Is Your Network Enabling Your Digital Transformation Initiatives?
IntroductionDigital transformation is a catchphrase that invokes feelings of both excitement and pressure. These emotions permeate throughout organizations- from the CEO, CIO, Directors of IT, and Line of Business Owners – ultimately upon the shoulders of security and networking. Everyone is under pressure to transform the business, serve customers, and be agile and competitive. The pressure is so high that global spending on the digital transformation of business practices, products, and organizations is forecasted to reach $2.8 trillion in 2025, more than double the amount allocated in 20201.
But what is digital transformation? It can mean different things to different people. Digital transformation initiatives will be unique to each organization. Irrespective, digital transformation is the business imperative to adopt digital technology, improve efficiencies, control costs, increase value, and propel innovation – it is about the business.
In today’s business climate, achieving digital transformation is difficult. Business leaders must achieve profitability amid spiraling costs. Performance analysis of digital transformation programs suggests that 87% fail to meet expectations2. This failure is due to reasons including underestimating efforts, technology choices, and implementing technology on dated or broken systems3.
What Does the Network Have to Do with Digital Transformation?
Everything. Digital Transformation is about achieving business goals with technology. But is your current network ready to support those business challenges? The network supports productivity, so it should be always-on at the highest performance levels. As demands on the network increase, security policies and adherence to compliance mandates must scale. As network demands change, so should network expenditures. This was increasingly evident during the pandemic. In today’s post-Covid era, with the prevalence of the hybrid workforce, enterprises see value in moving to a consumption model. Moving network expenses to a pay-for use model, in line with other investments, creates the budget controls organizations need today. When the network performs as it should, IT staff can shift to innovating and supporting larger digital transformation goals.
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Today’s Network Infrastructure Challenges
Today’s Network Infrastructure Challenges Network engineers have no choice but to focus on getting the most out of existing network infrastructure. They must be creative and develop temporary fixes to get by. By spending so much time trying to maintain the existing infrastructure at acceptable levels, it’s no wonder digital transformation initiatives fail to meet expectations. A few reasons holding back the realization of digital transformation goals include:
Complexity: Legacy networks have technology dating back 35 years requiring multiple certifications to administer and configure. They need complex architecture protocols and manual workarounds. As a result, yesterday’s network infrastructure has been augmented over the years, requiring more resources to “band-aid” it. As infrastructure products are added, it is imperative to architect and configure the components for optimal network performance.
There have been attempts to simplify this network complexity through cloud management and AI systems. These attempts have certainly simplified network management but not eliminated network complexity. Organizations are attempting to automate their network environments with APIs. This do-it-yourself (DIY) approach leaves IT staff the task of writing to the APIs, testing, and maintaining those interfaces across multiple vendors. Optimizing on top of legacy systems increases both complexity and costs while putting the burden on IT teams without guarantees of network performance.
Security: To minimize cybersecurity threats it is ideal to abandon aging or obsolete network principles. Organizations should adopt the most forward-looking network posture that does not depend on human configuration. Adopting this posture is the best way to reduce security threats caused by human error amid complexity. This stance will enable organizations to accomplish digital transformation objectives, while benefiting from nextgeneration hardware and software, with capabilities to scale security and capacity as the organization demands.
Costs: The cost of driving business on legacy networks is high. Being aware of these costs will help organizations realize savings and divert funds to support digital transformation initiatives. The cost of operating on legacy systems includes both obvious and hidden costs. Purchasing gear to extend or patch existing infrastructure is an obvious cost. These purchases drag vendor or partner support contracts, not to mention professional services engagements.
The hidden costs are likely to be overlooked. Hidden costs include the unaccounted time associated with troubleshooting non-network issues. Organizations fail to capture hours spent by IT teams for network monitoring, life cycle management, security patching, change management, device and user management. Inefficiencies associated with network downtime affect employee productivity and digital transformation achievement. It would be costeffective to abandon dated infrastructure and start with a modern approach.
Talent: Finding and hiring experienced network staff in a shrinking talent pool of network engineers takes time and resources. Organizations have invested heavily in training and certifications for staff over the years. With the explosion of digital technologies, these employees struggle to manage their regular jobs, while finding time to upskill and augment their skills to stay relevant and competitive. The employment of network architects is projected to grow 5 percent from 2020 to 20304. On top of that, the application layer attracts recent college graduates for whom network infrastructure is seemingly passé.
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The Network: Enabling Digital TransformationThe proliferation and adoption of cloud is changing how organizations need to think about innovation. Organizations need to pivot away from traditional, capital- and labor-intensive networks, and instead focus on time-to-market and business value. Current networks are lagging and will hold back achieving digital transformation initiatives.
This realization has pivoted organizations to adopt Network-as-a-Service (NaaS). NaaS has varying definitions, but the concept of paying a subscription for network connectivity, and shifting CAPEX to OPEX, gives better control of total cost of ownership. NaaS enables organizations to leverage infrastructure that is better suited for cloud workloads, device proliferation, and remote work. NaaS also helps plan for better network resilience and agility. IDC defines NaaS as integrated hardware, software, licenses, and support delivered in a flexible consumption or subscription-based offer5. True NaaS will mean the provider will carry the burden of owning, installing, configuring, operating and guaranteeing service on a consumption basis.
Modern Networks Should Enable Digital TransformationThe modern network should enable and support digital transformation. It should be proactive and able to predict and resolve issues before users are aware. The network should be always-on, without interruption to customers and employees. Enterprises should expect a highly secure network, with the latest security measures built-in so as the organization scales, security extends with it.
The network is a background that should always be on so that IT staff can focus on innovation. Digital transformation should take the forefront while the network serves as the background to enable it.
2 PwC Pulse Survey. Executive views on business in 2022.
3 Covid-19 Has Accelerated Digital Transformation, but May Have Made it Harder Not Easier, MIS Quarterly Executive. Volume 19, 2020, Issue 3.
4 Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Job Outlook 2020-2030.
5 “Network as a Service Enables Flexible Consumption of Secure and Agile Enterprise Networks”, IDC. January 2021.
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