While the CEO or CTO often drives the digital transformation effort at most companies, last year it was COVID-19, not the executive suite, that effectively called the shots in making it happen. But even as the impacts of the pandemic wane—at least in the United States and more slowly in Europe—the transformation is ongoing, and there remains plenty of work to be done. Companies fresh off the lessons of 2020 are now investing in transformative technology that will move them into the future. But what do IT leaders have their eyes on? What’s next as transformation continues to take shape in the enterprise?
GigaOm co-founder and CEO Ben Book recently appeared on an episode of the 7investing podcast with 7investing founder and CEO Simon Erickson to answer some of those questions.
Comparing digital transformation efforts across American enterprises to a nine-inning baseball game, Erickson posed the question to Book of where we are in the country when it comes to digital transformation efforts. Book’s response: Most enterprises are in the second or third inning—still experimenting with new technologies and trying new things. The pandemic, of course, forced the hand of many organizations to get moving on projects that might otherwise have stayed on the back burner.
“It accelerated timelines from six to 12 months for companies already doing this to three to five years for others [that were starting cold],” Book says, saying the pandemic has made enterprises more proactive now about innovating and using technology for digital products and services and supporting their employees in new environments like work from home.
“They are no longer waiting because they can,” he says. “They are now thinking farther out, two to five years, to think about what they can try now versus waiting and being behind the market.”
One technology area in particular has seen the most investment: the cloud. Book notes there has been a massive shift in the way enterprises want to leverage cloud technologies. Workloads are increasingly moving to the cloud as enterprises get out of the business of running IT. Leaders want to focus on innovating and building new services, rather than get bogged down managing infrastructure.
“A lot of companies have tried to do this lift-and-shift thing,” Book says in the interview. “The problem with that is that most enterprises aren’t familiar with the cloud.”
As a result, Book says, many organizations get surprised when they encounter the steep challenge of managing a cloud environment. The first obstacle, he says, is skills. Most enterprises lack the skill sets to migrate, manage, and innovate cloud environments, and efforts to upskill current employees or recruit new, skilled ones fall short.
And then there is the paradox of choice posed by cloud deployments.
“With cloud there are so many options for services and products across providers organizations, and they are constantly choosing best-of-breed, single clouds, multi-clouds, and hybrid clouds based on the business need,” he says, adding: “As the environments get more distributed and complex, it gets harder to manage, let alone to learn how to use and manage services to meet cost and security needs.”
The result: Cloud becomes another silo for many enterprises that implement it for the first time until they more fully understand the mechanics and how to manage and govern it, says Book.
What’s the takeaway for companies currently swimming in complexity and feeling over their heads?
“It’s worth it to invest in your people and bring in external staff or consultants to train your employees and build a culture of upskilling, so you can have a long term solution to your staff and institutional knowledge, versus outsourcing everything so you’re at the mercy of your outsourcing firm,” says Book. “It’s a balance, but you can create a great culture internally and grow your organization organically.”