Digital transformation of the enterprise has come to be viewed by CxOs as crucial to the alignment of business strategies and IT innovation, and therefore to the business as a whole. The role of the cloud is to underpin this strategy - but is it given sufficient recognition?
Defining digital transformation
With a range of definitions, the concept of digital transformation sports fairly fuzzy edges. If you had to pin it down, it would be about the alignment of IT processes and technologies with business strategies, and need to adapt the former in support of the business.
So enterprises increasingly recognise the benefits that digitisation offers in terms of its greater efficiency, and its ability to improve the customer experience, to disrupt existing business models, and to drive the invention of new businesses and business models. Maximising the utilisation of technology might be another way of looking at it.
Survival is key
What's at stake is no less than survival. A survey commissioned by ChristianSteven Software showed that, of over 500 C-level executives surveyed, more than half (53%) said they were concerned about competition from disruptive businesses. But more important is the customer experience, as enterprises increasingly conduct business online, mediated through a website or dedicated app. Get it wrong and the customer is gone, switching near-instantly to a rival with a more navigable, responsive or intelligent UI.
So the depth and speed of data analytics that drive what the customer both sees and interacts with are crucial, as ZDNet's Digital Transformation report points out: "Data is a key raw material for the digitally transformed business, and data science will turn this raw material into realisable value."
Similarly critical are the resilience and reliability of the infrastructure that underpins the entire system. Which is where the cloud scores.
Cloud's critical role
Underlying a digital transformation project is a number of business process and technology transformations that need to take place, among them DevOps, and what 451 Research describes as a shift "from siloed on-premise 'systems of record' to flexible API- and microservices-driven 'systems of engagement' running in hybrid cloud environments."
The cloud's elasticity, rapidly growing suite of readily-available applications, and ability to both run applications anywhere and deliver data to the end-user wherever he or she may be make it a natural place to embed the processes that underpin a digital transformation strategy. According to a survey by the Cloud Industry Forum, 38% of cloud users with a digital transformation strategy say that cloud has given their organisations a significant competitive advantage. This figure is significantly higher than the number that do not have a digital transformation strategy reporting the same (5%).
Stephen Ball, senior VP at Aspect Software, said: "From a technology point of view, from fixed infrastructure and proprietary IT, businesses using cloud are free to take more risks and are able to respond quickly to changing market conditions."
While digital transformation may not be at the top of every company's agenda right now, it is getting there, and there seems to be little doubt that the ideas and concepts underlying the strategy are compelling as the enterprise recognises the need to services the always-on, connected customer. From that perspective, cloud computing is the only way to deliver the customer experience that will help to ensure the survival of the business in the longer term.
 ZDNet: Digital Transformation: A CXO's Guide. http://www.zdnet.com/topic/digital-transformation...
 Cloud Industry Forum report: Cloud fundamental to Digital Transformation strategies. https://www.cloudindustryforum.org/content/cloud-...