Enhancing Digital Infrastructure: the Best Strategies for Your Business
As switching to a digital business model becomes a necessity for successful business, Sam Routledge, chief technology officer at Softcat, tells us why companies should invest in IT infrastructure and how to get it right
The fourth industrial revolution is in full swing, presenting a real opportunity for businesses ready to take part in digital transformation.
Sam Routledge, CTO at Softcat
Whilst digital is ostensibly about software, apps and data, the right infrastructure – flexible, scalable and automated – is a key foundation for a digitally-enabled business.
However, company level adoption of technology remains slow and the UK currently only ranks 14th out of 140 major countries.
Knowing where and when to invest in your business’s IT infrastructure is crucial. But how do we do it? Many institutions understand the need to change how they work, yet few get beyond isolated success or incremental benefits.
Investment in IT infrastructure: getting it right
According to PwC’s 2017 Global Digital IQ Survey the number of UK companies investing more than 15% of annual revenues in digital technology has more than doubled in the last year. Businesses are recognising the need to move to a digital business model, using IT infrastructure to create a strong platform.
You must be careful, though. Too much focus on managing IT as a ‘cost’, and not using it to generate business value, can lead to a crisis where organisations are underfunded and cannot compete in the digital race. As with most things, you need to get the balance right.
“Draw up a technology road map which aligns IT investment decisions with your company’s strategic goals and encourages feedback on your plans from senior management.”
The first steps towards successful IT investment are focusing on what the business really wants to achieve and working closely with management across all departments to understand overall aims and objectives.
Next, draw up a technology road map which aligns IT investment decisions with your company’s strategic goals and encourages feedback on your plans from senior management. Pay particular attention to where you think there are current technology gaps and where IT attention may need to be prioritised or re-allocated.
You can use analytics further down the line to get an accurate picture of when you should reduce or increase spend to meet changing financial realities or support more aggressive corporate growth.
Keep your head in the cloud
A Telstra study found 61% of businesses are trying to disrupt current markets or enter new ones. However, inflexible technology and network platforms are major barriers and companies have trouble understanding how to implement new technologies alongside legacy systems or are hampered by outdated systems that move too slowly.
To overcome the issue of interoperability and to avoid disrupting patch solutions, you could introduce a separate environment for new technologies which can be built upon; this might be where cloud services come into play.
“Not everything belongs in a public cloud, which is why so many forward-thinking companies are choosing a hybrid cloud approach.”
Cloud can deliver significant savings and be less troublesome than trying to manage multiple changes internally and at the same time. Make sure you really think about your operating systems, applications and compute options to ensure you plan and tailor a cloud approach that’s right for you.
Not everything belongs in a public cloud, which is why so many forward-thinking companies are choosing a hybrid cloud approach. This refers to a mixed computing, storage, and services environment made up of on-premises infrastructure (or private cloud), combined with one or more public cloud services.
The hybrid approach can be beneficial because it enables organisations to move between the two worlds, using the most appropriate platform for each workload or application.
Driving cultural change: it’s not just about IT
A large number of businesses are now seeing digital transformation as a top priority for survival in the next five years, with research by SAP finding this applies to 84% of companies worldwide.
However, digital transformation is not 'just' an IT exercise. It must be driven by, or at least in conjunction with, the business and it only really works if the technology is adopted by employees and customers.
Change can be unsettling, and workers can understandably be apprehensive about any differences in role, focus or tasks, especially if it involves a technology element they don't necessarily understand.
“Focus on the move to 'becoming cloud' - a gradual process of change - which will transform the culture in a structured and less intimidating way.”
For example, if moving to the cloud you can’t just 'buy cloud’ and hope everyone catches on to the concept overnight. No person or training course can achieve transformation single-handedly. There's also a whole range of concepts to become familiar with for teams to work at the speed that cloud can enable.
Focus on the move to 'becoming cloud' - a gradual process of change - which will transform the culture in a structured and less intimidating way.
Help your staff by providing as much clarity as you can; translate top-line goals and priorities into specific metrics and KPIs for employees at all levels. Allow them time and space to experiment with new technology and let them know it's ok to get things wrong! Encourage users to communicate and feedback so the right support is identified.
Protection: think beyond compliance to keep data safe
According to the latest government survey, 46% of UK businesses identified at least one cyber security breach or attack in the past 12 months.
It takes only one look at the current headlines to understand why companies are so concerned with IT security. Constant reports of state-sponsored hacking attacks and insider leaks reflect the threats organisations face daily.
Unfortunately, many companies put too much focus on compliance, thinking as long as they meet regulations and can tick off their checklist, sensitive data will be thoroughly protected.
“Adopt the principle of least privilege when it comes to access to company data.”
A much better approach is to move from perimeter-focused security measures to embedding it in the core of your network from the start. It can be useful to use a probability model here, to reduce your attack surface and work out where resources should be most profitably directed.
Companies working in this way are better able to drive discussions about risk in more consistent, business-aligned terms. It helps them start making decisions based on real-time data and move away from making decisions driven by fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Adopt the principle of least privilege when it comes to access to company data. This prevents employees accessing sensitive data they don’t necessarily need. Assign each new account the fewest privileges possible and escalate privileges as necessary. At the same time, when access to sensitive data is no longer needed, all corresponding privileges should be immediately revoked.