I must admit, I have a bit of a problem with the term “digital” as it’s used today.
That’s because every part of modern-day information and communications is digital. Computers. Networks. Content. Everything! Digital by itself is obvious and redundant.
But the meaning of Digital has changed. Today, Digital isn’t only about data. It’s also about applications and operations. Digital is a new way of doing business. It emphasizes interaction, not just data.
In this context, Digital becomes an exciting opportunity. We now have Digital business, Digital commerce, Digital collaboration, and Digital education. And that’s only the beginning.
Digital produces enormous benefits. These include: simple exchanges of information, better scalability, lower operating costs, and most important, improved end-user productivity.
Productivity is how we measure the success of any technology.
We’re only at the beginning of the Digital revolution. It’s important to keep a good degree of perspective since Digital techniques and technologies are still evolving.
And if you’re not careful, you will waste a significant amount of time and money pursuing avenues that yield a poor return on investment.
To get the best Digital outcome, here’s a list of technologies that matter most:
- Mobility: Operating in a geographically-highly-distributed environment. This means using a wide variety of mobile devices, wireless networks, and mobility-centric IT services. Enterprise mobility management, mobile expense management, mobile application and content management, and the monitoring and enforcement of organizational IT policies are all essential to Digital success.
- Cloud: The Digital era demands Cloud-based solutions. Central management and control of information are vital. This is much easier to implement in a Cloud-based context.This means that the IT staff must carefully evaluate suppliers. They must look at operational criteria, scalability requirements and an eye towards fault-tolerance, reliability and continuity.
- Security, integrity and privacy: Collectively, these are the greatest challenge to making modern Digital work. Failure to address these elements could derail the Digital age altogether. Security. Or failures in security, are in the news almost every day. Hacking, break-ins, theft of information and many other adverse events are so common it is easy to become overwhelmed. Yet simple techniques such as encrypting sensitive data or providing strong authentication and identity management solutions, along with general consciousness-raising across the user base can yield powerful results.
- Content management: Digital is ultimately about being able to work fluidly with data and information across applications and workgroups. In this context data and information are generally referred to as content. It’s therefore important to maximize control over content. It’s essential to have rights management in place. You also need to control how data moves. This includes common tasks such as copying and printing all sensitive data.
- Big Data and Analytics: The rise of Big Data in the Digital era isn’t surprising. It’s a variant of data mining, with the term Big Data and its associated Analytics tools often applied to exploratory situations. Big Data Analytics are what you use when, as the saying goes, you don’t know what you’re looking for. But being able to spot patterns and trends in the data itself and how that data is being used produces major advantages in essentially every industry. That’s the game changer.
- Collaboration: By its very nature, digital is collaborative, with the sharing of information made more accessible and fluid.Traditional collaboration was designed for intra-organization use. What we called intranets. The Digital application of collaboration is focused on inter-organizational sharing. What we called extranets. The value of Digital is collaboration between, not just within, organizations.
- Social networking: The future of Digital collaboration will center on an evolution into social networking. Unlike public, advertising-oriented services like Facebook and Twitter, social networks for business use will incorporate unified communications (UC), shared information creation, access and management. This includes a strong emphasis on security.
To make this all happen. And happen quickly. New investments in infrastructure are required. Much of new spending on processing and storage will go towards Cloud-based services, which provide all of the benefits including scalability and cost reduction, along with enhanced availability and fault-tolerance.
Don’t forget that network congestion is a sure path to lost productivity and thus higher, not lower, costs.
Advances in management-console functionality complete the Digital picture. This is the ability to plan, configure, monitor, control and enforce usage policies for Digital applications.
That may be the single-most important advance in infrastructure going forward. Improved monitoring of networks and application performance, broadly applying Analytics and operational automation will make major contributions towards the goals of the Digital age.
Digital is a revolution and one of the most important directions for the future of IT.
Mastering a few new technologies – and keeping the rest of your infrastructure up to date – are key to realizing the benefits and value of the Digital age.
C.J. Mathias is a Principal with Farpoint Group, a leading advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobile technologies, products, services, and systems.
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