Progress is great, but not at the price of stability. So every time the business world faces one of these change-or-pain scenarios as we are seeing now with digital transformation, decision makers must walk the tightrope of embracing change without completely abandoning what makes their companies successful in the first place.
With digital transformation, the tension between stability and agility will likely permeate any and all enterprise decisions meant to produce better operational and customer service outcomes. As Deloitte explained in its “ Tech Trends 2016” report: “On one side are the predictability and controls necessary to manage risk while delivering large-scale enterprise IT with reliability, scalability, security, and other ‘ilities.’ On the other is the push to drive discovery and experimentation around new features, tools, and technologies.”
Enterprises need the right mix of tools and platforms for transformation initiatives. One of the most pressing decisions will be whether to use a private, public or hybrid cloud approach, since cloud will play a role in just about every company’s digital transformation. Gartner predicts that come 2017, 50 percent of enterprises will be using hybrid clouds.
Hybrid solves some fundamental cloud concerns: You want to move resources to the cloud, but have some questions about reliability, security and data control in the public cloud. With a hybrid cloud, sensitive assets can reside in a private cloud infrastructure while you tap the public cloud when necessary for specific projects requiring a boost in bandwidth and compute power.
Despite all the current talk about digital transformation, which path to take isn’t always obvious. Researcher Altimeter Group asked executives in 2014 and again in 2016 about the importance of customer experience in their digital transformation strategies. While most respondents in 2014 cited enhancing customer experience as a prime motivator, only 25 percent had “completely mapped out” the journey or clearly understood “new digital touch-points.” By 2016 things had improved, with 54 percent saying they had “completely mapped out the customer journey,” but that still means close to half hadn’t figured it out.
As with cloud investments about a decade ago, the research reveals a recognition of the need for action but not what it is. Of course, if you can’t clearly map out the journey, it’s tougher to identify the tools and platforms you need. So the path to digital transformation has to start with, well, setting the path.
IDG Research, in a 2016 study for EMC, found more clarity. The study revealed that digital transformation goals were to improve the customer experience (87 percent), acquire new customers (86 percent), boost innovation (82 percent), and enable real-time business decisions and operations (81 percent).
The researcher made a forceful case for hybrid clouds as the enabler of digital transformation strategies, and found that hybrid cloud investments place companies “ahead of the pack.” “A very strong 88 percent of survey participants called hybrid cloud an important enabler of digital business and 73 percent agreed that hybrid cloud models create a path for digital business for their organization.”
Healthcare is one industry that has relatively well-defined goals for digital transformation -- a shift to quality-based outcomes from the traditional fee-for-service model. This requires a fine equilibrium between speed, quality and safety of care without accelerating healthcare cost increases.
The industry is implementing technologies such as video diagnostics, operating room robotics, closed-circuit video connections, patient portals, and massive information-sharing software systems. Healthcare is under pressure not only from the government, which has implemented incentives to go digital, but also from patients who want digital services.
There’s a belief patients resist digital services, but a McKinsey study found when that happens, the culprit is poor quality. “More than 75 percent of respondents would like to use digital healthcare services, as long as those services meet their needs and provide the level of quality they expect,” McKinsey says. “Patients are looking for efficiency, better access to information, integration with other channels, and the availability of a real person if the digital service doesn’t give them what they need.”
This shows that as organizations embark on digital transformation, they face the same old challenges – reliability, usability and security, to name a few. In healthcare, resolving these issues is especially critical, considering what’s at stake – people’s health.
The cloud will prove fundamental to digital transformation – and if IDG Research is right, it will be primarily the hybrid cloud.
As for connecting securely and privately to cloud infrastructures, service providers are making it easier by providing direct links to major cloud providers like Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, allowing enterprises to bypass the public internet to enjoy the benefits of a cloud infrastructure. Having this option certainly helps open a path to digital transformation, regardless of industry. It gives you a little more clarity to choose the tools and platforms to set your path.