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Standardise platforms for digital change

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Organisations today are faced with the need to engage with customers in realtime and develop products and solutions dynamically to meet changing requirements, says AJ Hartenberg, portfolio manager: Data Centre Services at T-Systems in South Africa.

The challenge lies in the fact that internal systems and IT infrastructure simply cannot keep pace with the demands of the modern business environment. Traditional models of provisioning take weeks or months to deliver the back end systems needed to deliver services, by which time the customer need has already changed, and organisations have lost the competitive edge.

Digital transformation to an agile, flexible and above all dynamic model of technology provisioning and service delivery is essential, and key to this is the ability to standardise platforms and processes.

One area where standardisation is a major challenge is within the Application Program Interface (API). Without standardising the routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications within an organisation, creating agility and integration within software development is all but impossible.

Typically, an organisation will make use of several different APIs within different areas, creating an additional layer of complexity with regard to provisioning new software solutions. Adding to this complexity, new trends and technologies like big data and advanced analytics require the correct underlying infrastructure and architecture, so standardising on the most appropriate platform becomes essential, as this affects multiple areas including the database.

The key is to first define the business case for any technology solution, including big data. It is essential to firstly understand what the business needs are, before it is possible to determine which platform will enable this most effectively. Only then is it possible to transform and standardise the platform layer. Ultimately, there are two overarching business cases around advanced analytics – either to increase revenue (by adding new products and services) or to decrease cost (by removing unprofitable products and solutions form the portfolio). Often the business case will then inform the platform decision, and increasingly businesses are looking toward cloud-based solutions.

While the private cloud has been the direction of choice for many organisations up to this point, mostly for security reasons, a new model is emerging that offers the best of both public and private without the requirement for a hybrid solution. Virtual private cloud, a solution increasingly offered by service providers, offers the flexibility and improved economies of scale of the public cloud and the security of the private cloud through a direct connection between the customer and the service provider. This enables organisations to finally move away from utilising capital to provision their IT environment, and leverage the benefits of operating on an Opex model. Benefits include immediate cost savings and lower total cost of ownership. In addition, moving IT onto an Opex model frees up capital to be utilised in areas that will add further business value, such as research and development, the customer experience or new products and services.

Ultimately the digital transformation of IT is about opening up new opportunities for business growth. This includes the ability to quickly access new markets with new products or services, which in turn requires IT to deliver solutions in a more agile manner with reduced time frames. This not only enables businesses to access new revenue streams faster, it allows them to reduce the cost of non-starter initiatives, as the investment into any new service or product is dramatically reduced both in terms of capital and time. In addition, organisations can turn IT infrastructure into a predictable cost that can be easily scaled up or down, turning the total cost of ownership (TCO) of IT into a more manageable and realistic expense. By making the TCO more measurable, it is also possible to begin to visualise how IT as a whole is a service that adds significant business value.

The goal of digital transformation is to develop a behaviour-driven approach to the design and development of products and solutions. This requires an integrated approach, from advanced analytics filtering business requirements through to the technology stack, from the development phase into quality assurance and production, switching automatically to the next platform and step in the process.

The creation of a seamless process from conception to implementation enables new products and services to be rolled out in a matter of days or even hours. Utilising dynamic cloud-based infrastructure delivers the necessary agility to the provisioning process, which is the foundation for new product development. Return on investment can thus be capitalised quicker and solutions can be adapted on demand to customer requirements. In addition, areas that are not delivering value can quickly be removed from the portfolio to ensure spend is allocated where revenue can be maximised. However, this first and foremost requires standardisation at the platform level, to deliver the rich, seamless user experience required for agility and competitiveness in today’s market.