What does digital mean?

Posted by Mark Finlay on 30 March 2017

Let me get this out of the way first and foremost, I’m old! So, when someone says ‘digital’ to me I think of two things from ancient history; DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) and digital watches. I didn't buy a digital watch until the flash LCD ones came out because the glowing red LED ones just looked a bit too toy-like. As for DEC, I started out as an operator on IBM mainframes and operators who worked on DEC systems were looked down upon. There was no logical reason for this mainframe operator elitism but in 2017 IBM still make mainframes and in 1998 DEC was defunct.

But I digress. Here we are in 2017 and everyone is talking about digital. Digital DNA, digital enterprise, digital innovation, digital transformation, digital reinvention, digital strategy, digital quotient, the list goes on. What does it mean and how can OSS help you to become digital?

From reading, listening, and watching, I have come up with what I think the new ‘digital’ means to a business. Digital is not a thing, it is a way of doing things. Things that add value to your business, things that increase customer experience with your business, things that support your entire business structure. The new digital starts with your people building new behaviours, new capabilities and transparency of communication, and continues with data-driven decision making.

Companies have been using computers to run their businesses for decades. But it is only in the last 20 years or so that the technology to give the public access to their systems and information online has become available and mainstream. The timeline of the digital revolution shows the internet expanding quickly in the 1990’s, and by 1996, it was part of mass culture. Technology has expanded so quickly since then that in 2016 half of the world’s population is connected, mobile phones and tablets now outnumber personal computers in internet usage. That is a potential market of billions of customers online and available to do business with.

To take advantage of this huge population of online and connected users, businesses need to be able to bring new products and services to market quickly and efficiently. The traditional waterfall process of development and release cycles just doesn’t cut the mustard today. If it takes 3, 6 or 12 months to get a new product or service released online to the public, it’s too little, too late. Keep calm and carry on is NOT an option.

Being digital is about using data to make better and faster decisions, and developing agile and rapid ways of doing things. Legacy systems that support critical functions must be decoupled from the fast moving, customer facing systems. The DevOps model where developers, testers, security and operations all work together in a continuous delivery cycle to automate systems and optimise processes to be able to release software quickly, is where a digital company will have the advantage over the competition.

OSS has the skills and experience to enable your company to become digital. Cloud, PaaS, automation and orchestration, continuous integration and continuous delivery, are all part of our digital DNA. Give us a call and let us help you to leverage the digital advantage!

Mark Finlay is the Delivery Team Manager for OSS in Auckland. He has worked in the IT industry for over 30 years, from mainframes to the cloud, in NZ, Australia, UK and Europe. He currently does not own a digital watch.