Organizations can struggle with the term, “digital transformation.” Some find it hard to understand and difficult to define. That’s because many conversations about it inevitably focus on the unicorns--those born-of-the-web companies that have completely disrupted their industries.

The reality is that many organizations aren’t looking to upend the status quo. They may want to move more quickly and be more competitive, but they also have mission-critical systems that need to maintain certain levels of reliability and security. IT departments often have two mandates: develop new application services faster and manage and maintain all their legacy stuff.

So what does digital transformation look like for these companies?

I think that real digital transformation is about flipping the 80/20 rule of thumb of IT priorities on its head. Today, most traditional companies spend a majority of their IT budget on maintenance which leaves only a minority for innovation. What if you could turn that around and spend the majority of your time, energy, and resources on new services that differentiate your business and the minority keeping the lights on?

Sounds great--but how do you do it?

One way is by adopting the principles of cloud-native app development. I know many of you are thinking, “What the heck is that?” or “That’s just another meaningless industry buzzword.” Let me assure you, I hate buzzwords as much as anyone. But by understanding and applying the lessons of cloud-native app development, a company can prioritize innovation and speed.

I like to think of cloud-native app dev as a place IT professionals would love to work. A place where they are excited to try new things instead of always reacting to changes they can’t control. A place that has adopted DevOps as a way to break down the digital divide between teams for the benefit of everyone. Developers can get the resources they need when they need them. Operations teams automate processes to help bring about greater security and reliability at scale. It’s also a place that embraces an open culture where people believe that not all innovation happens within a company’s four walls--that the best ideas can come from all over the world.

Cloud-native app dev definitely has a technology component, but it really starts with changing culture and process. As your teams are able to focus more on what's important to build better application services, they can work together with greater productivity and efficiency. Instead of one team spending time on an individual monolithic application, they can break it up into smaller pieces and work on those in parallel. That's what microservices are about. That’s what APIs are about. Teams can continuously improve parts of an application at a greater speed. Think of how social media platforms deploy changes to applications several times a day to meet their customers’ needs. You can harness that same power for your company.

Once you build these applications, you should make sure they’re portable to help take advantage of the best infrastructure for the application and your business. You might want to deploy them in your own datacenter, in a private cloud, in public clouds or maybe all of the above. That’s where containers and hybrid cloud can come in. Cloud-native app dev can provide this flexibility not just for new application services but for your existing ones as well.

At Red Hat, we talk a lot to organizations about what it means to embrace this new way of working. There's no one size that fits all, but we believe that fundamentally organizations can embrace this change. A company can flip the 80/20 rule of thumb in favor of innovation without sacrificing their ability to run existing applications. By adopting the culture, process and technology of cloud-native application development, your business can build new applications and services faster than you’ve done before.

Ashesh Badani is vice president and general manager of Cloud Platforms at Red Hat.

 

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