Why legacy networks are holding back IT innovation

New technology can assist organisations to innovate and grow, but understanding and accepting that change needs to happen is the starting point, says Andre van Schalkwyk, group practice manager, Consulting at Dimension Data.

Johannesburg, 28 Oct 2019
Read time 3min 10sec

Andre van Schalkwyk, Group Practice Manager Consulting, Dimension Data, says new technology may be the driving force behind a company’s ability to innovate and grow, but IT departments are playing an increasingly smaller role in driving the uptake of technology.

He adds that businesses are simply looking externally to buy a business outcome instead of waiting for their IT departments to develop the skills and expertise to do the job internally. And whether an organisation’s ambition is to lower costs, increase revenue, expand into new markets or roll-out new products, IT is integral to its success; so what is standing in their way?

In short, Van Schalkwyk says IT is largely restricted to old ways of working while the business seeks new value from its technology investments. And the rise of connected devices is changing the way people work, moving companies towards a virtualised environment where the network that links together their systems is as important as the systems themselves, but legacy technologies and outdated skillsets make it difficult for IT to support this evolution.

Van Schalkwyk says CIOs and CTOs need to recognise that digitised workflows and processes are the future, and have invested in virtualised storage and processes. However, the irony is that these systems still need to communicate with the underlying network to perform at their best. Unless the network is also virtualised, however, the whole environment cannot be properly provisioned.

Van Schalkwyk points out three pillars of change if IT is to reclaim its role as the business’ technology ambassador. However, while a major update to the network will be built on new virtualisation technology, this is just a means to an end. Real change comes down to a new way of thinking in the IT department.

There are three pillars to this cultural change:

1. Understanding and accepting that change needs to happen. People are naturally resistant to change, particularly when they have been working the same way for decades and are suddenly asked to rethink their entire approach. IT leaders need to make the transition as easy as possible, providing both the education and incentives to motivate their teams.

2. Building the skills to make change happen. New skills are the backbone of any business transformation. In the case of network virtualisation, IT teams that played a support role will now need to lead the integration between workplace applications and the network, and therefore be able to integrate these effectively.

3. Appreciating what change can deliver. Digital transformation is ultimately about working smarter and faster. Unless IT has a firm grasp on the company’s business processes, they will struggle to drive efficiencies or automate work in ways that generate value.

Van Schalkwyk says the last point is key because process orchestration and automation are the ultimate aims of virtualised working, particularly as companies look to take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning in the near future. "This is why Dimension Data’s own Networking Consulting practice has focused on helping customers achieve these outcomes, an approach for which we were recognised as a leader in IDC MarketScape’s recent report."

According to Van Schalkwyk, the network may have operated in the shadows until now, but in today’s connected world, it can become a major differentiator for companies that get the network right.