When it comes to cloud computing and digital transformation, we hear a lot about industries being disrupted by digital natives, new companies unencumbered by legacy systems and powered by new technologies. They come in, offer customer new experiences, and change how the market operates. For incumbents, it’s a case of sink or swim – they either adapt at speed or cease to exist.

As sectors acclimatize, however, and adjust to this new normal of heightened expectations and seamless, intuitive experiences, what happens to the transformed incumbents? Those that successfully evolve are in a much stronger position: as outlined in ‘Towards a data-driven future’, an IDC report sponsored by Nordic software and services company Tieto, they have the flexibility and speed of a digital native, underpinned by the brand heritage, customer base and resources of an established business.

This puts them in control of their own destiny – they can shape sectors on their own terms, not be dictated to by start-ups. Look at the likes of Maersk, SaxoBank and Telenor – each established players in their own sectors that have transformed their operations to define their position amidst industry disruption. SaxoBank started off as a brokerage house but is now better known for its online banking platform. Maersk was one of the first logistics companies to offer an e-commerce booking system and leads what is a conservative sector with its digital innovations in areas such as IoT and blockchain. Telenor has been in existence since the 19th century, recently announced it would become the first Scandinavian telco to offer 5G services, and was named by Bearing Point as one of Norway’s digital leaders.

These enterprises have almost 300 years of combined business experience, yet they are changing their industries by delivering services, in the shape of applications, that their customers want. So how do other incumbents take inspiration and their own steps to becoming established disruptors?

The application issue

As the saying goes, no man is an island. Neither is any single business. To get to that point of being an incumbent disruptor takes experience of similar processes, yet how can an enterprise undergoing a digital transformation have any experience in that field?

That’s where service providers come in – on-tap expertise and advice. It also means delivering enhanced value. Years ago, it was possible to get away with being experts in a limited number of technologies, as it was more than likely that those were the ones customers would be most comfortable with. That’s not an option; with customers requiring very specific cloud arrangements tailored to their needs, service providers have to be able to support them.

As such, being able to offer complete choice with a simplified approach to managing infrastructure and operations is critical. It’s why Tieto has developed its Tieto OneCloud platform, a multi-cloud management solution, and why it delivers also VMware Cloud on AWS when building next generation applications for its customers, such as Tieto Sign.

“It’s all a way of offering our customers a consistent approach to technology,” explains Onni Rautanen, technology director at Tieto. “We’re helping them access the benefits of cloud computing in a way that suits their business and operations.”

For Tieto’s customers, the focus is how they transform their applications. “When we talk to customers, many of the conversations start with how they transform their applications,” Rautanen continues. “They know their business objectives – it might be increased speed to market, it might be improved agility, it might be cost savings. What they want to know is how they can get their applications fit for purpose. It isn’t always a case of lift-and-shift or deploying new applications – their existing systems are too intertwined and have too many competing requirements for there to be a blanket approach.”

What is apparent is that customers who already have some applications hosted in the cloud, so a degree of cloud maturity, will be most interested in public cloud. They feel that it offers the best way to access agility and flexibility, to deliver the modern ways of working their business objectives require.

Yet not all applications are suitable for public clouds. So that’s where they start to deploy to different environments, and they want ways of getting the best of these settings without restricting the flow of data between them.

For Rautanen, that’s the beauty of hybrid IT infrastructures. “They can have the seamless security and control of private, coupled with the flexibility and scale of public, with apps travelling freely. It’s all to do with how they house and protect their business-critical applications, without compromising their objective of becoming a digital, fast and agile organisation.”

Delivering flexibility without compromise

Established organisations may appear to be vulnerable to fast moving start-ups, but only if they themselves refuse to embrace change. Those that work with the right service provider, that seek to transform and do so in a way that injects agility and flexibility while recognising the intricacies of their existing operations, will be able to call on their deeper resources, stronger brand resonance and existing customer base. Indeed, in doing so, not only will they be in a better position to fight off new entrants, but they will be ideally placed to disrupt and redefine their sectors on their own terms.

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