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From digital transformation to digital expansion

By Lori MacVittie, Principal Technical Evangelist, Office of the CTO at F5 Networks 

Transformation is defined by a change in state over a period of time. This is often an ongoing, natural process. For example, as humans we spend our entire lives constantly transforming, both physically and mentally, whether that’s growing taller and stronger, or developing emotional intelligence. But sometimes transformation is a necessity, often resulting from the need to adapt to new circumstances.

However, regardless of circumstance, transformation can never be instantaneous, and digital transformation for businesses is no exception.

Today, almost all organisations are in the process of transformation as they look to find their way in a new digital world and keep up in a highly competitive market. The first stages are centred around the building blocks: applications. But, as a business builds vast swathes of apps, the main task will be orchestrating and managing the estate. With the increase in data generation, transformation becomes the pivot point for new business opportunities.

It is critical to note that this transformation does not solely encompass technology. It is rooted to a fundamental shift in the way a business operates. The result is pushing technology (IT) out of the role of supporting the business and into a leading role of a business.

Automate to Innovate

Preliminary data from our forthcoming State of Application Services 2020 indicates most businesses rely on applications. 31% tell us they need apps and that downtime is disruptive to their business. Another 29% indicate applications are their business and they can’t operate without them.

Early adopters of digital transformation are already entering a period of digital expansion, marked by rapid implementation of automation and expansion of their app portfolios. For these organisations, streamlining the operational aspects of application delivery is critical. The ability to rapidly develop a new application or digital workflow must be matched during delivery to market. The speed and scale of this operational lifecycle increase with every application developed. The ability of IT to meet demand can only be realised through the adoption of automation, which enables organisations to develop and deploy even more applications.

A Difficult Case of Data Overload

Each iteration of this cycle generates more data. Business unification provider Domo reports that over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every single day and that by 2020, “1.7MB of data will be created every second for every person on earth.” That is a mind-boggling amount of data ushering in the data economy as applications collect and aggregate every minute detail of digital activity—from operations to business transactions to consumer interactions.

Traditional data analysis techniques will be unable to keep up. Systems and the people who rely on data to make operational and business decisions daily will be overwhelmed.

A new breed of analytics will rise as a result and take on the burden of analysing the massive rate and high volume of data being produced. Only machines and advanced machine learning technologies will be capable of ingesting and processing the amount of data that will be created.

Act Fast with AI

Ultimately, the insights produced by analytics will be as overwhelming as that of the data from which they were produced. Operators will not be able act fast enough to take advantage of the information. This will lead to the AI Economy, in which AI-assisted business and operations will take on responsibility for operating the applications on which business runs. The economic shift will not be trivial. According to McKinsey, “AI has the potential to deliver additional global economic activity of around $13 trillion by 2030, or about 16 percent higher cumulative GDP compared with today.” It’s no surprise then to find that as early as 2018, 71% of C-level executives were already eyeing AI as a path for economic growth and competitiveness (2018 Views from the C-Suite: Rising to the Challenge).

This view of AI is not merely aspirational. 74% of IT decision makers in Spiceworks’ 2020 State of IT expected to adopt AI as early as 2021. The same survey found that AI is second (32%) only to IT automation (42%) as the technology expected to have the biggest impact on business.

A New Breed of Application Services

There is virtually no business today that is not on this transformational journey. Some are just starting, others are further along. Regardless of where you are, applications are key to moving forward—whether slow and steady or full steam ahead. Delivering those applications is the purview of application services. From code to customer, application services scale, secure, and serve the applications that power business today.

They will still be filling that role in five years.

But just as application architectures and operating models are transforming to meet the needs of applications and business, so must application services. That’s why we believe digital transformation will also breed a new generation of application services that are more aware, more automated, and more capable of acting on insights produced by advanced analytics.