IT as a driver of value is the foundation of the digital business

The digital business is one that embraces next generation technology.

March 19, 2014

By Collin Govender, VP Systems Integration at T-Systems in South Africa

The digital business is one that embraces next generation technology, including the cloud, big data and mobility, placing information at the fingertips of executives to enable them to make accurate decisions in real time. These technologies can also be used to create new business models and services, which can in turn be used to develop digital assets that were simply not possible in the past. However, in order for the digital business to become a reality, organisations need to move from the typical model of IT as a cost centre, to a new model where IT becomes a driver and creator of revenue for the business. This requires not only a new mindset, but a breaking down of traditional silos between IT and business, integrating IT fully into the business in order to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time.

Next-generation technologies are fundamental enablers of the digital business, and work together to deliver agility, flexibility and new insights that can drive competitiveness. Mobility enables executives and other employees to work from practically anywhere, however without the cloud, for example, provisioning these mobile devices to integrate with the enterprise and deliver a consistent user experience across devices would not be possible.

This people enablement component is critical in positioning an organisation as a digital business. Big data too is essential, as these data sets, using sophisticated technology that can be delivered via the cloud, can be mined for analytical purposes to produce valuable insights into the business. Using insights gained via big data, as well as technologies such as mobility and cloud delivery, organisations can develop digital assets, which not only benefit the business itself, but can often be sold to other organisations to create additional revenue streams. Thus IT becomes a valuable driver of revenue to the organisation, instead of a cost centre.

However, without integration of IT into business, none of these benefits are possible. This integration requires several steps to be taken. Firstly, IT needs to understand business – simply having the technical knowledge to manage an IT environment is no longer sufficient if IT is to become a valuable business tool. Achieving this in itself is no easy feat, and requires executive support. There is no doubt that IT is critical to the business of today, but in order for the necessary mind shift to occur, the CIO needs business acumen to be able to take on a new role as part of the business executive. In addition, the traditional silos need to be broken down to provide ubiquitous access to information across the organisation. Adopting and ingraining Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) into the organisation, its processes and methodologies, can go a long way towards resolving this challenge.

Achieving the required business mindset to break down silos requires a middle out process or approach – any organisation trying to do this from the bottom up will never deliver sufficient results to their business in time – and a top-down approach will equally fail. The time frames for delivering change and value to the business are getting shorter and shorter. A complete digital business strategy must answer most of (but not only) the following questions:

  • What do I mobile enable? When? And for whom? For which device types/operating systems?
  • What do I virtualise/cloud enable from my application stack? What remains inside of my enterprise boundary, and what will I move or store outside of my enterprise boundary?
  • What processes benefit the most from orchestration/BPM and Service Orientation?
  • What legacy applications can I component enable without complete rewrite/rip and replace?
  • What security models do I need to put in place to enable the new world?
  • Which data do I enable for which data processing/access models? What data governance do I apply?
  • What Human Capital Management (HCM) strategy do I need to employ to get the desired results?

Alongside addressing the technology challenges, it is necessary to deliberately drive the employment of business-minded IT professionals with immense creativity, to deliver breakout thinking on business and delivery models as well as the creation of digital assets. It is not necessary to transform the entire organisation, but having key individuals that are able to operate at a strategic level will help the CIO to create the necessary shift to the digital business.

Ultimately, next generation technology such as big data, the cloud and mobility, which are the cornerstones of the digital business, enable enhanced visibility of data. Data can also being pushed to mobile devices as a result of these technologies, enabling executives to access real-time information at all times, for decision-making on the fly. This enhanced agility assists with closing the gap between the business and its customers, creating zero distance, which in turn drives improved customer service, creating a competitive edge that is vital in the business world of today.