In the current state of Digital Transformation, it’s imperative that businesses utilise technology correctly to ensure it has a positive impact. Visibility is power in this case and Mike Walton, CEO and Founder at Opsview, tells us more.
Digital Transformation is everywhere. It heralds a new era of business agility and innovation-fuelled growth — catapulting the role of the CIO into a major boardroom player. However, this also means that IT leaders are under more pressure than ever before for their teams to support business demands for continuous innovation — delivering services faster, cheaper and often with fewer staff. Transitioning into a digitally-empowered business is at the top of many C-Suites’ priority lists and according to a 2018 IDC report, 89% of enterprises have plans to or have already adopted a ‘digital-first business strategy’.
Thus, it is no surprise that the global Digital Transformation market is growing at a CAGR of over 18% and according to MarketWatch, is estimated to exceed US$462 billion by 2024. But success is proving difficult to achieve. Half of the US executives surveyed in one 2017 poll said their company isn’t successfully executing against 50% of their Digital Transformation strategies. One in five said they secretly believe it’s a waste of time. This is also supported in numerous other sources. In fact, a report from analyst firm, IDC, also warns that while spending is increasing, firms aren’t getting the results they crave. Over half (59%) of organisations questioned for the report were described as being stuck in the early stages of Digital Transformation maturity, what IDC calls a ‘digital impasse’.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. A few notable organisations are seen as good examples of successful digital companies, in particular, modern and disruptive ‘challenger banks’ such as Monzo and Starling Bank have led the way by placing digital at the very heart of their operations. These businesses are able to innovate at an extreme pace, placing more traditional companies one step behind. However, challenger banks are unique in the fact that they did not inherit any legacy technology as they were born during the digital age and thus were able to implement the services expected within a traditional banking experience while utilising modern technology.
Legacy and complexity compounds the need for visibility
Organisations that struggle to implement a successful Digital Transformation project all have one problem in common: behind a new breed of innovative customer and employee-facing digital services lies a hotchpotch of disparate and decentralised system – virtual machines, hybrid cloud accounts, IoT endpoints, physical and virtual networks and much more. These disparate, decentralised systems don’t talk to each other and they frequently fail. To make things worse, many of these systems are outside of the control of IT, adding an extra layer of opacity and complexity.
With so much at stake, the only way to mitigate against the risk of business failure is for CIOs to ensure that its IT team centralises IT monitoring and destroys data islands to gain a holistic view of what is going on across the business. By monitoring all aspects of applications and systems from a single pane of glass, the CIO can ensure that the business has the full picture of system health, availability and capacity at all times in near real-time and that IT is able to drive business value from Digital Transformation operations.
Furthermore, without visibility into the performance of applications and systems, early-stage problems can be missed which then end up snowballing into major incidents, such as IT outages. These types of incidents have a huge financial impact and every minute a business is suffering from an IT outage it haemorrhages money – in fact, it costs about US$5,600 per minute according to Gartner’s research, although the analyst admits that the figure could reach far higher — US$540,000 per hour — at the top end.
However, businesses face a twofold threat from IT outages. The longer-term impact on brand reputation and share price will accurately display the loss of customer loyalty and trust as well as a drop in financial earnings. Outages from the likes of BA and TSB has demonstrated just this. The truth is that consumer expectations are so high today that there’s not much room for error. Fail to succeed in today’s fast-moving business environment and competitors will be circling before long to steal customers and market share. That makes effective monitoring vital to spot the early warning signs of issues, keep systems up and running and customers happy.
Keeping the lights on is key to business success
It is easy for IT leaders to get caught up in the dizzying hype and ‘promised land’ of AI in helping drive successful Digital Transformation. The reality is that we are years away from the day-to-day deployment of AI within an organisation and companies need to have a clear vision of what it means in terms of people, process and technology. Rather, investment needs to be made into the network and infrastructure to support Digital Transformation and business growth and provide the speed and performance needed.
Behind every eye-catching Digital Transformation initiative lies IT Operations: the servers, networks, storage, clouds and virtual systems needed to support flashy customer-facing apps and services. In this context, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of effective IT Operations Management such as IT monitoring. Although the discipline is often viewed pejoratively as merely ‘keeping the lights on’, the truth is that without these solid foundations in place, businesses’ Digital Transformation projects and growth plans are destined to fail.
It is true to say that in many ways, IT Operations has been left behind by digital change, as many organisations still view it as an afterthought: major investments in new apps and services are not matched proactively by improvements in performance monitoring. Part of this is down to perceptions of IT Operations and monitoring as a cost centre rather than a value driver, but this is because in many cases, firms aren’t monitoring the right things. Simply focusing on availability rather than business service performance will not deliver strategic value and is the role of the CIO to effectively communicate this.
Siloed IT teams do not make a CIO’s role any easier. The lack of communications between departments prevents the insight needed to demand and utilise a move to more proactive monitoring practice. This in turn creates an inherited culture of disastrous tool sprawl, with each team purchasing similar tools from different vendors to suit their needs without consulting each other first. In this sprawled environment, it is impossible for IT leaders to gain clear visibility over the entire environment, meaning individuals and teams are doomed to repeat the same mistakes as their predecessors — continually firefighting problems and auto-renewing even under-performing tools. Gartner claims that by 2020, 80% of IT operations tools and processes in IoT projects will be unable to meet business requirements.
Visibility really is power and IT leaders need the right processes in place to provide them with key insights into dynamic cloud and virtual environments as well as the traditional static, on-premises world. Additionally, this insight needs to be consolidated via a single monitoring platform so that a single version of the truth can enable IT leaders to detect bottlenecks, see how the IT infrastructure reacts to specific changes and spot the early warning signs of any problems which could impact performance. It’s the only way to minimise disruption, drive value from IT operations, elevate the role of the CIO and ensure that a Digital Transformation project positively impacts businesses.