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March 12, 2018updated 21 Jul 2022 6:12am

The path of least resistance: How to avoid legacy IT slowing business growth

Every business, big or small, needs to adapt to the digital world!

By James Nunns

The UK is no stranger to digitisation. The latest analysis of the UK digital tech sector shows the number of ‘digitally native’ companies grew by 28 percent in the five-year period up to 2015.

If all companies achieved their digital potential, this could add £92 billion to the UK economy. This is great in principle, but what next for ‘traditional’ businesses who have the long road to digital transformation ahead of them?

Sam Routledge, Chief Technology Officer at Softcat shows us the path of least resistance when it comes to improving your IT infrastructure to achieve your business goals…

Invest wisely

The business case for IT investment has been made a thousand times over already. The biggest problem is picking which options, or indeed combinations of options, are best.

Sam Routledge, CTO Softcat.

Spending money on IT doesn’t automatically equate to better financial performance…otherwise we’d all be laughing! Your IT infrastructure is the platform helping you to achieve your business goals, not the answer to all your problems.

A long-term perspective with the flexibility to adapt is crucial because re-designing and implementing changes can be a lengthy process. What digital functions will you need to compete in two, five, or even ten years’ time? Investing in asset management and tooling early on can give you the control you need over your IT portfolio to make quick and accurate operational decisions meaning you’ll have more time and resources to focus on other things.

Sizing up legacy IT

‘Agile’ is the last word which comes to mind when describing traditional IT. In the past, IT departments planned for weeks or even months before a big project because infrastructure lacked the flexibility to ramp up or down on demand. Sound familiar? If so, it’s time to move on.

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Over half of businesses surveyed by Interoute cited integrating legacy technologies with cloud-enabled applications as one of the biggest barriers to achieving transformation. However, when used correctly, cloud-based technologies are cheaper, less disruptive and offer a longer-term solution for your changing IT needs.

A “lift and shift” approach can be tempting, but it could cost you if a solution isn’t correctly designed for the cloud or you migrate your existing problems across.

We’re now seeing a movement towards a hybrid cloud model, where customers use a mix of on-premise “private cloud” and public cloud services. This approach offers greater architectural flexibility, stronger security defences, more technical predictability for critical projects and a safer arena for testing and deployment.

If you’re struggling to improve your existing IT systems, cloud can offer an easy and low commitment route into flexible, digital-ready infrastructure, allowing you to focus your efforts on other business priorities.

Get employee buy-in

It’s not just an IT department thing; digital transformation affects everyone. Culture is the operating system of any organisation, so having total employee buy-in from the start is invaluable for a smooth transition.

However, according to McKinsey, culture is the most significant self-reported barrier to meeting digital priorities. Inevitably, a business will have digital front-runners, followers and slow-movers. So how can you align all three?

Hire differently; judge digital literacy during the hiring process for any role. Bring in line compensation structures like bonuses with digital transformation objectives to motivate staff. Combine top-down messaging from the C-suite with digital champions engaging employees on the ground.

Don’t try and do it all yourself. Forming key partnerships with external networks such as vendors, digital trainers, service providers and customers can support disruptive thinking and the exploration of new ideas through an open digital-first culture.

Be safe, not sorry

The Government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey found nearly half of UK companies suffered a cyber breach or attack in 2017. Not only does the average breach cost £20,000 (and in some cases millions), it can damage customer confidence and risk relationships with your partners and investors.

Sound scary? Don’t fret, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are simple and proactive steps you can take to defend yourself. For example: ensuring mobile devices can be tracked and remotely wiped if lost or stolen and the data on them is encrypted; employing a system of network privileges such as graduated access to sensitive business data and systems; using multi-factor authentication for external access; and ensuring your systems are patched and anti-virus is up to date.

An inside-out approach is key. It may be a hard fact to swallow but IBM recently found up to 25 percent of cyber-attacks on the healthcare sector were carried out by ‘malicious’ insiders. Security needs to be hard-wired into your business culture and infrastructure to reduce the risk of internal breaches – both accidental and malicious – with additional perimeter protections in place to defend against external attacks.

Inevitably, with more intelligent monitoring comes an increased workload for your IT team. You might want to consider out-tasking certain services; for example, a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) service could help alleviate some of the pressure by offering multi-layered analytics, proactive threat hunting and real-time notifications on a simple-to-use dashboard.

Once you have the basics in place, consider applying for a government-backed Cyber Essentials Certificate (costing around £300 +VAT). This will show your customers and partners you’re taking cyber security seriously.

Don’t let your existing IT hold you back. Consumers are constantly re-writing the rule book when it comes to the services and experiences they expect. Every business, big or small, needs to adapt to the digital world!

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