Big data, cloud and IoT are all firmly established trends in the digital transformation sphere, and must form a core component of strategy for forward-looking organisations. But in order to maximise the potential of these technologies, companies must first ensure that the network infrastructure is capable of supporting them optimally.
A smooth and effective digital experience is highly valued by the modern customer, and as such, IT departments must ensure that they are able to scale up performance where required in order to meet this expectation.
Digital transformation is an ongoing process with no fixed endpoint. But the role of next-generation networks is to support this journey, facilitating the process of innovation and impressing customers. To be truly transformative, organisations must do three things: fully embrace the cloud, commit to a software-defined network and measure progress against company objectives.
Count on the cloud
Despite the widely-recognised importance of cloud for business, many organisations are currently out of step with the latest innovations. IT decision-makers around the world, representing companies from all verticals, are aware of this disparity, and acknowledge that a move to the cloud will facilitate digital transformation for their business. Further, 69% of those same decision-makers state that their legacy networking infrastructure is holding back their cloud strategies, according to the Riverbed Future of Networking Global Survey 2017.
A major benefit to organisations of adopting cloud and ensuring it is part of their network is the agility and elasticity it offers. This allows for strong application performance and a level of mobility that is reflective of contemporary user demands.
A combined transition to next-generation networks and a cloud-first approach enables organisations to pursue additional cutting-edge tech trends. For instance, greater support for hybrid apps, IoT deployments and other initiatives can be offered. This in turn will drive innovation and provide a competitive advantage that simply cannot be matched by rigid, legacy networking infrastructures.
Software supervision for networking
When it comes to managing and controlling systems and networks, hardware has been in the driving seat since the 1990s. But in the world of software-defined everything, the responsibility for management and control is automated by the underlying intelligent software.
Once a company has successfully deployed its applications in the cloud and has next-gen network infrastructure in place, the next challenge is to gain visibility and control over the entire network.
Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) offers the best visibility option for most companies. It can provide unsurpassed agility, efficiency, flexibility, security and control for corporate networks. Given the user- and app-driven nature of the digital transformation process, these characteristics will be fundamental to facilitating a compelling user experience.
For example, a retailer may need to set up a temporary store just in time for the holiday shopping season. To get the new store opened in time, IT will need to move quickly, because the window for revenue is temporary, then days and even hours matter.
Taking a centralised orchestration and policy management, zero-touch provisioning and complete performance approach to visibility, an ideal SD-WAN solution provides an invaluable function for IT teams. IT allows them to bring the new location up to optimal standards in a matter of hours.
Taking stock of digital transformation
Finally, for an organisation to make the most of its digital transformation initiatives, it must be able to effectively measure the impact of its strategy.
To do this, businesses need a way to monitor performance and gather analytics for closed-loop reporting. With this information at hand, IT and business decision-makers will have the capability to make intelligent decisions about handling not only the network but also applications, users, security and other critical elements.
A comprehensive overview of the moving parts for which IT is responsible allows the department to more easily benchmark, track and set goals from metrics the team collects.
>See also: Digital strategy to digital transformation
Business leaders should also look beyond traditional key performance indicators such as revenue and cost, and measure employee productivity, user adoption, response time for an activity, percentage of revenue through digital channels, rate of new customer acquisition and customer engagement. It is essential to bear the following in mind: digital transformation is as much for an organisation’s customers as it is for its employees — and sometimes more so.
For example, if a bank wants to launch a digital initiative around mobile banking services, such as depositing cheques via its mobile application, the user experience is paramount. There should be little or no lag for the user after scanning the cheque to the next step.
In an instance where there are network latency issues, an SD-WAN will be able to determine the best route for the transaction, ensuring that bandwidth and latency do not adversely affect it.
Equally, for an e-commerce transaction, the response time and shopping cart abandonment rate are critical. Network and monitoring tools can help with identifying any performance degradation or response time impact.
The best ways to ensure effective digital transformation are through embracing the cloud, implementing software-defined processes such as SD-WAN and making sure that there are measurable objectives that can be used to define success for current and future initiatives.
Businesses that adhere to the above will find themselves in a much better position to drive innovation while delivering a superior customer experience. An enviable position to be in, surely?
Sourced by Paul Higley, regional vice president, UK & Ireland, at Riverbed Technology