Digital Transformation and the New War Room
December 02, 2015

Dennis Drogseth
EMA

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In August, EMA surveyed 306 respondents in North America, England, France, Germany, Australia, China and India about digital and IT transformation. The goal was in part to create a heat map around just what digital and IT transformation were in the minds of both IT and business stakeholders. We targeted mostly leadership roles, but also emerging roles on the business side such as digital marketing and customer success.

And of course we had to define both digital and IT transformation (briefly) in the questionnaire, even if we wanted to largely let the respondents shape each transformational initiative within their experience versus our dictates.

We defined digital transformation as “optimizing business or organizational effectiveness via digital investments and IT services.”

IT transformation we defined as “optimizing IT performance for business or organizational needs and outcomes.”

We required all respondents to have been involved in transformational initiatives at some level. In fact most had at least one transformational initiative underway for more than a year.

One of the key lessons learned was that digital and IT transformation really do go hand in hand and both require a laser focus on obtaining the highest level of service performance and user experience. In spite of all the industry buzz, digital transformation really depends on progressive approaches to IT transformation targeting requirements such as service assurance, cross-silo dialog and cooperation, user and customer experience management and managing the extended or borderless enterprise (including cloud and other service providers, partners, suppliers, etc.). It also requires effectively integrating and optimizing data from multiple sources supporting multiple stakeholders and decision-making. Above all, digital transformation requires superior levels of dialog and teamwork across IT and between IT and the business it serves. This is true across verticals, and even across different company sizes, from enterprises on down.

This would naturally suggest a new kind of war room — one optimized to support the needs of business priorities, as well as one streamlined in its communication across IT. This would invariably require not only a common situational awareness across operations silos, but also integrated support from development and IT service management professionals. It would require a consistent view of the service delivery infrastructure across domains, from configuration interdependencies to traffic flows, to transactions. The new war room should also support the patchwork quilt of cloud options — including virtualized and software-defined networks and data centers, SaaS application offerings from public cloud, and the emerging need to support container-centric applications. And in the end this new war room should be designed to optimize user and customer experience, revenue generation, and other business outcomes.

Here are just a few data points from the research that underscore these values.

■ Service Assurance: While service availability and performance may seem old hat, especially when all the hoopla about digital transformation seems to be about speed, guess what? Both our business and our IT stakeholders prioritized service performance and availability as the very top functional metrics for both digital and IT transformation, as well as the core metrics for managing services across public and private cloud. Digital transformation made reduced war room time a top functional priority, while IT transformation reinforced the same idea by prioritizing more effective incident and problem management.

■ Infrastructure Awareness: Needless to say, business services are delivered over increasingly complex and heterogeneous infrastructures — as suggested in the need to optimize the extended enterprise. Throughout our research the need for effective analytics and automation was a consistent driver. As an example, analytics for application/infrastructure optimization was among the top three priorities for analytics and automation.

■ Application Performance Management: Application performance management (APM) scored very high. 82% saw APM as “important” or “very important” for their transformational initiatives, and as well as being central to transformational directions in agile and DevOps (86%).

■ User and Customer Experience Management: UEM is at the center of digital and IT transformation—as only makes sense. This is true both politically, as these initiatives can only be optimized with joint business and IT stakeholder teams, as well as in terms of technology investments. For instance, UEM and customer experience were the top functional investments for transformational IT organizations slated for growth. Improved user and customer experience management was also the top functional priority for both digital and IT transformation — followed, BTW, by application performance management in second place.

■ Managing the Extended Enterprise: Improved efficiencies in dealing with partners, suppliers and service providers was the number one business metric for transformational value. Interestingly, this priority was ranked even higher by business stakeholders than it was by IT stakeholders, but it took a top-ranked position for both.

I’d like to conclude by what I mentioned in the beginning. The new war room isn’t just about technology, it’s also about more effective levels of dialog and communication. For instance, those who were “extremely successful” in digital transformation were eight times more likely to have established teams among IT and business stakeholders targeting application and business priorities than those who weren’t. And those who shared in a 50/50 mix of business and IT stakeholders were also more likely to succeed in digital transformation than other groups.

Finally, I would like to state that proponents of the notion that digital transformation in the age of agile computing is just about speed, automation, micro-services, cloud and containers (making the notion of a new age war room obsolete) — are forgetting one of the most basic principles about technology in the digital age. No true advances in IT or digital services are defined by technology alone or even primarily. They are defined, instead, by human beings and human behaviors. The laundry list above, from cloud to containers, is nothing more or less than a list of resources that will need to be understood, made visible, analyzed, assured and optimized. The new war room, with a more progressive focus on human and business outcomes, stands at the very center of that process — not only in fixing what’s broken, but in automating to inform on and optimize business outcomes. Indeed, “war room” may by itself become a term of the past — to be replaced by something more akin to a “digital services center” riding atop a new age war room with improved levels of community, technology and process.

Dennis Drogseth is VP at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA)
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