Business leaders are always in pursuit of a competitive advantage. For early businesses pre-dating the industrial revolution, competitive advantage was often a matter of luck and tied to factors such as geographic location or access to the right, high-quality natural resources. The difference between now and then is that today’s leaders can make their own luck through the strategic deployment of the latest digital technologies to streamline operations, unleash growth in new geographies, and improve customer experience.
Keeping up with the “born-in-the cloud” competitors
Key technologies driving this so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution include the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI). They are enablers for businesses’ growth in today’s digital economy. Yet, they depend on an enterprise network that is made for the cloud, strong enough to handle the huge volumes of data that these technologies generate, and gives businesses the agility to use that data in smart ways.
The current business climate is an exciting place for emerging market entrants who, free from the chains of legacy infrastructure, can build their ‘made-for-the-cloud’ network from scratch. This enables them to create scalable customer experiences from the outset.
The way in which these industry newbies are able to use the powerful combination of the cloud and the Internet to scale up and introduce new services with great velocity, also means that established businesses must keep an eye on this competition to ensure that they won’t get left behind.
Reimagining customer experiences
Companies such as Uber, Facebook and Amazon have re-set the bar for customer experience. Their seamless, multi-channel customer engagement means that consumers are looking for a similar experience across all services they use – at work and in their personal lives.
In the financial services industry, for example, start-ups such as Revolut and Monzo offer their customers an enhanced digital experience which incumbent banks have been sluggish to provide. As born-in-the-cloud businesses, they have been able to leapfrog industry stalwarts in innovation, using real-time data analytics to empower their customers to keep track of where they’re spending their money and offering tips and support for better budgeting.
Yet, for many established B2B and B2C businesses today, reimagining how they operate and serve their customers means the daunting task of rebuilding their entire IT estate from scratch, starting with the foundations – i.e. the network.
Brewing a new network for the digital age
I recently spoke at the Gartner Symposium alongside Carlsberg’s CTO Sarah Haywood about how the global brewer has done just that.
Carlsberg has deployed a next-generation software-defined hybrid network with Tata Communications to support the digital transformation of its operations in 130 sites across Western Europe. The new infrastructure is a key part of its Next 2.0 programme, which harnesses the power of the Internet and cloud computing to boost agility, increase efficiencies and reduce costs.
With new, ambitious and nimble microbreweries cropping up around the world, established players need to ensure that they don’t stand still but are always looking for ways to innovate. As a company that is as hungry for growth as beer industry newcomers, Carlsberg is digitising its supply chain and exploring new AI-enabled direct-to-consumer services such as its ‘connected bar’ concept. The new network will act as a resilient, flexible foundation for innovations like this.
From a technology perspective, what is particularly interesting about this new infrastructure is that it is built on the Internet. The reason is simple: only a hybrid infrastructure that combines the scalability and cost-effectiveness of the public Internet with the resilience and reliability of a private network is able to meet businesses’ needs in this digital age. Carslberg’s new Internet-powered network gives its employees, customers, partners and suppliers seamless, reliable access to data and applications in the cloud, which in turn helps the organisation to reimagine how it operates using this rock-solid foundation. The end result is a more agile business that’s ready for the future.
Paving the road to transformation
As digital technologies such as IoT and AI are stirring up creativity and competition, and disrupting entire industries, it makes for an exciting journey for businesses and consumers alike. If businesses want to make the most of the transformational potential of these technologies, and change how they operate and engage with their customers, they must lay a solid network foundation first.
Embarking on a network transformation project of Carlsberg’s scale might seem daunting due the way in which a legacy infrastructure often permeates all aspects of the business. There might be concerns around the complexity of the task at hand, and the risks if anything was to go wrong. Yet, it’s clear that sitting tight will be costly in the long-term. In today’s digital economy, next-generation networks power the growth of businesses and ensures their competitiveness. That’s why it should be seen as an investment in the future of the business, which will open the door to a world of possibilities.
The author is Mark Weait, Head of Europe, Tata Communications.