When the digital wave becomes a tsunami
The digital transformation wave carries disruptive influences that characterise emerging technologies and advancing business models.
There is little doubt that a sizable percentage of South African companies are taking determined steps along the path towards digital transformation. Cloud computing and advances in enterprise mobility have been accepted as keys to this transformation, which many business managers see as necessary if their companies are to remain competitive and achieve growth in an ever-evolving and increasingly technology-focused marketplace.
The digital transformation wave sweeping through companies is transforming the way businesses function and changing the corporate philosophies underpinning and orchestrating these functions.
The wave is carrying with it the natural disruptive influences that characterise emerging technologies and advancing business models. As it gains in strength, it will become a transformation tsunami that will obliterate existing business value propositions as they relate to the current marketing of goods and services.
It will replace them with processes able to boost the speed at which goods and services are delivered, significantly improve the customer experience, and ultimately, deliver a more competitive advantage to far-sighted companies that welcome change.
In this light, new supporting technologies will have to be adopted in order to accommodate the considerable strength of the digital transformation tsunami's influence and impact.
One of the essential enablers of the digital transformation is automation. Automation removes the complex, most redundant steps from business processes, empowering companies to improve their systems and routines.
However, for many companies the automation of current work activities is challenging because very few business systems include the tools needed for automation. There is also a dearth of skills required to integrate automation solutions into existing business systems and processes.
Nevertheless, automation is a technology well worth pursuing because it creates a transformative environment. It frees employees shackled to rules-based, repetitive tasks by giving them the independence to focus on more rewarding work.
While automation delivers a slew of bottom-line benefits, including reduced costs, the elimination of errors, fewer security incidents and less operational downtime, it is also an essential technology for companies intent on making proactive, future-oriented IT investments.
This is because automation technology is key to the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace, which, according to industry analysts, is set to play a major role in business by 2020.
Intelligent automation technology will help companies reach as yet only imagined levels of efficiency and productivity.
Predicted to be a significant game-changer in almost every sector of the economy, automation and AI have spawned a new phrase in the IT lexicon: "intelligent automation".
Intelligent automation systems of the near future will be able to perform tasks that usually require human intelligence. Using breakthroughs in the fields of machine learning, machine vision and speech recognition, they will gain an actual "understanding" of a company's business and use this knowledge to update, modify, optimise and adapt processes to ensure that planned-for outcomes are achieved.
They will have the ability to automate entire processes of workflows, learning and adapting as they collect and analyse data. With the capacity to make fundamental, direction-altering decisions, intelligent automation technology will help companies reach as yet only imagined levels of efficiency and productivity.
In order to arrive at this state of sophistication, companies need to urgently begin the transformation of their IT infrastructures to accommodate intelligent automation by building agile, scalable networking platforms.
These platforms should feature turnkey network life cycle automation suites able to integrate with management tools and applications that support, for example, hybrid cloud/multi-cloud environments, multi-tenant data centres and Web-scale architectures.
One of the obstacles to integration - and interoperability - is the business process that spans multiple systems. Researchers report a sizable percentage of companies looking to adopt intelligent automation systems will have to first contend with the multiple, diverse automation technologies within their IT management portfolios.
Significantly, the most common use of automation in IT today involves "scripting" - the script programming language - which is described as "more fragile than agile" and is said to promote disconnected islands of automation that create complexity and increase costs and maintenance challenges. What is actually required is a systematic, enterprise-wide solution in the form of a cross-domain automation platform.
IT agility cannot be achieved without centralised, cross-domain automation. It enables disparate technologies and platforms (including the network, data storage and the cloud) to operate at the highest levels of co-ordination and automation.
A successful cross-domain workflow automation solution must be able to take inputs from, and request changes on, network devices or other cross-domain platforms and applications. Such an open approach allows workflows to respond to events and execute actions in a programmatic way - on any network device, cross-domain platform or application.
In its aftermath, the digital transformation tsunami will leave a better business landscape in which customer experiences are vastly improved and greater business values are generated.
Paul Stuttard is a director of specialist distributor Duxbury Networking. Currently Cape-based, he has been with the company for 29 years and has extensive experience in the IT industry, particularly within the value-added distribution arena. His focus is on the formulation of future-oriented network optimisation strategies and business development objectives in collaboration with resellers and end-users in Southern Africa.