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Companies Don't Know What They Don't Know About Digital Transformation

May 09, 2017

The phenomenon of blind spots doesn’t just affect individuals: companies have blind spots too.

Psychologists use a technique called the Johari window to help people gain self-awareness. The exercise begins with the subject choosing several adjectives from a list to describe themselves. Next the subject's peers pick the same number of adjectives from the same list to describe the subject. The responses are separated into four quadrants. Adjectives that both the subject and their peers used are in Quadrant 1 (the public self). The adjectives that only the subject used to describe themselves are in Quadrant 2 (the private self). Quadrant 3 is the blind spot, those adjectives others use to describe the subject that the subject doesn't use. The most mysterious area is Quadrant 4 (the unknown unknown), which contains the adjectives that no one used to describe the subject. After seeing themselves through the Johari window, people are able to eliminate some of their psychological blind spots.

The phenomenon of blind spots doesn't just affect individuals. Companies have blind spots, too. And when it comes to digital transformation and their distributed enterprise networks, that blind spot is bigger than many companies think.

Distributed enterprise networks are essential in the innovation economy to make business applications available to frontline employees, to improve customer experiences, and to drive greater flexibility for the enterprise. Employees expect to have access to all the tools they need to do their jobs right on their smartphones at any time, and customers do too. Companies classified as "Ultra-Connecteds" – global research group IDC 's highest level of distributed enterprise transformation – outperform their rivals across all business KPIs, including revenue growth, customer satisfaction and time to market.

Unfortunately, most companies are not as advanced as they think they are when it comes to distributed network connectivity. In an IDC survey of 501 IT professionals (C-suite level executives, vice presidents and directors), 57 percent of companies characterized themselves as an IT "innovator," but only 14 percent qualified as "Ultra-Connecteds" by IDC's measure [see appendix].  This networking blind spot leaves companies vulnerable to performance, reliability and security concerns.

For example, the IDC survey found that many companies are using cloud applications, a sign of digital advancement, but they connect to the cloud via the public internet and manage the cloud applications via a traditional IT infrastructure. And only 53 percent of organizations surveyed make their business applications available to all remote employees. Another troubling result: 75 percent of organizations provide executives working from home with access to mission-critical applications over the public internet.

Business leaders looking to make their companies truly innovative in distributed enterprise connectivity need to focus on three fundamentals: security, cloud services availability, and sufficient bandwidth to support the needs of remote locations. These leaders also need to recognize the central role cloud solutions play in digital transformation and leverage third-party providers to deliver connectivity.

The ultimate goal for companies is to know they can depend on their network. Digitally advanced executives understand that the use of third parties to manage networks and cloud applications frees up their own staff to focus on issues critical to the success of the business.

Not all companies have a blind spot when it comes to digital transformation. Many visionary business leaders have embraced digital transformation, and they all have one thing in common: They are singularly focused on the end customer. Not the business unit but the actual person who consumes a product or service from that business. They're talking about the transformation of how their businesses interact with those customers.

That's where the conversation about digital transformation gets exciting. For example, financial services companies can completely re-imagine their customers' experience at banks, where the convergence of data, multimedia and video creates compelling products and services that are bringing customers back into the branches. Once the distributed enterprise networking blind spot is gone, digitally savvy and secure companies are able to use their networks to reach customers in innovative new ways across all industries.

APPENDIX: LEVELS OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

Ultra-Connecteds:
Blind Spot: 57% think they are; 14% really are

Companies focused on delivering critical business applications to the maximum number of remote users and they rely on third-party providers to supplement or replace in-house resources to manage the distributed enterprise network. They're more likely to employ cloud solutions. They're most concentrated in industries such as securities, health care and retail.

Branch-Centrics:
Blind Spot: 30% think they are; 34% really are

Companies one level below Ultra-Connecteds. They extend web-based management to all locations and provide office cloud connectivity through their data center via a private network. Includes banking, IT and energy/utility companies

HQ-Centrics:
Blind Spot: 11% think they are; 35% really are

These companies are about halfway to successful distributed enterprise connectivity. They use web-based network management tools, but these tools are managed in-house and only available at larger locations. Branch offices connect to the cloud via direct ISP-based internet. Companies in insurance and construction are common in this category.

Resisters:
Blind Spot: 2% think they are; 17% really are

The lowest level of distributed enterprise network connectivity, these companies use traditional infrastructure and public cloud. Remote offices are typically not part of the enterprise connectivity strategy. These companies are usually found in manufacturing, professional services, hospitality and agriculture/mining.

Source: IDC

This article originally appeared in Bloomberg.

Photo via Visualhunt

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