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Four Steps to a Successful Digital Transformation

You've decided to move aggressively to the cloud. What's the most effective way to successfully make that transition?

An important shift is occurring in the enterprise world: the transition to the cloud along with its evolving array of stack services that organizations will increasingly utilize but not own. For businesses that want to be relevant 20 (or more) years from now, this digital transformation is essential.

For Further Reading:

Why Digital Transformation Will Become More Critical in 2021

Leveraging Data Virtualization for Digital Transformation

Five Database Requirements for Digital Transformation

Why Digital Transformation Is More Important Than Ever

Today, organizations are looking at how technology, such as containers, machine learning (ML), and multicloud environments, play into their corporate strategy. They also are looking to retain some level of control over their own resource allocations. What this means for 99 percent of us is letting go of our on-premises application and data infrastructure and moving to a more cloud-centric set of services. Digital transformation in the 21st century begins with acknowledging the shift that has taken place: moving business ecosystems to the cloud and managed services.

The scalable capabilities available today allow brilliant products and services to be built at a fraction of the cost (over time), helping organizations reimagine the future of everything from government to medicine, education, transportation, and beyond. It also frees businesses to boost their competitiveness as they reallocate resources to more productive, strategic, and customer-centric activities.

The question is no longer: "Should we move our business-critical computing resources and core apps to the cloud?" The question is: "We've decided to move aggressively to the cloud, so what's the most effective way to successfully make that transition?"

To ensure the success of your digital transformation (DTX) initiative, consider the following four steps.

Step 1: Identify the Right Stakeholders

According to the Harvard Business Review, only 22 percent of 445 executives deemed their current digital transformation approaches "very effective." To ensure your project doesn't end up underperforming, you need to lay the foundation for a successful DTX initiative.

To begin, be sure to identify executive stakeholder interest and ownership. It is important to have someone with sufficient standing in the organization leading the charge with the authority to speak across the different silos of the organization and connect them.

It is also a good idea to ensure that DTX team members include individuals who have been asking for change, have experienced the challenges of current processes, and believe there are opportunities for improvement.

A two-pronged approach is essential for DTX success.

Step 2: Commit to All-In Strategic Planning

Although cloud services have commoditized the virtual data center, you must commit to an all-in strategic planning process that asks why moving everything to the cloud can do to transform how you do business.

Any organization building and owning its own data centers without a strategic plan to do away with that burden will hamper its success. It comes down to questioning how you can best serve your customers. Competing in a world where hosting services are becoming commoditized requires doubling down on innovations that are dependent on your own subject-matter expertise.

By transforming into cloud-based services and no longer expending resources maintaining data center infrastructure, you can bring greater value to market in more unique, less constrained, and more scalable ways. Hybrid architectures, leveraging both on and off cloud content services, can improve resiliency, increase flexibility for meeting content-location regulations, and reduce content access times..

Step 3: Create a Strict Timeline

You need to create a strict timeline for your transition and focus your investments on competitive, customer-centric applications and services built on top of resources from your cloud-provider partners.

Once your data center is transformed into cloud stack services, it is time to start refocusing your investments. The reality is that you can't keep all of the talent and resources previously allocated to managing on-premises infrastructure. By freeing up these areas and leveraging technology provided by the major cloud vendors, infrastructure that might have cost you millions of dollars every year to keep up can now be thoughtfully redeployed.

Your focus should then be on investing heavily in people, products, and services with deep subject matter expertise that can significantly leverage these rented cloud services -- thereby pushing your company's truly innovative efforts forward.

Telehealth is an excellent example. The telehealth communications industry (and the companies pushing innovation forward) are not using conventional data centers. Instead, they are leveraging the massive investment and capabilities subsidized by major cloud vendors so they can specialize in the software that runs on top of that infrastructure. This allows them to spend all their focus and resources on serving the patient, the true "customer."

Step 4: Take Responsibility for Data Security

Cloud service providers offer some protection, but ultimately you are responsible for your own internal and external data security.

Just because you are relying on a reputable cloud service provider doesn't mean you should be any less vigilant about your data security policies. In addition to taking precautions against the many external threats, it is imperative to actively monitor the performance and security of enterprise content management systems. You need to be able to identify the early warning signs of insider threats, be they employees or contractors who might use their authorized access to -- wittingly or not -- put your data at risk. Monitoring authorized user activity and access to high-value content allows you to quickly identify usage trends, misuse, and theft.

If you are providing a mission-critical service on behalf of your customers, traditional security tools will not guarantee your data's safety. Instead, cloud-based companies of the future will need to create a layer of security and protection that considers internal threat vectors at the application layer. This means putting measures in place to monitor file and document access, identify and quickly address suspicious behavior, and audit sensitive content access for compliance.

A Final Word

It's important to remember that like so many sweeping and intensive technology-driven initiatives, digital transformation is a marathon and not a sprint. As any distance runner will attest, the key to success along such a long journey is to establish small, feasible goals along the way, continuously monitor your key performance metrics (i.e., how to measure the absorption rate of digital transformation change -- where is the "wall" stopping change acceptance?), and broadly celebrate your achievements as you approach the finish line.

About the Author

Brian DeWyer is the CTO of Reveille Software where he is responsible for product strategy and technical leadership in his role as Reveille CTO and board member. You can reach the author via email or LinkedIn.

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