer complaints about slow application performance happening at least once a week. Major network improvements must therefore be made if businesses want to cut complaints and increase customer satisfaction.

As a result, businesses are committing to digital strategies to enable a more engaging and positive customer journey – in fact, 67 per cent of network managers agree that a digital strategy is important to reduce threat from competitors who can scale up more quickly than those with established networks. However, many are neglecting to support these broad objectives with the details that will enable long term success.

A change of mindset and education is critical for success

Unfortunately, disparities do occur between the long-term vision of the business and the reality of the ‘here and now’ for network managers – another snake in the ball.

The right expertise is vital to the success of the network, and 89 per cent of network managers advise that having experienced staff to work on digital strategy implementation is essential.  74 per cent believe their organisation has a well thought through digital strategy, yet, 44 per cent say their company struggles to find the IT skills or talent in areas that can’t be automated, and 27 per cent aren’t sure their company has enough bandwidth to achieve its digital strategy.

Company presidents and chief executives, as well as technology and information officers need to pay close attention to how their digital strategy affects the underlying IT infrastructure, making sure that the business objectives and technology support each other throughout its development. Equally, CIOs must look beyond software and focus on educating people internally and externally to truly address the digital strategy and secure long term success.

How to unravel the snakes

62 per cent of network managers say their company would be more profitable if it invested in new technology, and 67 per cent believe a digital strategy will reduce operational costs in the long term. This is critical, as 62 per cent feel increasingly pressured to reduce operational costs of the network.

One of the ways that businesses can improve control of the network, replace legacy technology and cut budgets is through Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) technology, which connects critical networks over large geographic distances.

Moreover, digital transformation strategies will always require change and transformation, as new ideas, solutions and technologies emerge. However, by using these types of technologies, organisations can remain agile and dynamic. In other words, the network must not only allow digital transformation, but continually enhance it.

Investing in these types of technology aren’t a simple purchase however. Businesses will need access to consultancy, services creation, and support, and seek knowledge where the expertise is lacking in house. By doing this, organisations can successfully integrate new systems with existing ones.

[Finding your snake charmers:] Reputation is key to success both now and in the future

For long term success, businesses must protect reputation and sustain quality services while they are making these necessary, and often disruptive, changes. This is no easy task, and by calling on advisors and consultants to help implement the strategy and improve the network, remaining secure and keeping application performance at a good level, is more achievable.

By investing in staff or consultants with specialist expertise in the network, and supporting the investment in next generation networking such as SD-WAN, organisations can build a solution designed to solve their own unique business challenges. The ultimate goal is of course a digital strategy build for scale, flexibility and agility, with staff brought into the vision and along for the ride.

Digital transformation is like a ball of snakes – tangled up and ready to be unravelled. The trick is to take it one snake at a time, and this can be reached through new technologies, education and expertise.

Notes: This survey was conducted by Arlington Research between March and April 2017. It questioned 250 IT Network Managers who are responsible for / or day to day manage their organisation’s network and do not outsource the IT, working in companies employing 50+ employees.

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