Those of us involved in the data center space tend to assign importance to issues and trends that affect tactical, day to day operations like construction, HVAC, peering and others. While these are all relevant areas that directly impact service delivery and client satisfaction, we tend to lose sight of the much bigger picture: what drives clients to make decisions in their businesses? In order to be truly client centric, we need to understand how customers must evolve to stay relevant in their markets and attract top talent, and what truly moves the needle for their businesses. We need to walk the walk and take leadership roles in advising our customers on how infrastructure can be an innovation enabler. So, what is a topic we increasingly hear that is keeping our clients up at night? Digital Transformation.
Yes, digital transformation is the new ubiquitous term (move over cloud) but it does represent a question that the C-suite grapples with: how to innovate in their organizations to take advantage of the digital workplace.
Let’s back up and talk about the elements of digital transformation. Core themes focus on transitioning/transforming current business processes, technology and culture to unlock value from emerging digital growth sectors. Some organizations think it’s purely a technology play, some think it is all about redefinition of process, some think it is about using data. All those elements are correct, but they are missing a unifying element: improving the customer experience. Digital transformation has one fundamental mandate—it must be aligned to improve technology, process and culture to support superior customer experience. I know it sounds cliché, but the customer needs to be the center of the universe in digital transformation. The bonus of a strategy focused on customer centricity is that organizations will become more agile, collaborative and aligned with common goals. When I envision an actual workflow, here is what I envision:
The sequence of events to me is not important; it’s the degree to which entire organizations buy into the transformation. This process also can’t be accomplished without some core partners, solutions and trusted advisors.
One great opportunity to become more digitally literate is to leverage the best of new technology. Many high growth industries, such as banking, insurance and healthcare, will need to invest in customer experience technologies to retain and grow their customer bases. With this, two areas come to mind: cloud and data center colocation. Digital transformation will require enterprises to both modernize and deploy new architectures and applications. This is not the best news for the server huggers out there- you know who you are. The time to divest your organization of data center facilities is probably overdue. Hybrid IT and cloud will demand that workloads and applications operate where they are needed; at the core, edge or customer premise. This is how I view the importance of cloud and colocation as foundational elements in digital transformation:
- Cloud services—The entire spectrum, from public, private to community cloud services will all play a role. Private cloud infrastructure will be the preferred platform for the legacy and back-end applications that will not be modernized or that just need guaranteed resources (SAP HANA, etc.). Public cloud services will be the go-to platform for the development and deployment of customer facing and user experience dependent interfaces.
- Colocation services—Colocation will play a dual role. The first of which is private cloud infrastructure to support configurations that require higher degrees of guaranteed, dedicated resources. Legacy platforms, those with strong compliance and privacy requirements and workloads that benefit from proximity to several networks (IoT sensors, streaming, etc.) all will benefit from colocation. The other role is to support analytics based architectures. Digital transformation requires the collection, ingestion and analysis of massive amounts of data; colocation datacenters offer the best balance between scale, availability and control. Network-dense colocation providers with cloud on-ramps offer an attractive platform to support the future of digital transformation by providing the option to link dedicated backup to cloud-based services within the same data center.
Digital transformation will no doubt change the way most organizations operate and push many of us way out of our comfort zone. There will be failed starts and projects that don’t yield results; that’s to be expected. Just remember to grab a partner or two to help advise you in the process. Your customer will thank you for it!