The link between data and trust increasingly defines success in 21st-century business. To successfully transition in this new, data-driven world, organisations are changing the way they not only interact with their customers but also how they operate their businesses. The role of mobile network operators, such as Vodacom, is fundamental to this change, ensuring the scalable and intelligent flow of data around the organisation.
Driving this flow of data is the internet, which has proven to be a fabric that interconnects all things. To fully maximise its potential in the business context, networks need to provide more value than simply bandwidth. For this reason, we set out to learn even more about the way networks, specifically intelligent, software-defined networks (SD-WAN), are empowering today’s businesses to drive their transformation journey.
SD-WAN is an alternative and more dynamic approach to designing and deploying enterprise WAN solutions – providing greater network visibility and control. It aims to replace traditional branch routers with appliances that use virtualisation, application-level policies and network overlays to make several broadband internet links behave like a dedicated managed circuit.
The results have been extremely insightful. We’ve made three key discoveries, pertaining to shifting businesses environments and the direct impact of those changes on the underlying network. For starters, the effective collection, use and security of data are now core differentiators of enterprises, acting as a barometer of customer trust and a clear indicator of business success.
Digital Business Report Findings
In fact, most businesses have invested in new technology to improve data security and have made technological changes to become more trustworthy in the eyes of customers, prospects or partners. Of the businesses who participated in our survey, 85% have used data to inform customer interactions, 85% have invested in security software to protect their data, 66% have invested in business intelligence that uses their data and 56% have invested in machine learning or artificial intelligence (which rely on huge volumes of data to run effectively).
While the collection of data is commonplace in business, actually deriving value from that data and using it to inform business decisions is another challenge altogether. Eighty percent of businesses agree that using data to genuinely inform or meet business objectives is a key business challenge. Consequently, intelligent data-led companies are standing out from the crowd.
This information paints a clear picture of the state of awareness amongst businesses, and the huge potential data offers for improvements across the board.
Just under half of those surveyed (41%) think data collection is essential to their long term business strategy and success, compared to 30% who think the same of cloud computing and (26%) who cited AI and machine learning.
Thirty-nine percent also told us they are investing in data security, to reduce business costs. Indicating that businesses are beginning to realise the importance of protecting it. Failure to do so can cost businesses more than just their customers. With data sovereignty laws and privacy regulations rolling-out on a national scale and international scale, the penalties for failing to effectively manage and secure data have become prohibitively expensive.
Digital transformation is fast becoming a technical reality
The need for transformation has intensified over the years, with customers looking for a cost-effective and time-efficient way to implement this transition.
As more and more customers move to new digital technologies, an SD-WAN has the potential to maximise the value of investments such as, cloud, IoT and even real-time analytics.
Employees are collaborating online more regularly, and integrate tightly with cloud-based technology. It’s therefore essential to have an intelligent network in place, to match capacity to demand.
An SD-WAN supports fluctuating levels of traffic, making digital collaboration seamless at the busiest and quietest times of the day. For example, if a business embraces flexible and remote working, but wants to ensure their townhalls and meetings have the same resonance with staff, an SD-WAN can make sure these communications are given the appropriate priority on the network.
An SD-WAN is a platform for another vital technology that is enhancing the workplace for the benefit of employees: automation. Robotic Process Automation (RPA), AI, and machine learning are all helping employees work more at an optimal pace, by removing the burden of large volumes of time-consuming tasks.
This allows a workforce to focus on the more challenging – and arguably interesting – work, improving overall productivity and creativity.
Vodacom Business’ focus on the transformational capabilities of an SD-WAN include the evolution of enterprise network services that dramatically increase the speed of deployment, flexibility and control. Applying this network management approach to a wide area network (WAN) in turn produces an SD-WAN. SD-WAN technology intelligently manages an organisation’s entire network, across multiple locations and connectivity technologies such as fixed line, broadband internet, 4G and 5G wireless and more.
We realise that an SD-WAN is perfect for supporting our customers as they transition to the cloud. For this reason, we’re set on helping them work with their preferred cloud providers, simplifying processes and managing the subsequent transformation and their technology. One of the key advantages of an SD-WAN is that it lets customers switch their IT networks with ease. One of the most interesting things we’re seeing is the way SDN technology helps our customers centrally manage their data and prioritise bandwidth for key applications.
They can run analytics to learn more about customer behaviour, unearthing insights that help them target their customers more directly.
This is especially important in the retail sector, which is typically focused on driving foot-traffic. Applications that offer relevant local promotions and vouchers to customers, for example, can create a fully digital retail experience. SDN technology enables the efficient management of the smart retail experience, combining cost-effective internet connectivity such as broadband with additional Wi-Fi services.
Where previously it was a costly or time-consuming challenge to make changes to a network, the ability to switch things up comes much easier with an SD-WAN. This is simplifying and eliminating the challenges of the past.