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As the world continues to navigate the pandemic, companies are doubling down on digital-first solutions and systems to deliver better experiences, services, and outcomes for customers, employees, and partners. Globally, investments in digital transformation are forecast to reach $3.4 trillion in 2026.1

To accelerate digital success, many firms are also aggressively pursuing IT modernization. But too often, both digital and IT modernization efforts are falling short of expectations. For many large enterprises, the transformation journey takes longer and costs much more than expected.

So, what’s standing in the way of successful IT modernization? While each company’s challenges are unique, there are some themes and common reasons why these efforts fall short.

Reason #1: Oversimplifying cloud 

The cloud is an easy way to consolidate all your compute, storage, access, and security needs while reaping the benefits of cost savings, operational agility, and scalability as your business grows. But migrating to the cloud is no small feat. Migration costs, down time, transition and unexpected events can add up, especially if the project runs behind schedule.

A more measured approach to cloud can deliver quick wins while setting you up for long-term success:

  • Think strategically to optimize security and efficiency. Not every workload belongs on the cloud. First consider what your organization actually needs to migrate, then build out a timeline that ensures all your necessary operations are functional when you need them – or are at least down for the shortest amount of time possible. The cost savings of cloud are best thought of as a long-term play – consider FinOps strategy to evaluate your financial benefits.
  • Be prepared to pivot when the unexpected occurs. When Carrefour Belgium’s on-prem servers overheated early in their Google Cloud Platform migration, they had to take emergency steps to ensure essential business services stayed online while they finished their timeline. They migrated at-risk systems to an interim cloud environment, preventing downtime and data loss, and were able to finish their cloud migration on schedule. Their interim environment was later migrated to their permanent platform as planned.
  • Simplify cloud management with a platform-based operating model. BRF Global operates dozens of companies in pursuit of its commitment to safely providing quality food to hundreds of thousands of people across the world. When it acquires new businesses, it has to integrate their operations into its own, leading to over 20,000 cloud assets needing to be managed. An integrated multicloud management platform allows BRF to see and address issues across all of them from one single point of control.
  • Give yourself room to grow. Compass Group Spain has always enjoyed autonomy within its regional market, but when the mandate to migrate to a shared digital infrastructure came down from corporate, they had to adapt. Thankfully, they had already switched to a private cloud internally, making their migration to Amazon Web Services (AWS) much easier. Now, they still maintain their autonomy while gaining the capacity to grow and scale, both within AWS and their international parent, Compass Group PLC.
Watch the Carrefour story
Reason #2: Changing too much

In our work with thousands of customers across industries, we’ve found that the average company can have up to 10 digital transformation initiatives running at once, often competing with each other for talent, attention, and resources. The ambition behind this is good but change without focus can lead to churn and burnout. If something goes wrong, it can take days to detect and diagnose it, leading to downtime or outages that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour.

IT modernization requires discipline. Rather than attempting to change everything at once, optimize your efforts by prioritizing the projects most essential to business goals and build your timeline around those, ensuring your digital transformation is as intentional and effective as possible.

Reason #3: Moving too fast

Modernizing an entire organization’s tech stack isn’t about being quick–it’s about reaping benefits for your business. Doing it right is much more important than doing it fast, and that means centering your process on your workloads.

A fast, unfocused move to the cloud can have unintended consequences that you’ll feel for years. Without a plan, key systems or workloads could be brought out of compliance, bring legal issues and fines, or could simply incur extra costs that could be otherwise avoided. Being deliberate and strategic might take longer, but it’s the only way for your organization to get the most value possible out of your migration.

When your IT moves faster than your culture can, it will outpace your team creating confusion and waste. Instead, plan your strategy ahead of time and consider all facets of operations. If you prioritize your workloads and address them steadily and patiently, you’ll ensure the rest of your business is ready for the changes IT is making.

Reason #4: Legacy challenges

One of the hardest parts of modernizing for a digital-first economy is integrating your legacy systems. Complex, siloed legacy systems purpose-built for the needs of another time can create ongoing (not to mention expensive) barriers to your IT modernization. Even as some segments of your business successfully complete their process, the legacy systems proving more time-intensive can crash into them, leading to delays, waste, and cost overruns.

However, holding off on updating the rest of your operation until your legacy systems are fully caught up isn’t necessary. Instead, start with a plan to integrate your digital strategy with legacy systems as you modernize. Some of your legacy systems may even be able to be repurposed for your new arrangement. Set up appropriate containment and integration patterns from the beginning to support a successful digital transformation, and you’ll be able to stay competitive while delivering a key long-term advantage.

A new approach

Prioritizing your IT modernization efforts appropriately, taking the time to get it right, and integrating your legacy systems in ways that make sense are fundamental to digital business success. Focusing on the needs and context of the business and modernizing appropriately, as opposed to updating all systems simply for the sake of updating, puts our teams, projects, and goals first. 

This approach will take visionary leaders that center operations instead of tech, that think beyond IT modernization to operations modernization. With it, we can bring real value to our teams and customers.

Click below to hear my conversation with Nel Akoth, Guy Tallent, and Benedikt Ernst, about the intersection of IT modernization, operations modernization, and digital success.

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