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CEOs around the world are obsessed with digital transformation. They know that digital innovators are creating new markets, redefining existing ones and shaping the behaviour and expectations of customers.

They know too that digital leaders are changing the game for everyone. These digital leaders are redefining the standards by which all other businesses are measured, by setting new expectations of customer experience. Organisations that can’t keep up know, that over time, their customers will look elsewhere and their market share will decline.

To meet this challenge, some CEOs and CIOs have adopted a ‘cloud first’ strategy and some are talking about moving to ‘cloud only’ infrastructure and planning a phased shift to enterprise-wide cloud operations. The reality, however, for all but the newest, most asset light organisations, is that they will be running hybrid IT, combining multiple cloud and as-a-service operations with on premises and hosted applications.

“Hybrid cloud strategy is a great enabler to achieve the dual mandate of modernizing legacy systems and accelerating the next-gen cloud services into one integrated framework. The strategy of hybrid cloud should drive Integration and orchestration of multiple landing zones to set up the foundation for the Digital Transformation Solutions,“ says Venu Lambu, SVP & global markets head for infrastructure & cloud services at business technology and professional services company Cognizant.

Getting the best from hybrid cloud requires a holistic approach which is about much more than managing a mixed IT environment. Truly digital enterprises are rapidly evolving to a multi-cloud, multi-vendor state, where applications are run in different environments, with multiple providers, both private, hosted and public, and only a holistic approach can prevent this turning into a management nightmare.

A holistic approach is also about overcoming the separation of data and compute operations. Traditionally these key functions have lived in different domains, but digital requires them to work, and be managed, together.

CIOs who deliver holistic hybrid IT can provide the platforms for line-of-business leaders to deliver customer-led and insight-driven products and services. These, in turn, enable organisations to develop new lines of business, new partnerships and take part in the new industries being created by the digital revolution.

Major service providers, such as Cognizant, are already seeing organisations use this approach to rapidly deploy new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to meet specific business cases.

Cognizant’s Venu Lambu says leading organizations have enabled the enterprise reference architecture to move work-loads seamlessly between private and public clouds thereby providing flexibility at scale and faster time to market for the digital enablement programs.

Integration platforms and service orchestration are key to this approach, which connects applications, data and APIs across cloud and on-premises environments. Holistic hybrid IT can provide value across a range of enterprise requirements – from delivering personalized customer experience, to data-centric security, to all-encompassing compliance regimes and much more.

Moving towards this sort of future ready enterprise can begin before large-scale cloud programmes are deployed, if CIOs and their CEOs look for partners and service providers that are technology and vendor agnostic, and focused on business outcomes.

Cognizant, for example, is helping financial services giants Standard Life and ABN AMRO with this process.

At Standard Life, Cognizant has migrated 3,000 workloads in three-and-a-half months to deliver a next-generation ready infrastructure platform that is helping improve agility and deliver faster time to market for new products.

This involved a refresh of legacy infrastructure, the creation of a common strategic storage infrastructure and the delivery of a single orchestrated view for infrastructure provisioning and management. The result has been greater visibility into utilisation levels and operating costs as well as a platform for future innovation.

Wherever an organisation is on its digital transformation journey, holistic hybrid cloud should be part of the solution, and the principles behind its development are the same. Cloud investments should be business case driven. CIOs need to focus on creating enterprise-wide cloud strategies and future ready architectures by engineering better connectivity between public and private clouds. They and their service providers need to look at the opportunities presented by hyper-converged cloud and accelerating the shift to as-a-service business models.

Adopt these principles and you and your organisation can thrive in the relentlessly innovative world of digital.