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Expanding your IT’s maturity for strategic growth in 2022

communication technology
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation and the need for IT departments to adapt to the working from home environment. While in recent months there has been a call from large corporates for the return of their staff to the office, many people have continued to work from their home offices. Some organizations have realized the benefits of a remote working culture, such as the ability to scale back on expensive offices, while others are adopting a hybrid approach that allows people to commute occasionally to the office and work from home most of the time.

Infor-Tech Research Group says, “If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that organizations need their IT departments to survive and thrive in today’s digital economy. This has now paved the way for IT leaders like yourself to expand on your department’s maturity level and move out of a supportive role toward a more strategic role, enabling growth within your organization. The challenge then becomes, how do you move up the maturity ladder?”

The research group adds, citing McKinsey: “Between April and September 2021, 15 million US workers quit their jobs, setting a record pace. Employees seek a renewed sense of purpose in their work, and many won’t accept mandates to go back to the office.” 

This issue is now creating the need for distributed collaboration spaces and optimized hybrid meetings. To overcome these challenges, companies such as Standard Charter are looking for a compromise “between working from home and making the commute all the way to the central office. The hub-and-spoke model gives employees the opportunity to work near home and looks to be part of the hybrid operating model mix for many companies,” says Info-Tech’s ‘2020 Tech Trends’ report.

The maturity ladder

Arguably, to move up the maturity ladder, organizations embracing the accelerated march towards ever more digital transformation need reliable wide area networks to and from their data centers, and between them and their homeworking employees. 

The trouble is that Info-Tech’s study finds that 48 percent of organizations rate their IT departments at a low level of maturity. In fact, despite the need to drive growth, only 50 percent of IT practitioners described their maturity as being at a ‘transform’ stage. A significant number of them added that they are struggling. However, Info-Tech says that most IT departments fall within the optimize and support levels of maturity. 

Info-Tech explains: “CIOs at the “optimize” level can play a role in digital transformation by improving back-office processes, but should aim for a higher mandate. CIOs achieving at the “expand” level can help directly improve revenues by improving customer-facing products and services; and those at the “transform” level can help fundamentally change the business to create revenue in new ways. CIOs can climb the maturity ladder by enabling new digital capabilities.” 

According to Gartner, the strategic trends for 2022 will be focused on: Data Fabric, Cybersecurity Mesh, Privacy-Enhancing Computation, Cloud-Native Platforms, Composable Applications, Decision Intelligence, Hyper-automation, AI Engineering, Distributed Enterprises, Total Experience, Autonomic Systems and Generative AI. The question is about what’s actually new. All of these trends will be reliant on having efficient, secure networks. Another common factor is that new names are created quite often year after year for old technologies that need a marketing boost to create sales growth. 

Maturity may be defined by how well organizations are implementing artificial intelligence (AI) and, during 2022, there will be a steady increase in AI and machine learning (ML) pilots. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are increasingly seen as the glue for AI and ML projects.

Info-Tech explains: “In the past 18 months, API adoption has exploded and, even industries previously considered as digital laggards, are now integrating them to reinvent back-office processes. Technology platforms specializing in API management are attracting record-breaking investment. And sophisticated technology services, such as artificial intelligence, are being delivered by APIs.” 

However, despite Forbes reporting that $500,000 was invested in API companies in 2016, and the fact that this investment has grown – according to Info-Tech – to $2bn, optimism is cautious. Some industries are piloting AI and ML projects more than others. There is, nevertheless, recognition that these technologies will eventually impact their businesses in some way, shape or form.

Networks-as-a-Service (NaaS)

In terms of networks, Cisco comments: “The convergence of business needs, emerging technologies and changing IT operations expectations, is creating the perfect storm for the emergence of networks that are delivered and consumed using an as-a-service model.” It believes that the trends for 2022 will therefore require or lead organizations to extending security to a remote workforce; supporting the safe return to on-premises workspaces; facilitating multi-cloud for greater resilience; faster recovery with automated operations; and smarter insights with network analytics. 

Cisco says it conducted interviews with 20 IT leaders and received input from more than 1,500 IT professionals in 13 countries about their views on NaaS and how they see it aligning with or augmenting their networking strategies over the next two years. Interestingly, it found that the biggest technology challenges involved connectivity to multiple clouds (36 percent), securing the network, users and applications (34 percent). It also found that 75 percent of organizations either agree or strongly agree that NaaS will lead to the upskilling of IT professionals.

WAN Acceleration

A technology that is achieving increased recognition is WAN Acceleration, which can support all of the above technologies, as well as SD-WANs. It is unique in the way that it mitigates latency and packet loss while improving bandwidth utilization. WAN Acceleration uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, data parallelization and data flows are securely automated. Improving the performance of SD-WANs can outperform themselves with a WAN Acceleration overlay. Unlike WAN optimization, it enables encrypted data to be sent at speed. 

Christo Briedenhann, CEO of StratIT, explains that the critical success factors to data, data risk management and the data value chain involve the data being stringently protected, while adding value to the end product. organizations need to be able to generate value out of the data that’s both stored and captured. Out of date data may not add any value, and so it must be updated to make sure that it stays relevant, as well as able to create value. In certain industries, such as in e-commerce, data has to be updated in real-time to ensure that the big data analysis is accurate and makes the right predictions or offers to ensure that the right products are offered, or the right solutions are provided. 

David Trossell, CEO and CTO of Bridgeworks, explains why it’s one to watch during 2022: “[Data will remain as crucial as ever in 2022 – perhaps with the increased pace of digitalization, even more so, and with an increased dependency on multi-clouds, AI and machine learning, organizations could significantly benefit from a technology that doesn’t just optimize their WANs. They need to accelerate them for a range of purposes – including backing up their data to achieve regulatory compliance, more accurate big data analysis and for more performant collaboration over networks.” 

He argues that WAN acceleration should be part of the toolkit to expand IT’s maturity for strategic growth in 2022 because it doesn’t require organizations to replace their existing infrastructure. It can support the trends highlighted in this article, and it minimizes human involvement to the extent that it can allow IT staff to focus on other strategic projects. 

Without an efficient and reliable network, no maturity can essentially be achieved because the digital economy is increasingly dependent on network’s performing at high bandwidth utilization levels, with minimized latency and packet loss. It should therefore be considered as one of the technologies to watch in the New Year.

Graham A. Jarvis, freelance writer

Graham Jarvis
Graham is an experienced editor and journalist. He is the founder of Media-Insert Communications; the former editor of The Marketing Leaders, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Technology group’s e-magazine; and a former guest editor of BT Insightexec.com (which is now known as mycustomer.com and owned by SIFT Media).