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Why Become a Digital Business?

By Alan Glickenhouse posted Fri February 01, 2019 02:40 PM

Executing a Digital Transformation to become a Digital Business is among the hottest initiatives now – crossing both business and IT.  But, is this just the latest buzzword or is there something to this that is different?  Do you know why you should become a “Digital Business”?

Digital Transformation

I may have jumped the gun a few weeks ago when I wrote “Digital Transformation Requires Integration Modernization”.  I was already starting to describe “how?” without first answering “why?”.  The first question should always be “why?”.


What is Digital Transformation and Why is It Important?

The Enterprisers project, defines Digital Transformation as “the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. It's also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure.”


A similar definition from the Agile Elephant is “Digital transformation is the process of shifting your organization from a legacy approach to new ways of working and thinking using digital, social, mobile and emerging technologies.  It involves a change in leadership, different thinking, the encouragement of innovation and new business models, incorporating digitization of assets and an increased use of technology to improve the experience of your organization’s employees, customers, suppliers, partners and stakeholders.”


Digital business success has a tremendous financial reward.  According to IDC this is a $20 trillion market opportunity, or 25% of global GDP, to be realized over the next five years1.


Historically many businesses focused internally on the products or services they provided.  Today businesses focusing on digital transformation have shifted to focus externally on their client’s perspective rather than their internal offerings and processes alone.  Taking a holistic client centric view as to what the customer is trying to accomplish is what defines a Digital Business.  This still includes the need to deliver great products and services but puts it in a larger context that will drive greater success and customer acceptance.  The better you can define your business’ role and the ecosystem that needs to be in place in the context of satisfying your client, the more likely you are to win in the market versus your competition.


Driving Value for Clients

As businesses engage in Digital Transformation, there are changes to technology, architecture, people, Business Value chartand processes.  Keeping the customer focus, companies are trying to deliver using a more agile process to speed offerings to market and be more responsive to client needs and business opportunities.  For most companies, this is a transformation from a more controlled rate of change in offering delivery.  To achieve this increased agility businesses are looking at several technology and architectural capabilities:

  • Hybrid – enable enterprises to execute across traditional on-premise, private, and public clouds. A ‘big-bang’ move to the cloud has a low probability of success. Most companies either temporarily or permanently will have assets in many locations including on-premise and cloud(s).  There is a recognized need to have and manage a hybrid environment.

  • Multi-cloud – enterprises are heterogeneous with many enterprises using 5+ clouds. Primary value propositions for cloud are speed and cost and different cloud providers have optimized for different capabilities.  Limiting to a single cloud may put the business at a competitive disadvantage.  The reality is that most businesses will operate across multiple cloud providers and shift work between cloud providers to maximize value.

  • Open – Capabilities should be open by design, enabling flexibility and portability across clouds. Related to hybrid and multi-cloud, open design allows the business agility required to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

  • Secure – Provide reliability and continuous security for the environment. Business assets and private information need to be protected.  Failing on security can cause serious business damage.

  • Management – Consistent service level, support, logging, management, and delivery across complete heterogeneous cloud environments. As assets become decentralized, management must remain consistent and coordinated and not require an explosion in numbers of central IT personnel with different management capabilities based on the specific cloud environments.



What Is Your Role?

In addition to technology and architecture, a large part of driving success in Digital Transformation is a change in culture.  The Three Bricklayers parable has been told many times and goes as follows:

BricklayerA traveler comes upon three men working and asks each of them what they are doing.  The first man answers that he is laying bricks.  The second man says that he is building a wall.  And, the third man says that he is building a cathedral.   


All three men were doing the same job, the lesson is about your perspective on your job role.  Are you laying bricks, building a wall, or do you have the larger perspective of your organization’s mission in the context of your customer?


As an example, my organization in IBM is called Hybrid Integration.  We might be expected to define our role based on the products we offer.  Rather, our organization’s purpose is defined as:

This client centricity provides a far more comprehensive view as to what we need to deliver to win in the market.  Within this context I have defined my role as helping businesses succeed in Digital Transformation and the API Economy.  My blogs, customer workshops, and conference participation are all focused on your business success.  Beyond our market leading products, this includes bringing our expertise and experiences, understanding your current state, desired future state, potentially working with partners, and applying best practices to help you drive your success.

JFK and the Janitor

Let’s finish with another parable.  This one is about John F Kennedy touring NASA in the early 1960s.  He saw a janitor with a broom and asked him what he did at NASA.  The janitor’s response was, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”  If someone asks you what your role is, what would your answer be?


To understand more about IBM’s thoughts on Digital Business and the API Economy visit the IBM API Economy website.  IBM API Connect is IBM’s complete foundation to Create, Secure, Manage, Test, and Monitor APIs.  You can find more information about IBM API Connect at the API Connect website.  And you can also experience a trial version of API Connect.


If you have questions, please let me know.  Connect with me through comments here or via twitter @Arglick to continue the discussion.


1IDC MaturityScape Benchmark: Digital Transformation Worldwide, 2017