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Five factors will drive digital transformation

Digital transformation means different things to people and pursuing a strategy won’t necessarily equate to future success. JONAS BOGOSHI believes if businesses incorporate key ingredients into their transformation strategies, success will follow.

Digital transformation is having a huge impact on every aspect of the way we work, live and learn. Big data, social, cloud computing and developments in mobile technology have already drastically altered the landscape of business, education, entertainment and government.

Whole businesses have been built on cloud and big data, while existing companies have used the technology to diversify into new areas of business. And any company that is not paying attention to social media and mobile innovation is frankly living in the dark ages.

The pace and scale of change that digital technology is enabling means organisations must adapt to remain relevant. And they must use digital technology to do so. In short, digital transformation is now a business imperative.

The form this takes will vary widely, but the majority of enterprises will overhaul their digital customer interfaces, along with the customer engagement systems behind them. Customer services will also become increasingly personalised, with IDC predicting that doing this at scale will be a “complex enterprise-wide digital transformation initiative”.

In addition, IDC predicts that in the next two years, two-thirds of Global 2000 CEOs will put digital transformation at the centre of their growth and profitability strategies while the scale-up of digital business strategies will drive more than 50% of enterprise IT spending within the next 24 months, rising to 60% by 2020.
However, most organizations are still in the early stages of digital maturity, working on isolated projects that lack coordination. Even where digital transformation has taken place, it’s not always been a success: IDC found that less than half of such initiatives achieve their goals. This is often down to IT departments failing to deliver the speed or quality needed to chase new markets, respond to competitive threats or increase profits.

In contrast, the handful of organisations that fully understand enterprise-wide digital transformation are making increasingly-rapid progress, disrupting industries and leaving competitors behind in the process.

Digital transformation clearly means different things to different people and that pursuing a strategy won’t necessarily equate to the changes that are needed to ensure future business success. But if businesses are able to incorporate some key ingredients into their digital transformation strategies, success will more than likely follow.

What follows is a summary of the considerations exchanged in a series of discussions with more than 150 high-level IT executives from different industries across Europe about digital and IT transformation, highlighting what’s really needed to help CIOs thrive and overcome obstacles on their journey, from roadmap definition to multi‑phased implementation across applications, infrastructure and operating models.

Adopt a risk-taking attitude
Transformational change is often difficult to achieve as existing IT systems, organizational setup and culture create an inertia that is hard to break from. A culture of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ persists in many organisations, to the detriment of change.

Businesses must be prepared to take risks and move away from the way things were done in the past if they are to achieve IT-driven innovation.  Essentially, they should try new approaches that will help pave the way for digital transformation across the entire organization.

This could mean putting open innovation and dev ops programmes in place or assigning IT teams to specific business units. Looking at the talent side of things, a hiring programme focused on millennials would bring in native digital skills to support the new way of doing things.

Put data at the heart of things

Data is the fuel for innovation and should be used for value creation, prediction and process optimisation. Success in creating new services and ways of working depends on the data pipelines that flow in and out of organisations.

Some organisations have taken this seriously by appointing a Chief Data Officer who will have an overview of company data and how it should be classified. They will look at the rules and regulations for various data classes to ensure they are used in the most appropriate way.

Big data and analytics are critical in this, as they provide the capability to extract more value from data than ever before, slicing and dicing information in new ways that can provide new and useful insight that could be used to enhance digital customer experience and targeted marketing.
Create a modern datacentre
This secular shift requires and is propelled by a fundamental IT transformation, which embraces cloud as a primary IT architecture and consumption model, to manage millions of devices and the data deluge associated with them, to create large data lakes and enable ‑ for example ‑ predictive services. This all creates the need for a modern datacentre architecture to overcome the information siloes and rigid IT infrastructure that limits transformation and the implementation of a hybrid cloud IT infrastructure.

Hybrid cloud infrastructure is in fact a key enabler of digital transformation as it supports mobile and cloud‑native workloads as well as the existing business-critical and legacy workloads. At the same time, it supports innovative projects initiated by the business.

It is important that CIOs evaluate which workloads and data should move to the cloud so that the benefits of scalability, agility and service-based IT delivery are maximised. A strong business case should always be developed before data is moved between environments to ensure that it is being moved for the right reasons.

Foster closer ties between IT and business innovation
Business innovation initiatives are often limited in their success by being separated from the infrastructure, systems and processes required to support them. This siloed approach means business departments and IT aren’t aligned, making it harder for IT to deliver exactly what is needed.

Effective digital transformation requires an IT organization that acts as a strong partner with the rest of the business that provides the necessary tools and infrastructure to support specific projects. Bringing together the skills and talents from across business and IT will ensure transformation projects deliver the intended impact.

This is particularly important given that long term stable digital transformation requires continuous innovation and integration.

Choose the right tech provider
The final element needed for effective digital transformation is a technology provider that matches the ambition of the business and will be relevant in the long term. To be effective and successful partners to their customers, technology providers must provide support for a strategy and governance framework that spans operating model, infrastructure and applications, delivering measurable results in each phase of implementation to then also transform leadership and customer experience. This will truly help CIOs to thrive in the digital era.

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Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh

In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.

When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.

This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy. 

“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.

“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”

Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.

“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.

“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”

Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.

“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.

“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model  isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”

Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.

Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”

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Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream

If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd

As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?  

In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!  

Nation-State Hacking & You  

It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.    

With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.  

Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.  

Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.  

Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.” 

Ignorance is not bliss 

Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.  

To begin with, awareness is key. As you engage with various platforms and applications at work and at home, take time to understand how your data is being used and what the terms of use are. Is your data being accessed and sold to advertisers? Have you consented to this? In addition to scrutinizing your consent, also pay close attention to how much data you share online – and the nature of the details you are divulging. Always keep in mind that hackers are employing smart social engineering tactics and using the details of your private life (birthdays, holidays, pet’s names, etc) to trick you into opening infected emails and clicking on malware. Whenever you are online, you are a target – and vigilance at all times is critical. Beyond that, it goes without saying that you must commit to following basic security protocols with your devices. So always keep software up to date and keep your data backed up so that you can reboot or wipe a device if needed.   

Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!  

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