Leveraging as-a-service technology to deliver strategic transformation

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“Digital transformation is not about technology”. This headline, published in the Harvard Business Review [HBR] in 2019, led an article that laid out a reality for technology that has accelerated in the years since. “What the members envision to be the future of the organisation drove the technology, not the other way around,” the author of the article wrote.

Transformation became an imperative simply to continue operations through social distancing and lockdowns as a result of the events of last year. As McKinsey noted, CIOs accelerated their transformation two, three or even as much as 10 years in the span of just one. What CIOs realised, quickly, is that the HBR author was right – successful transformation was not about carefully architecting a complete revision of the data centre. It wasn’t even about ownership of the technology. It was the strategy behind those investments – and finding the right people and partners to implement them – that was key.

“I was speaking at a webinar a couple of months ago with two CTOs from a utility and a fast-moving consumer goods organisation,” Nick Engelman, Dell Technologies Senior Manager, System Engineering said in an exclusive interview with IDG Communications. “They were both pursuing their digital transformation by adopting as-a-service as a central strategy. In both cases, it was a hybrid strategy to both buy and develop as-a-service outcomes in their on-premises infrastructure.

“Businesses have realised that the cloud is an operating model, not a place. It's the cloud-like experience that’s a critical factor. It’s that instant capacity that scales up and down with your needs, and its access to a self service model that's democratising the tools, making them available on demand as needed. That has simplified the IT model.

“If they adopt an infrastructure-as-code approach, then they can move towards a much faster development cycle and drive genuine digital transformation in organisations. Dell Technologies’ APEX offerings have been designed for this. They provide both cloud-as-a-service and storage-as-a-service solutions that deliver this cloud-like experience to organisations in an OPEX model, and that will help them drive the digital transformation.”

Flexibility is the key to transformation

In an interview with Deloitte, Frank Nazzaro, the CIO of US-based bank, Freddie Mac, said flexibility and choice were key to transformation success. “Firstly, keep an open mind – don’t be afraid to take multiple paths to solve the same problem and then figure out which is best,” Nazzaro said in the interview. “Secondly, remove the IT control mentality, which has historically been a source of friction with the business.”

It’s a perspective Engelman shares, for Dell, and through the APEX solution, that flexibility is a key priority. “Organisations need to be able to try out new ideas and explore new opportunities quickly,” he said. “The waterfall approach, with quarterly or longer releases, just isn't business competitive anymore. The as-a-service and cloud model allows developers to deploy systems as they need, and to test anything from a new feature all the way through to standing up a minimum viable product on infrastructure made available using as-a-service constructs.”

Flexibility drives new security processes

While transformation and business pressures are pushing organisations towards agile project management and work processes, the flexibility comes with a need to revisit security, too.

“When organisations had everything on premises at a waterfall deployment model, their security perimeter was typically well understood and pretty well controlled,” Engelman said. “As-a-service provides that flexibility for developers to rapidly deploy those new features and products. However, the business has to ensure it has controls in place to maintain its secure posture, given the increased speed and flexibility that they're embracing.”

Essentially, CIOs need to look towards Zero Trust security. Rather than looking at the environment as a perimeter that can be protected, just as a wall around a castle might, Zero Trust simply assumes any access to the network or data environment is malicious until otherwise authenticated. This means CIOs can adopt cloud services in distributed, transformed environments, while having the confidence that, through the permissions system set up, only authorised users have access to the IT environment.

Dell’s APEX solution provides the tools to apply strong governance and security controls, while managing the environment through a consistent control pane. That is particularly important because a consequence of the Zero Trust approach is the environment needs constant monitoring as users require access to resources (and therefore permissions) on a flexible basis.

“That's what the APEX cloud service experience brings you with equipment sourced through a secure supply chain, the software defined data centre platform delivering a consistent security across the infrastructure stack,” Engelman said.

As-a-service technology is the ideal approach to organisations looking to transform. Strategically it provides the necessary scalability and flexibility required of a transformed environment, while allowing internal staff to focus on the strategy and outcomes rather than the technology, but it also helps CIOs deliver the necessary security and resilience needed for a modern IT operation.

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This brand post is part of the series "Key considerations when moving to an as-a-service model". See the other posts in the series here.

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