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Is your digital transformation really resilient—or just redundant?

Matthew Bertram Business Consultant, Micro Focus

In nature, life persists, even after a disaster occurs, when the environment is harsh, and when the ecosystem falters. But resilience is about more than just surviving; it is about adapting and evolving, and truly resilient species thrive and grow in changed or difficult environments.

Recent events have accelerated the need for digital resilience. Entire workforces have shifted to remote work, and many companies have had to redefine their models for customer engagement. Governments have had to pivot and provide citizens with enhanced information, and new services such as contact tracing applications have been rapidly developed and deployed.

Redundancy is an important dimension of IT services that focuses on availability. But building resilience into your digitally transformed business must also consider the human and process elements that will allow your organization to react quickly to economic uncertainty and disruption. 

To become a truly resilient digital enterprise, you need to go beyond redundant systems and processes and adopt extreme automation with intelligence everywhere.

Redundancy does not ensure resilience 

For years, IT has built redundancy into systems and processes. We design high-availability architectures with duplicated components and implement offsite backups along with standby data centers. And we put manual processes in place, ready to use as a workaround in case of an outage.

These are the actions that ensure that the business survives when normality is interrupted. But redundancy is built on the assumption that the environment is fundamentally unchanged. While you can restore services or implement a workaround to fix a problem, it does not help you to adapt or to deal with permanent environment changes.

So how can you improve digital resilience so that your business can quickly adapt and thrive, even when the unexpected occurs? 

Go extreme with your automation plans

Whether you are operating a security operations center (SOC) or a network operations center (NOC), your job is getting more difficult every day. An increasingly complex, hybrid IT environment with dramatically growing volumes of data makes it impossible for mere humans to deal with evolving threats and disruptions.

Technologies such as containers, microservices, and cloud services help provide resilience through dynamic infrastructure, but they also increase the attack surface. The sheer complexity and levels of abstraction involved make it harder for SOC and NOC teams to effectively understand and respond to incidents.

To make your IT ecosystem resilient, you need automated provisioning, constant discovery, and intelligent monitoring. You need systems that can self-heal, learn from past events and actions, and adapt in real time. You also need the analytics and insight that can understand complex relationships, cut through the noise, and quickly identify threats and isolate the root cause of problems.

AI-driven operations (AIOps) learns from the events, actions taken, and outcomes, evolving over time to automatically predict and respond to problems before customers are affected. Machine learning allows huge volumes of data to be ingested and analyzed at high speed.

For IT Ops teams, automated remediation (self-healing) can dramatically speed up the resolution of incidents and restore service without human involvement. An AIOps platform identifies a problem and initiates restoration actions while alerting operations teams and informing the service desk.

From a cyber-resilience perspective, security orchestration and remediation (SOAR) tools ensure that an enterprise can respond quickly to threats or attacks, both internal and external. These are both great examples of extreme automation for IT operations.

Orchestrate your business process

Extreme automation can help with more than just the running and securing the digital enterprise. Process orchestration can dramatically speed up back-office business processes and save costs.

From a resilience perspective, automating highly manual business processes does more than remove the dependency on humans who can get sick or injured. It frees up your people to work on higher-value tasks and strengthens digital resilience by reducing errors and processing times and by improving customer experience.

With fewer distractions and exceptions to deal with, your staff will be better prepared and mentally capable to respond to unusual circumstances when required.

Accelerate application delivery

One final characteristic of digital resilience is the ability to rapidly deliver new business services or offerings to market. It's no good delivering a new website for booking vaccine appointments, for example, if the application can't perform under heavy load. Issues such as the system crashing in production can be avoided by incorporating continuous performance testing into the application lifecycle.

Application delivery teams that have adopted DevOps are already using extreme automation to continuously integrate, deliver, and test their applications at high speed.

AI-driven testing is a good example of a resilience microcosm. Test automation scripts breaking when the user interface changes has long been a maintenance challenge. Add in many different operating systems and mobile devices, and effective testing becomes even more difficult, which in turn inhibits your ability to quickly deliver new or changing applications.

By using machine learning and natural-language processing, your test automation systems can better handle change and continue operating. Testing is done faster and at lower cost, test scripts don't break when the application changes, and a single test script written in natural language can be reused across multiple channels and devices.

Adopting extreme automation within the application delivery lifecycle helps build digital resilience by helping your business to quickly respond to changes in the business landscape.

Go big or go home

The first requirement for resilience is to ensure survival by building redundancy into systems and processes to enable business continuity. In this way you can continue conducting business, even in the face of hardship or disaster.

A truly resilient digital enterprise will adopt extreme automation across IT, application delivery, cybersecurity, and business services. Such organizations will nimbly and dynamically adapt to issues as they occur and will avoid disruption, rapidly restore and maintain services, and speed up back-office processes.

When the environment changes, your resilient digital enterprise will adapt, grow, and thrive. You'll be able to rapidly deliver new services or switch to conducting business in a different way and, ultimately, your organization will strengthen its ecosystem and secure its place within it.

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