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Perspectives

When Planning for Digital, Start with the Foundation

2018-07-31


A simplified, modernized and secure IT infrastructure is the crucial first step for ensuring success with any digital initiative.

The to-do list is long for traditional businesses hoping to modernize for the digital age: Change their processes, change their mindset, change their culture, change their technologies — check, check, check and check. No digital initiative, however, will see enduring success if businesses don’t also change the underlying foundation that powers their newly digital approaches.

Old-school IT infrastructures are simply not equipped for today’s demands for speed-to-market, fail-fast innovation, turn-on-a-dime agility and real-time response. They’re not up to the task of executing swift, seamless processes, eliminating arduous tasks or fending off fast-morphing cyberthreats. And as organizations move away from sequential, linear development styles to DevOps- and Agile-driven approaches based on continuous integration/delivery and minimum viable products, these infrastructures are unable to deliver on the quick time to value expected from technology investments today.

Consider new insurers such as Lemonade, which not only promises swift claims processing transactions (filed through video testimonials) but also reports back to the customer instantly on how many minutes or even seconds it took. Can your infrastructure support that? Or consider banks like Bunq, which enables customers (or “bunquers,” as it calls them) to open temporary group accounts to more easily share expenses (not unlike a group chat but for banking). Try that with an old IT infrastructure – or not.

A Whole New Way of Thinking about Infrastructure

Rather than building systems as one monolithic entity, developers are creating highly flexible systems out of small, independently versioned and scalable services that can be changed without affecting the whole. And as sensors proliferate in equipment, machinery and products, businesses are shifting processing locations toward the places where data is generated rather than centralizing it in an on-premises location or in the cloud. 

In response, modern IT infrastructures have introduced an entirely new vocabulary into the English dialect, from microservices and containerization, to edge computing and hybrid cloud. 

The question is, how can businesses simplify the orchestration of IT resources across their legacy systems, the edge and the cloud, using unified processes and a unified architecture, in a scalable way? How can they quickly scale up a new business offering? How can they add new and innovative customer experiences, using the latest technologies (open APIs, video interfaces, face and voice recognition) without impacting run-the-business applications and processes? Can they do all this while still leveraging components of their existing services model? These, in a nutshell, are the types of challenges that modern IT infrastructures need to solve.

Key Component #1: Platform

The core component of a digitally capable infrastructure is a management platform that simplifies the integration and automation of processes across legacy, hybrid cloud and edge systems, while also connecting relevant applications and data. Such a platform provides seamless interfaces among the various layers of computing.

As an example, we helped a large retailer in Canada transition to a digital, standards-based IT environment encompassing Web, cloud and mobile technologies, as well as anytime/anywhere computing capabilities for both customers and employees. We worked with the retailer to simplify its infrastructure, implement progressive solutions and run predictable operations that meet best-in-class benchmarks, while ensuring high availability of business-critical systems. 

When the retailer needed to reduce its dependence on specialized IT talent to fix complex issues with its IT infrastructure, it opted to partner with us to implement intelligent automation solutions. Through a machine-learning-driven virtual agent, the platform analyzes instructions from subject matter experts to create new insights that enable the enterprise to proactively move to the next level of maturity. Using this platform, the company has been able to reduce the need for human intervention to resolve incidents for 22% of its trouble tickets, and has seen significant improvement in its mean time to resolution for automated tickets.

Key Component #2: Integrated Application Stack 

A second key component is a modernized application stack that is integrated, governed and managed. It’s well understood today that hybrid cloud (a mix of private and public cloud usage) is the most economical and agile way for businesses to migrate from on-premises to virtual computing services. 

To optimize return on investment from the cloud, however, organizations need to gain control over these computing resources. They need to ensure that the cloud capacity levels they’ve subscribed to are aligned with the business services they actually consume. Otherwise, they can end up paying for cloud capacity even when those resources are sitting idle. Studies show that roughly 35% of cloud computing spending is wasted via instances that are over-provisioned and non-optimized. It’s impossible to validate ROI if the business isn’t utilizing what it’s being invoiced for.

A well-integrated application stack, unified through a governance model, will ensure that business services are aligned with platform and infrastructure computing resources in an end-to-end solution, whether those resources are at the edge or anywhere in the hybrid cloud. 

An example is our work with a provider of retirement products and services. The company was experiencing high customer acquisition costs — particularly in comparison to digital-native businesses — and its IT expenditures were misaligned with its business outcomes, owing to its reliance on legacy systems. 

We worked with the company to rationalize and consolidate its policy administration systems and move to a software-as-a-service model, based on a multi-tenant private cloud. We also helped the business unify the end user experience. Through its integrated application stack, the organization has harmonized its business processes and gained real-time visibility into its technology operations. It has realized a 35% faster time to market for new insurance products, and has achieved 40% savings in per-policy operational costs. 

Key Component #3: Enhanced Customer Experience

A third element of a modern IT infrastructure is the front end. Gone are the days when IT operations were a black box that could be unlocked only by the infrastructure manager. No IT infrastructure today can be considered digital-ready without a rich user experience that enables insights into how computing resources are being consumed, and flexible, secure, self-service control over the orchestration of services by business users and the development community. 

What businesses need is a self-service portal that provides visibility across private, public and hybrid IT infrastructure components, including legacy assets, enabling users to quickly, easily and securely provision, monitor, charge-back, analyze and optimize cloud applications and infrastructures. 

We worked with a large international energy and services company to transform its technology backbone to be more digital-ready. This included enhancing the efficiency, reliability and user experience of the company’s digital applications and smart devices, standardizing and automating processes, and driving service virtualization.  

The company wanted to speed time to market, increase resilience, reduce costs and increase the security of its IT foundation. We helped the organization achieve that by helping it move to a unified hybrid cloud, front-ended by a modern digital user interface. 

The Foundation for Digital Success

In essence, a fully digital business is truly the sum of its parts. While a digital IT foundation won’t automatically transform a business into a digital business, no organization can hope to be truly digital without a modern IT infrastructure that helps simplify its IT operations, modernize its application stack, enhance agility through a robust customer experience and secure itself against emerging threats across its legacy and digital systems. The road to digital is incomplete without a solid and modern foundation that can embrace and connect both legacy and digital, while accelerating success every step of the way. 

This article was written by Venu Lambu, SVP & Global Markets Lead for Cognizant Infrastructure Services.

To learn more, read our white paper “The Future of IT Infrastructure,” visit Cognizant Infrastructure Services and the Digital Systems & Technology sections of our website, or contact us.

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When Planning for Digital, Start with the Foundation