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.

Accelerating Remote Work: It’s All About Experiences

In collaboration with Cisco.

If you’re prioritizing the acceleration of remote work right now, how are you delivering fast, spread out and great experiences every time?

Coming out of the acute crisis climate of COVID-19, many organizations faced the struggles of forced change, but also found some upside in the disruption.

Now is a time of both urgency and opportunity when anything is possible. What are you prioritizing?

Many organizations we work with are prioritizing the acceleration of remote work as a cornerstone of their digital transformations. When we talk with them about remote work, the conversation always comes back to experiences – both for employees internally and with customers externally. More specifically, how fast, spread out and great can those experiences be every time?

To answer that question and provide guidance on achieving that goal, we created the Best Practices Guide, Ready for Any Eventuality: Accelerating into Today’s Remote Work Reality in partnership with Cisco.

In the guide, we examine 4 core remote work capabilities – network, data center, collaboration and security – from the perspective of:

  • Compelling lessons learned so far
  • What organizations know now
  • Best practices for delivering effective experiences
  • How Softchoice can help

Here are some key highlights from the guide.

Key Highlights 

Network:

The location and scope of remote work will continue to change with every iteration of the next normal.

Best Practices:

Transition to a modernized digital network that supports quality user and application experiences.

Data Center:

The data center is fundamental, but the architecture can be complex and precarious. There is an opportunity to optimize and modernize.

Best Practices:

Achieve increased capacity and performance in the data center through simplified architecture.

Collaboration:

For both internal and external interactions, users expect rich, elegant and life-like experiences.

Best Practices:

Deliver an “office” quality experience every time through expanded capabilities, streamlined licensing and effective adoption.

Security:

Security must touch everything, but there also must be a balance between security and productivity (especially with distributed employees).

Best Practices:

Promote confidence in security when the boundaries of working are still in flux.

Staying focused on the experience

At Softchoice, experiences trump technology every time. If you’re looking to accelerate remote work and remain ready for whatever is to come, fast, spread out and great experiences are a vital goal. It’s important to be both intentional and decisive in how you proceed in your digital transformation.

When urgency and opportunity collide the way they are now, the partnership is paramount. Softchoice offers expertise based on precedents, broad Cisco knowledge and complementary capabilities to help you decipher, plan for, implement and enable adoption of the options that can help you deliver effective experiences to your employees and customers.

For ideas and advice on how to accelerate remote work with fast, spread out and great experiences every time, download the Best Practices Guide.

 

Where to Start with Microsoft Azure

In collaboration with Microsoft. 

Cloud migration often comes across as an immediate win for organizations, making infrastructure simpler and less expensive to manage. In truth, making the move to a public cloud provider like Microsoft Azure can be a complex, protracted process.

In many cases, expert guidance makes the difference between success and failure.

Cloud transitions often don’t succeed — at least not right away. Many run into problems like spiraling costs, misconfigurations and challenges surrounding shared security responsibilities.

None of this is to say that migrating to the public cloud is a bad idea. On the contrary: Moving the right workloads into Azure will yield considerable operational benefits. Nonetheless, your success depends on taking an approach that accounts for all relevant infrastructure, dependencies and possible risks along the way.

For example, Azure can provide the scalability, security and deep integrations with the Microsoft ecosystem to modernize existing IT environment and address evolving business requirements. Of course, this only works with proper planning and management.

Let’s look at some of the common roadblocks to a successful Azure deployment and how to overcome them.

Common Cloud Challenges

Every Azure migration needs a detailed plan that accounts for:

  • The technical feasibility of migrating the workload in questions
  • All associated risks and costs
  • Any relevant application dependencies
  • Formal management and governance policies

While building such plans, you will likely flag one or more of these concerns. In some cases, moving and supporting a given workload in Azure may require a skill set your organization doesn’t have on staff.

The Skills Gap in the Cloud

The early 2019 edition of the Emerging Risks Survey from Gartner found that “talent shortage” had become the top concern for IT decision-makers, up from third place in the previous quarter.

Public cloud infrastructure requires skills, like scalable architecture, cloud security and cloud-specific technologies such as microservices or containerization. In today’s tech talent marketplace, all of these are in short supply.

The services within Azure are undergoing continuous updates and improvements. This means Azure consumers need to dedicate time and resources to keeping up with these changes and mitigating the impact on their IT environments.

In response to the need for specialized expertise and practices like DevOps, many organizations have built strategic partnerships with managed service providers (MSPs). As overall public cloud consumption continues to grow, the need for specialized assistance with cloud migration and management will likely grow in tandem.

Budgetary Pressure During Cloud Migrations

Cost savings are perhaps the most well-publicized benefits to cloud adoption and migration. Moving from capital expenditure (CAPEX) model of procurement in the data center to operating expense (OPEX) in the cloud has a certain appeal.

But shifting workloads into the public cloud is far from guaranteed to save organizations money. In fact, in the following situations,  migrating to the cloud increases costs:

  • Limited or no accountability for commissioning and decommissioning workloads, resulting in unnecessary or redundant cloud resources.
  • Inadequate visibility into existing cloud resources, some of which may no longer be needed (such as instances spun up for testing or now-defunct projects).
  • Over-provisioning resources to accommodate peak capacity, a practice held over from the on-premise data center that’s often unnecessary.

A survey of decision-makers in enterprise IT found that many were disappointed with the level of savings they realized in the cloud. This was especially true for “lift-and-shift” transitions, where few if any modifications are made to a given workload prior to migration. These results highlight the need for rightsizing of cloud resources, i.e. ensuring that the services being used match the customer’s actual needs.

Misconfigurations and Security Vulnerabilities

Data breaches have only grown more expensive, as organizations place more strategic assets and operations into complex cloud architectures. These often require precise management by both the cloud service provider and the customer. Misconfigurations are a common cause of these breaches because they can leak data or expose resources to direct attack.

The 2020 Cloud Misconfigurations Report estimated that organizations worldwide collectively lost about $5 trillion across 2018 and 2019 due to configuration errors in the cloud.

Ensuring the right configurations and mapping the relevant application dependencies is complex work. A shortage of specialized skills, combined with fluctuating IT budgets and the growth of remote work, make it tough to coordinate in-house efforts to find and address every vulnerability. Working with a managed IT service and solutions provider is often a necessary step for mitigating risk in the cloud.

How Softchoice Will Help Guide Your Azure Journey

Many of the challenges above are relevant to organizations moving into Azure for the first time.

However, even organizations with one or more workloads running in Azure today can benefit from reassessing their current status, internal skill sets, cloud budgets and security practices. In our experience, there’s always room for improvement.

Softchoice is a certified Azure Expert MSP (Microsoft’s highest designation for cloud MSPs) with 500+ cloud migrations under our belt. We have designed solutions, including the Softchoice Public Cloud Accelerator and Cloud Workload Assessment, to provide the full breadth of support you need for a successful Azure migration, from technical support to ongoing technology mentorship.

To learn more,  download our guide, “The Essential Starter’s Guide to Microsoft Azure for IT Leaders” or connect with a member of our team.