Agents of Transformation

Agents of Transformation

AppDynamics have launched a COVID-19 edition of its global research ‘The Agents of Transformation.’ The report includes data from interviews with IT professionals – from board-level directors and CIOs, through to senior and mid-level IT management – in enterprise organizations across ten countries, including the UK. Who will transform your business as we enter the post-digital age?

The COVID-19 pandemic has required enterprises and organizations to shift overnight to an almost entirely digital world. Technology departments across the globe are now grappling with surging demand and mounting pressures to accelerate digital transformation strategies. They must deliver high performing digital experiences to customers and all-remote workforces at a time when the survival of the organization is resting on their shoulders.

The latest research from AppDynamics reveals that technologists are experiencing pressure from every angle as they mobilize workforces to operate from home, manage increasing pressure on their networks and applications, and maintain the security of the technology stack, while also taking on new roles and responsibilities. Some of the key findings include:

  • 81% of technologists state that COVID-19 has created the most significant technology pressure for their organization they have ever experienced.
  • 61% of technologists feel under more pressure at work than ever before.
  • 64% of technologists are now being asked to perform tasks and activities they have never done before.
  • 66% of technologists confirm that the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in their digital strategies, creating an urgent need to accelerate initiatives that were once part of multi-year digital transformation programs.
  • 74% of technologists report that digital transformation projects which would typically take more than a year to be approved, have been signed off in a matter of weeks.
  • 71% of technologists point to digital transformation projects that have been implemented within weeks rather than the months or years it would have taken before the pandemic.
  • As the digital landscape, all businesses are now trading within continues to evolve radically, do we need a new kind of technologist?

At the time, the researchers concluded that for businesses to remain competitive, 45% of technologists within an organization needed to be operating as Agents of Transformation within the next ten years. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, technologists report that the target must be reached not within ten years, but now.

With 83% of respondents stating that Agents of Transformation are critical for businesses to recover quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an urgent need for technologists to operate at the highest level of their profession.

Silicon UK in Focus

To explore the ideas that will influence the Agents of Transformation, Silicon UK spoke with Gregg Otrowski, Regional CTO, Cisco AppDynamics. Gegg engages with senior customer leadership to help prioritize their strategy for digital transformation. Before AppDynamics, Gregg held senior leadership positions at Samsung and Research in Motion.

Gregg Otrowski
Gregg Otrowski, Regional CTO, Cisco AppDynamics.

Has COVID-19 changed the definition of ‘digital transformation’?

“The definition of ‘digital transformation’ is ever-evolving and can be defined differently by different businesses. For me, it goes beyond the technology, to a company’s culture – it’s the internal processes and procedures that allow for digital transformation to occur within weeks, rather than months or years.

“What the Agents of Transformation Report 2020: COVID-19 Special Edition shows us, is that regardless of the industry, organizations urgently have to adapt their go-to-market strategies in light of the pandemic, as well as, create and launch new digital services and applications in the current environment. In the UK, we’ve seen technologists’ priorities changed at 95% of organizations surveyed, with 85% of UK technologists saying that the digital customer experience is now on top of their priority list – the impact of this is really significant.”

How do Agents of Transformation differ from CTOs and CIOs?

“The role of a CTO or CIO is to really lead the strategic digital direction of the business, providing the overarching company vision. Agents of Transformation can be found across the full spectrum of staff. From a study in 2018, AppDynamics identified the characteristics of the technologists that businesses needed to drive effective and sustainable culture change for their organizations. What emerged from this report were five types of technologist – among these are the Agents of Transformation, who are the elite technologists driving successful digital transformation.

“They are the driving force of the business, capable of tackling the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19. It’s not a seniority level or title as such, but rather, recognizes those within your business who are ready and able to drive substantial digital transformation within the businesses.”

What are the main weaknesses COVID-19 has revealed in an enterprise’s digital strategies?

“I think it’s clear that many businesses were unprepared for such a crisis and didn’t have adequate procedures in place for things such as significant spikes in web traffic, or increased demand on the network, which led directly to poor user experience. Organizations have had to rapidly adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, as it amplified their weaknesses.

“For many (61% in the UK), this has exposed weaknesses in their digital strategy with an urgent need to push forward initiatives which were once a part of multi-year digital transformation programs. The pace of change has dramatically increased, and the technologists set to deliver this change must keep up, or watch their business suffer as a result.”

How has COVID-19 changed the digital transformation roadmaps of companies?

“Digital transformation strategies were often extended, multi-year plans that crossed departments, pre-COVID-19. Now, this has gone out the window. The truth is the pandemic is impacting technology departments across the globe in a way that was unimaginable just a few months ago.

“Technologists find themselves spearheading their organizations’ response to the biggest global economic crisis for generations and, in many cases, with the immediate survival of their businesses resting on their shoulders.

“The two factors that have really changed are: those that were lower priorities for a business are now top and the fact that businesses now understand that they need to look beyond the pandemic to address the weaknesses that were exposed and sustain themselves in the long term.”

As COVID-19 has accelerated development timeframes, what risks has this short development time revealed?

“For many dev teams, there’s always been a pressure to deliver at pace, but this pressure has intensified to meet the expectations and demands set on businesses as a result of COVID-19. In our report, 68% point to digital transformation projects that have been implemented within weeks rather than the months or years it would have taken before the pandemic.

“The shortened timeframes mean that often, compromises have had to be drawn, and we recognize there are some emerging risks – future-proofing is taking a back seat, and many organizations are only able to focus on the immediate and very short-term results.

“In fact, globally 59% admit that they are firefighting and introducing short-term fixes to technical problems and a huge 76% of all technologists’ express concern about the longer-term impact of digital transformation initiatives they have had to rush through during COVID-19.

“For those businesses playing catch-up they are rapidly experimenting, but if they roll out changes without the procedures in place to ensure they have visibility over the entire stack of the application, including the network, infrastructure and most importantly the user experience, they don’t have the real-time data that’s necessary for course-corrections.”

How must businesses change or evolve their technology stacks to deliver world-class customer experiences?

“Technologists have a critical role as businesses look towards prioritizing digital experiences for both internal users and external customers.

Organizations across all sectors and industries are now recognizing that having real-time visibility and insight into their application performance to identify and resolve issues immediately is vital. This will enable them to make the right decisions for both the short term and long-term value to the business while ensuring they deliver world-class digital experiences.

“For many organizations, technology migrations have been slow to roll-out. Take migration to the cloud, for example – this was a process that was planned to develop over a significant amount of time. What the pandemic has shown is that businesses need to take advantage of faster development methodologies like leveraging cloud services, and modernize their infrastructure, environment and applications quickly, balancing their legacy technology with the new.”

Why do technologists report that the response of their IT teams to the pandemic has positively changed the perception of IT within their organizations?

“I think there’s been a pendulum shift in the consumerization of IT – as applications become the business, with organizations more dependent on them than ever before, IT teams are more intertwined with business operations. As application complexity increases, the business again becomes more dependent on IT, and we know that consumers are increasingly unforgiving of poor digital experiences. Companies are now recognizing this.

“I think despite the staggering pressure that these technologists are under, there’s been an overwhelmingly positive mindset, with 86% of UK technologists regarding the response to COVID-19 as an opportunity to show their value to the business.

“This positivity is likely due to finding themselves spearheading their organization’s response, with businesses now fully recognizing the importance of their own digital transformation and the value of delivering exceptional digital experiences to their customers.”

Do the Agents of Transformation within a business have the tools and insights (data and analytics) they need to ensure their enterprises succeed with their digital transformation post-COVID-19?

“Today, more than ever, technologists must ensure they have access to the tools and accurate data they need to make informed, strategic decisions that deliver positive business outcomes. To meet the challenges ahead, however, 89% in the UK say that having real-time data at the point of need is a key area where they need support right now.

“Organizations must acknowledge that to drive digital transformation and succeed in delivering outstanding performance and customer experience across all digital services, both now and beyond the pandemic, their business needs the right actionable insights.”

Has digital transformation as we know it been changed thanks to COVID-19?

“Absolutely! Once businesses make the changes required to enable experimentation and risk-taking, it’s tough to make a U-turn there. As the internal culture adapts and develops to speed up digital transformation, it will be very hard, and potentially very damaging to businesses who seek to slow this down again.

“Companies will see the benefit of moving quickly. Digital transformation across businesses is continually evolving, but the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be long-lasting. The way we expect to use digital services and applications will be changed forever.

“This is a defining moment where technologists stand at the forefront in guiding their organizations through the current crisis. The pendulum is shifting back to businesses being more dependent on IT teams. This has exposed how IT teams have the opportunity to drive the business forward.

“For individuals within those teams, it’s really shown how people need to be flexible, taking on new tasks and roles to meet the challenges at hand – people are broadening their skillsets in light of this, and I expect this to have a lasting impact on the industry.

“But, essentially, to drive through successful digital transformation, businesses must provide the support and environment for these technologists on their journey. That’s how they can achieve positive business outcomes.”