The digital revolution is transforming business and society. It is creating new products and services, new industries and new companies at an unprecedented rate.

Organisations that want to survive and prosper in this exciting and challenging environment need the ability to transform their business at least as fast as the market changes.

Digital technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), analytics, real-time customer interactions and machine learning are all utterly dependent on connectivity.

Mobile, which was the initial driver of the digital revolution and underpins its future development, likewise depends on seamless connectivity. And top quality connectivity is vital for companies seeking to attract and retain customers and staff.

If an organisation’s crown jewels are its data and its people, then its core business platform in the coming years is going to be the network. What was once the Cinderella of the IT department must move to the centre of the business technology stage, otherwise the best laid digital technology plans will be still born.

The development of the IoT spells out the opportunities and challenges and also highlights the pace of change in the digital world.

Data from 451 Research, which surveyed 1,000 global businesses, found that 71% are currently gathering some form of IoT data. Analyst Group IDC, for example, reports that 31.4% of organisations it surveyed have already launched IoT solutions, with an additional 43% looking to deploy in the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, Dan Beiler, analyst at Forrester, warns that while companies are collecting IoT data and while mobile is central to IoT deployment they are not really grasping the challenge of delivering business value from the data they collect. “Mobile IoT is not a technology revolution but a fundamental business process transformation,” he writes. “Mobility requires managers not only to deploy mobile technologies but also to exploit them to support specific business process requirements.”

On this process, the network and the datacentre must be enablers, not inhibitors, of change. Thanks to the cloud, applications and services may come and go, as organisational and market requirements vary. Similarly, raw computing power, once the limiting factor on data processing for the enterprise, can be turned on or off with the flex of a credit card. Yet data and the ability to process and move data around are, and will always be, the defining features of the digital era.

Many organisations have begun their digital journey – often with successful customer-facing, proof of concept trials – and are now looking at the much harder task of transforming their business and operational models to support their digital aspirations. There is, however, a real danger that these firms will struggle to deliver the sort of infrastructure to support the connectivity requirements that digital demands.

Traditional IT businesses have built their infrastructure, organisation and operational models round the separation of the network, storage and compute layers. However, this separation is increasingly untenable in the digital age. In recent years infrastructure vendors have promoted the concept of the software-defined datacentre as a way of overcoming the limits inherent in this separation.

Some vendors have taken this a step further by developing machines that combine compute and storage, and which are highly optimised for certain proprietary applications. This is a development that puts the CIO on the horns of a dilemma: accept expensive, but very efficient, proprietary solutions and the vendor lock-in that comes with them; or look to the cloud and commoditised hardware to underpin digital transformation.

For most organisations, of course, it isn’t an ‘either/or’ choice. The majority of CIOs today operate in a hybrid IT world and are set to continue that way. They are looking to modernise and renovate their core, often on premises-based systems and applications, while exploiting the new, usually cloud-based applications, services and additional infrastructure, to gain access to the most innovative and/or cost-effective technology.

Underpinning all this has to be a powerful, cost-effective network infrastructure. The new network has to carry everything that ran on the old enterprise wide area networks (WAN). It must flex and scale as the organisation develops its digital offerings, handle significant new loads from IoT and data applications, and deliver enhanced connectivity services to customers and staff that allow them to move seamlessly from mobile to Wi-Fi.

Given the architecturalchallenges posed by the digital revolution, with IT organisations having to considerconnectivity, security, management, compute and analytics, and application layers, enterprises are looking for partners that can help with both strategy and systems deployment and with long-term innovation.

Dimension Data is one of the suppliers trying to do this. Pete Hulme, Data CentreTechnical Lead at Dimension Data,says, “Too many enterprises have datacentres which are out of date but can’t be disposed of and networks that are actually catering for yesterday’s traffic. Most enterprise wide area networks, for example, were implemented before cloud, enterprise mobility and collaboration became commonplace. They are overwhelmingly connectivity, not application, focused. They are, in relative terms, dumb.

“In a digital world, with an ever-increasing number of data sources and with applications pulling in data from many different places, organisationsneed a new approach if the network is to be the platform for innovation, not the bottleneck that chokes it off.”

For Hulme this platform for a unified communications future should be based on a converged infrastructure and a hybrid-WAN (https://www.dimensiondata.com/en-US/Technologies/Hybrid-WAN). This approach can deliver applications and services quickly and cost-effectively by boosting network performance through intelligent routing via multiple connectivity types, including MPLS and the internet. The benefits include increased capacity, reduced cost and the ability to scale as data grows with the deployment of new digital services.

One organisation adopting this converged infrastructure and unified communications approach was Deutsche Bank. Operating in more than 70 countries and with more than 100,000 employees, the bank wanted to significantly improve customer experience and global productivity. It chose Dimension Data to deploy Microsoft Skype for Business to its employees and to advise on how the system could be embedded in the banking environment.

The benefits of the move included significant cost reductions as Deutsche Bank moved into new workspaces utilising Office 365 and Skype for Business, and enhanced collaboration and communication between employees, the bank’s customers and supply chain.

Whether it is a global Skype for Business implementation, or the first efforts to deliver meaningful business benefits from the collection of IoT data, CIOs and business technology leaders must win significant investment to build a digital infrastructure that can accelerate transformation and growth.

That means a converged infrastructure strategy with modern networks, datacentres that are modernised to be dynamic and agile assets, and it means giving the technology teams the tools to manage hosted and cloud-based applications in a secure, efficient and cost-effective manner.

The rewards for success can be high, or they can simply be that you remain in business. The cost of failure to both create a meaningful digital transformation strategy and to deliver the infrastructure on which it can run will be the extinction of your organisation.

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