Six Imperatives to Future Proof Your Digital Business FEATURE
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Technology is driving business strategy as never before, and the competitive landscape is changing with each innovation. Companies need a new approach to IT that can keep pace with the evolution of IoT, automation, augmented reality, virtual reality, massively distributed computing, software analytics — and the vast increases in complexity brought about by these shifts.

This week at Cisco Live in Berlin, I'm meeting with IT professionals from all over the world to talk about how they can future proof their business, build an architecture to handle all this complexity and get ready to innovate. The discussion is focusing on six key imperatives that every company should be thinking about:

No. 1: The best digital offense starts with the best security defense.

We used to have the illusion that protecting our systems from malware attacks was a finite task. We identified points of entry, locked them down and were done.

We thought security was static. Today we know it's constantly in motion. The attack surface is increasing, and threat actors are becoming more sophisticated every day.

Security is the underlying foundation that will enable organizations to grow, find new revenue models and realize the potential of digital business. By taking an architectural approach, security is no longer a burden — it's a business advantage, and companies must adapt. That's why everything Cisco launches will have security embedded at a foundational level — from network and data center infrastructure to our collaboration and SaaS offers.

The solution lies in a more holistic approach, with a comprehensive architecture that is able to keep out threats wherever they are: devices, data, people, on premises, in the cloud, connected or not.

Moving away from point solutions and toward true interoperability creates a force multiplier — when a threat is detected in one place, the system immediately secures the rest everywhere else.

No. 2: Let the machines run the machines: Automation in the network.

According to the 2017 Cisco Virtual Networking Index, today's already heavy global mobile data traffic will increase sevenfold between 2016 and 2021.

The internet of things is accelerating that motion into warp speed. Fifty billion devices will come online by 2020, each requiring device onboarding, security policy, guaranteed bandwidth, anomaly detection and more. The Cisco Jasper platform alone is adding 1.5 million every month.

These changes and others like them bring a staggering level of complexity at a scale unmanageable by humans alone

How do we solve this challenge? The future is in automation — You have to let the machines run the machines.

When infrastructure management is automated, what used to take days takes mere minutes. Your company can scale to deliver on the explosive growth and new opportunities that all these connected devices and their resulting data can offer.

No. 3: Who gives a cl**d? Optimizing the multi-cloud reality.

Companies are operating in a world of massively distributed computing. On average they are using between four and five cloud providers. The vast majority — 85 percent — also have a multi-cloud strategy.

Even in 2017 it still makes sense – financially and operationally – to host many technology investments in-house. But to compete today, companies need to be able to build, test, spin up large workloads, handle peak seasons and leverage the innovation coming from multiple clouds.

At the end of the day, you shouldn't need to care which cloud is doing the work — you just need an intelligent engine to automatically and securely provision your resources in the best way possible. Optmizing for this environment means you get the right cloud, for the right workload, at the right time — and with the right level of security.

No. 4: Unlock your insights: Analytics for the whole business.

Business is data-driven, and companies with a clear view of how and where data is captured, analyzed, stored and retrieved have the advantage.

But when there's a lack of holistic view in the entire system, those insights are locked up.

For example, if a customer is having a difficult time completing an online check-in for an upcoming flight, how will the airline know there is an issue? By tracking and monitoring the performance of every user action and business transaction, companies can see where customers or employees are experiencing difficulty every step of the way — and take IT from the role of reacting to customer complaints to one of proactively addressing performance issues before a customer notices.

To optimize application and business performance, the infrastructure must be capable of surfacing that kind of rich data and presenting it in a human way. There must be visibility into the data — and the ability to correlate it across technologies — from the code to the datacenter to the user.

No. 5: Spark brilliance in everyone, everywhere.

Technology is also changing the nature of work: in the building, in the conference room and on the road.

It started with mobile devices. Now cameras, smart displays and connected buildings are creating new workspaces for employees and empowering facilities managers.

Collaboration tools such as Cisco Spark Board bring together multiple collaboration experiences in one tool to allow teams to whiteboard ideas, discuss, message, record and continue collaborating on every idea from any employee, so everyone — wherever they are based — can come together to get the job done.

No. 6: Back to the human: DevOps for your brain.

The evolution of tech is happening so fast, sometimes we forget that we have to evolve along with it. Ultimately technology empowers us in the ways we work, create, collaborate and iterate. When we start with the foundation of security, automation and analytics, it's as if we are given the freedom of creativity and innovation to help us all reach our potential – with continuous integration, and continuous delivery of new knowledge and skills.

Programs such as Cisco's Net Academy, Learning@Cisco and DevNet help ensure IT professionals have the most advanced skills, along with access to trainings and certifications, as well as APIs, tools and use cases that expand knowledge and capabilities and help them reach their potential.

In my job, I think a lot about potential. One of my personal influences is the social scientist and scholar of human potential, Abraham Maslow, creator of Maslow's hierarchy.

Maslow proposed that human beings have a hierarchy of needs. Before they can meet their higher needs — before they can fulfill their potential — they need to secure their more basic needs, like food, shelter and safety.

I propose a new Hierarchy for Digital Business — one where the foundational elements are security, automation and analytics. Once those elements are taken care of, you're freed to achieve what you're truly capable of.

Stay tuned

In the coming weeks in this space, we'll dive into each of these topics in more detail and show how Cisco is helping companies address these challenges. Be sure to check back or subscribe to Cisco Blogs to learn more about future proofing your business.

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About Ruba Borno

Vice President, Growth Initiatives and Chief of Staff to CEO