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Leisurely Network, IT Refresh Cycles Are So Over, Says Gartner

Digital Transformation
Lorna Garey

Lorna Garey

A new report from analyst firm Gartner, based on its 2017 CIO Survey, says organizations serious about digital transformation need to rethink their investment patterns. Right now, 18 percent of the typical CIO’s IT budget is spent to support digital transformation; Gartner expects that number to increase to 28 percent next year, on average, with top performers spending 44 percent. Nearly half of the CIOs surveyed are seeing board-level pressure to make faster progress toward digitalization. Networking will be a critical element.

For MSPs and VARs accustomed to a leisurely update cadence, it’s time to shake that up. Agents, too. Right now, Gartner says only 8 percent of the overall IT budget is devoted to networking — a problem attributable to the fact that the importance of an agile network to digital business initiatives is often underplayed. IoT, customer experience improvements and real-time data collection and analysis won’t happen without fast, dependable and affordable connectivity.

Still, for partners, telling a customer they need to accelerate buying patterns can get awkward. Jordan Martin, principal consultant of data-center technologies at consultancy Core BTS and co-founder of the Network Collective, says he sees some common challenges in nudging companies to move into digital transformation at a quicker pace.

“From the perspective of the enterprise, I’d say the challenge is primarily cultural,” said Martin. “Infrastructure traditionally hasn’t been a topic dominating executive board rooms, and because of this, technology groups have often been left on their own to build something that can support the organization’s technical needs. It doesn’t work that way in the new world, as we see a need for broader cooperation between technology silos, and even between technology groups and the business functions that they support.”

As a consultant, he says many customer IT pros hesitate to jump in with both feet, having done so before and been burned either by unsupportive leadership or by an industry that moves on before they can successfully implement the latest trend.

“They’re seeing the current technology innovations as another risk-filled proposition,” he said. “The companies that are having success adopting the new models are the ones that have both clarity and support from the leadership team in trying a new way of doing things. The other key factor is an organization-wide understanding of how technology can provide business value. When this is understood, the risk-to-reward calculations tend to be a bit less intimidating.”

Partners can help here, and we’ll show you how. All-access passholders at Channel Partners Evolution next month can hear directly from ADP chief architect Jim Ford and City of Asheville (N.C.) CIO Jonathan Feldman on topics including helping customers reimagine their infrastructures, both on premises and in the public cloud, and how to explain to a customer that may think it’s transforming into a digital business why it just might wake up one morning and find itself disrupted.

Gartner has advice as well, summarized as:

  • Ensure customers make connectivity part of all digital-business planning by involving network personnel and being at the table yourself. We’ve all heard how line-of-business teams are now in charge, but Gartner says it’s critical to bring network expertise to the fore. Just select personnel who have the soft skills to interact with the lines of business, decipher networking requirements and suggest solutions. Without jargon, please. This is something Forrester principal channel analyst Jay McBain will cover at Evolution.
  • Suggest innovative architectural approaches, such as SD-WAN and network function virtualization (NFV). Also consider how to leverage colocation hubs, internet exchange points and direct connections to cloud providers. At Evolution, we’re not just talking real-deal SD-WANs; we’re devoting a chunk of our combined expo floor to the technology.
  • Free up money devoted to keeping the lights on by helping customers automate repetitive tasks.

One final stat: By 2022, the percentage of enterprises that deem networking core to their digital success will increase to over 75 percent, up from less than 25 percent this year. That is, if these enterprises aren’t disrupted out of business first.


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