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A look at digital transformation tools and strategies

An expert looks at tools and techniques, like containers, microservices and ChatOps, that can help enable digital transformation by overcoming roadblocks that make the move challenging.

You know why digital transformation is important. But how can you achieve it?

This article outlines digital transformation tools and techniques that organizations can leverage to achieve a practical path toward digital transformation.

Digital transformation challenges

Digital transformation means modernizing the technologies you use in order to take advantage of the latest innovations.

Achieving digital transformation can be challenging, especially for organizations that already have entrenched tools and processes in place or that rely heavily on legacy software. Rebuilding everything from the ground up is usually not feasible.

Enabling digital transformation, therefore, requires choosing digital transformation tools and strategies that make it possible to retain backwards compatibility with existing processes and software, while still achieving the innovation and efficiency that digital transformation aims to provide.

Digital transformation techniques

So, how do you square that circle? How do you maintain continuity, while innovating at the same time?

The following digital transformation tools and techniques can help. They make it possible to keep working with legacy platforms that you can't overhaul completely, while still delivering new efficiencies for your IT operations and business.

Containers

Running applications inside containers is a way to make applications more portable and scalable.

Containers also help to provide consistency among development, testing and production environments. This reduces the risk of unexpected problems that impact end users.

Containers have become a mainstream technology in the last few years, thanks to the rise of Docker; however, containers have a history that stretches back to long before Docker's advent in 2013.

Almost any type of application can be run inside a container without requiring a major overhaul. For this reason, containers are a great way to make applications more agile and help enable digital transformation, even if you don't have the resources to rewrite your applications.

Microservices

Like containers, microservices make applications more agile. A microservices-based application consists of many discrete parts, each of which can be deployed, updated and monitored individually.

Transforming a monolithic legacy application to run as microservices can require some work. Some or all of the application may need to be rewritten or refactored.

In cases where you have the resources to transition to microservices, however, this is an excellent strategy for enabling digital transformation.

Low-code application platforms

One way to speed application development without increasing the size of your development team is to take advantage of low-code application platforms, such as Google App Maker and Microsoft PowerApps.

Low-code applications are developed using a platform that minimizes the amount of code you need to write. Low-code application platforms provide prepackaged functions that can be combined to build a new application without having to write all of the code for it from scratch.

Low-code applications are not as extensible as ones you develop from scratch. They can also pose security issues, which makes them unsuitable for certain scenarios.

You shouldn't expect to transition your entire software stack to a low-code foundation.

Still, the low-code trend can help to achieve digital transformation.

ChatOps

Want to enable greater operational efficiency and communication across your platform? ChatOps is a great technique.

Broadly speaking, ChatOps refers to the use of real-time chat platforms, such as Slack and HipChat, to drive better collaboration. These tools not only provide a more efficient way to communicate than email, phone calls and in-person meetings, they can also integrate easily with other parts of your digital infrastructure. For example, your monitoring and alerting system can send important notifications directly to a Slack channel, where all of your DevOps engineers can see and discuss them.

More efficient communication leads to better business operations and more reliable technology.

At a more advanced level, ChatOps involves the use of chatbots to automate tasks. With a chatbot, your team can execute code and update configurations by issuing commands within a ChatOps platform. In this way, ChatOps and chatbots help to centralize IT management.

DevSecOps

DevSecOps, which is sometimes called just SecOps, is a cousin of the DevOps movement. DevOps encourages close collaboration between developers and IT Ops. DevSecOps adds security engineers to the mix.

DevOps itself is already so popular that it seems not worth mentioning in a discussion of digital transformation strategies.

However, DevSecOps is a newer concept, which has not yet been broadly embraced. But it's also a technique that can prove fruitful for digital transformation -- particularly today, when headlines about major security breaches seem to be a never-ending phenomenon. Adopting DevSecOps can not only strengthen your IT security but also improve the overall operational efficiency of your IT teams by enabling smoother collaboration between security engineers and other groups.

Multicloud architecture

Your business is probably already using the cloud. That's good. However, you can likely leverage more benefits from the cloud by adopting a multicloud strategy.

A multicloud architecture means that you use, well, multiple clouds concurrently. It could involve a mix of public and private cloud resources or using multiple public clouds at the same time.

No matter exactly how your multicloud architecture is configured, its goal should be to gain more flexibility. When you have multiple clouds rather than relying on a single cloud, it is easier to find the best fit for apps or data that you want to host in the cloud.

For example, you may have some data that you need to store on premises for compliance reasons. If you only had a single cloud and it was public, you would not be able to move this data to the cloud. But if you have a multicloud architecture that includes a public cloud service, as well as a private cloud built using on-premises servers and a platform such as OpenStack, you could use the private cloud for sensitive data.

Multicloud architectures are also useful for increasing app availability. When you rely on a single cloud, you risk having your apps and data become unavailable in the event that that cloud goes down. With multiple clouds, that risk is much smaller because it is unlikely that two clouds would fail at the same time.

In both of these ways, a multicloud architecture helps to enable digital transformation by making applications and data more agile, while also increasing availability.

Next Steps

The good and bad of containers for digital transformation

Reasons for starting a digital transformation

Digital transformation: Don't be left behind

This was last published in October 2017

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