We’ve all heard, read and talked about what Gartner refers to as the 'digitalization' of business, where enterprises seek to adapt not just their IT, but business models and processes to suit a world increasingly doing business online. It's been a hot topic for some time and is gaining even greater traction as CEOs and CIOs alike wake up to the benefits of this kind of digital transformation.
Achieving this transformation, however, is far from simple or straightforward, and a degree of caution is called for if businesses are to avoid being pulled in different directions by competing demands from within. In particular, given that lines of business units are empowered to source, develop and manage IT solutions themselves, rather than continue with the age old approach of relying on a central IT department to do it all for them.
Commonly referred to as the democratization of IT, this delegation of responsibility is growing in popularity as a means of building more agile applications tailored specifically to the needs of those working at the edge of the business. The dilemma, however, is that those applications still need to access and work with core infrastructure systems, subject to a completely different development mindset and compliance agenda and, in most cases, completely off limits to those outside the core IT team.
Add to that the fact that, unfettered by the rules and prejudices of the past, line of business developers are highly likely to turn to third parties and public cloud services as an expedient way of achieving their goals, and you have the recipe for an almost perfect storm. A storm made up of applications which may well deliver in the short term, but which exist in their own self-contained silos, effectively cut off from both core business systems and other edge developments. More alarming still, those siloed applications that are subject to completely different compliance and management regimes.
Tackling this perfect storm before it pulls the business apart calls first and foremost for a coherent and comprehensive strategy that addresses the different IT demands of both the core and the edge of the business. And that calls for a real sea change in the way IT strategy has been developed up until now.
It also calls for a good deal more transparency and access to core systems. Typically, through managed APIs that enable developers at the edge to build applications that can work and share information with core systems (and other edge applications) without loss of control or exposing those systems to unacceptable security risks.
Beyond that, digital transformation requires the building of an infrastructure able to orchestrate and automate processes across the organisation, regardless of whether the component applications are running in the corporate datacenter, on branch servers, a private cloud or public cloud services. In short, IT in all its guises needs to be joined up, shared and made subject to the same compliance and management agenda.
The good news is that products and technologies to progress digital transformation are appearing thick and fast. The bad news is that most address only specific parts of the problem. Even where vendors claim to offer more comprehensive solutions, few can match the scope of those from companies like TIBCO, who seem to have seen the storm coming from a long way off and developed more comprehensive software accordingly.
Some companies have been working in the area since day one, allowing them to develop a unique, comprehensive and highly integrated set of technologies, products and services designed expressly to empower businesses to address the competing IT demands of both the core and the edge of the business. They enable their clients to formulate and implement an IT strategy that not only acknowledges, but reconciles those demands and which can be implemented across multiple platforms, to deliver the agility needed at the edge together with the stability and control required by the core and build a fully 'joined-up' digital business. Whether you choose to employ one of these companies or manage your digital transformation in-house, failing to properly optimize the transition could have fatal consequences.