A point that is regularly made in discussions about digital transformation is that it's about more than technology. Sometimes this is taken further, and claims are made that it isn't about technology at all.
That's taking things a bit far, but it's certainly true that, without significant attention being given to underlying operating models and redesigning services and processes to better meet user needs, merely deploying new technology components won't get you very far. Likewise, a shift in mindset, that encourages innovation and rapid responses to changing circumstances are vital in making transformation a reality.
This is not to say that technology isn't important, however. It's vital, and must be considered in alignment with work on all the other elements of change. Too many projects don't engage with technology until it's too late - the computers end up saying 'no' and everyone points the finger of blame at the techies.
How does the cloud help with this?
A key role for IT and digital teams to play is to build the foundations for digital business transformation. These foundations should be made up of flexible, reusable components that are easy to deploy and maintain, interoperate with one another and can be accessed via any device, anywhere. Now, it might be possible to do that using on-premise technology, but it's likely to drive you mad. Better to build for the new world right away, using the cloud.
There might be some bits of your current stack that can’t be moved into cloud native components, however. These legacy systems often perform vital functions that, for whatever reason, the market hasn’t yet delivered a suitable modern replacement for. This doesn’t mean you leave them exactly as they are though - you can replatform these technologies into the cloud through infrastructure as a service, or shift specific workloads into dedicated platform as a service components. In the meantime, use of cloud native integration products can enable your new technology and your old to interoperate.
For example, Adur & Worthing, Horsham and Mid Sussex councils worked together to implement an infrastructure as a service project, moving legacy applications and data to public cloud providers Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. This is running alongside wider work exploiting software as a service and in-house development using cloud components.
Cloud and transformation go together
The real advantage to having these foundations in place early is that is can put your organisation in the space whereby digital transformation isn't about IT - because the IT is, in effect, sorted. This suddenly shifts the conversation, because all the focus can be on re-designing operating models and processes to meet user needs. No worrying voice in the back of everyone's heads as to whether the IT will be able to cope with what is being proposed - if those foundations are done correctly, they should easily cope.
It appears that in many areas of UK government, this message is being heard, with increases in year on year spend being seen at government departments and local councils, as well as the NHS. Often this is happening in the parts of those organisations responsible for making change happen - demonstrating another example of why cloud and transformation go together.
For example, NHS Digital spent £1.88m from April to December 2017, more than 2016-17’s £1.34m for the whole year. An increase can also be seen at the Department for Work and Pensions, responsible for a huge programme of change, where £14.87m was spent in 2015-16, £45.72m in 2016-17 and £34.75m in the first three quarters of 2017-18.
So, to summarise, business transformation has to be enabled by flexible, integrated technology. Ignoring your tech stack will not yield the results that organisations need from their change initiatives. The cloud can be a massive driver in enabling this, and transition to cloud-native computing should be prioritised alongside the necessary shifts in culture, skills and approaches that modern, digital age businesses need.
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