It used to be easy to spot innovation.  In the last ten years if you had a website with functionality vs. text and graphics, likely you earned the Web 2.0 moniker, and customers, investors and analysts would recognize you as a technology innovator.  Now it is much harder to understand if companies are innovating and taking advantage of current technology trends.  Our friends at Gartner coined a term called the Digital Enterprise – meant to denote companies that were taking advantage of the la capabilities of cloud computing, big data, elastic computing, batch computing and more.

It is important for business leaders and IT executives to understand the characteristics of a Digital Enterprise to determine where they sit on the spectrum of becoming a Digital Enterprise.  2nd Watch is at the forefront of enterprise cloud adoption, and so we have a unique viewpoint into what it takes for our customers to become competent users of new technology and the overall pursuit of becoming digital in the enterprise. Read about other enterprises that are making the transition to becoming digital businesses in our recent blog post.

I like to break down Digital Enterprise traits by functional areas.  What things differentiate companies in the way they process their core business transactions?  How do enterprise businesses run their IT departments?  And finally, how does the organization innovate with new technology?  Let’s talk about each of these buckets briefly.

The Digital Enterprise is focused around enabling core business transactions in 100% digital format.  Gone are the days of organizations that resemble the average doctor or dentist office 10 years ago with racks and racks of multi-colored folders of patient paperwork.  I wear contacts in my eyes to fix an issue with my eyesight, so I see my eye doctor once a year, and I’m happy to say I have not dilated my eyes in the last 6 years as the entire office operations are digital – including diagnostic s for various procedures that used to be carried out manually.  My doctor and I are constantly talking about how much better the diagnostic information is now and how much more detail you can see digitally vs. the last generation of s.  I use this example because it is very clear from a customer perspective that the business I am receiving services from is a 100% digital business – from the way I am reminded about my appointment to the actual appointment itself.  The process is improved, customer friendly and uses current technology to aid in the business process.  Do your customers recognize you as a digital business?

One of the easiest questions to ask your IT teams to understand how they manage the business of IT is that of process lead times.  How long does it take to provision IT resources?  How many people are involved?  How many vendors need to be touched?  How long does it take to acquire and provision services?  We have heard a variety of answers to this question.  Enterprises can take weeks to secure and provision infrastructure or IT services.  Or it can be months – there are many Fortune 500 companies that still answer this question in terms of months today.  We certainly have our work cut out for us.  The answer needs to be minutes.  One of my favorite success stories at 2nd Watch comes from a large enterprise that was already one of the most efficient procurement shops we have dealt with, but its infrastructure was still out 2-3 weeks as a part of its normal process.  With our tools and know-how, we took this down to 30 minutes.  This delta in time is a huge competitive advantage in business today.

The last big category of Digital Enterprise traits are related to technology innovation.  Interestingly it is not about the “what” but about the “how.”  Does your IT team embrace continuous integration?  Does it leverage public cloud infrastructure and enterprise management software on top to enable faster time to market?  Is the team focused on technical capabilities or business process innovation?  Is there a clear path between customer feedback and technology innovation?  Does the team look at last minute customer requests as an annoyance or as a way to get innovation in front of their consumers more quickly?

Today’s Digital Enterprise is leveraging public cloud infrastructure and enterprise management tools to deploy business innovation at a dizzying pace.  You’ll know you are there when your IT department is waiting on the business to react to change.  A 2nd Watch customer once said, “This is a first in my 19 years here at the company that we beat Marketing time-wise in a project and are now waiting on them for project completion.  It’s a great feeling!”  Are your IT folks pushing to make your business better?

More about Cloud-Enabled innovation in my next update.

Learn more about the Digital Enterprise by downloading our whitepaper, The Digital Enterprise: Transforming Business in the Cloud.

Contact us to learn how we can help you make the transition to becoming a digital business.

-Kris Bliesner, CTO