The term digital transformation is really popular in tech circles these days. I’ve used it myself over the past year or so, and I definitely think that the concept is sound. I have noticed though, that when I talk to businesses about it, they seem less than excited with the term. Not that most businesses don’t recognize that things are changing and that technology is at the core of much that is creating disruption for them. I think you’d have to live under a rock to believe that business as usual is well, “usual”. Still most businesses have used digital technology for decades, if they were around back in the dark ages anyway. I’m starting to think that perhaps the better way to frame this discussion is as business modernization in the post-industrial enterprise. Tech is at the core of those changes of course, but it’s far from the change of simply implementing some new software / hardware, automating some processes and learning a new workflow. The changes are much more fundamental and alter the way work gets done, the type of work that is done, and the way people interact. Data becomes a core part of every operation.
From my perspective business modernization ties together changes to data, technology, people and process across six major areas. These areas are:
- Cloud Platforms/Microservices / Post Application Era
- Customer Experience (CX)
- Business Networks
- Moving to the cloud has become a “when” discussion not an “if” discussion for almost all businesses. Not that everything will move immediately of course, business tech will be hybrid on premises / cloud for the foreseeable future but new initiatives will most likely be in the cloud. Almost all truly modern software is available in the cloud model and almost all (I’d say all but I’m sure there’s an exception somewhere) on premises only software is old technology. There are modern software offerings that are available in a dual cloud / on premises model though, and some (a very few) companies will add on premises apps based on some internal biases, regulatory and / or governance issues, privacy concerns, etc.
- We have moved beyond “mobile first” to “any device, anywhere”. In other words, any new app must be device agnostic IMO.
- The most interesting technology and modernization efforts are happening at the intersection of data and social (or people). Each post will look at this intersection in detail.
- Cloud and mobile (any device actually) are simply the delivery and use models. They offer lot’s of value, but that value is already pretty well documented. Cloud offers flexibility, adaptability, scalability, faster time to value, easier upgrades, more frequent updates, etc. Same for “any device”, it’s simply the way we work now.
- The Internet of Things (IoT) is interesting and does offer opportunity for business (and for the hardware tech vendors), but from a software perspective IoT is another data source. It will provide some extremely useful data and allow for more automation and better decisions, so I will weave it into the discussions on data in each of the areas.
- The overall impediments to leveraging data to it’s fullest are really around two issues, making sense of the volume of data (making it smart / adding context) and getting the complete data set across the existing organizational and application silos that exist in all businesses. The issues of context and of overcoming silos are so important that they will likely be discussed in the context of each individual area, but really need to be addressed in a broader way by every business.
Microservices are part of this picture, but the platform, or more correctl,y the platform as a service (PaaS) is the other part. There are many PaaS offerings available and they are evolving in functionality quite rapidly. There are a set of functions and features that make up the basic PaaS offering, that includes:
- Services / Application API, flexible integration support for all current web standard integration technologies
- Granular control over security / access / identity (standards based)
- Web services broker
- Shared resources
- Customizable/programmable user interface (UI) - support for browser, web services and any device deployment
- Workflow engine
- Tools for creation, configuration and deployment of persistent objects
- Container management
- Application / services management
- Embedded services: storage, analytics, collaboration
- Monitoring, logging, metering
- Self provisioning
In part two of the series I’ll take a look at CX and the associated technologies that are helping companies build and deliver on a more comprehensive CX strategy.