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Hybrid IT can deliver the platforms CEOs and CIOs need to drive forward digital transformation of their organisation.

Few organisations can run their business wholly in the cloud. Most have infrastructure and applications that combine on premise,  hosted and pure cloud solutions.

The reasons are plain. On the one hand, existing assets must be sweated and data must be protected, whether on premise or in the cloud, while being used in-house and when shared with partners. The fact that data is subject to multiple, sometimes contradictory compliance regulations, means many organisations need hybrid rather than pure cloud solutions to data management and storage. This provides them with the flexibility to confidently manage their data within that bureaucracy and the visibility to remain accountable.

On the other hand, the core digital technologies – social, mobile and analytics are often cloud dependent. They have enabled the creation of new products, new services and even whole new industries. Software as a Service has revolutionised application delivery and allowed business units to pick and choose the applications they want to deploy, often bypassing traditional IT departments. Meanwhile Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service have fundamentally transformed the way core business applications can be hosted and run.

But while cloud-based platforms are central to an organisation’s digital transformation and the key to new technologies such as Internet of Things, CIOs still must manage their integration into existing systems. Done badly, this can significantly increase complexity, cost and create security vulnerabilities and leave an organisation locked-in to a single cloud provider.

Done correctly, hybrid IT can be a permanent platform for innovation.  It’s really important to get the basics right and to  create a solid foundation for digital initiatives. Optimising the existing data centre infrastructure and also enabling open access to all data across new, traditional, and external systems, is imperative in providing the flexibility to support the demands of the business. There are examples spanning across industries which are demonstrating today that a fusion of hybrid infrastructure and deep analytic capabilities can foster an even stronger competitive advantage.

IBM customers such as lift manufacturer Kone and social housing repairs organisation Mears Group know how to focus on business outcomes to drive grow and differentiation and to get real value from business-focused services, built on top of complex, heterogeneous sources of data.

Kone has an installed global base of more than 1 million elevators and lifts and is working with IBM using Watson-based intelligence, analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) cloud technologies to analyse data to predict maintenance issues and improve performance. Henrik Ehrnrooth, the organisation’s President and Chief Executive Officer, says “New solutions like remote diagnostics and predictability mean we will deliver even better services to our customers,” He added that “Our customers no longer want to buy product features, they want to buy outcomes”.

In contrast, Mears Group is a very different organisation to Kone. It has almost 20,000 employees spread across the UK, who maintain, repair and upgrade the homes of hundreds of thousands of people, and provide domiciliary care services to around 30,000 people each year.

Its USP, the ability to deliver responsive, customer-centric services has allowed it to grow rapidly, but growth also presented significant challenges to the business; one was to retain and develop talent from new acquisitions, another was to deliver analytics services to a larger number of business users and significantly improve the time it took to get actionable insights from data.

Mears Group worked with IBM to create a business social network using IBM Connections Cloud, and a cognitive platform for insight. The results were impressive, according to IT and Business System Director John Brett.

Mears was able to significantly increase talent retention rates and gain real business insight through analytics. “Gaining timely business intelligence insights is important because we work in an industry in which client decisions are driven by key performance indicators,” says Brett.

Using IBM Watson Analytics, Mears is able to get insights from structured and unstructured data that have rapid business results. “When our mobile telephony contract was due to expire and all the potential vendors had presented their new proposals, we uploaded our historical telephony usage data and the new terms and conditions to IBM Watson Analytics. Within hours, Watson helped our procurement team determine which of the new proposals offered the best value,” says Brett.

This insight has also demonstrated to Brett and his team that common-sense assumptions can sometimes be incorrect. “We wanted to find out what the main drivers for social housing repair costs were, and we had spent three weeks trying to analyse the data on spreadsheets. We thought the age of the property would be the most significant factor, but we were having a hard time testing this hypothesis.

“Then we fed our data into Watson Analytics, and discovered the real answer in less than a day. In fact, the cost driver was how accurately our clients were initially diagnosing faults in their properties and the work required.

“By identifying the particular housing association sub-offices whose accuracy was below average, we were able to help our clients provide additional training to diagnose faults—helping them deliver more competitive, cost-effective services.”

For organisations such as Kone, Mears Group and many others, hybrid IT is the essential platform to the digital future. It allows CIOs to effectively lead digital transformation strategies by delivering robust, secure and scalable infrastructure for applications that enhance both client and staff experiences. The challenges of orchestrating on premises, hosted and pure cloud solutions are great, but the rewards of doing so effectively are even greater.