How to combat the rapid pace of change in business

For many companies, the rate of change can feel like it’s getting faster. In some cases it is, but help is there – and the learning curve is now smoother than ever

by Quinton O'Reilly

“Business transformation can be a frightening and confusing topic for some people,” said John Stone, senior enterprise consultant for Digital Realty. “People shouldn’t be afraid of it; they should embrace it and whatever transformation model best suits the business.”

It’s easy to forget that while digital transformation as a term has been around for ages, its actual meaning continues to change and evolve, which isn’t easy to keep up with.

Stone himself has seen the industry evolve since the 1980s, when servers were rolled into the basement of buildings. Now the term incorporates factors like infrastructure, skills, business operations and processes, all of which can overwhelm those who aren’t tech-savvy.

The approach Stone takes when addressing the topic is to make it as practical as possible, provide the history if needed and break it down, so it’s more digestible to people.

“What started to change over the last few years is the realisation it’s all about the data and not the people, both at a physical and business level,” he said. “Covid has proved that a lot of the requirements for having the data close to the actual users are gone.

“The data, the effectiveness of it, the sources of it and how it can be interlinked, how we can use and manipulate it – that’s where business transformation is happening.”

Digital Realty’s data centre locations allow enterprise customers to sit and coexist with cloud providers. By giving the freedom to access and scale critical IT infrastructure on demand, it provides low-latency connectivity, both globally and in and out of public clouds.

Colocation has become a significant draw for those offering managed server services: the ability to pull data from several interconnected sources, both locally and internationally, that can network them directly.

Add to that extensive security controls and compliance in areas like GDPR and ISO requirements; they can pull in data sources from different locations and make the most of a global ecosystem. Not to mention that for the 15th consecutive year, Digital Realty achieved 99.99 per cent availability for its customers throughout 2021.

Such a move changes how and what businesses can achieve, and gives them the confidence to do so.

“Before, you had to deal with latency, time delay, transfer times and other issues that networking people had to deal with for years,” Stone said. “Now they can do massive uploads and downloads to a public cloud, their MSP, or SaaS providers who are sitting in the same location.”

“All of a sudden, the data design approach becomes more relevant, and the data sources a customer will use will change over the next ten to fifteen years. It’s not going to be like the old days; they’re going to take input from many different places.”

Stone mentioned that even those businesses which don’t have an online presence are already using internet and business automation through the services they operate and their supply chain: no matter what your viewpoint is, there’s no going back.

“It’s now ubiquitous, the digitalisation of everything we’re doing,” he said.

The other big development Stone has seen in this area is in ESG (Environment, Social and Governance), an area that’s increasing in importance across enterprises. Stone mentions how it comes up in every customer conversation, highlighting how it affects business transformation.

Unsurprisingly, Digital Realty is committed to achieving numerous sustainability goals. Its work has seen it achieve carbon neutrality in 2021, 100 per cent renewable coverage for US colocation and European portfolios, and 64 per cent renewable energy inclusive of utility supply.

Its overall aims are significant, but as Stone mentions, they’re now given the same weight as business objectives and delivering high-quality services.

“For enterprise customers, it’s table space. It has to be there as it’s expected,” he said. “You need to report on it and have documentation because customers expect it.”

Overall, digital transformation can be daunting, but for all businesses, there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain from embracing it. The real problem is ignoring it and hoping it’ll go away.

“Embrace it, and decide what’s the right transformation model for you and your business, but don’t stick your head in the sand, as [that is] not going to work,” Stone said.