5 ways to refresh your technology stack for the next normal
When COVID-19 swept the globe, organisations were under intense pressure to rapidly install or adapt new technologies to accommodate virtual working, often creating temporary fixes or clunky systems as an interim solution.
Now, almost 12 months into the crisis and with a significant emphasis on digital transformation, how can leaders refresh their technology stack to proactively innovate for the next normal?
Streamline portfolios to help deliver cost savings
Historically, many large enterprises have installed systems to facilitate existing limitations, leaving burdens of technical debt, outdated applications, and workarounds. As businesses look to compete in an increasingly complex and digital world, it’s more important than ever that they review and upgrade legacy core systems to support the agility, innovation, and new ways of working that fuel digital transformation.
In 2021, we will see an increasing number of IT leaders and their C-suite peers launching application rationalization initiatives to cull technical debt to help deliver cost and cash savings, whilst also optimising performance and efficiencies. By streamlining the portfolio of legacy applications, leaders can orient investment towards strategic platforms that provide maximum value and deliver on transformation initiatives.
Cloud-first models generate competitive advantage
COVID-19 required two rapid business responses: accommodating distributed teams, and delivering on-demand scalable resources. Unlike on-premise systems, the cloud allows for this scalability, reliability and distribution across zones and regions, which will be continue to be critical as we cope with resurgences and variants of the virus and the new hybrid model of remote and office work.
Through cloud adoption, companies can also achieve significant increases in top-line revenue and profitability. At the same time, a cloud infrastructure offers immediate access to powerful, ready to use, solutions for analytics, AI and automation. These technologies allow businesses to generate competitive advantage quickly without the up-front costs and lead times of traditional platforms.
Collaboration between business strategy and technology
Since the pandemic began, enterprises have put time and effort into immediate survival rather than longer-term growth. This meant cutting costs by delaying programmes focused on strategic growth and spending more on tactical projects. However, as we move into the recovery phase of COVID-19, organisations need to translate growth ideas into tangible initiatives.
Moving forward, there must be tight collaboration between business leads and CIOs. With this partnership, senior leaders can take a comprehensive look at initiatives and resources across the organisation and ask tough questions about how to improve the portfolio. At the same time, CIOs and their teams will have the right framework and understanding of corporate strategy to make day-to-day technology decisions.
Tech M&A activity to accelerate
Bold choices on portfolio-transforming investments, particularly acquisitions and divestments, can help reframe the future of a business and position it for growth beyond the pandemic. COVID-19 locked up the technology M&A market for much of the first half of 2020, when spending dropped to its lowest level in a decade.
However, the conditions that facilitated a surge in tech M&A in the latter half of last year are still in place – a rising stock market, stabilising IT budgets, and continued digital living and working. As vaccines roll out and the economy begins to recover, M&A activity will accelerate. We are already seeing non-technology companies acquire to bring specific IT capabilities in-house, supplementing their existing tech stack and digital talent.
Investments in security to become integral
Emerging technologies like 5G and edge computing will find their footing after some delays in 2020, and IoT will play a key role in post-pandemic recovery for economic and social distancing. These innovations, and others, will have a knock-on effect on cyber security strategies.
In the new digital world, it is vital for good security practices to become integral to businesses, backed by the right resources and investments. Moving forward, we will see security teams collaborating with leaders to ensure that cyber security decisions support the organisation’s strategic goals, and to guarantee that security budgets are delivering a good return.
Technology will play an important role to compete in an increasingly complex world. Many leaders are finding that their organisation’s past technology choices are still limiting their strategic options and agility. But in a permanently changed business landscape, there has never been a better time to create a lasting foundation for innovation.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”