Formation of mammatus clouds over the city of Regina Saskatchewan
Formation of mammatus clouds over the city of Regina Saskatchewan (source: Craig Lindsay on Wikimedia Commons)

When news broke that Amazon was acquiring Whole Foods, brick and mortar retailers panicked. Many industries are feeling pressure to undergo digital transformation for fear of being “Amazoned” (acquired by an online competitor). The International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts worldwide spending on digital transformation technologies will grow to more than $1.2 trillion in 2017 (an increase of 17.8% over 2016. IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Digital Transformation Spending Guide reports that many industries have been affected by the frenzy, too, with manufacturing leading the pack, followed by retail, health care, insurance, and banking. No one wants to be “disrupted.”

Defining digital transformation

Surprisingly, despite the anxiety around digital transformation and the money being invested, the term is not well defined. George Westerman, principal research scientist with the MIT Sloan Initiative on the Digital Economy, defines digital transformation as “using technology to radically improve the performance and reach of an organization.” Technology, however, is accelerating at such a fast pace that it makes it difficult for businesses to keep up and stay ahead of the curve.

Digital transformation, in practice

How do businesses unlock the power of rapidly evolving technology to maximize their investment? One answer, according to the 2017 Digital IQ survey, which looked at top performing IT and business leaders across industries is to focus less on one specific technology and more on the human experience. Focusing on the human experience means organizations will have to re-examine their customers’ experiences, employees’ experiences, and their entire organizational culture. In developing a better understanding of the human experience that surrounds digital technology, companies are better equipped to continuously adapt and anticipate marketplace changes.

Using a multi-cloud strategy to achieve digital transformation

A growing number of companies have embraced a multi-cloud approach as part of their digital transformation strategy, mainly to meet various business and technology requirements because no single cloud model can fit the diverse requirements and workloads across different business units.

Every major cloud platform—including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and the Google Cloud Platform—has a range of data-related services in the areas of cloud data warehousing, big data, NoSQL, and real-time streaming, to name a few. Some workloads run better on one cloud platform while other workloads achieve higher performance and lower cost on another platform. By adopting a multi-cloud strategy, companies are able to choose best-in-class technologies and services from different cloud providers to create the best possible solution for a business.

Another reason for a multi-cloud approach is that companies adopt new IT projects in increments. A multi-cloud environment creates an ideal sandbox for IT to experiment with and deploy proof-of-concepts. Various teams can set up and decommission scenarios quickly without the burden of the high cost and time needed to build and deploy new infrastructure.

With a multi-cloud strategy, each business unit can choose their ideal cloud service depending on their specific business needs, which may include:

  • Ease of administration
  • Concurrency of workloads
  • Query performance
  • User roles and access levels
  • Security and governance
  • Government regulations and data privacy
  • Specialized functionality for a particular workload or application (i.e., machine learning or AI)
  • Access to big data tools and technologies

As businesses go through their digital transformation journey, multi-cloud environments will be increasingly used to transition and migrate from the old model of customer engagement to newer multi-pronged models. The trend is moving toward deeper and broader cloud engagement, so a well-defined multi-cloud strategy will be key to achieving maximum return on investment (ROI). Other benefits of adopting a multi-cloud strategy include:

  • Price flexibility: Better pricing flexibility by leveraging different cloud platforms.
  • Risk mitigation or redundancy: By spreading workloads and data across multiple cloud platforms, companies can reduce downtime and have a smoother disaster recovery plan.
  • Unlimited scalability and better agility: Elasticity and agility to empower business units as they grow, and meet the demands to access more data.
  • Avoid vendor lock-in: The option to adapt to changes in the marketplace, without reworking the whole cloud architecture to suit one vendor.
  • Adopt use of best practices: Best practices built on one cloud vendor can be applied across the enterprise to departments using other cloud vendors.

As more companies strategically position themselves in a multi-cloud world, IT departments in general, and CIOs in particular, need to take on more strategic roles as facilitators between various areas of the business. This trend reflects the key point that digital transformation is not a one-time phenomenon, but an ongoing process. Even as companies realize the impacts of social media, mobile and cloud computing, and other “disruptive” technologies already on the rise (including machine learning, data collection via drones, and virtual reality), data remains a central tenet to their success. With the amount of data growing exponentially, a multi-cloud strategy is becoming a deliberate choice for companies and a way to chart their long-term growth. Companies that seek to remain ahead of the curve will be in a better position to respond and continually transform themselves in a quickly evolving digital landscape.

This post is a collaboration between Talend and O’Reilly. See our statement of editorial independence.

Article image: Formation of mammatus clouds over the city of Regina Saskatchewan (source: Craig Lindsay on Wikimedia Commons).