This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.
A funny thing has happened on the way to the digital revolution. The process of getting there has turned out to be complex, risky and expensive. Nobody is arguing about the need to go digital. In today’s competitive marketplace, digital transformation has become a requirement, not an option. The problem is not the destination; it’s the journey. To become fully digital, enterprises have to dramatically increase the scope, scale and speed of their IT—all while staying in sync with the evolving needs of the business.
To cope with these challenges, chief information officers (CIOs) are creating a new form of infrastructure—one that is complex, modular and hybrid. The new structure includes public clouds, private clouds and software-as-a-service (SaaS), as well as legacy systems and services.
Digital transformation is a topic of rich and vital discussion in boardrooms and among executive teams around the world. Here are some insights on what it takes to lead and deliver a digital transformation.
Companies moving to the cloud have had to relearn a difficult lesson: When it comes to advances in technology, the new does not replace the old, at least not immediately. Of the $77 billion that companies spent on the public cloud in 2015, nearly half (about 45%) went not toward migrating existing workloads but toward developing new software for existing business or toward creating apps for new digital operations.
CIOs are struggling to manage in a hybrid, multicloud and distributed environment. The corporate IT department no longer has a monopoly on the development and implementation of software. Business unit leaders are increasingly buying ready-made, off-the-shelf SaaS solutions on their own, using nothing more than an Internet browser and a corporate credit card to obtain software that can be up and running in mere hours.
This decentralized approach to development makes it hard to control costs. Many CIOs expected pay-as-you-go cloud computing to be cheaper, reasoning that they’d no longer have to bear the high fixed expenses of on-premises technology. What they often get instead is cloud “bill shock.” That’s because they have little visibility into how business units are using the cloud to develop, test and produce new apps.
This new environment requires new, integrated approaches. Best-in-class IT operations and the software vendors that support them are adopting a playbook based on the following six core rules for IT design.
Break boundaries across IT stacks. Given that companies are unlikely to achieve complete migration to the public cloud anytime soon, CIOs need monitoring, discovery and configuration tools that function in hybrid, multicloud environments as well as up and down the stack, from legacy systems to consumer-facing apps.
Embrace DevOps. Many companies are adopting Agile, creating action-oriented developer teams and using DevOps models to reduce cycle times, but roadblocks remain, especially concerning infrastructure. As firms increase the cadence of their digital offerings, they have no choice but to integrate software development and IT operations.
Be open. No modern solution can be an island. Much of the digital innovation in companies is happening at the business unit level, but many of these projects are often not readily scalable. Infrastructure must be open so that it’s easy to integrate components and tools that originate from different places within the organization as well as from external sources.
Incorporate policy engines. CIOs currently rely on massive manual efforts to monitor compliance, data governance and security rules. Some companies are so worried about compliance that they avoid moving workloads to the cloud. Nearly 75% of CIOs interviewed by Bain & Company do not believe that today’s compliance solutions cover their needs. CIOs are looking for enterprise-wide solutions that incorporate policy engines, using built-in logic to automatically identify and enforce rules across a hybrid infrastructure.
Induce insights. As digital apps proliferate, companies are becoming flooded with an abundance of data—some of it useful, some of it not. CIOs urgently want to be able to integrate and synthesize separate data sources into one analytics engine that can reach across the entire infrastructure. Software developers are starting to create programs that use advanced analytics and machine learning to detect recurring and predictive patterns from multiple data streams.
Insist on user-friendly experiences and tools. In a complex world, IT professionals are demanding intuitive, easy-to-use software. They are no longer satisfied with hard-to-master, second-rate applications; they want a consumer-level user experience and solutions that have out-of-the-box functionality.
The digital revolution has arrived, although it hasn’t happened quite the way many people had expected. Companies are learning to address the challenges of hybrid management, cost, compliance, security and insight generation. CIOs need a guidebook, and so do developers. By following the six core rules of IT design, they’ll have tools that can help them realize the full potential of digital transformation.
Jordi Moncada is a partner with Bain & Company in Silicon Valley in the Telecommunications, Media and Technology practice. Vishy Padmanabhan is a Bain partner in New York in the Information Technology practice.