What does digital transformation mean and what does it look like? How does a company change itself to become more competitive? A new worldwide survey produced by MIT Tech Review Custom and sponsored by VMware, provides a detailed snapshot of digital transformation in action.
The study looked at large companies that had adopted a multi-cloud infrastructure—a forward-looking IT environment that enables greater efficiency and mobility, accelerating the shift away from hardware-based IT infrastructure toward a software-defined infrastructure
Cloud technologies are among the most advanced in the enterprise, and infrastructure environments combining both private and public clouds—known as multi-cloud environments—are currently seen as the ideal IT environment by a large majority of companies, according to the survey. These companies are at the forefront of leveraging new technologies, and the study reveals that adopting multiple clouds acts as a crucible that both challenges and, ultimately, transforms those organizations.
The study identified large companies that had adopted a multi-cloud infrastructure and asked 1,350 C-suite executives and senior IT leaders worldwide about their experiences with multi-cloud adoption: Why adopt cloud? Was it difficult? What was surprising?
The survey identified three distinct phases of multi-cloud infrastructure adoption—first-year organizations, years two through five, and years six and beyond —and pinpointed challenges specific to each. Survey highlights:
First-year organizations: Start now. You’re already behind.
These organizations are just beginning multi-cloud adoption. They are novices, compared to the overall market, and are skeptical about vendor claims. They are unsure about the technology and have heightened concerns about security. Although these organizations expect challenges with cloud, their first-year obstacles, especially regarding legacy systems and technical challenges, are heavier than anticipated, including:
- First-year progress is especially demanding.
- Tech challenges: More difficult than anticipated.
- Legacy issues.
- Heightened security concerns.
Years two through five: Patience. You’ll get through this. It’s worth it.
These organizations have completed the difficult first-year challenges of understanding and integrating new technologies with legacy systems. The majority of the overall market surveyed is in this “cocooning phase” of digital transformation. The challenges in this phase are largely defined by people and process changes. The cloud requires changes to staff composition and expertise, changes to data management and policies, and changes to opex- and capex-gearing ratios.
This phase also reveals surprising benefits, especially around security, as organizations gain expertise with cloud capabilities. It’s important to note that the beginning stages of transformation can mimic deterioration; that is, things may seem to get worse before they get better. But they will get better, and it’s worth it. Cloud benefits begin to show up during this phase. Organizations that successfully integrate cloud urge an optimistic patience during this phase of adoption, which typically features:
- People and process challenges.
- Changes to staff.
- Changes to policies.
- Data-management issues.
- Surprising tech benefits, too, especially security improvements.
- Efficiency/automation benefits.
Years six and beyond: Imagine what’s possible.
These organizations were early adopters of cloud and, therefore, are at the end of the adoption cycle. The survey revealed these organizations emerge digitally transformed by cloud. At this phase, organizations express improved confidence in security. Additionally, these organizations are able to react with more agility and bring products to market more quickly, necessitating new business processes —such as planning and project management —in order to leverage the new organizational capabilities provided by cloud. These organizations emerge with a “cloud-first” strategic mindset and are prepared for advanced technologies such as AI and IoT. Also seen at this phase:
- Organizational posture: cloud-first.
- Increased/new agility, automation, and innovation capabilities.
- New capabilities demand new planning and business processes.
- Confidence and control with security.
- Ready for AI and IoT.
The research shows that cloud adoption requires comprehensive changes across the organization. Cloud integration necessitates and drives changes in technologies, policies, staff, and business processes that, over time, transform the entire organization.
For more details and data, download the full report here.