by Claude Schuck, regional manager for Africa at Veeam

With availability driving much of the corporate agenda in the path towards digital transformation, it is becoming essential for South African technology companies to invest in the ongoing skills development of employees. Given how the always-on environment requires more data-driven expertise, it has become a business imperative to unlock the talent resident inside the organisation.

Consider how the role of the IT department has evolved to be more than just acting as a support structure for hardware and software in the organisation. Instead, in the cloud-driven world of today, IT needs to ensure that data is always available irrespective of the devices used by employees and their physical location. This forms the cornerstone of any digital transformation activity inside the enterprise.

Data is something that is tightly woven into the digital evolution of the organisation. With data growing at tremendous rates and companies needing to get a better understanding of the information they have residing in their back-end systems, they require people with a specific skill-set.

Businesses are progressively realising the importance of data scientists in this new environment. Yet, the truth is that these jobs will be increasingly interwoven into the business strategy of any company that wants to remain competitive in an always-on world. Not only can these data specialists unlock additional value from systems, they can also identify ways to streamline processes. This could even extend to disaster recovery by identifying the databases, files, and structures integral to the continued success of the business.

Remaining vigilant

This is a challenge not only limited to IT companies but businesses across industry sectors. Availability is at the forefront of digital transformation. If any company is to remain relevant in the coming years, decision-makers need to ensure that when applications and workloads are moved across different infrastructures, there is a backup and disaster recovery plan in place.

It also helps to ensure that any potential downtime does not cripple the business, both from a financial and a reputational perspective.

The 2017 Veeam Availability Report shows that almost half of enterprises see a loss of customer confidence, and 40 percent experienced damage to brand integrity, which affect both brand reputation and customer retention. Additionally, Veeam has found that the average annual cost of downtime for organisations in the study totalled more than R270-million. In fact, downtime and data loss now see enterprises face public scrutiny in ways that cannot be measured by a balance sheet alone.

Another advantage of building the right digital skills is that it complements much of the automatic elements that form part of digital transformation. These include the processes and systems that kick in when outages occur.

Availability has progressed beyond those previously manually-intensive tape backup systems of old. It has seen the growth of solutions that continuously monitor sensitive databases to minimise the risk of backups not running or files not being accessible when they are needed most.

Changing South African market

The South African market is a dynamic one, but talent in virtualisation and data segments remain scarce.

This sees local companies needing to evaluate their approaches to digital transformation. Essentially, this extends beyond just looking at technology solutions but also finding human resource-specific components to ensure the right skills are developed inside the organisation.

Data is clearly fundamental to the success or failure of any business in this always-on environment. Decision-makers need to put a clear strategy in place, especially when it comes to digital transformation, the skills required, and the implementation thereof.