Digitization strategies can no longer be considered exclusively in the technical microcosm. In the last three years, in particular, global influencing factors have shown that companies must focus more on the big picture to remain able to act.
When world events take unpredictable turns in the form of armed conflicts, exploding energy costs, supply chain bottlenecks, pandemics, and environmental disasters, the call for holistic resilience becomes louder.
How does a company have to position itself to react agilely to such external factors, and what does that mean for digitization strategies? Four factors are currently driving digital discussions.
Greater Agility For Businesses
IT is challenged to provide greater agility to business operations. Once again, this proves that IT today does much more than just keep the technical infrastructure running. In the course of digitization strategies, the CIO is increasingly taking place in the discussion group at the management level because this is where the system must be set for flexible and, at the same time, resilient operation of all digital architectures.
Essentially, this involves restructuring information (IT) and operations technology (OT) in the cloud as a basis for greater agility and, thus, the fastest possible ability to react to external influences. It is essential to contribute to implementing business goals and continuously evaluate business operations’ dependencies.
As a first step, all business processes must be questioned and reassessed if necessary. This includes intelligent workplace models at the employee level and access paths to applications and data in the cloud, the digitization of production processes, the mapping of external partnerships, and the provision of IT in general. Because when cloud-first infrastructures are introduced as a basis for more agility, a revolutionary change management process is required that influences the day-to-day work processes of the IT team. The cloud can replace conventional hardware-focused infrastructures and thus build more agile IT ecosystems in the long term.
The existing network landscape, the connectivity, the application level, and, above all, IT security must be included in such a holistic approach. For a long time, when companies thought about a transformation, they only had the image in mind of relocating their applications to multi-cloud environments or digitizing their production facilities. Even if the cloud initially triggered these change processes, more far-reaching changes are now required for strategic digitization. The provision of applications and access to workloads has to be redesigned, as well as the classic network architectures.
Digitization and hybrid working are driving the loss of importance of a classic hub & spoke network. The network around the data center is no longer critical if applications are kept on the Internet and users, devices, and applications themselves access data from anywhere. It also no longer matters where, for example, the user is located and through which channel his data flows as long as seamless and secure access to applications is ensured. Accordingly, the basis for more agility is network-agnostic connectivity. Therefore, for many companies, the introduction of a Zero Trust architecture is inevitable to be able to master digital transformation.
Simplification Reduces Costs
Therefore, the CIO’s new task is to achieve added business value by creating more flexible infrastructures while also paying attention to the digitization of processes. It is, therefore, necessary to redesign existing infrastructures as a basis for the transformation. Infrastructure simplification can be done by transforming a hardware-centric infrastructure in favor of greater agility through cloud-first environments. In addition, it is about optimizing processes and the time to value.
An example is logistics: The opening and closing of warehouses are significant in contract logistics. In this scenario, time means money. Building a warehouse takes time. However, the provision of the IT infrastructure for connectivity must also be considered a time waster before a warehouse can go live. IT can help with process optimization with innovative methods. Regardless of the network infrastructure, it is essential, for example, to enable employees and devices to access data via 4G and 5G and to save time and money through short distances and direct connectivity.
In general, it should be noted that digitization is also a significant factor in the sustainability efforts of companies. The companies control how energy consumption is reflected because they can influence the energy efficiency of digitization measures. As a first step, the companies cannot avoid their energy balance. The IT is the control center for collecting the data for the emissions balance. Based on the recorded footprint, measures to reduce energy consumption can be initiated.
For example, companies should question whether the infrastructure provided is actually required in its entirety or whether it can be partially restricted. The cloud gives companies the feeling of having storage capacity and computing power in infinite measure. However, it would help if you were careful not to waste this resource. The same hygiene measures apply to data storage and collection.
Which data is required or can even be deleted? The hidden energy consumption caused by complex paths from application to processing must also be considered. Companies should consider their ecological footprint and compare the existing infrastructure when selecting their solution providers. They will usually conclude that the cloud can also demonstrate its advantages in terms of energy efficiency. It is all the more important to realize that IT must play a key role in achieving the overriding sustainability goals by digitizing processes.
Risk Assessment And Risk Control
Seamless monitoring of all data streams from digitization is essential for risk assessment of business operations. But this holistic view is often missing when workloads and OT environments are held in silos that are not monitored by a unified security authority.
A company must be aware of its attack surfaces, which can arise from redundant domains, hardware, and workloads, which are openly accessible via the Internet. Gateways for attackers occur in a variety of ways. On the one hand, undiscovered configuration deficiencies in the application development process can already expose critical data, or incorrect access rights can create vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit.
The convergence that results from the growing together of IT and OT infrastructures in the course of digitization should not be ignored. Here, IT security can contribute its knowledge of securing IT environments in digitized production environments and their data streams. Security based on a Zero Trust approach is becoming the cornerstone of transforming into a digital ecosystem. This enables the IT department to monitor all data flows and control access permissions to all IT and OT environments. Zero trust is now seen as the engine of digitization and simultaneously serves to create resilient infrastructures.
Maintain Employee Productivity
In the course of digitization, productivity can become a decisive competitive factor. Maintaining productivity goes hand in hand with having access to all the systems and applications you need, regardless of where you’re accessing them.
When the organization is globally distributed and operating in hybrid environments, it is essential to know the users, workloads, and devices, what services and applications they consume, and where the data they need resides. Automating the control of data flows can improve speed, accuracy, and efficiency.
The data is often available in different systems that are hardly integrated, or in the worst case; they have to be analyzed manually. This slows down business decisions and creates time and effort that companies have to deal with. Visibility into the data streams can provide the basis for optimization potential. It is, therefore, worth using consoles to automatically monitor the flow of data so that there is always connectivity between users, data, and applications, but compliance requirements are also met.
A platform approach, for example, enables high-performance access for users to applications and systems for online video conferences from the home office. Artificial intelligence (AI) is already being used here today to identify connectivity problems in good time before they can lead to a negative user experience with a disconnection. Automated processes replace the manual processing of troubleshooting in the helpdesk. Malfunctions are automatically detected and rectified using various parameters. Tools for monitoring the digital user experience identify problem cases in the user experience and become central in hybrid work environments.
Standstill Is The Enemy Of Digitization
Companies still too often approach IT tasks with a tactical mindset. Strategic digitization based on the four factors described requires foresight and cooperation at different department levels, which must come from the company management.
To herald a holistic digitization that leads to process optimization and automation, many areas of the company, such as IT, security, compliance, operations, or administration, must be included in the planning phase. This leads to a complete view of the value of digitization and the contribution it can make to business operations. So instead of closing their eyes to changes at the moment, companies should use the troubled times to re-evaluate their IT infrastructure and gradually initiate change processes. Since Rome was not built in a day either, a realignment of the security infrastructure based on Zero Trust can be the starting point to initiate the transformation and support the mandate of the CIO.