Digital Transformation (DX) is one of the top priorities for organizations of all sizes around the globe. Yet, as enterprises pursue DX, there are a variety of challenges they must overcome. To explore these issues, global market intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC) conducted a worldwide survey of more than 700 global enterprises across key industries, then followed up with five in-depth interviews.
The survey and interviews were designed to derive insights on the goals of enterprise DX initiatives as well as the status of enterprise DX journeys. Key goals identified for DX included the provision of high-quality and agile Information Technology (IT) services, an improved user experience, and enabling better business outcomes.
According to data from the IDC survey, network infrastructure plays a prominent role in DX. Networks enable mobility, cloud computing, and Internet of Things (IoT) deployments; they are the glue that connects businesses to the digital services they rely on. Yet too often, enterprises still rely on legacy network architectures.
Many enterprises are increasingly realizing the importance of an advanced enterprise network to achieve DX. And the existence of outdated networking components is spurring organizations to transform their networks to enable DX. A prime area for network transformation is the enterprise campus, where there are more users, devices, and things accessing the network through higher-bandwidth applications that demand ever lower latency connections.
Two other key survey findings include:
• Enterprise digital transformation remains in the early stages. Slightly more than 63% of respondents reported that their organizations are in the four lowest categories of digital transformation. Only 8.4% of respondents said their enterprise is fully digitally transformed.
• End-to-end user, device, and application experience is becoming a critical component of DX initiatives. Enterprises want to ensure high-quality, end-to-end performance for all users, devices, and things on the network.
Organizations face significant challenges in their DX journey. Survey data indicates the top challenges of enterprise DX include:
• Outdated technology: High bandwidth digital services require the most up-to-date infrastructure components, such as Wi-Fi 6 and Passive Optical Local Area Network (POLAN), to ensure networks can meet business needs.
• The complexity of networking technology: Enterprises are looking for powerful networking solutions, but these solutions must also be simple to deploy and operate, otherwise agility will be held back. Intelligent management systems that allow for automation of tasks help ease any operational burden.
• Inefficient architectures. As well as advanced infrastructure and management tools, enterprises are looking to adopt system architect that can easily incorporate innovative new technologies into the network in the future. This requires open, flexible architecture.
A network must be an enabler to digital transformation rather than a roadblock. To this end, enterprises are investing in key technologies to help advance their Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure.
Ubiquitous wireless connectivity via Wi-Fi 6; robust, scalable and secure wired connections via a combination of Ethernet and POLAN; and advanced management platforms enhanced by Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI); all are key investment areas. Combined, these technologies make up the core components of an advanced network.
The five enterprise network managers IDC interviewed provided details about their goals and progress toward enterprise campus network transformation. One consulting firm in Asia is deploying a fully wireless campus. "There is a much stronger focus on wireless today," the company's networking manager said. And, in addition to adding capacity to the wireless network, advanced management tools have also been deployed to quickly identify and remediate performance issues before they impact users.
"The network is essential: without connectivity you will not be able to deploy remote, mobile features and other productivity tools," the networking manager said. "Providing good Wi-Fi connectivity and Local Area Network (LAN) connectivity is essential to the process of digitizing the business."
Another manager of networking for a major retailer in the Middle East discussed the impact of mobile technology. "Wireless is the lifeline of the organization today," he said. "The more that we go digital, people are using their mobile devices. All of the functions, all of the work done in the stores uses Wi-Fi. We have users in the office who prefer to use wireless over cable. Wireless is of utmost importance to us."
To succeed in DX efforts, the enterprise campus must be a target for network investment. To transform the network, IDC recommends that enterprises follow a four-step strategy:
1. Develop a High-Level Design (HLD) for the network to ensure it meets the needs of the digital business.
2. Focus on experience assurance for users, devices, and applications.
3. Improve operational efficiency by using powerful infrastructure and intelligent automation tools.
4. Use a converged and open network architecture.