The taxi industry. The telecom industry. Music and hospitality companies. All these mature industries found themselves disrupted by challenges to the status quo by young upstart Internet businesses. These businesses took an aggressive, digital-first approach, which revolutionized what people expected from traditional players in these industries. Digital transformation involves fully leveraging digital technologies to strategically address business challenges and maximize opportunities. It’s a blueprint for how to thrive in the coming months and years given the fast pace of innovation.
But no matter what digital technologies you choose to deploy for digital transformation, nothing works without a robust, reliable network. Bottom line: The network is the non-negotiable start of such a transformation.
Digital Transformation a Top Priority That Pays Off
A recent study found that 77% of executives said digital transformation was their company’s top strategic priority. Most said “failure was not an option.” Yet the majority of midsize firms say they are falling behind, according to another study. More than half (55%) believe they’re up against a time crunch – that they have less than a year to advance digitally before feeling the financial and competitive consequences. 59% are worried it’s already too late.
A new study of IT organizations found the companies that effectively transformed their businesses digitally spent 21% less on technology per user than other firms, employed 8% fewer workers and achieved yearly cost savings of up to $4 million. Digital transformation also enabled them to achieve greater efficiencies and agility and improved their competitive advantage.
What Your Network Must Do to Achieve Digital Transformation
According to a 2016 report, the network is clearly at the heart of transformation. The biggest disruptive technologies today are cloud, mobility and collaboration, and data. All these technologies are decidedly network-centric, and depend absolutely on connectivity and network infrastructure for success. A full 58% of executives are focused on the cloud as a competitive differentiator, but 65% reported that “their current infrastructure is struggling to support the rapid adoption of digital technologies.” The network has to be robust and high performing or digital transformation cannot happen.
As a result, here are three things your network must be able to do when you embark upon your digital transformation: scale as needed, minimize downtime and perform up to expectations.
Scale as Needed
As you go down the path of digital transformation, you can’t be limited by network performance (speed) or bandwidth. Otherwise, the cost of keeping up with business demands will become astronomical. You need to be able to continuously add more bandwidth at higher speeds to accommodate larger volumes of data, more users or more bandwidth-hungry services like video, VoIP, cloud applications – you name it.
That’s why scaling is also important. Cloud, mobile, the Internet of Things, big data and even artificial-intelligence solutions are becoming critical technologies for businesses of all sizes. This makes the network arguably the single most important item to focus on when making investments over the next few years.
As you digitally transform your business, your business naturally becomes more dependent on the network. It’s what keeps your products or services selling, your support lines helping customers and your employees productive behind it all. That’s why the service-level agreement (SLA) is one of the most important aspects of your contract with your network provider.
To determine what SLA you need (how close to 100% uptime is required), you must consider how long you could afford to go without network access. What would it do to your business if your network went down and you couldn’t take orders, talk to customers or complete transactions? Although you must always balance with cost, generally you want the higher SLA, as downtime costs actual dollars that you might never recover.
Consider deploying IP networks with built-in redundancies, such as MPLS VPN and SD-WAN. SD-WAN, in particular, allows you to pool bandwidth across multiple broadband connections to immediately address network congestion or outages.
Perform as Expected
Not just downtime, but poor network quality – nonresponsive or slow networks – will detract directly from a digital business’ ability to succeed. When Accenture asked firms to rank the reasons they were seeking to digitally transform their businesses, the top responses were to sell profitably (58%), quickly (51%), and with superior customer satisfaction (48%). All three of these things depend on a fast and responsive network.
Go Beyond Simple Connectivity
The network needs to be aligned directly with your business needs. Today’s network technologies and platforms can provide the right foundation for a digitally focused enterprise. To achieve digital transformation, you need a robust, reliable network that can scale to meet your digital plans – whether that’s building an app, improving your online presence or making your workers more productive.