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Explorers, Transformers and Innovators – digital transformation types

February 20, 2019

Smita Dave   

Director, Product Marketing, Business Collaboration and Network Services

While ‘going with the flow’ can often make for some truly memorable travel experiences, thoughtful advance planning can take you a long way too.

Apply the journey metaphor to digital transformation and planning becomes far more critical than simply a ‘nice to do’. In fact, it’s a vital stage of the process if you’re intending not only to identify the destinations you’d like to pass en route but also create a timeline for costing, delivering and measuring success along the way.

The business rationale for embracing a digital future is compelling. Harvard Business School research – as highlighted by CIO’s Clint Boulton for example – suggests that leading digital companies generate better gross margins, better earnings and better net income than organisations in the bottom quartile of digital adopters. Leaders post a three-year average gross margin of 55 percent, compared to just 37 percent for those more reluctant to dip a toe in the fast-rising waters of the digital tide. From Disney and Porsche to the New York Times and Rockwell Automation, the list of digital success stories is fast growing.

Change sometimes, though, is easier said than done. The 2018 KPMG Harvey Nash CIO survey shows that 78 percent of nearly 4,000 CIOs worldwide say their digital strategy is moderately effective or worse. Establishing a digital starting point to move forward has never been more critical.

Finding your digital bearings

Many businesses’ ambition is to be cloud-first and enable their employees to work as effectively on-the-go on their smartphone as on their computer in the office. This trend means that the enterprise network has evolved into a business environment that must seamlessly link employees, customers, partners, apps and data across cities, states and countries.

Yet, as ambitious brands increasingly place their customers at the heart of everything they do, many are discovering the limitations of the traditional WAN. That’s because it’s simply not up to the job of delivering the performance, dependability, security and cloud readiness that customer-obsessed businesses need. In his recent article, Why Network Transformation Is Foundational for Digital Transformation, Zeus Kerravala talks about how the network has a direct impact on the success and failure of digital initiatives. Take the example of a healthcare conglomerate implementing video as a service to facilitate telemedicine. A poorly designed network can cause transmission errors, making it difficult for the patient and doctor to communicate with each other. Add into the equation the wide choice of new tools out there and it’s not surprisingly a bewildering picture.

Explorers, Transformers, Innovators

More and more businesses are looking to transform how they operate and serve their customers by re-imagining their network. While there are major differences between businesses’ approaches to network-enabled digital transformation, there are certain commonalities too.

There are Explorers who have established a higher level of maturity in one or two network transformation areas but are in the process of aligning strategy with digitisation initiatives. Nissan started internally with a move to a “digital workplace” and is in the process of adding new technologies like chatbots and machine learning that can be used for customer conversations and later, sales. Transformers are already invested in network transformation but in a fragmented way that restricts the enterprise from exploiting the full benefits of hybrid infrastructure, as they may be struggling to move to the cloud or protecting their investments. For Innovators, network transformation and digitisation strategies are already fully aligned. It also signifies that the hybrid WAN is agile enough to respond to fast-changing business needs, as well as improve automation and predictive analytics programmes to support a highly programmable network. Coats Group went head-on to move from the “industrial age to the digital age” with a cloud-based business model that uses a data lake, IoT, and predictive tools for manufacturing costs, sales, and inventory.

The epicentre of customer focused business in a digital world translates to robust and secure connectivity. Yet, the reality is that one of the key inhibitors to the transformation to which so many enterprises now aspire is the enterprise network. Only by re-imagining the WAN can businesses create seamless technology-enabled customer experiences and ensure the success of their digital transformation.

To find out whether your business is an Explorer, a Transformer or an Innovator, check out our WAN Maturity Model.