Don’t Let Failure to Communicate Hinder Digital Business Success
When planning a digital business, dreaming is the easiest part. The hard part is getting IT and business leaders on the same page to plan and budget for a realistic strategy.
To set expectations, each side has to understand the other’s goals and challenges. IT must communicate to business leaders the realities of implementing and integrating new technology. Often, business leaders and executives lack an understanding of the infrastructure, technology, tools and human resources required for a project.
Communication is essential—and it’s a two-way street. Digital strategies bring big changes for both IT and business. If either side doesn’t grasp the vision and what it takes to realize it, they can seriously undermine each other.
For instance, the cloud and software as a service (SaaS) have created easy access to technology, tempting business leaders to circumvent IT when they need a new application and feel IT isn’t being responsive. As a result, something that should be controlled by IT and its policies isn’t and may open the business up to unforseen risks or add to complexity. Good communication prevents such problems and helps ensure digital strategies yield the best results.
Address Infrastructure Concerns
In discussing business strategies, IT managers must address infrastructure. Executives sometimes have big dreams about implementing new technologies but overlook the need for increased capacity and performance. Tell them a reliable, scalable infrastructure is necessary for new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of things (IoT)—or even to update legacy systems.
Digital businesses capture massive amounts of data that must be processed, stored and analyzed. Business leaders may not realize just how much demand that places on the infrastructure. Tell them you can’t properly manage data arriving from multiple sources, including mobile devices, social media and IoT sensors with unreliable infrastructure or insufficient bandwidth.
Most organizations are running distributed, hybrid environments mixing on-premise with cloud workloads. They’re also starting to invest in edge computing—placing compute power at the edge of the network where real-time action is needed. Edge sites house servers that run either a single location or a handful of geographically close sites. For instance, a single edge site can serve a number of bank branches to help mobile app transactions and speed up approvals for lines of credit. Or it can run a handful of warehouses where robotics systems make split-second packing and shipping decisions.
Company executives may assume everything will run in the cloud, but IT managers need to explain that real-time processing and analysis may require running applications on the edge to prevent the lag common to data transfers to and from the cloud. On the other hand, data that doesn’t need to be accessed on a regular basis can be stored in the cloud and pulled back when needed for trending analysis or other purposes.
Another infrastructure-related topic IT managers need to address is when to keep IT assets on premise. Critical business applications such as handling proprietary data or personnel files might be better suited to an in-house environment so the company can retain full control of their management and security. Explaining each of these infrastructure models to business leaders, and which option to choose for which purpose, is key to a well-planned strategy.
Discuss Talent Needs
Company executives sometimes underestimate the skills needed to implement digital business initiatives. This is another area IT managers need to address. If you need more staff, speak up. Ask company executives to hire experienced people to fill skills gaps.
Hiring talent is a serious challenge. For instance, there is currently a worldwide shortage of 3 million cybersecurity workers. Also scarce are skills for emerging technologies such as machine learning, augmented reality and IoT because not enough people have received training in these areas.
IT leaders can address this by recommending third-party help. Of course, it’s important to choose IT service providers carefully. Many providers are shifting from a generalist model to specialized businesses, focusing on specific areas of technology or vertical markets. This trend will accelerate with IoT because many IoT applications will be purpose-built for highly specialized tasks.
Even when companies engage third parties and leverage cloud-based resources, a baseline of in-house IT knowledge remains necessary. If you’re using AWS for storage and application development, you need people with AWS expertise. And whether you’re using AWS, Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure, in-house technicians require constant skills updates because of the frequency of platform updates and new features.
With that in mind, IT managers must underscore the importance of training programs. Business leaders are not necessarily attuned to the ever-present requirement to update IT skills. Technologists need ongoing training to learn new practices and tools. Tell them that ongoing training is a necessary investment. As equipment and technology must be updated, so must the skills of technology workers.
Select the Right Tools
IT leaders know that successful implementations require the right tools, but business leaders may not. So, it’s up to IT to explain that whether you’re migrating workloads to the cloud or launching something from scratch, there are tools that automate migration and implementation processes, providing metrics and analysis along the way help keep the project on track.
For starters, a discovery tool can identify and inventory assets in your environment—even forgotten ones —to facilitate a needs assessment. A migration tool can help determine whether a workload is suited to the destination cloud, guide you through the setup and scheduling and let you monitor the process from start to finish. Explain to business leaders how these tools, though they require an investment, ultimately save money by automating processes and accelerating implementations.
Do your research so you can provide executives with costs and ROI—and address any objections or concerns they have. Remind them that migration and implementation tools help organizations substantially increase a company’s chances of successfully realizing its digital vision and help IT scale its limited human capital.
Planning a digital business is hard work. As they focus on day-to-day responsibilities, business leaders might not realize just how much goes into planning and execution, instead treating digital business initiatives as side projects for IT. Only through open communication can this be avoided. And if a piece of the project fails, an open channel of communication helps IT and business leaders figure out what went wrong, how to fix it and ultimately move toward a successful digital future.
IT leaders, want more advice on how to transform into a digital business? Read my next blog: Operational Excellence – The Precursor to better Customer Experience
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