Developing Agility in the Age of Digital Transformation

Before we begin, let’s establish a working definition. Wikipedia says, “Digital Transformation is the use of new, fast and frequently changing digital technology to solve problems.” Well, that’s not very specific. Let’s look at another definition – Salesforce defines Digital Transformation, “…as the process of using digital technologies to create new – or modify existing – business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. This reimagining of business in the digital age is digital transformation.”  In my opinion, this definition captures the multi-faceted nature of it, by using key words such as business processes, culture, and customer experiences. These are key words for us to keep in mind as we continue to discuss digital transformation.

The companies that are considered leaders in this area (think Uber or Airbnb) have led their efforts by incorporating new business processes, new corporate cultures, and new customer experiences to achieve a level of success not seen in their industries for decades. A case could be made that new markets were created by these companies, and the entire industry underwent a digital transformation of sorts. For example, Marriott Corporation had a business entity that operated in a similar way to Airbnb prior to Airbnb’s creation in 2008. That entity was Marriott ExecuStay, which offered short- and long-term rentals of apartments and houses aimed at the corporate market. Like Airbnb, these apartments were not owned by ExecuStay. Does this model sound familiar? Marriott sold ExecuStay in 2012, just four years after creation of Airbnb. Several of the key ExecuStay properties have since transitioned to Airbnb properties. Is this merely a change in an industry or is this truly digital transformation?

In my opinion, the changes Airbnb made to their business processes and their customers’ experience forced that industry to change, which ignited a digital transformation. They did this by developing a business process and a customer experience that put availability and booking in the hands of the consumer, making the entire experience much more flexible and customer focused. ExecuStay still required interaction with Marriott ExecuStay personnel to determine availability and bookings.

Keeping in mind the key words from our definition of digital transformation – business processes, culture, and customer experiences – let’s examine how VMware assists customers in their digital transformation journey.

The Impact of Agility

One of the key measures of progress along the digital transformation journey is its alignment with business outcomes. In the case of Airbnb, this alignment resulted in a more immersive customer experience and tremendous growth within their business. A necessity of this outcome-focused approach is to develop agility as part of the journey. By allowing for a rapid changing of technology and processes aligned to key corporate objectives, there is a direct impact on the core business outcomes. Providing the software, tools and services to develop this agility has always been one of VMware’s core strengths.

During VMware’s early years, server virtualization products provided a mobility and agility within the data center which was unheard of prior to the release of VMware’s hypervisor product (think back to dedicated physical servers). The hypervisor allowed customers to place compute workloads where they were needed and in a consolidated fashion, saving operating costs and increasing speed and flexibility. This layer of abstraction meant there was no longer a physical mandate on the placement of workloads, and the resulting agility was a direct result of the abstraction which server virtualization products provided.

VMware has again raised the level of the layer of abstraction. VMware Cloud foundation (VCF) for instance, has inserted a new layer of IaaS abstraction into the entire data center, covering all required components for a fully functional Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), including full, automated lifecycle management and operations for all needed compute, networking, storage, security, monitoring and logging components, instead of only at the virtualized server layer. Further, it provides integrated cloud management, to enable full self-service automation of IT service delivery, and provides a single architecture for all your applications.

We are already seeing VMware customers who have embraced this level of abstraction, experience significant increases in agility and alignment of their digital transformation journey with respect to the core business. For example, VMware helped the City of Las Vegas deploy NTT’s Smart City solution backed with VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) as the core infrastructure. NTT Data Services team shared that, ““Over a year ago Las Vegas saw the ability to provide better safety services for citizens as well as visitors, and this was an important priority. So we incorporated our solution with VMware’s VCF; what’s great about VMware Cloud Foundation is that the architecture foundation always stays the same and it is not changing. And, even if it is in a global data center or a micro data center with the optics staying the same it can be easily redeployed or expanded”. NTT’s VP of NTT Data Services, Dave Lyle, also commented on the partnership with VMware saying, “the beauty of this solution for Las Vegas is that we’re able to build and go to market with solutions very quickly now. We already built the foundation of this application with this in mind”.

Recently, we’ve observed customers who are creating VMware Cloud Foundation instantiated Software Defined Data Centers for brief periods of time. Then, they destroy the Software Defined Data Center only to re-instantiate it when it is needed again. This level of abstraction produces a substantial increase in agility within the organization, which has become a key enabler to the success of business. A customer who is more mature in their digital transformation journey will talk of creating Software Defined Data Centers much like we used to speak of “virtualizing a server”. Software Defined Data Centers that are instantiated by VCF and used as Infrastructure as Code (IaC) are the new foundational layer for the customer’s entire virtualized environment.

We are seeing similar advances in the layer of abstraction in other products like in VMware NSX, VMware HCX, VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid, and VMware Tanzu Mission Control. All of these products provide an advanced level of abstraction for networking, workload mobility, and modern applications. With that increased abstraction comes additional agility. In the coming years, we will continue to see this abstraction layer move higher and higher up the technology stack.

Agility at VMware

VMware offers products that provide agility in the data center, at the edge, in the public cloud and at all levels across the technology stack. This includes private and public cloud-based, workforce enablement, security and application platform agilities. VMware’s solutions help customers develop and implement what is needed to make rapid changes in business and technology processes, corporate culture, and customer experiences.


Dale McKay is a technology evangelist with deep expertise in security, virtualization, and networking. He is part of the Network and Security Senior Technical Account Manager team at VMware. He is a 2nd year CTO Ambassador, a vExpert, vExpert-NSX, vExpert-Security. Dale also has certifications from VMware, AWS, Cisco, Cloud Security Alliance, Microsoft, and CompTIA.

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