Data is the nucleus driving digital transformation

Fadi Kanafani, Managing Director, Middle East, NetApp

The pandemic has indeed been a life and business disruptor over the past 18 months and equally a digital transformation accelerator that will continue to impact people’s lives and businesses alike in the future. The challenge, however, has been in the pace of execution and readiness to transform into the new normal.  Many organisations were caught unprepared and suffered as a result.

Other organisations were able to not only sustain their businesses, but also thrive exceptionally well through the digital services that enabled the delivery of differentiated customer experiences. For example, E-commerce accelerated exponentially in addition to all the associated functions related to it from application and web development, contact centres, warehousing, logistics, etc.

Resisting change is a typical and natural human behaviour. Organisations ought to harness the unwelcome change that has come unexpectedly to impact their business, go-to-market strategies, marketing plans, working models, etc. As such, adaptability, and agility to the new normal is key to navigating successfully.

For example, at the peak of the pandemic, NetApp has supported financial organisations make a successful transition to the cloud, fully or partially, to maintain a positive business motion and support clients remotely. Those experiences were successful because the customers had adopted a culture of innovation and a true sense of being digitally data-driven, irrespective of where the resources live.

Depending on the type of industry and where an organisation is on its digital transformation journey, determines the ease or complexity of such restructure even though there are many examples of businesses running without missing a beat and delivering positive business outcomes and customer experience despite the pandemic.

Considering the rapid changes experienced recently, it has become of paramount importance to consider many factors ahead of embarking on digital technologies. Although the journey should not be a costly affair, it could be that the transformation is a knee jerk reaction to the unfolding events and executed for the sake of placing a tick in the box.

The remote workplace, for example, necessitated that organisation reconsider their Information Technology, IT, infrastructure to serve all their users with the same speed and agility expected as if they were on premises.

Leveraging cloud resources and consuming IT as a service, ITaaS, as well was necessary to provide the scalability that the business needs to support innovation, while keeping the cost down by moving from Capital Expenditure, CapEx, models to Operational Expenditure, OpEx, and paying for the service only when required as you pay for the utility bill.

Additionally, as cyberattacks rose exponentially, security postures needed overhauling not only to protect own intellectual property and data, but also to ensure compliance with global standards and privacy laws and policies. Adding to that was an evolution in the supply chain systems developed from the factory to the consumer with everything in between.

Security postures protect intellectual property and data to ensure compliance with privacy laws and policies

As a result, real artificial intelligence use cases in life are experienced through the introduction of chatbots in several industries, machine, and deep learning in more complex scenarios in healthcare, retail, banking, or even national security. All of it to attain the best customer experience and happiness whilst controlling cost.

And lastly, as organisations embarked on their own respective transformation, in-house skills and employee self-development became essential to cope with the changes and deliver value and relevance back to the organisation.

There is a saying: what does not kill you, makes you stronger. The adversity imposed by the pandemic has been the catalyst to many learnings, some of which would be great case studies for academia. The old myth of IT in an organisation being a cost centre has been totally debunked. Top executives are now evaluating all available options to leverage so that they become data-driven since most are looking for that extra competitive edge.

Heads of technology should be considering implementing cloud-enabled data centres based on a complete data-fabric architecture that will allow for seamless dataflow from core to edge to cloud. The heads of business should partner closely with the technology heads to drive cost of operation down, break traditional siloes, improve efficiencies, become more agile, re-visit security posture to meet new remote workplace challenges, consider data regulations and compliance, whilst building a resilient Disaster Recovery, DR, and business continuity strategy in support of the business.

From being a cloud-averse environment to becoming home to all the major Hyperscalers and several local cloud service providers in the Middle East, cloud adoption has been on the rise and it is looking very promising in terms of unleashing the power of data to enable digital transformation projects. IT consumption has changed and organisations are now seriously considering service business models which directly ties into having the right IT architecture that is cloud-enabled.

Reducing carbon footprint can definitely be integrated within a digital and a business transformation initiative. The UAE is a living example of many such initiatives. As a matter of fact, the UAE government has sustainability and carbon reduction initiatives as an integral part of smart cities strategy and its social responsibility and development.

UAE has carbon reduction initiatives as an integral part of smart cities strategy and its social responsibility

The latest and successful example was announced last year by MORO Hub who launched the first Tier 3 datacentre in the Middle East that is carbon-neutral and completely runs on renewable energy exceeding 100 megawatts.

Similarly, Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is great use case in terms of carbon footprint reduction in a smart city. Such examples demonstrate that digital and business transformation projects should not be siloed, but integrated in a comprehensive forward and future-looking digital strategy.

Fadi Kanafani, Managing Director, Middle East, NetApp
Fadi Kanafani, Managing Director, Middle East, NetApp.

Cloud unleashes the power of data ensuring smooth dataflow, data mobility, cloud adoption and establishes business strategies for a true data fabric.