Roundtable: achieving responsible digital transformation

08 August 2023

The phrase on everyone’s lips, digital transformation is bringing about huge change for enterprise network operations – but what does it really mean?

Responsible digital transformation means different things to different people – what does it look like to you?

Dan Lawyer, CPO, Lucid Software: The hallmarks of responsible digital transformation are both cost efficient and environmentally conscious. Organisations can fall short of achieving efficiencies by adding redundant cloud applications to their tech stack, wasting money and energy.

Since each individual application requires some level of computing, racking up multiple has a direct environmental impact. Accenture Labs predicts that software will account for 14% of the world’s carbon footprint by 2040, so responsible digital transformation should be where the scope of the process is limited to only what provides those critical efficiency improvements.

Chris Royles, field CTO EMEA, Cloudera: There’s a temptation to deploy new technologies just because they’re available. But to truly digitalise responsibly, it’s important that organisations make informed decisions about where transformation can benefit them the most.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen many organisations go all-in on cloud, only to realise that it’s driven-up complexity, costs and introduced data governance. As a result, many have reconsidered and scaled back cloud usage or repatriated data back to on-premise data centres, so that they can regain control over data. This is where workload analytics plays a key role. Some workloads might be suited to the cloud as they have a more reliable, consistent level of cloud consumption, whereas others may be more unstable and fluctuate a lot more, meaning that costs vary.

Rob Pocock, technical director, Red Helix: Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, changing how an organisation operates and delivers value to customers. A responsible approach involves engaging and considering the perspectives of all stakeholders. It includes actively seeking feedback, involving stakeholders in decision-making processes, and addressing concerns and needs. It is a holistic and inclusive approach which considers the ethical, social, environmental, and economic aspects of technology adoption.

Over the past couple of years, the surge in digital transformation has made cloud the centrepiece of digital experiences. It is vital to define objectives and determine what you aim to achieve when migrating to the cloud. While updating and modernising technology undoubtedly brings numerous benefits, it also introduces new risks; with the growing digitalisation of industries, the exposure to cyber threats increases significantly.

How can an enterprise achieve responsible digital transformation?

Rob Pocock: It is essential to ensure that the entire organisation, including c-suite executives, fully embrace and comprehend the motivations, as well as the associated business benefits and return on investment (ROI).

When data is stored on-site, you are responsible for its physical security, including establishing policies for physical access control. However, when migrating to the cloud, it is important to recognise that this transition will result in a loss of visibility and control over who has access to the physical location that houses your data. It is essential to be aware of the risk of these new realities when weighing up the pros and cons of such a move.

Dan Lawyer: Both IT and business teams must be aligned on what the digital transformation process should achieve. This starts with evaluating the tech stack. Frequent collaboration between teams reduces the possibility of cost leakages by ensuring what is implemented is needed and used.

Non-technical employees should be aware of any updates or changes of their tech stack and adjust accordingly. This may mean utilising new integrations with existing cloud applications to better streamline work or identifying the ones no longer benefitting the company or daily workflow. As organisations move to implement cloud technologies, this management of the architecture is key.

Can digital transformation be achieved responsibly without updating governance and reporting mechanisms?

Rob Pocock: The short answer is no. When considering the decision to move to the cloud, especially if you have a specific requirement to store CRM data exclusively within the UK, it is crucial to know where your data will be stored. And don’t forget, data being hosted in the UK doesn’t automatically mean mirroring and backups don’t leave UK waters. It is crucial to ask about data mirroring and backups and know exactly which regions are used by the provider.

Dan Lawyer: Digital transformation can sometimes entail new risks that must be accounted for in an organisation’s governance and reporting mechanisms. New applications mean new data that can introduce previously unencountered risks. Maximising visibility of new applications and cloud environments to as many employees as possible can help mitigate these risks.

Chris Royles: Digital transformation always requires strong governance and reporting mechanisms – particularly now regulations like GDPR and Schrems II have changed data governance, sovereignty, and privacy requirements. With this increasingly complex mosaic of data regulations, data leaders must ensure governance is ‘always-on and everywhere.’

But this doesn’t mean that governance and reporting mechanisms need to be updated every time an organisation moves data to the cloud. They should have a set of globally defined data policies in place so that they can easily replicate standards across all their environments.

What pitfalls should be avoided to achieve truly responsible digital transformation?

Dan Lawyer: There is often the assumption that a successful and responsible digital transformation solely relies on the technology, without a team truly understanding its technical capabilities. This leaves managers and IT teams at risk of trying to provide solutions to problems they do not know well enough. Aligning teams through consistent communication and a collaborative process is mission-critical, however this is only the first step. Stakeholders within teams need to be empowered at every level.

Rob Pocock: It is important for organisations to avoid neglecting their data privacy and security, which can occur when transitioning from an office-based data centre to the cloud. The issue of physical security should not be overlooked. When undergoing a digital transformation, it is necessary to have a compelling reason for the transition. However, it is equally important to be mindful of the potential impacts on data security and access control. Not knowing who has access to the location where the data is stored can be a concern. During outages or disruptions, you won’t have much visibility of how these issues are being addressed and resolved.

In addition to this, consideration should be given to the end user’s digital experience. It’s wise to understand things like log in, application and page loading times in advance so that accurate benchmarking can take place post migration, and any shortfalls in digital experience be understood and resolved before staff productivity is affected.

C-suite decision makers must have a full understanding of their business plan and scope of work to understand how to best digitise processes. Prioritising short-term gains without a long-term strategy can lead to disjointed efforts, wasted resources, and unsustainable outcomes. It is crucial for decision makers to align digital transformation initiatives with the organisation’s mission, values, and long-term goals, ensuring that they positively contribute to achievable and sustainable growth – rather than inhibiting them.