Paving the Road for Digital Transformation

Countless CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and the whole c-suite in general are discussing the merits of digital transformation, a process (and ideology) that promises to re-invent how businesses actually conduct business. For the uninitiated, MITSloan defines digital transformation is all about the use of technology to radically improve the performance or reach of enterprises. While that definition may fit into a catch all of what information technology is all about, there is a lot more to digital transformation than meets the eye.
Simply put, the pathway to digital transformation is beset by all sorts of challenges, something that is aptly spelled out in Altimeter’s State of Digital Transformation report, which points out major challenges consisting of changing the company culture, fostering cooperation between departments, and securing the appropriate resources to succeed. While those elements in themselves are considerable challenges, numerous fortune 5000s have successfully achieved the nirvana of digital transformation, but at great cost.
While much of that cost can be attributed to business realignment, training and organizational structure changes, the simple fact of the matter is that digital transformation all comes down to having the proper infrastructure in place and the tools to leverage, manage and optimize that infrastructure. What’s more, the actually technological process behind digital transformation can be both helped and hampered by the distributed nature of today’s networks, meaning that public, private, and hybrid cloud technologies can bring both benefits and complications to digital transformation.
Some business, such as AirBnB and Uber, brought digital transformed their business models by eschewing privately owned infrastructure and fully leveraging the ideology of hosted infrastructure, such as the PaaS (Platforms as a Service) model.
That said, other businesses are still very much leveraging in house solutions to achieve digital transformation, take for instance Caterpillar, which is developing ways to sell data, and not just “things”.  Regardless of the basic infrastructure in use, one of the goals of digital transformation is to bring “data and things” together, to build an intelligent internet of things (IoT), and that means bringing full visibility to IoT, as well as data. A concept that Joshua Dobies, VP Product Marketing at Riverbed, has much to say about.
In an interview with GigaOM, Dobies said “the world of digital transformation powered by optimization.” A fact well illustrated by all of the moving parts involved with tying various micro-services, cloud resources, and application foundations together. Dobies added “overcoming latency and the physical distances is one of the biggest challenges facing those interested in digital transformation.” Dobies makes a good point, if the various pieces of an application are logically distant, application performance will suffer appreciably, perhaps destroying the end user experience and effectively putting a nail in the digital transformation coffin.
Dobies also said “Many businesses have failed to achieve their goals of digital transformation, simply because they did not properly address infrastructure issues before hand.” Dobies’ comments lead to an unmistakable conclusion – digital transformation should never be an organic process, it is something that takes proper planning and creating a foundation (read infrastructure) that can successfully integrate all of the moving pieces into a cohesive, manageable solution.
Simply put, digital transformation take tenacity, persistence, planning, and the appropriate technology to be successful. Riverbed offers an excellent take on the challenges of visibility and digital transformation in the form of a post on the company’s website.