Digital Acceleration and the Next Normal

We have seen incredible and rapid change in recent times. The idea of “digital transformation” for instance has seen its definition shift dramatically.

For a long time, most of us accepted that the concept involved a long-term strategy to adopt new technologies that would help us to modernize business processes, achieve greater efficiency and in an ideal world cut costs. But the moment the global health crisis struck the entire world stopped and so did just about every digital transformation project.

At first, the response to COVID-19 called for steps that felt less like long-term change than immediate actions to enable the continuity and stability to ensure organizations could continue to operate and people could work safely.

Then, the need to reduce cost and risk took precedence as organizations large and small looked to optimize their environments and entered what could be considered an “efficiency phase.”

Now, as we embark on the earliest stages of a recovery, the idea of digital transformation has re-emerged as an initiative that encompasses the process of defining, designing and delivering on the “next normal.” We understand that many things will never be the same. Some of the ways we live, work, and do business will require a re-model. Others will need a new model altogether.

Accelerating to the Next Normal

How the next normal looks will vary by industry, region and organization but two things we know are: 1) it will be digital-first and 2) it will move faster than ever.

Today, modernization is no longer an IT aspiration – it’s an operational necessity.  Consider the following:

  • An online consumer is 4 times more likely to switch to a competitor if they experience service-related problems (Source: Glance)
  • As many as 78% of consumers have backed out of an online purchase because of bad user experience (Source: Glance)
  • When it comes to adopting a new technology or process, cultural resistance can persist for up to 24 months, making the need to begin the process of change more urgent than ever (Source: Gartner)

Now, to compete and grow, organizations will need to harness this state of digital acceleration, a dedicated effort to rapidly modernize by:

  • Embracing an agile business model: Using modernized applications and infrastructure platforms that support the new requirements of doing business and ensure the ideal customer experience to drive revenue growth.
  • Rethinking the future of work: Re-imagining the workforce and enabling them with secure workspaces and collaboration platforms.

Let’s examine these two vital considerations for technology leaders as they begin to accelerate on the road to recovery.

Embracing an Agile Business Model

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, clothing retailer Zara reported losing over $465 million as 88% of its mall locations closed due to public health and safety measures. In the same period, however, the company’s online sales grew 95%.

As a result, Zara plans to invest $3 billion in developing its online shopping experiences [1].

In the next normal, an inability to adapt to change or innovate at or faster than the pace of the competition will put many organizations at risk of falling behind.

Embracing agile business is about seizing an opportunity to modernize the way you do business and – most important – to differentiate the way you interact with and serve your customers.

This is no easy task.

Some of the organizations we work with have told us, “We have legacy applications and systems we can’t change as fast as we need to.” In fact, organizations today spend 60 to 80% of their IT budgets on maintaining and operating traditional systems, leaving less time and resources for modernization initiatives. [2] Furthermore, 50% of IT leaders say the need to maintain traditional systems is impeding their efforts to transform. [3]

Others asked, “Our competitor’s digital strategy is taking our client base – what technologies should we consider?” Even with a modern, agile approach, Gartner finds 90% of organizations have said the need for skills in cloud infrastructure and emerging technologies outstrips demand.

How can your organization achieve a state of digital acceleration as an agile business?

  • Divest from infrastructure that doesn’t differentiate you: Avoid the burden of managing infrastructure that doesn’t drive a modern and streamlined customer or employee experience by embracing cloud technologies.
  • Focus on building a culture of rapid innovation: Pinpoint and remove barriers to adoption for agile methodologies, DevOps and automation to bring differentiated products and services to market faster.
  • Extend existing on-premises assets where required: Use modern cloud platforms to extend the traditional data center and modernize applications with less complexity and risk.

Rethinking the Future of Work

Over the past several months, employees everywhere have experienced the kind of transformation expected to take years in a matter of weeks – or even days. Where remote work was once considered a perk by some, it’s become a reality for many, perhaps indefinitely.

The immediate response to COVID-19 required IT leaders, along with their business and human resources counterparts, to provide for what their users needed right away: To be able to resume business as usual, safely and securely, with the same quality of experience.

To this end, many organizations needed to implement or drive adoption of new solutions for collaboration, security, remote access and virtual desktops.  As an example, between March 18 and April 29, Microsoft Teams saw 43 million new daily users, a growth of 134% in just over a month. This kind of application adoption has had a considerable impact on IT management and end-user enablement as organizations had to figure out how to deploy, manage and educate remotely.

And many organizations are still adapting to these changes.

Being ready for the future of work involves not only adapting to what the user needs today but also re-imagining the workplace to provide what they need to be successful in the next normal.

This calls for IT leaders to remove the barriers between the physical and digital workplace and break down silos around IT to connect the people, processes, and technologies to support growth and innovation.

How can your organization improve its readiness for the future of work?

  • Remove the barriers between the physical and digital workplace: Bring everyone together with a simple experience via modern working environments that run on cloud-based applications.
  • Empower IT to deliver a great employee experience: Onboard the right management and security solutions to make the employee experience easy to deploy, manage and protect.
  • Build the best employee experience for your organization: Design and deliver an end-to-end productivity and collaboration solution customized for your end-user requirements.
  • Get the most from your investments by ensuring adoption: Leverage strategic partnerships to drive structured on-boarding and usage of new tools and provide ongoing training and IT mentorship.

How Softchoice Will Continue to Help

The road to recovery from the global pandemic will look different for every organization.

From adapting to new challenges to defining your own next normal, Softchoice is here to help you make the right decisions to sustain momentum out of the crisis and thrive in recovery.

 

Are you ready to re-imagine your digital transformation journey?

Explore Softchoice services for Cloud and Enabling End Users.

Cloud Success Stories – Part 2

Cloud adoption has been on a trajectory of steady acceleration for several years.

At the end of 2019, our own cloud adoption research found that two-thirds of IT leaders surveyed intended to take a “cloud-first” posture for new applications and workloads.

Furthermore, while the global pandemic has disrupted technology plans and budgets, in many cases we’ve seen that organizations that had made progress toward cloud adoption were better positioned to pivot in their responses than those who hadn’t.

The pandemic has highlighted the business value of the cloud, helping organizations to sustain operations, support newly remote workers and pivot in response to new economic conditions.

In fact, we expect cloud adoption and migration to speed up as organizations rethink their workspaces and go-to-market strategies for post-pandemic recovery.

Sharing Customer Stories

Many of the organizations we work with at Softchoice have started or are moving forward faster with their cloud adoption journeys with the intent to build differentiated, next-generation product offerings on a modern infrastructure foundation.

However, each organization – and each application – is on a journey of its own. We wanted to share our experience helping 1,400+ organizations transition to the cloud and help others benefit from what they’ve learned.

This series will explore real-life stories on the journey to the cloud. In this article, we’ll look at two organizations and how Microsoft Azure helped them advance toward greater business agility.

Work Truck Solutions

The Challenge: Work Truck Solutions (WTS) wanted to refresh its technology stack to support an all-new online marketplace providing authoritative, up-to-date data on commercial trucks and vans.   

“Softchoice guided us toward the right Azure resources and helped us make a crucial upgrade that benefited our audiences” – Craig Vitt, Software Engineering Manager, Work Truck Solutions

The Journey:

  • Work Truck Solutions had deployed on Azure as early as 2012, but its new domain needed to reinforce its status as a source of industry knowledge
  • As the application needed to serve a national audience, unlike its earlier dealer-centric offerings, they needed a technology stack that combined scalability with manageable costs.
  • The company partnered with Softchoice to select and implement the right Azure resources to meet key KPIs, including site traffic, lead generation, and conversions.
  • Using the latest technologies, Softchoice ensured that the application could be deployed to numerous environments and aligned with DevOps workflows.
  • The initial launch exceeded expectations and as of April 2020, the marketplace had aggregated 160,000+ commercial vehicles, including data on customizable bodies, upfits and more.

Next Steps

  • WTS has embarked on a roadmap toward expanding capabilities, integrating duplicate continuous integration (C/I) and testing environments to run sprints in parallel.
  • With Softchoice, WTS is also focused on reducing technical debt related to legacy Azure resources, finding additional cost savings, and ensuring continued scalability and growth.

Read the full case study

Lumenpulse

The Challenge: Lumenpulse needed to replace legacy infrastructure supporting its ERP systems to support scalability and digital transformation without disrupting its 24/7/365 operations.

We’ve built a foundation for technological transformation at Lumenpulse. We’re anticipating many gains in productivity, efficiency and scalability.” – Alexandre Azevedo, IT Director, Lumenpulse

The Journey:

  • During a rapid expansion, Lumenpulse became concerned about the capacity of legacy ERP systems, including end-of-life Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 to scale.
  • They needed to transition to a future-proof ERP system, without interrupting ERP access for its fast-growing global manufacturing operations.
  • With Softchoice, they conducted a workload assessment of the existing environment and mapped its virtual machines to determine readiness for migration to the public cloud.
  • After making the decision to migrate to Microsoft Azure, Lumenpulse worked with Softchoice to implement an array of Azure resources to modernize its ERP and business operations.
  • The full deployment was completed on time after 10 months, after which Lumenpulse was onboarded to a fully managed cloud and end-user support arrangement with Softchoice.
  • Lumenpulse has since benefited from streamlining of routine tasks and lower costs resulting from tiering inactive data to low-cost storage and Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances.

Next Steps:

  • Through the Softchoice Keystone Operations Center, Lumenpulse has 24/7/365 access to Microsoft-certified technical engineers for cloud infrastructure monitoring and escalation.
  • Under the Softchoice Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, they also benefit from flexible monthly billing to keep the costs of their Azure deployments under control.

Read the full case study

What’s Next for You Cloud Journey? 

We’ve covered two stories where businesses have re-invented their business operations and product offerings through cloud adoption and migration.

But no cloud transition is ever fully complete. Working with a strategic managed services partner like Softchoice will help you:

  • Achieve the right mix of cloud services to meet your business needs
  • Take the risk out of cloud adoption and migration
  • Help you reduce and control costs in your cloud environment
  • Drive product and service innovation while maintaining security and compliance
  • Help you address cloud infrastructure skills gaps

Planning to migrate one or more workloads to the public cloud? 

Learn more about how we can help by exploring Softchoice Cloud Services.

Cloud Success Stories – Part 1

Multicloud has become a popular approach for organizations moving to the cloud.  

Although it isn’t practical in all business casesRightScale finds 84% of companies already run applications in a mix of cloud environments.[1]  

In the last several years, Softchoice has seen many of our customers revisiting their approach to the cloud to gain the distinct advantages of several cloud platforms. At the same time, many are looking to de-risk their cloud strategy by avoiding vendor lock-in 

But today’s measure of success in the cloud isn’t just how an organization gains in efficiency or agility. Instead, it’s how fast the cloud can drive real business transformation.  

Sharing Customer Stories

Many of our customers are turning to one or more clouds to stay true to the goal: Spend more time delivering great products and services than maintaining infrastructure.  

Nonetheless, each organization – and each application – is on a journey of its own. We wanted to share our experience helping 1,400+ organizations transition to the cloud and help others benefit from what they’ve learned.  

This series will explore real-life stories on the journey to the cloud. In this article, we’ll look at three organizations and how they integrated Google Cloud into their cloud strategies to deliver the best possible customer experiences.  

Michael Young, Vice President – Technology Strategy, Birch Hill Equity  

The Challenge: Birch Hill Equity wanted to adopt serverless architecture to the greatest extent possible to focus on delivering analytics products rather than maintaining infrastructure.  

Multicloud certainly ties into our strategy at Birch Hill…Our number one priority is for as much of what we do as possible to be serverless.”  

The Journey 

  • Birch Hill started in the public cloud with AWS, using a PostgreSQL, Databricks and a data warehouse to support its then lightweight data center needs.  
  • The company’s growing portfolio of analytics products required faster and faster response times, prompting the company to adopt Google BigQuery, due to its sub-second response times and lack of infrastructure to maintain.  
  • Google identity and secure access through OAuth met some critical security needs while allowing a small team to run data-intensive analytics workloads.  
  • Today, Google Cloud allows Birch Hill to spin up new analytics offerings fast while AWS supports heavy workloads with Databricks over EC2 clusters along with other infrastructure components.  

“We wanted to focus our time on delivering analytics products, not maintaining our cloud.”   

Next Steps: 

  • Birch Hill still faces challenges in implementing and managing effective security across multiple clouds – a common difficulty for multicloud adopters.  
  • Meanwhile, the company struggles with skills shortages in DevOps, infrastructure and architecture design, preferring to focus on expanding its analyst bench.  

Read the full conversation 

Sergei Leschinsky, Senior Director – Information Services, Polar Inc.  

The Challenge:  Polar needed to minimize delays and embrace a distributed network to support exponential growth and global expansion for its real-time bidding product for digital advertising.  

Distributed geographies became an essential part of the Polar Platform, which is a distinct advantage of public cloud. 

The Journey: 

  • Polar started its cloud journey as an early adopter, extending some of its production workloads to the public cloud – however, the project was unsuccessful.  
  • Overcoming an early false start, the company began a second migration with AWS, favoring its industry-leading versatility of services and solutions.  
  • As its product entered a period of rapid growth, Polar consolidated CDN providers and started bringing its heaviest-traffic workloads to Google Cloud. The result was a 50% savings in egress traffic.   
  • This allowed them to take advantage of geo-locations to support expansion in Europe and Australia. 
  • Today, Polar is using Google Cloud to support compute, load balancing and MySQL while AWS supports its data storage needs.  

Next Steps: 

  • Polar’s next steps in the cloud are to migrate its remaining high-traffic workloads to its Google Cloud environment.  
  • However, the company finds getting the attention of cloud providers to escalate and resolve issues is sometimes an uphill battle as a customer with a smaller footprint.  
  • They also see some difficulty in navigating the changes in billing structures and program changes across several large, complex and innovative service providers.  

“Our approach and need for public cloud today are very different than what we were trying to use it for in the past.”  

Read the full conversation.  

Norman Shi, Chief Technology Officer, Gradient.io  

The Challenge: As a startup, Gradient needed to process massive amounts of data in very short periods to support its SaaS tool ranking brand performance on Amazon’s retail platform.  

“Eventually, your application requirements will get to a stage where you require a higher level of infrastructure that offers greater scale, elasticity and processing speed.” 

The Journey: 

  • As a cloud-native company, Gradient started its journey without legacy infrastructure, allowing it to select the cloud provider or providers best able to meet their needs.   
  • Although Gradient recognized the strengths of AWS, potential data hosting conflicts with its retailer customers rendered it impractical for their needs.    
  • The company built its technology stack on Google Cloud to take advantage of its exceptional data collection and processing capabilities.  
  • Gradient also wanted to benefit from Google Cloud’s user-friendly interface and open source services like Kubernetes.  
  • Today, Gradient uses Google Cloud to power and optimize its SaaS dashboard for a fast-growing customer base.  

Next Steps:  

  • As a small but growing company in the cloud, Gradient still struggles with resource constraints and the challenges in accessing Google Cloud-specialized skills 
  • They also have some trouble tracking, managing and optimizing their cloud spend as their offering goes through a period of rapid growth.  

“These services are game-changers for any organizations who want to process terabytes and petabytes of data. 

Read the full conversation 

What’s Next for You Cloud Journey? 

The cloud journey is not always a pleasant or a complete success at first.”  

We’ve covered three real-life journeys that led to successful cloud transitions. However, no cloud transition is ever fully complete. Working with a strategic managed services partner like Softchoice will help you:  

  • Achieve the right mix of cloud services to meet your business needs 
  • Take the risk out of cloud adoption and migration 
  • Optimize your cloud spending across multiple providers 
  • Balance product and service innovation with proper cloud governance  
  • Upskill your team on every aspect of the cloud 

Learn more about how we can help by exploring Softchoice Cloud Services. 

Planning to migrate one or more workloads to the public cloud? First, check out this Forrester report, 10 Facts Tech Leaders Should Know About Cloud Migration. 

 [1] RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud Report from Flexera