Last week we sponsored and spoke at the WebSphere User Group at IBM South Bank. It was a great day and the sessions and conversations we had at our stand were both informative and interesting. One subject that came up time and again was Digital Transformation and how it affects traditional IT. This is an area where we have considerable experience and it’s something we’re working on with a number of customers currently.

Digital Transformation is a hot topic and many companies are investigating, or have begun transformation programmes. The term covers a broad range of initiatives including moving to the Cloud, adopting emerging technologies such as IoT, improving IT delivery with DevOps, even completely changing business models. While some of these new technologies and models are fairly embryonic, others such as Cloud and DevOps are reaching a level of maturity where organisations from SMBs to multi-nationals are integrating them in to their IT strategies.

A move to the Cloud, when combined with a DevOps approach, can offer major benefits for IT teams and the businesses they work for. Automation can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to build and release new applications; can reduce the amount of time Operations spend keeping the lights on or fixing problems; and it can provide the agility needed to unlock the benefits of Cloud technology. The move to the Cloud also offers benefits related to the cost of developing and hosting systems, particularly when new advances such as micro-services and server-less computing are adopted.

However, as with any new technology or way of working there are challenges that need to be addressed and pitfalls that need to be avoided. Many companies have moved to the Cloud to reduce their IT spend only to find it’s gone up because they underestimated the costs, or just left a server running that should have been turned off. There can also be issues around who has the permission to buy capacity; how and where that capacity is purchased; and who is responsible for managing it. To a point, those issues can be addressed by having a clear strategy for transitioning to the new model. However, there’s also a cultural shift that needs to take place, and that’s a harder problem to solve.

The same is true for DevOps. The approach offers the promise of quicker release times and better applications. Achieving that requires significant changes to infrastructure, effective integration with backend systems and standardising on the right tools. It also requires a change of culture that brings together Development and Operations teams, who in many cases, have a very different view of the world. It may be overly simplistic, but Development teams often see Operations as the people slowing them down; while Operations see Development as racing ahead and not understanding the risks or complexity of managing the infrastructure. To address this, these teams need to work together to deliver a common vision.

Speaking to our customers, and looking at the number of nodding heads at our session at last week’s User Group event, the cultural shift challenge is common. In some cases the Digital Transformation teams are assessing tools and creating strategies in isolation from the Operations teams who are managing the current infrastructure. Not only will this pose significant problems when delivering the strategy, it also means the skills, experience and investment in traditional IT are not being leveraged. That’s a mistake because not only can they co-exist, in many cases they need to co-exist to deliver the best outcomes.

We have a 20 year history working with enterprise middleware and have spent 10 years working with Agile and DevOps approaches so we understand the challenges and the opportunity. Based on that experience we’ve created a workshop that helps bring together Digital Transformation and Operations teams to help them understand how to leverage the investment they have made in people and technology while adopting new ways of working. If any of the issues here feel familiar  get in touch+ to see how we can help.

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