Ju-jitsu for Digital Disruption
October 1, 2015 Hugo Moreno, Contributor Forbes

Ju-jitsu for Digital Disruption

The ancient martial art of ju-jitsu focuses on turning an opponent’s strength and momentum against him. And digital disruption can be one mean opponent. According to a new report by the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation, based on a survey of senior leaders at nearly a thousand companies in a dozen industries, “Digital disruption has the potential to overturn incumbents and reshape markets faster than perhaps any force in history.”

The survey identified a number of alarming trends. Forty-three percent of the respondents said companies either do not acknowledge the risk of digital disruption or have not addressed it sufficiently. Instead, a third of the companies are choosing a “wait and see” approach. They may wait until it’s too late.

A new Forbes Insights executive briefing, in association with Cisco, “IT as a Strategic Business Resource: Turning Digital Disruption Into a Competitive Advantage,” notes that some progressive leaders are adopting a new and, in many ways, radical approach to managing IT strategically. In the process, they’re rethinking ways to optimize and accelerate the entire application deployment lifecycle. This is happening thanks to software-defined architectures, such as Cisco’s application-centric infrastructure (ACI), a combination of advanced technology, automation and standardized processes. The hallmark of this approach is an intense focus on the quality of end-user experiences, whether for internal business departments or outside customers.

To help businesses compete in the years ahead, IT operations must attain efficiency gains similar to those seen in other industry segments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity rose for most industries during the first decade of the millenniumin manufacturing, financial services and other sectors. By comparison, industry research shows that 80% or more of IT budgets still go to “keeping the lights on.”

The bottom line: to avoid getting mired in unproductive processes and instead become a digital success story, modern enterprises require an application-centric approach using open standards to deliver today’s business services. In short, enterprises must do a lot more with a lot less, and do it a lot faster.

One example is Qatar University. Each semester the faculty requests that the IT department make available specific software applications in the computer labs. Engineering labs, for example, need authorized computer-aided design and analytics applications. “In the past, we had to go around to all the computer labs and manually install the software,” says CIO Trevor Moore.

Instead, his staff is now piloting a student portal that will include profiles for each student. All the applications individuals need, based on their class schedules, will be automatically provisioned for them. To do that, faculty members simply access the portal and select the desired programs.

The university’s research department will also benefit from on-demand IT services. Research is a quickly growing area, particularly for studies that focus on big data. This work requires high-powered computing for performing complex calculations. But with grants that may last for only three years, researchers can wait six months or more for these IT capabilities to come online. “We’ll allow the faculty to self-provision research computing needs as soon as they get a grant, so they’ll have the IT resources they need to start their research immediately,” Moore says. “ACI enables this to happen.”

But speed isn’t the only factor. In fact, quickly launching new applications without proper controls in place can easily backfire. Here’s how ACI enables new development processes. First, IT departments meet with business colleagues to discuss the performance requirements of each application. This helps IT determine computing requirements and security needs for each application. The staff at Qatar University used discussions like these to create four classes of applications. When a new application must be created or an existing one is provisioned to a new business area, Moore’s staff simply selects the appropriate profile and all the necessary settings are automatically applied. For example, a Level One application includes programs that contain personal information about students and thus have the strictest security requirements.

All this allows IT professionals to deliver new applications and services in minutes, rather than the days or weeks required in the past.

This article was written by Hugo Moreno from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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