Takeaways for Managing the Business in a Multi-Cloud World

Change can bring tension, especially in the world of business. There is often a picture of complexity that exists between the ‘new’ and the ‘old,’ a middle-ground where many organisations find themselves as they evolve. This has become particularly apparent in recent years, as businesses transform at an accelerated rate in the race to become more digital.

Embarking on digital initiatives means shifting the center of focus to the user experience. It results in the rethinking of applications and even business models to enhance this experience through data and ease of use. Cloud computing has been at the heart of this change, propelling the shift from shadow IT to a mainstream movement of technology to the broader business. Users are feeling more empowered than ever with the availability of business-busting apps, and services that the cloud now delivers at the click of a button.

VMware set out to explore these trends further, gathering the views of 1,200 IT decision makers and heads of lines of business across EMEA on the challenges and opportunities they face today in becoming relevant, highly competitive businesses.

Digital Transformation in EMEA: The State of Play

The findings provided signs of encouragement and caution. There’s agreement that the delivery of applications and IT services is moving away from the central IT department to other lines of business, and that this is delivering benefits—the freedom to innovate, increased choice of technology, improved responsiveness to market conditions, and greater speed in launching products and services.

Too often, however, this trend is left unchecked and without adequate IT governance, meaning organizations can easily lose control. The research shows EMEA businesses are currently duplicating IT spend, compromising security, and muddying the waters as to who is responsible for what, as they look to evolve and change.

In response to this, VMware has identified five takeaways to support businesses as they continue to transform and benefit from this burgeoning trend.

1. Think intuitive, and deliver a user-centric approach to implementing technology.

Almost everything around innovation and transformation is dependent on the skillsets of the people involved. Organisations that are equipped with the most pioneering technology on the market frequently lack the talent to fully implement, develop, and manage that technology.

Today’s IT teams, for example, require broad skillsets to deliver truly user-centric applications. For a team conversation app such as Slack to deliver value, for example, employees must be excited by it and it must be intuitive. They need to choose to adopt and proactively use it, without being chased by management, for the app to make a meaningful impact on the entire business. IT teams, therefore, should have some understanding of everything from User Interface design to human psychology, to deliver technology that has the best chance of being willingly integrated into daily operations.

Elsewhere in the organisation, the democratisation of IT ownership, made possible through the cloud, has given employees a new world of technology at their fingertips. This now needs to be capitalised on. So, organisations should consider internal programmes to upskill and empower the workforce to not just use the latest technology available but genuinely integrate it within their own working styles and approaches to doing business.

Examples of successful transformation journeys from organisations VMware is working with have the common factor of ‘continual user engagement,’ of taking the time to learn how and why employees work the way they do during the requirements-gathering phase of new application development.

2. Manage transformation by defining responsibility.

As organisations have embarked on journeys of digital transformation to become more competitive, they have typically encountered one of two scenarios.

The first would introduce the role of the Chief Digital Officer (or similar), which comes with the license to instigate real change and lead a new vision of innovation, one that’s a definite break from what’s gone before. The IT teams can still work on new technologies that will drastically improve the status quo, such as predictive analytics and automated maintenance and remediation, but these would be in support of the Chief Digital Officer’s innovation vision.

The second is more of a cooperation programme that allows digital and IT teams to come together to work on the transformation. This process of collaboration can, naturally, result in less tension between the two teams, although it can also result in slower progress.

It’s not a case of one of these scenarios being better than the other. Every organisation should take a tailored journey to digital, shaped by its own specific needs. Either of the above broad scenarios could work, although the key to ensuring success is the same for both. It is vital to clearly define who is responsible for what, and where the boundaries of ownership lie, within the overall programme of transformation.

3. Learn the language of money.

As the ownership of technology increasingly shifts from IT teams to lines of business, there’s every likelihood that the money allocated for technology purchases will follow. Expect IT departments to challenge the broader business as they allocate this budget to other teams.

The hurdle IT faces is that it’s often easier for lines of business to justify an investment by relating it to an opportunity to increase revenue or a specific cost reduction. Lines of business also naturally operate at a business level, rather than a technology level, and naturally tend to communicate in a more financially compelling language of ROI.

Historically, IT hasn’t talked in such explicit terms of business value. Now there’s the need for it to justify and safeguard budget. This is especially true when talking ‘innovation’—new investments must be justified through a business, not technology, rationale. The competition between both IT and the business lobbying for investments should help ensure the most beneficial solution is brought on board.

4. Think digital, without losing your legacy.

Traditional business models have been disrupted and, for many, the opportunities from embarking on digital transformation are already seen as critical to remaining competitive. It is all a journey, though. Many organisations remain reliant on a legacy environment—one that’s gotten them to where they are today. For some, the idea of flipping the switch to digital and replacing existing infrastructure wholesale isn’t just impractical, it’s terrifying. And not required.

In today’s multi-cloud world, a software-defined approach can help organisations run, manage, connect, and secure applications—new and legacy—across clouds and devices in one common operating environment.

5. Build for change.

Innovation is created through experimentation, through R&D and the testing of new approaches. Not all of these approaches will succeed, however, and modern infrastructures must be able to manage both the successes and the failures.

There’s the need to rapidly pull in resources to support the ideas that show potential, but also easily close off and quickly redistribute resources associated with ideas that look set to fail. The ability to manage these resources, across cloud platforms, will give the organisation the freedom to fail, to trial out-of-the-box thinking, and to fuel the ideas of the future in the most efficient way.

A change in approach and mindset is required: if traditional legacy systems are built to last then a digital business should be built to change. Look to implement an infrastructure that can adapt, immediately scale up and down, and also evolve over time, as demand dictates.

In Summary

With the journey toward digital and the continued trend toward decentralized IT, the competitiveness of organisations will depend on how effectively these are managed.

Businesses should look to:

  • Put users first. If the users aren’t excited about the technology, and don’t find it intuitive, they won’t integrate it into their working lives.
  • Broaden skillsets. Empower IT teams to deliver user-centric applications, and upskill the workforce to turn these into powerful business tools.
  • Clarify responsibility. Define exactly who is responsible for the innovation ‘vision,’ who is responsible for its practical implementation, and where any collaboration exists.
  • Set the pace of transformation. Don’t be pressured into overly ambitious transformation timelines. Use the technology available to modernise legacy systems and prepare for a multi-cloud world at a pace that best suits the business.