Digital transformation: the intersection of hype and performance

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In today’s digital economy, IT performance is more critical than ever. Time and cost savings stemming from high performance—and losses associated with performance hiccups—can have a serious impact on a business's bottom line. In fact, Amazon® has calculated that a page load slowdown of just one second could cost its business $1.6 billion in sales each year. The average small business can expect to lose $100,000 in IT downtime every year. 

While today’s industry hype cycle focuses on technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and blockchain, in many cases more traditional solutions – and more basic problems – are the most urgent priorities for IT management. The C-suite considers AI, ML, and deep learning to be fundamental elements of digital transformation, but what does the IT community say? Will these new technologies actually enable IT to reach optimal performance faster? Recent research from SolarWinds explores IT professionals’ view about what is happening in their technology worlds. 

Cloud power-up 

Cloud computing and hybrid IT will remain IT professionals’ top priority for the next five years as these elements meet today’s business needs while serving as the foundation for trends like machine learning and AI. In fact, 95 percent IT professionals surveyed indicated that hybrid IT and cloud is one of the top five most important technologies in their organisation’s technology strategy today. 66 percent listed it as their number one. Cloud also outranked all other technologies as the one that’s central to digital transformation initiatives over the next three to five years.  

As a result, IT professionals are beginning to consume different service delivery models – like moving from Microsoft® Exchange™ Servers to Office 365®– and migrate more of their mission-critical applications to the cloud.  

In parallel with these changes, there must be increased observability – leveraging combined metrics, logs, and application traces for controllability – built into an organisation’s cloud monitoring strategy. This degree of monitoring with discipline must carry forward the same level of granularity and source of truth that has existed in on-premises environments for decades. The key part of this process is establishing a baseline of observability within their hybrid IT environments across the entirety of their cloud-based applications.   

Concentrate on containers 

At the same time, IT professionals are prioritising internal investments in containers as a proven solution to the challenges of cloud computing and hybrid IT, and a key enabler of innovation. Forty-nine percent view it as the most important technology priority today. And so they should. Delivering organisational value is a constant goal meaning that IT professionals should continue to prioritise container deployment, both from an investment and skills-development perspective.

The first step here? Find out if the IT organisation is already working with the technology. If it is, get to know the people involved and engage with them. If the IT organisation is not working with containers, IT professionals can simply go to Docker® and grab Docker CE for Mac® or Windows® for laptop-based experiments, learn from the tutorials provided by Kubernetes® (especially Minikube), or consume a platform like Amazon ECS. There are also many communities like GitHub® that allows container experts to freely share their knowledge. Once IT professionals learn how containers work, they should start learning about container automation and orchestration to enable a bridge into scaling the integration and delivery of distributed apps and cloud deployments, all while opening a path to greater understanding of how those workloads are managed. 

Bridge the leadership gap 

This year’s report also suggests a dissonance between the views of IT professionals and their senior managers on priorities for IT investment over the next three to five years. Enterprises see AI and ML (81 percent) and process automation and robotics (82 per cent) as important C-suite directives toward operations strategy—higher than any priority other than cost reduction. On the other hand, for IT professionals ranking the technologies needed for an organisation’s digital transformation over the next three to five years, AI did not make the top five.    

There will continue to be a great deal of excitement around ML and AI into the foreseeable future. As we saw with cloud, executives are eager to implement the technology, which promises the hyped benefits of disruptive innovation. They want to activate a new technology quickly without the experience to understanding current capabilities, technical complexities, or deployment challenges. The best course of action for IT professionals is to become educators: identify ways to discuss the basics and then the specific cost-benefit analysis of how the technology will benefit the business and what it means for service integration and service delivery.   

Embrace resiliency and reliability as performance metrics 

To achieve digital transformation success, it’s imperative that IT professionals begin to embrace resiliency and reliability of their environments as critical performance metrics. At the moment, 56 percent of IT professionals surveyed indicated that hybrid IT and cloud presents the greatest challenges when it comes to implementation, roll-out and day-to-day performance. Consequently, as many as 59 percent of all IT professionals think that their IT environments are not operating at optimal levels.

Resiliency and reliability underscore the business value that IT professionals can bring to fruition for their organisations. They also represent measures of how well a distributed application was integrated and delivered; and because they also represent overall performance, these metrics translate into dollar values. With the stakes so high, the ability to ensure the end user’s digital experience is essential: IT should look to leverage tools that deliver full-stack observability into the logs, metrics, and tracing data that underpin reliability and resiliency metrics and ultimately optimise environments. 

The path to digital transformation is paved in the cloud 

It’s natural for business leaders to be eager about implementing new technologies that promise to meet the growing demands of their organisations and set them on the path to digital transformation. But the IT professional is ultimately responsible for keeping businesses on a practical track when it comes to implementing technology. 2018 will be about prioritising investments in technologies that will deliver business value well beyond IT.   

Kong Yang, Head Geek™ at SolarWinds 

Image Credit: Wichy / Shutterstock