Jan 31 2018

3 Ways to Achieve Digital Transformation with Next-Generation Networks

Businesses should build a strong cloud foundation, embrace software-defined networking and have a clear strategy in place.

As macro trends such as Big Data, the cloud and the Internet of Things continue to fuel innovation, organizations must ensure their network infrastructure is also evolving in order to keep up.

Performance at scale is key for IT organizations to support today's digital requirements because customers demand an experience that is agile, simple and mobile-friendly.

Digital transformation is a journey. There are three ways next-generation networks can help drive digital transformation, while spurring continued innovation and surpassing customer expectations. Organizations must fully embrace the cloud, commit to a software-defined network and measure progress against organizational objectives.

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1. Start with a Strong Cloud Foundation

The cloud is a fundamental requirement for organizations that want to achieve digital transformation. However, many organizations continue to be on the wrong side of cloud adoption.

IT decision-makers around the world, representing companies from all verticals, acknowledge that a move to the cloud will facilitate digital transformation for their business. However, 69 percent of those same decision-makers state that their legacy networking infrastructure is holding back their cloud strategies, according to Riverbed's "The Future of Networking Global Survey 2017."

Embracing the cloud and ensuring that it is a part of an organization's network will be critical to realizing the agility and elasticity needed to meet today's end-user demands for both application performance and mobility.

Placing next-generation networking technology at the heart of a cloud strategy ensures a more agile, resilient and efficient network that will be able to deliver the experience users expect. Additionally, it will also provide greater control, security and manageability.

A move to next-generation networks and the cloud enables organizations to pursue goals such as greater support for hybrid apps, IoT deployments and other initiatives that will drive innovation and provide competitive advantages that simply cannot be provided by more rigid networking infrastructures.

2. Make Everything in the Network Software-Defined

Having hardware manage and control systems and networks is a concept that dates to the 1990s. In the world of software-defined everything, management and control is automated by the underlying intelligent software.

Once organizations are able to deploy their applications in the cloud and leverage next-generation network infrastructure, they will require the right technology to help them gain visibility and control of the network.

Getting a clear view of, and control over, the network is going to be critical in order for businesses to realize the value of the cloud and enable digital transformation.

Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) will be the solution for most organizations as it can offer unparalleled agility, efficiency, flexibility, security and control for the network. This is very important, as digital transformation will essentially be user- and app-driven, and these characteristics will be fundamental to ensuring that the user experience is optimal.

Consider a retailer looking to set up a store just in time for the holiday shopping season. The retailer needs IT to move quickly to get the new store opened in time, and a one-day delay can mean substantial loss of revenue.

With centralized orchestration and policy management, zero-touch provisioning and complete performance management and visibility, an ideal SD-WAN solution provides a powerful tool for IT teams to ensure the agility and bring up the new location in a matter of hours. A software-defined approach can turn the network into an asset as well as a driver of digital transformation through greater agility and control.

3. Measure Digital Transformation Against Clear Objectives

Finally, for an organization to be capable of realizing digital transformation, it will need to have a well-defined strategy and a way to measure against defined objectives.

To do this, organizations need a way to monitor performance and gather analytics for closed-loop reporting. This can then provide IT and business decision-makers with the full visibility needed to make intelligent decisions about handling not only the network but also applications, users, security and other critical elements.

It's a 360-degree view of all of the elements for which IT is responsible and means they can more easily benchmark, track and set goals from metrics the team collects.

In addition to the traditional key performance indicators such as revenue and cost, businesses should also measure employee productivity, user adoption, response time for an activity, percentage of revenue through digital channels, rate of new customer acquisition and customer engagement. Businesses also need appropriate network monitoring tools to gain adequate visibility.

Remember that digital transformation is as much for a business's customers as it is for its employees  and sometimes more so.

For example, if a bank wants to launch a digital initiative around mobile banking services, such as depositing checks via their mobile application, the user experience is critical. There should be little or no lag for the user after scanning the check to the next step.

If there are network latency issues, then an SD-WAN will be able to determine the best route for the transaction where bandwidth and latency is not an issue.

The key metrics used to track the success should be the app response time and increase in user adoption rates over time, among other things.

Similarly, for an e-commerce transaction, the response time and shopping cart abandonment rate are critical. The right network and monitoring tools will help point out any performance degradation or response time impact.

Next-generation networks are going to be fundamental to the successful realization of digital transformation. The path forward to this realization is making sure that an organization's network infrastructure is capable of supporting the goals of the business and ensuring a superior user experience.

The best ways to do this are through embracing the cloud, implementing software-defined processes, including SD-WAN, and making sure that there are measurable objectives that can be used to define success for current and future initiatives.

This allows the business to be in a much better position to drive innovation while delivering a superior customer experience. Isn't that the ultimate key to unlocking business success?

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