We live in an age of disruption, with companies like Airbnb, Netflix, and Uber grabbing the lion’s share of their respective markets. Meanwhile, customers are leaving the predecessors of these companies in droves for newer, faster, more efficient, user-centric products and services. Built in the cloud and with no physical footprint, these tech-driven businesses can pivot and scale to meet customer demands at a pace that most enterprises—struggling to migrate from legacy technology—can only envy from afar.

Digitize or die

– Getty Images

And so, we enter a new era of flexibility where the impact of this disruption is clear. According to strategy research firm Innosight, the average lifespan of a typical company is down from 67 years to just 15—and at current churn rates, 75 percent of the S&P 500 will disappear by 2027, which could include some of the 20 UK companies currently listed.

Companies are quickly waking up to this reality and looking to their IT departments lead for digital transformation initiatives that can reduce operational costs, drive efficiencies, and ultimately, fuel innovation strategies that can help them keep pace with new market entrants, unencumbered by legacy technology.

And IT professionals are in vehement agreement. More than nine in ten (95 percent) IT professionals see cloud and hybrid IT as one of the top five most important technologies in their organization’s IT strategy today. Cloud computing and hybrid IT can unlock a degree of agility, scalability, and collaboration that’s proven to be essential for digital transformation. Yet, at the same time, nearly half (42 percent) said that their current environments were not optimized for peak performance and reported spending 50 percent or more of their time reactively maintaining and troubleshooting.

Networking can be a huge hurdle to overcome in a digital overhaul. This is not surprising, considering the complexity of today’s networks—and how they’ve become larger, more complex, and more distributed. Today’s networks just aren’t designed to meet those challenges. Legacy infrastructure and operations (I&O) practices and traditional data center architectures just won’t cut it with the demands of the digital business. So, what are the key networking priorities for IT professionals as they look to action digital transformation in the year ahead?

Watertight cybersecurity

High-profile breaches such as the Dixons Carphone, or quite recently Superdrug, have brought cybersecurity concerns back to the top of the agenda. In fact, Interop ITX and the InformationWeek 2018 State of Infrastructure study found that 59 percent of 150 IT leaders cited network security as one of their top three priorities for the coming 12 months.

If IT professionals are going to realize the “digital transformation dream,” then security needs to be taken care of so that team resource can be allocated to new, more innovative initiatives. Network monitoring needs to be automated, and ultimately, be easy.

The trouble is, a watertight cybersecurity strategy can mean too many things all at once—keeping abreast of the fast-changing security landscape, benchmarking against what’s normal, constantly training teams on best practices, and being able to act quickly if disaster does strike. Growing networks, increasing in complexity, connecting to an ever-expanding number of devices, stretching across more geographies, and supporting different demands mean that keeping tabs on anomalies can be a full-time job. IT professionals need to invest in tools and processes that can automate this activity, only issuing alerts when attention is required and saving a team’s time, which they can then dedicate to digital.

Insatiable bandwidth appetites and “always-on”

Digital transformation requires a level of IT agility and velocity that outstrips classical architectures and practices. Moving to the cloud is one of these inevitable shifts to a new digital reality, but this has triggered a proliferation of new applications, and driven an insatiable appetite for bandwidth, often faster than organizations can accommodate or afford. Especially when typically, networks are supplied with long lead-time, fixed bandwidth, and expensive long-term contracts—the polar opposite of what any enterprise business needs today.

Thriving organizations are “always on,” meaning they’re moving swiftly to dial connectivity up and down as needed to cope with peaks in activity, while also provisioning services efficiently. To do so, it’s essential that IT has a clear view across services and can see the pathways of applications, as well as the quality of service.

Historical data from modern network path monitoring tools can be used to help with capacity planning, offering contextual information that can be used to decipher when a business may need to move resources on-premise.

And today, being offline can equate to lost profit. The ability to dynamically map networks then becomes a vital commodity. Visual path monitoring can provide IT professionals with simplified detection of issues in internal networks, while also extending troubleshooting through the internet and into service providers’ networks, covering both parts of the hybrid infrastructure.

Modern network path monitoring tools are designed to simulate application-specific traffic, which passes through firewalls in much the same way as user traffic. This means that if a problem occurs in the cloud, IT pros can see what went wrong and contact the service provider with the right information to get it fixed.

Digital is critical, networking is key

Ultimately, digital is the new normal. And a big part of whether IT professionals can make digital transformation a reality will hinge on the performance of their network architectures. Doing so in the new era of flexibility means that IT professionals require an unprecedented level of visibility, giving them the power to manage networks simply, comprehensively, and accurately, without compromising affordability. And hopefully, this happens sometime before 2027.