There’s been a lot of talk in the business world lately about digital leaders, and how they’re better suited than other organizations to adapt to disruption and succeed in the digital economy. But what does it truly mean to be a digital leader?
According to the Global Interconnection Index (GXI) Volume 5, digital leaders are organizations that are accelerating their digital-first strategies, and bridging the gap between business and technology. The GXI found that they are now being rewarded handsomely for their efforts: digital leaders were much better suited to adapt during the chaotic early days of the pandemic, and are now moving 4.5x faster than traditional businesses.
This gives us a decent idea of what a digital leader is, but perhaps the more important question is what do digital leaders do? That is, what specific steps do they take to drive digital acceleration and set themselves apart from the competition? In this blog, we’ll look at four key strategies that we at Equinix commonly see during our market analysis of digital leaders, and explain why each one is so important for success in the digital era. If you feel your organization has fallen behind and isn’t prepared for what the next several years might bring, adopting these strategies now may be the first step toward changing that.
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Here are the four strategies that digital leaders commonly adopt:
- Focus on the low-hanging fruit first.
- Manage cost of revenue and invest for maximum impact.
- Partner to expand reach and unlock new capabilities.
- Meet end users where they are.
1. Focus on the low-hanging fruit first
Digital leaders understand the importance of shifting away from rigid, centralized IT infrastructure, and the need to replace it with distributed, interconnected digital infrastructure that’s highly flexible and agile. For years, we have seen forward-thinking businesses design their digital infrastructure around points of interconnection that enable the direct, private exchange of data. We call this consistent pattern among digital leaders Interconnection Oriented Architecture® (IOA®), and it’s essential to business growth—today and into the future.
However, digital leaders don’t wait until they’re ready to replace their legacy IT infrastructure all at once. Instead, they identify incremental steps they can take immediately to start moving in the right direction. They’ll likely continue to run some elements of their legacy IT infrastructure for years to come, even as they move forward with implementing more modernized digital infrastructure. This could include selectively moving applications and workloads to dedicated cloud to reduce deployment time or expanding IT as a Service to the edge to lower capital costs.
Network modernization is one step that any enterprise can take to start their digital transformation on the right foot. After all, in the digital world, controlling your data traffic is a key requirement for controlling your business as a whole. Businesses that turned to Platform Equinix® to enable their network modernization initiative were able to increase bandwidth capacity by as much as 10x while cutting both costs and latency in half. By freeing up “stranded” CAPEX from their networks, digital leaders can unlock funds that could be reinvested in other digital transformation initiatives, such as optimizing access to partners and bringing infrastructure closer to customers.
2. Manage cost of revenue and invest for maximum impact
Any business that grows costs without proportionally growing revenue is doomed to failure. This may sound like common sense, but any enterprise that attempts to navigate today’s digital economy using legacy IT infrastructure is doing exactly that. There may be initial costs involved with digital transformation, but all evidence indicates that enterprises stand to lose much more by not acting now. Failing to adapt will inevitably lead to dissatisfied customers, which in turn will cause diminished revenue streams.
Shifting from CAPEX to OPEX spend is one clear benefit of digital transformation, but it’s equally important to ensure the capital you do invest goes to areas that truly drive business value. This is one reason IDC predicted that by 2024, digital-first enterprises will shift 70% of all tech and services spending to as-a-Service and outcomes-centric models.
Establishing a digital presence in proximity to core aggregation points that handle the largest volumes of cloud and network traffic could save enterprises hundreds of millions of dollars in transport costs every year. According to Equinix market analytics, businesses that establish this interconnected “digital core” could recoup their initial investment in as little as 6 months. This arrangement also empowers digital leaders to take advantage of a cloud-adjacent approach, which offers all the performance and cost-reduction benefits of on-premises compute, data storage and analytics, along with the flexibility to tap into cloud services on demand.
3. Partner to expand reach and unlock new capabilities
Innovative new technologies such as 5G, the internet of things (IoT) and the metaverse are redefining what’s possible in the digital economy. Savvy digital leaders understand they need a digital ecosystem of partners to unlock the full potential of these use cases. Building out their own private infrastructure for these new technologies would be extremely expensive and time-consuming.
Instead, digital leaders get on-demand access to the infrastructure and capabilities they need from service provider partners. This shift to manageable OPEX payments helps enterprises preserve their available capital, putting them in a better position to invest in new opportunities and adapt to change with agility.
Tapping into a partner ecosystem via API-driven collaboration is not only an easier and more cost-effective way to access infrastructure and services, but also yields better results. Digital leaders can access best-of-breed business and infrastructure capabilities directly from highly specialized partners with limitless choice and flexibility, delivered in the locations that matter most to their business. For example, integrating SaaS applications can help businesses introduce new digital offerings 4x faster, while integrating data marketplaces can increase data quality by 40-60%.
The right digital infrastructure and interconnection partner can help digital leaders tap into the service providers of their choice from anywhere in the world, regardless of where those service providers are located.
4. Meet end users where they are
Today’s digital leaders understand the importance of ensuring a better end user experience. They also recognize that user experience must account for both customers and employees:
- Customers want the flexibility to make purchases when and where they want, with secure payments and clear, open communication.
- Employees want the flexibility to work from anywhere, which means they need secure access to productivity tools and company data from any device.
At a time when skilled employees are in high demand and customers have more options than ever before, digital leaders are creating a user experience that helps improve acquisition and retention for both. They achieve this by deploying at the digital edge, bringing digital infrastructure and security capabilities closer to population and business centers—locations with the highest concentrations of potential employees and customers.
Digital leaders can also take advantage of API-driven automation to deploy infrastructure repeatably and consistently in many different locations throughout the world. Placing infrastructure near end users helps keep latency low, which in turn unlocks the full potential of the latest digital applications and helps meet the high standards of today’s empowered customers and employees. It also opens up the opportunity to build a “smart edge”, which can help digital leaders access new markets 2-5x faster and scale collaboration and insight development.
Digital leaders are planning to get ahead with Platform Equinix
At the end of the day, what truly makes a digital leader is simple: it’s any organization that recognizes the opportunities and challenges presented by the digital economy, and is investing to optimize its digital infrastructure accordingly.
Another common factor that unifies all digital leaders is that they could all benefit from deploying on Platform Equinix to take advantage of the world’s largest ecosystem of partners and enterprises, software-defined interconnection capabilities across our global footprint, and network, compute and storage services that can be deployed at the edge in a matter of minutes.
Digital transformation is a journey, and digital leaders understand the benefit of having a guide who’s helped others make that same journey many times before. To learn more about how digital leaders are accelerating their transformations and future-proofing their businesses with help from Equinix, read the Leaders’ Guide to Digital Infrastructure ebook.
 IDC, “IDC FutureScape: Worldwide IT Industry 2022 Predictions.” October 2021, Doc #US48312921.