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Digitization: The New Must-Have

Penned By -
Aniruddha Jawanjal

In times of disruption, businesses, especially small and mid-sized ones need to come up with resilient business models to drive through the challenges and be ready to leap on to growth opportunities

When it comes to disruption, technology has historically played a huge part, be it with the invention of the wheel and discovery of fire or the printing press and the moving assembly line in the printing and the automobile industry. As the world moves towards digitalization, technology becomes even more relevant, as stated by Ruchir Sharma, Head of the Emerging Markets Equity team at Morgan Stanley Investment Management in his recent interview with CNBC TV18, and this is evident with the successes of startups such as Pagar Book, Lead School, and Zerodha. Technical infrastructure has helped Farm to Home startups such as Sahyadri Farms and Pride of Cows be the frontrunners in delivering essentials.

“We are currently working on the mix of traditional as well as modern technologies to chalk down the newer strategies for all our upcoming products. Digital is going to be a major focus across all brands. It will help us create differentiation.”, says Akshali Shah, the brain behind Pride of Cows.

But when it comes to deciding to take the plunge, more often than not, businesses do not do so readily. This seems counterintuitive, given both, the benefits and the urgency of such a step in today’s fast-moving world, and yet, reports such as 70% of digital transformations failing (by McKinsey), justify this wariness. This is, in reality, due to very identifiable results. Businesses buy into the idea of digitization by hearing buzz words such as disruption, continuous evolution, and so on. These ideas are as old as capitalism itself, as noted in the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, but what these marketing gimmicks fail to do is focus on the core of what drives digital transformation.

At the core of all successful digital empires are factors such as speed, reliability, scalability, availability, cost-effectiveness, and security.

Businesses often tend to overlook these factors either due to the lack of technical know-how or due to the rush to get the latest buzzwords in their marketing materials. This is why stories of customers running away to competitors due to lack of availability and fear of data compromise are becoming increasingly commonplace. Even games such as Among Us that become an instant rage in the community die when the players cannot connect to the server. In today’s time, a customer increasingly prefers the most reliable solution over one with the most number of features.

Everyone’s favourite tech stock this pandemic, Zoom, which reported 355% year-on-year revenue growth, was not an original idea, and if you think it is, you couldn't be more wrong. The idea of videotelephony goes back to the 1980s, maybe even a little more and the earliest popular video calling application, Skype dates back to 2003. Since then, several other players, including Google with its multiple applications, a lot of which are now dead, have tried to create a mark in this space but failed to an extent. What made Zoom so easy to adapt was the fact that you could rely on the service to make sure that a meeting could be held at any time, thus ensuring availability. But, it faced a lot of backlashes when security issues cropped up and were highlighted by the wider tech community. In a world increasingly aware of privacy and data security, security has taken a front seat.

The physical infrastructure that once was behind a security border is now on the internet, and the only way to protect users, no matter where they connect, is by moving access and security checks to the cloud. The traditional method makes all traffic go through the centralized data centre for security and access controls which is very complex in nature and leads to a terrible user experience. Security on the cloud revolves around preventing loss of data, malware injections, hacked interfaces, abuse of resources, and unauthorized use of resources as well as hijacking. As is evident by these factors, everything on the cloud revolves around software. Enterprise software company Red Hat states that Cloud-native environments also make it easy to spin up new instances—and it’s also easy to forget about the old ones. Neglected instances can become cloud zombies—active but unmonitored. These abandoned instances can become outdated quickly, which means no new security patches. This is where we step in. While cloud platforms like AWS and Digital Ocean have services that facilitate security, using the wrong security service for the wrong purpose is the same as using a bicycle lock on a gold safe. From recommending and making your processes use industry-standard policies to upgrading and maintaining them, we make sure that security is not a concern for you.

But credit where it is due, zoom took on giants such as Skype and Google by ensuring reliability and availability. Traditionally, technologists viewed reliability and availability as a see-saw, if one went up, the other might go down. But in the cloud space, it need not necessarily be so, and Zoom is a prime example of that. Zoom archives this by leveraging a distributed architecture that balances traffic worldwide using region-specific load balancing. Instead of a centralized approach, Zoom has built an architecture that enables meetings to be distributed across the data centre network, seamlessly allowing users to join meetings via private connection to the closest data centre, they say on their website. Businesses will increasingly use different services across their products to leverage the advantages of each of them, but this does not have to impact reliability in any way. The services on a cloud platform are meant to work well together, but the cloud architecture needs to be designed well. If you put a jigsaw piece out of its place, no matter what you do, it won’t fit, even though it is a part of the same picture. Having a good architecture not only helps in availability but also helps in scalability and cost-effectiveness.

When it comes to scalability, it is important, not only to scale up as users increase but also to scale down during low load periods to save costs. Even after committing to digital transformations, businesses decide to pull the plug on it later in the journey due to bills that run into huge numbers sometimes as the cost-to-benefit ratio just does not make sense, but if you tell a man to dig a 6 feet hole with a spoon, you will have to pay him for the substantially more days that he spends on the task. In the same way, it is really important to understand how much load your systems need to handle and when. Scaling up and down as required, along with using each service the way it is meant to be used ensures that your system is bang on with the cost-to-benefit ratio.

Back in 2005, if you told anyone that there could be an office suite that worked solely on the browser, they would have laughed you off. And yet, Google launched its array of services in 2006. But, they did not pick up till the early 2010s. Sometime around 2009 or 2010, Larry Page was fed up with how long all the GSuite properties were taking to load. He said he’d had enough, and put every single Google app, from Gmail to Docs to Spreadsheets, on a complete feature freeze until all the apps loaded in one second and that changed the fate of GSuite. Visionaries know the importance of speed in an increasingly impatient world. You too can ensure a speedy cloud infrastructure by choosing the right kind of instances and services. Cloud providers have services and instances that are tailor-made for different use cases and using the wrong one could mean the difference. Along with this, monitoring your performance and identifying bottlenecks would make a huge difference too.

With SaaS businesses taking the world by the uproar, it is becoming increasingly common to have different instances and cloud architectures for each client, but this does not mean that you have to set this up for each client redundantly. CaaS, or Containers as a Service is a very viable option. Containers are not only lightweight and easy to set up but also faster as compared to virtual machines, their traditional counterparts. Containers not only help with cost reduction but also focus on environment standardization, security, consistency, and disaster recovery.

In this entire cycle, it is our constant effort to also make sure that all the activities are as automated as possible, to reduce human intervention and in turn error and effort. During this process of cloud transformation, a place where businesses falter is when they look at this using a waterfall planning process, meaning, coming up with a vision, making a plan, and viewing it as a list of steps to be completed to finish the journey. Yes, a vision matters, and yes a plan matters, but as the process starts, requirements change, you may realize things that you were unaware of before and environments change, there might be innovation that leads to a better way to achieve your goal. Thus, when it comes to digital transformation, it is mandatory that an iterative and agile approach is adopted to build minimum viable products and that there is always acceptance for change. This applies to both companies considering transformation and as well as companies who think that their transformation is over. Migration to the cloud, in all honesty, is a journey more than a destination. With newer services coming up, offering ease of doing things, and newer platforms having their unique advantages, a constant assessment must be made in the system for improvement.

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, political and business leaders, economists and investors are trying to make sense of what the future holds, but as we see it, the future is technical at the core.

To stay updated with more such trends in technology and to understand how you can leverage technology, follow us on LinkedIn, and if you have queries specific to your business or want to leap into the cloud, drop in a mail and our team will reach out to you.