Connecting the data: Digital transformation relies on more than just tech


The path to digital transformation is full of potholes for much of the enterprise. The industry-wide issues at hand are hundreds of billions of dollars of legacy equipment and the time it takes to get a project accomplished. Most importantly, one of the largest problems is handling the explosion of data across the enterprise and determining who owns that data, according to Alan Nance (pictured), executive vice president at Virtual Clarity Ltd.

“You end up with this enormous fragmentation of data, and with that you get a Wild West of what I call data stewardship. … And there is no coherence in terms of moving the enterprise forward because everybody’s focused on their own functionality around that data and not connecting it,” Nance stated.

Nance spoke with John Furrier (@furrier) and Dave Vellante (@dvellante), co-hosts of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile live streaming studio, during the DataWorks Summit in Munich, Germany, to provide an overview of why digital transformation is a slow-going process. (*Disclosure below.)

Alan Nance is theCUBE’s featured Guest of the Week.

Virtual Clarity works with enterprise companies to look at the outcomes each business needs. Nance’s team can analyze the business’ pain points within a matter of weeks and develop appropriate solutions. The key for the company is combining the insights on the demand side with the insights on the technology side to design an operating model, Nance explained. The concept is to do things quickly to deliver value and better outcomes right away. And he firmly believes that is all about connecting the data.

Changing a company’s technology is not enough, according to Nance. The company needs to switch to an operational model, which means focusing the outcomes the business hopes to achieve through transformation.

“I think everybody who’s going to achieve anything from an investment in cloud will achieve it on the operational model. They won’t  just achieve it on the cost savings side, making costs more transparent or more commoditized. It’s going to happen in the operational model,” Nance said.

The slow road to enterprise digital transformation

The obstacles in the path of achieving progress usually point to five key areas, Nance explained:

1. Lack of money and resources

After years of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on legacy systems, companies are veering toward the hybrid cloud, Nance noted.

“We have a huge proliferation of data that’s not connected in many organizations, and I think we’re going to hybrid, but I don’t think that’s a future proof thing for most organizations,” he said.

Thinking about the future of technology, Nance explained that once Internet of Things becomes part of the equation, the data will still be going back to legacy systems. And the hybrid solution will not change the operating model.

2. Lack of leadership

Many of the transformation issues lie in the hallway of the C-suite. A recent study indicated that 80 percent of executives believe that this transformation will have a profound impact on their operating model. However, half of them (40 percent) report that they don’t have a roadmap for change and there is a gap in skills and capabilities.

Nance begins with the Chief Executive Officer. He pointed out that the CEO often thinks there is more time than there is to make the impact in the enterprise. Citing that the average CEO has about a six-year tenure, Nance defined large transformation programs that begin with good vision and teams rally around change. However, midway into the CEO’s tenure is where the rubber meets the road.

“If the CEO has not achieved escape velocity by the end of year three, [meaning] he’s showing the growth, or she’s showing the digital transformation, it’s kind of game over,” Nance said. The unraveling begins at this stage, and the enterprise has figured out that the program has stalled. The CEO now must justify the spend over the past three years, and there is nothing to show for it.

Some responsibility also falls on the data stewardship issue, Nance stated. There also needs to be a consensus among people like the chief data officer, chief marketing officer and the chief security officer, who need to share the data and bring it together.

3. Lack of speed

With his vast experience in digital transformation, Nance recognizes that speed is of the essence and it is essential to change the timeline and show results.

“You have to accelerate those layers and take those layers out and show 90-day iteration plans that show business outcomes,” he said.

4. Lack of skills

The technology industry widely accepts that there is a sizable gap in the workforce. However, Nance asserted that there is more to the lack of technology skills. He believes that it is all about the operating model and having the right people to drive initiatives.

“The technology [alone] is not going to help you. So you have to have people on the business side and the technology side coming together to make this work,” he said.

5. Lack of security

When moving to the cloud, many organizations rank cybersecurity as their top business risk, according to The Hackett Group’s recent study. Of those surveyed, 67 percent consider that security concerns will grow over the next two years.

Nance contends that a composable infrastructure, a rapid timeline, a decision on data stewardship and a solution to data gravity issues will help companies transform to achieve better insights and outcomes for the business.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of DataWorks Summit 2017 EU(*Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner at DataWorks. The conference sponsor, Hortonworks, does not have editorial oversight of content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE