This digital trend is not isolated to the UK, it is a global one; however, the UK is already ahead of the curve, particularly compared to other European countries.
To put that into context, in 2015 the government invested £2.6 billion in an industry that grows 32% faster than the rest of the economy, creates jobs more quickly and generates £123 billion in revenues.
In fact, if businesses in this sector could reach their full potential, research suggests they can contribute a further £92 billion to the wider economy. But, just what is needed to help and support this thriving sector, as well as the businesses within it and on the peripheries in trying to capitalize on the benefits that it can bring?
Taking a step back, the basis of a good digital economy is having the right culture — whether that is infrastructure, platforms, software, security or processes — in place to enable it.
More than that, digital technologies are changing the customer experience we deliver and evolve, as well as shaping the markets businesses operate in and associated customer expectations.
The road to digital transformation
This ties into the idea of digital transformation or digitalisation — the adoption and integrated development of these digital technologies to support growth and evolve customer experiences and outcomes.
Part of this process includes identifying and deploying the right approach and mindset to support the business and its objectives. Digital transformation is as much about enabling new ideas and new ways of thinking as it is challenging the existing processes and mindsets.
Change is underpinned by process, technology and above all people. The continued success of digital transformation is found through nurturing change to this dynamic combination in order to facilitate acceptance, adoption and acceleration.
According to Gartner, digitalization is becoming more of a focus for organisations — with forecasts suggesting in the next five years digital revenues will grow from 16% to 37%.
Digital transformation is now widely embedded as part of organisational strategy that typically involves significant changes to IT and the business overall. These types of projects can be driven by the need to enhance the customer experience, create and deliver better products and services, and accelerate innovation.
There is no denying the imperative for change or the appetite for transformation, but how do we measure the effectiveness of companies in digital transformation? And how are these businesses and their staff dealing with the challenges of enabling and removing legacy models?
Increasingly, hybrid solutions, and in particular, hybrid cloud is seen not only as an aspirational technology to adopt in order to drive the organisation forward, but integral to enabling and accelerating transformational processes.
Hybrid cloud as an enabler
While there is no single all-encompassing definition for hybrid cloud, in a nutshell it is an environment that combines and integrates on-premise, private cloud and public cloud services.
It combines the best of all worlds because clouds or the consumption of platforms and outcomes may be packaged in many different forms. What is right for your business at that point in time will change but it should not default to one form of consumption.
Many customers maintain on-site or private cloud elements to realise the most effective integration between systems for performance, security, compliance, proximity to support or availability of the most cost effective/optimal resources, in geography, over the intended lifecycle.
The benefits of hybrid outcomes include flexibility, end-to-end outcome management and cost-effectiveness over the lifecycle of service activation. Many cloud platforms offer access to a wider array of analytical and security services at substantially larger scale than any private or on-premise solution can deliver in comparison.
Initially one of the main barriers to widespread cloud adoption was related to security concerns or challenges. The globalisation and digitisation of services has served to increase the exposure to security vulnerabilities, data compromise and associated business risks.
Many organisations now actively seek protection and mitigation of these risks from cloud services, which are continually evolving to address the evolution of the threats.
Legislation in many areas is also adapting and offering updated guidance on the integration and use of public and hybrid cloud services such as financial services or insurance firms, or businesses reliant on proprietary applications where hybrid outcomes may provide the optimal solution in terms of total cost of ownership in lifecycle.
Companies can more easily manage and control client data, software services or cloud environments within subscription models with lower or no commitments. There, of course, is a premium to pay for such flexibility, but the wider benefits to the business may be even greater such as reducing time to market for product development and capitalising on emerging innovation and continual integration within business processes.
In essence, through automation, orchestration and access to immediate platforms and applications, increased scalability and optimisation of the existing IT estate becomes possible, providing it can also be integrated and ultimately, where appropriate and optimal, sunset.
There is no doubt hybrid outcomes can make an organisation more flexible, more agile, more cost-effective, and by extension better positioned to transform successfully. The true measure must, however, include and incorporate the elements which seeks to quantify the total cost of ownership to understand what is optimal for any business and to reduce or supersede those costs as the outcome evolves. As cloud evolves, this ultimately becomes easier.
Hybrid, the CSP and the CIO
As the digital leaders of organisations, CIOs typically have challenges to overcome — talent management, operational effectiveness, technology optimisation and supporting the company’s cultural transformation . Increasingly CIOs are embedding hybrid outcomes to assist them in successful change.
The most effective transformations integrate, automate and orchestrate platforms and outcomes, which enable businesses to more seamlessly transition systems and applications through development cycles faster and between platforms with lower risk and change timelines.
Understanding and managing the cost of ownership whilst enabling an increasing array of innovation, functionality and capability has never been so important such that organisation truly optimise and realise the highest value from their investments.
Nurturing the cultural transformation and organisational talent is particularly challenging when the rate of change is growing ever larger and the demands on organisational resources are stretched ever further.
In addition, because the hybrid outcomes continue to make use of different platform models, on-premise, public cloud and private cloud, organisations can leverage their existing technology investment, gradually phasing out (if optimal) on-site hardware but moving workloads between different models.
The right cloud partner can also manage other cloud vendors, address the issues of interoperability, end-to-end outcome management and suggest the best way to control all cloud resources — more often than not through a company-developed management platform.
Hybrid cloud vendors also tend to have the infrastructure, networks, connectivity and data centre sites in place to provide resilience, complete availability, and additional cloud services, like disaster recovery, backup and overall business continuity.
As the digital transformation evolves, there will be less focus on the infrastructure elements and the pivot will become application centric. How we enrich the customer experience, realise new levels of innovation and manage the transition from our customers and employees remains key to our success.
The rate of change within the digital economy and the technologies driving it will only accelerate. For organisations seeking to undergo digital transformation, it’s important that CIOs look at both new technologies to adopt, as well as those supporting platforms, such as hybrid outcomes, that can drive, enable and support continuous change.
The role of the right service provider and partner should also not be overlooked, as the skills and technical expertise they can offer are just additional tools that will help organisations reach their transformation goals.