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Need to Automate a Process? Start Offline Before Moving to the Cloud

To digitally transform a business process, automate a process. But before taking that process to the cloud, start by focusing on the people behind the process.

One of the key appeals of digital transformation is how it can automate a process so it’s no longer sucking up time, employee attention or extra resources.

Cloud can and should be a key component of enabling digital transformation, providing a scalable foundation in a pay-as-you-go model to help organizations optimize and automate processes. Research firm Omdia, which is part of ITProToday's parent company Informa, has figured out how to automate a process with the help of the cloud via The Transformation Framework. This framework can help organizations to understand the path and their progress to digital transformation by assessing four major aspects of transformation including people, portfolio evolution, culture and innovation track record.

"Cloud is an important aspect of any transformation and it is the foundation on which enterprises can build responsive and resilient processes," said Hansa Iyengar, principal analyst at Omdia. "The framework does not specifically evaluate cloud adoption, but unless an enterprise has ‘cloudified’ a significant part of its technology infrastructure and applications, it will not be able to achieve high scores on the evaluation."

The Good Things Organizations are Doing Already for Digital Transformation

According to Gregg Ostrowski, regional CTO of application performance management company AppDynamics, organizations have reacted to increased customer demand by moving operations to the cloud in order to scale and increase the speed of innovation.

Ostrowski noted that in his company's recent App Attention Index report, 72% of consumers reported that they were “grateful” to brands that have invested in digital during the pandemic so consumers could access the services they rely on. As a result, many people will continue to stick to those digital services long after the pandemic is over.

According to Mike Hayes, VMware’s chief transformation officer, the organizations getting digital transformation right are preparing themselves for the unforeseen future and putting the systems and culture in place to allow for constant reinvention and improvement. That's the first step when attempting to automate a process.

Digital or not, what successful transformation is about for Hayes is about having agile systems in place that can support even the quickest movements and pivots, while also allowing an organization to take advantage of new opportunities without delay, and without throwing the rest of the company off course.

"On one level, that involves the direct use of technology with well-architected solutions that most efficiently achieve focused business outcomes," Hayes said. "But on a deeper level, it is about culture, philosophy, mindset, and approach." 

For Jim Walker, principal product evangelist at Cockroach Labs, the term "digital transformation" is a bit obtuse. He focuses instead on examining how specific technologies bring agility and resilience to operations.

"Everything is digital today so being cloud-native is more actionable, as it takes advantage of the modern infrastructure and is the future of IT," Walker said.

Walker explained that among the core principles on which cloud-native tech is built are the integrated ability for automated scale, built-in resilience that isn't an afterthought, and the usage of composable pieces that build with existing and accepted APIs. 

The Bad: What Organizations Get Wrong

There are a lot of things that organizations get wrong when trying to use the cloud to enable digital transformation efforts.

Kash Shaikh, CEO and president of Virtana, a provider of hybrid cloud management platforms, says that a survey his company conducted in February 2021 confirms that the journey to the public cloud is complicated and many companies are not getting it right on their first try. A staggering 72% of cloud migrations have been repatriated due to cost or performance issues.

"It is clear that organizations need precise observability into application behaviors, interdependencies, and public cloud costs before they make a move to the cloud," Shaikh said.

Another key pitfall organizations have faced with trying to use the cloud of digital transformation is some have just tried to "lift and shift" applications without first getting them ready for the cloud. Sameer Khera, CIO of NortonLifeLock commented that it is important that IT leaders prepare their applications to be cloud-ready to take advantage of cloud infrastructure and scalability.

"Digital transformation is as much about your business process transformation as it is about your technology transformation," Khera said. "Companies need a clear cloud governance strategy to have a clear view of the cost in the cloud. Without this, they may be in for an ugly surprise when the cloud bill rolls in."

Security is another area where cloud digital transformation efforts have had issues. Anant Adya, SVP and business head for Cloud, Infrastructure & Security Services at Infosys, commented that his company's Cloud Radar report found cost, security, lack of talent and value measurement were among top concerns of companies migrating to the cloud.

"The other issue we have seen is that organizations think about security as an afterthought and do not embed security during the design phase," Adya said. "Security should be prioritized, and IT executives must encrypt and secure their own data to avoid weaknesses."

Best Practices for Digital Transformation in the Cloud

So how should organizations use the cloud to enable digital transformation?

"You’re getting it right if you’re seeking a business outcome that the use of the cloud unlocks," said Juniper Networks CIO Sharon Mandell .

That business outcome could be time-to-value, automation and agility, business experimentation without long term capital commitments or freeing up resources to focus on more strategic IT problems. In Mandell's view, companies who really can articulate why they are using the cloud and can drive a transformational outcome are starting off right.

It's also important to recognize that digital transformation in the cloud isn't just about cloud. It's about having a strategy in place, where cloud is a key component.

VMware's Hayes noted that too often he sees people jumping to how quickly they can automate a process without first asking the more important question: Is this the best process to begin with? 

Hayes suggests that organizations start by sketching out the ideal flow and experience — and only then start thinking about the digital tools that can help to achieve the desired outcome. The use of technology should be purposeful and provide clear business value that customers can understand and appreciate.

"The problems that exist before migrating to the cloud will remain if not addressed while digitizing your organization," Hayes said. "Effective strategies start with planning in the analog world and really focusing on what customers employees and the business needs."

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