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Mapping your digital pathway: The power of thinking outside the box in unusual times

Mapping your digital pathway: The power of thinking outside the box in unusual times

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Jim Holland, General Manager, Africa, Lenovo Data Centre Group, on the digital economy and why many commentators in the enterprise IT space appear to be missing this new, burgeoning economy.

It’s often said that the numbers don’t lie. Yet, sometimes they do – or at least don’t tell the whole story. By looking beyond, the figures of the declining global growth and productivity, there is a new, burgeoning economy on the rise that many commentators appear to be missing – The digital economy.

The question we all find ourselves asking, as the region emerges from the lockdown, is will we ever go back to the old normal? The slow normal. The maybe-next-week normal. The lets-have-a-meeting-about-a-meeting normal. I don’t believe we will. That’s not to say that the world of offices and face-to-face meetings are gone. Very much the contrary – many of us can’t wait to shake hands and look our customers in the eyes again. It’s just that now we know there’s another way and we can select the mode – physical or virtual – that suits us best depending on the context.

While the global issues that have kept us all preoccupied in recent months will hopefully pass, we will be left with a world that has profoundly changed. And our business strategies need to change accordingly. There are four areas to which business and IT decision makers should pay particular attention to.

Being prepared for uncertainty

This year’s events have highlighted the gap between those businesses that were ready for a digital future and those that weren’t. While uncertainty lingers around the after-effects of the lockdown and the possibility of further waves and restrictions, now is the time to make sure your business can continue to operate no matter what events transpire.

This goes well beyond considerations around whether your business’ working processes can be transmitted digitally, such as staff being able to access applications via robust and responsive desktop virtualisation and to a deeper assessment of your digital supply chain and whether bottlenecks could emerge in future. It’s here that considerations around hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), hybrid cloud and edge computing come to the forefront.

Regardless of where work is being done and which data sources are being used, low latency and resilience are essential. At Lenovo, we’re helping our customers to achieve better performance from remote data-generating devices through our ThinkAgile MX1021 Edge servers. Its small footprint and power efficiency allow for server-class performance at many Edge locations, providing the reliability, high availability and security that’s been compulsory throughout the pandemic in essential industries such as manufacturing and healthcare.

Application modernisation

As compute-intensive requirements in areas such as Machine Learning and graphic rendering become standard user expectations, businesses need to have the infrastructure in place to support.

A central piece in modernisation is a re-evaluation of the role of cloud in the business, specifically with the need to access a greater range of capabilities that can’t be supported in a legacy environment. We recently conducted an EMEA study to understand the priorities of IT decision makers across major markets, which highlighted that while respondents see cloud as central to their business strategies, they are still facing challenges in accessing the range of services required.

The research found seven in 10 have cloud infrastructure already and a further one in five planning to roll out at least one cloud service in the next 12 months. Only 7%, however, are currently running multicloud environments. It identified issues around vendor lock-in, cost and compatibility with legacy IT. For example, nearly three in four (74%) respondents cited vendor lock-in as barriers to accessing the range of services they require from various cloud service providers.

Fundamentally, to realise the benefits of a modern data environment, you need to have choice built into your operations – and being able to overcome any internal limitations to maximise the range of applications available to users.


In the modern world, more and more services are moving to a subscription-based model – just look at the worlds of fashion, music and cars as a few examples. But in the aftermath of COVID-19, the way you purchase technology could bring huge benefits too. Adopting a different approach to IT consumption models can enable the flexibility and scale you need to adapt to shifting circumstances. Clinging to previous models around owning and maintaining infrastructure and applications is not conducive to adaptability.

Therefore, the expectation that everything will be delivered as a service going forward is now more prominent. This includes areas of IT that conventionally have required capital-heavy commitments such as data centre services. Our research, conducted during the COVID-19 lockdown, found that based on their experience over the previous three months, nearly one in three (30%) organisations are more willing to purchase ‘As-a-service’ technology solutions due to cashflow concerns.

Onwards and upwards

There are certain qualities that will likely distinguish the businesses that come out of 2020 in stronger shape, not least resilience, determination and a firm optimism over the opportunities that lie ahead. Whatever the remainder of this tumultuous year has to bring, enterprises have to make sure that they are still able to deliver for customers.

To do this, they need to think out of the box and detach from the previous thinking that served them in the old normal. If they keep trying to do what they did in the past, they cannot expect the same results under fundamentally changed conditions.

To change your business, you must change your mindset and think creatively about the normal that will define your business’ future. An ambitious normal. A proactive normal. A smarter normal.

With the right focus, you can create a digital pathway for your business that will endure and thrive in the next normal, giving you the flexibility and choice to navigate unpredictable circumstances. The opportunity to turn your organisation into one that is ready to thrive in the digital economy and serve your customers in a different way is available now – you only need to ask!

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