Why the time for digital transformation is now

Published on the 14/09/2017 | Written by Rajesh Ganesan

Overcoming legacy pain just one step on the journey…

Digital transformation is a hotly discussed topic in business circles, yet, says ManageEngine’s Rajesh Ganesan, many senior managers have it firmly in the ‘too hard’ basket.

Faced with changing markets and shifting customer demands, they believe it’s something that can be put off while they focus on other priorities. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Digital transformation is happening across the business landscape, and delaying it is simply not an option. Senior managers who fail to put these strategies in place now risk losing out to their more agile rivals.

The power of digital transformation is much more than just the technology underpinning it. It’s about the creation of new business models. Unshackled from the limitations of the past, businesses are able to work in new ways.

Overcoming the ‘legacy mentality’
For many business leaders, one of the biggest barriers to embracing a strategy of digital transformation is a ‘legacy mentality.’ Leaders look at the capital already invested in their IT infrastructures, and can’t imagine how they could let it go.

In reality, it’s not an either/or proposition. A business does not have to walk away from existing IT systems to be able to take advantage of digital transformation. New components can be added to existing systems gradually as requirements change.

For example, the benefits of cloud platforms can be embraced gradually while being integrated with on-premises systems. As a result, capital investments already made are not lost, but continue to provide the basis for a more flexible ongoing infrastructure.

Some leaders might also have to overcome misconceptions around security. Accustomed to ring-fencing core applications and data, they now need to become comfortable that there are no longer any corporate network boundaries.

What digital transformation means for the IT department of the future
Once embarked on a digital transformation strategy, attention shifts to the IT department and how it is going to achieve the required business objectives.

For IT teams, the obvious start point is an existing systems audit. This identifies those systems which could be improved upon immediately, and which components can be changed later in the process – or indeed, left well alone.

For example, many organisations have found significant early value in shifting their corporate email systems to hosted platforms. As well as saving on hardware costs and data centre space, this frees IT teams from day-to-day management, allowing them to focus on more value-adding activities.

With the email system migrated, teams might consider shifting CRM and workflow applications to the cloud. Because these shifts are done as a gradual process, senior management can be confident there is a strong business case for each step before it occurs.

When it comes to deploying new applications, a cloud-first policy should be put in place. Hosted options for each new application should be considered before any further investments are made in on-premises infrastructure. Over time, this will help improve the flexibility of the business and ensure it is ready to change as market conditions evolve.

Eating the elephant (a bite at a time)
Undertaking a digital transformation strategy can be daunting, but when looked at as a series of discrete steps, the process becomes manageable.

Senior management needs to be clear on the objectives for the strategy and ensure these are communicated to staff at all levels. Their staff need to understand why changes are being made and what this will mean for them.

Such communication will also make it less likely that individual teams and departments will try to circumvent the IT department and establish their own ‘shadow IT’ initiatives. These often take the form of unauthorised use of SaaS applications and cloud-based storage services. If teams know their needs are being addressed as part of a larger program, they are less likely to implement their own cloud tools.

Finally, management needs to understand that a digital transformation strategy is not a ‘set-and-forget’ process. Once started, the strategy needs to be continually adjusted to ensure it matches the evolving needs of the business.

By understanding that transformation is real, and putting in place a comprehensive plan to embrace it, businesses can ensure they are best placed to continue to grow in a rapidly evolving marketplace.


Rajesh Ganesan is Director of Product Management, ManageEngine

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