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A Field Guide to Digital Transformation

Hybrid IT, edge computing and other advanced technologies can help companies accelerate time to value.

In partnership withHewlett Packard Enterprise

As the saying goes, the future belongs to the fast. But organizations are struggling to innovate and reduce time to market while still keeping IT systems running — often in a cost-constrained environment. The reality is that IT needs to maintain and nurture the systems that run the business while also preparing to innovate and adopt the tools and practices that will allow a company to thrive.

“Agile, flexible IT is the key to a successful digital transformation. That means the right mix of on-premises and public cloud, and managed infrastructure,” says Rick Einhorn, worldwide vice president, data center consulting, part of HPE Pointnext, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s newly branded services arm.

The digital imperative has gained urgency. HPE studies show that more than 67 percent of technology leaders surveyed at Forbes Global 2000 enterprises expected their top initiatives to be related to digital transformation. By 2018, these companies will have digital transformation at the core of their IT strategy.

Indeed, the average lifespan of a company listed in the Standard & Poor's 500 index has decreased by more than 50 years in the last century, from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today, according to Professor Richard Foster, executive in residence at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. “There is no question that companies need to use technology to protect and enhance their position in the market. Without a plan to adopt and use flexible IT to innovate, they will get left behind,” adds Einhorn.

“Offering customers new, improved experiences requires new ways of thinking aligned with flexible, fast and resilient infrastructure,” says Flynn Maloy, vice president of services marketing for HPE. For example, at sports stadiums around the world, attendees can use their smartphones to buy snacks and merchandise — and even check the length of the line to the bathroom. “This app opens up new revenue streams,” says Maloy.

HPE Pointnext is advising clients on how to embrace digital technology as the catalyst for positive change. “With limited resources, companies are wondering how to prepare for the new generation of apps and data that will move their business forward while meeting the needs of the business today,” Maloy adds.

Technologies such as IT containers and software-defined architectures (which disaggregate hardware from the application data) boost agility and response times.

“Computing is increasingly moving to ‘the edge’ where mobile apps and a multitude of Internet of Things (IoT) devices are being used,” says Einhorn. “Instead of computing being done in an on-premises or cloud data center, we’re going to see that move to the edge.” For example, next-generation automobiles constantly generate data via sensors. Self-driving cars will receive an instant command to stop as they approach a stoplight. There are many applications in discrete and process manufacturing, among others.

“They don’t have time to send the message back to the data center. They do the computing right where they are,” says Einhorn. “They can analyze the oil as they take it out of the ground.”

Accelerating Digital Agility

Succeeding at transformation requires balancing four imperatives, according to Einhorn. First, businesses need to optimize their computing infrastructure via the right mix of on-premises and cloud platforms. Second, they need to remove IT complexity wherever possible, lest they get bogged down by too many moving parts. Third, they need to enable speed to market. Finally, they need to rely on trusted partners to do all of the above.

A few years out from the cloud revolution, many companies are discovering that a wholesale migration of all data, applications and infrastructure to the public cloud is not optimal, especially in terms of cost and security. Increasingly, companies of all sizes across industries are finding that hybrid IT — a mix of on-premises, public cloud — makes the most sense. HPE Pointnext has 25,000 specialists in 80 countries who are helping clients redefine how they consume IT, aiming for flexible capacity and maximum use of resources that preserves funding for new projects that drive customer value.

In addition to edge computing and hybrid IT, another important strategy is to share application development tools and tasks across the broader organization. Organizations need to modernize, migrate and develop forward-thinking applications. “The development environment was always the purview of central IT,” says Maloy. “Now, with cloud-native technologies, companies are looking at democratizing development and putting capabilities in production much faster.”

A software-defined infrastructure allows for easy creation of application programming interfaces (API), which allows developers to quickly create an application that used to take months to build, adds Einhorn. In the recent past, companies spent a lot of time developing new applications. It could take months or years to get something to market. “Now, folks are creating applications very quickly based on agile platforms. They’re not afraid to go out and fail. They are getting apps out in front of consumers — making changes, making improvements,” he says.

HPE Pointnext is dedicated to helping its clients accelerate transformation and to making desired business outcomes a reality, according to Einhorn. An engagement starts by understanding what the desired business outcomes are, and what that means in terms of understanding the client’s legacy IT environment is capable of, what their data center looks like, where the customer touchpoints occur, and most importantly, what the objectives are. “We align all of that into a digital transformation roadmap that drives as much simplicity as possible,” Einhorn says.   

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