Digital Transformation and Networking

Digital transformation is coming. We hear about how organizations are using it to streamline their processes. We talk to forward-thinking CTOs and CIOs that are leading the charge to change their businesses to be more agile and responsive. But why?

There’s a lot of capital tied up in legacy IT. In the US federal government, 75% of the $80 billion IT budget is spent on maintaining legacy equipment. For enterprises, 72% of their budgets is spent on the existing IT infrastructure. The remainder goes to new projects designed to transform the business and bring it into the future. Nine out of ten enterprise decision makers think that those legacy systems are holding them back from accomplishing their digital transformation.

Knowing all this, how can you effectively plan for a digital transformation in your own environment? It all comes down to two simple parts: Planning and Execution

Planning

Before you start your digital transformation, you need a plan. You need to honestly look at your strategy and ask yourself what value this is going to add from a business perspective. Making things more technological for the sake of technology does nothing. You need to have a business goal in mind that drives the transformation. If you can’t pin revenue numbers or increased efficiency to that goal, your transformation will be over before it starts.

Secondly, you have to assess what resources you have available. Are your people trained and ready to execute your vision? If not, how can you train them quickly? Are you going to have the technology available to make your vision happen? Digital transformation tends to be less impactful if you need to buy millions of dollars of new switches in between refresh cycles. You need to plan for an upcoming refresh window and decide how you want to proceed.

Lastly, you have to understand how your legacy technology is going to impede your progress. In some cases, the answer is easy because the technology can be easily upgraded. New operating systems that support programmability or APIs can help drag legacy gear into the new age. But other systems will never be able to be upgraded. You have to plan either for their obsolescence in your digital transformation or they need to be removed and replaced. Problems can be fixed if you plan for them.

Execution

Once you have your plan in place and you know what you’re doing, how are you going to go about your transformation? It sounds easy, but a surprising number of digital transformation initiatives fail when the rubber meets the road. You need to have a clear execution vision.

Are you going to be deploying this in an existing data center? Or in a greenfield data center that you’re turning up soon? Is your new network infrastructure going to be deployed as a pod? Or as a full installation? Is this something that will be deployed at a central headquarters and spread out? Or will it be done in a single branch office at a time? These models are key to making sure your digital transformation doesn’t lose steam.

You also need to remember that every digital transformation strategy is a collection of projects. No matter how interdependent those projects are, they are still just projects. If you lose track of your vision because you’re trying to boil the entire digital ocean you will fail. You need to narrow your focus and execute on the projects one at a time until you succeed. Don’t lose sight of the trees because you’re busy staring at the forest.

Communication

The most important part of this entire transformation from planning all the way through execution is proper communication. You need to get information from your team to assess their capabilities and ability to execute. You need to communicate with stakeholders in your organization to ensure your business needs are being met and your goals align with the vision of the stakeholders.

You also need to communicate with your peers in the industry to find out if your goals are relevant and attainable. No digital transformation should happen in a vacuum. There are many people who have gone down this road before you. Some have succeeded. Others have failed. But their knowledge is important to you. Their insight is how you are going to succeed in your own digital transformation. use that knowledge wisely.

You can get a lot of great knowledge and experience about these kinds of digital transformation during the ONUG Spring meeting in San Francisco on May 9th. I’ll be moderating a panel titled From the Trenches: Network Transformation for the Digital Economy – It’s Not Your Father’s Network. It’s a panel composed of industry experts from FedEx, GE, AIG, and CenturyLink who will be talking about their own digital transformation experiences in networking and how they managed to navigate the path to success in their own way. Their stories could hold the key to ensuring your next digital transformation project for your network is the best one yet.

Author's Bio

Tom Hollingsworth

Tom Hollingsworth

Organizer, Tech Field Day
Tom Hollingsworth is an organizer on the Tech Field Day events series. He also writes about networking and related technologies on his blog at http://networkingnerd.net. With over 10 years of experience in the IT field, Tom has covered the breadth of technology from desktop deployment to data center installation. He brings his unique perspective to his writing both on his blog and at Network Computing. Tom can also be found prognosticating and commenting about technology from his Twitter account @networkingnerd.