‘This Will Revolutionize Everything We Do’: The Digitization Upheaval Is Happening Right Now

- March 9, 2017

The ongoing tidal wave of data and innovation will carve every industry into winners and losers. Digitization is here, and it’s happening right now.

The companies that will win during the second machine age are those that can conquer the phenomena coined digitization, a top contender for the worst tech phrase since “cyber,” also one of the most important.

A surging trend is hitting every industry, even those rooted in analog technologies like manufacturing and utilities. Digitization, aside from being a term that rolls off the tongue like a fall down a flight of stairs, is the platform that will drive all future innovation.

Digitization, described as simply as possible, is the application of applied mathematics, machine learning, automation and data science to bend large data sets to your organization’s will. To glean understanding and value from a huge cloud of information. And to provide new ways to operate and create products based on those insights. — But even that is a simplistic way to define it. Without breaking it into multiple parts, there is no easy way of describing what digitization is, and how it will change everything. But it is important to understand nonetheless.

Yesterday at the Cisco Live! Australia event in Melbourne, Chris Dedicoat, Cisco’s executive VP of worldwide sales and field operations, laid out Cisco’s six imperatives of digitization during a keynote address to customers and partners. The imperatives are the areas Cisco is applying its full force and investment to help its customers navigate this revolutionary upheaval. They are as follows: security; cloud; automation; analytics; collaboration; and continued learning through Cisco’s corporate learning network.

An Upheaval of Immense Proportion

To wrap one’s mind around the digitization phenomena is to grapple with some pretty immense numbers.

A report from consulting firm Booz & Company attempts to put the scale in sharp focus. According to the report, 4.6 billion phones are providing a real-time stream of location and usage data to carriers. The annual amount of data created is topping 35 trillion gigabytes. And eventually, 1 trillion sensors will be deployed that will send information from the analog world to the cloud to be analyzed.

The speed and scale of data growing around the world, the report states, gives CEOs and business leaders one choice:

Begin to invest now in the internal and external digital capabilities their companies will need to differentiate themselves from the competition. Or sit back, watch the digital revolution unfold, and run the risk of being outflanked by more forward-thinking, faster-moving rivals.

Nearly every major tech publication, every research firm and every tech business leader all describe the changes currently happening with terms like “dramatic,” “monumental,” “revolution.” And it really is all those things.

Cisco’s Dedicoat is one of the business leaders using strong language to express the current state of change. In his keynote yesterday, Dedicoat declared that the massive change the world is undergoing is also a huge opportunity. And it’s happening right now.

‘Every company, every country is going through this transformation’

“We’ve heard this principle of digitization,” Dedicoat said. “The digitization of cities, countries and companies. — This, I believe, is becoming real. It’s been talked about for a long time.”

‘Companies are looking for a network environment that can deliver the right cloud, for the right workload, at the right time.’ — Image source: ZDNet

The opportunity, he said, will come in the form of entirely new revenue streams. As companies begin to make sense of large data sets at hand, they will have the ability to create advantages over the competition and offer new services and products to customers. All built on their data and ability to innovate.

To put a figure on it, the same report cited earlier states that the ongoing digitization of every industry will impact global economic value by “$12 trillion to $15 trillion in 2020.” And it will stretch beyond just the technological impacts, affecting the lives of citizens as they incorporate more connectivity into their daily lives, as well as the environment.

Consumers, the report says, now expect to be connected in every moment of their lives, through virtually every device. “The infrastructure backbone of the digital world is expanding into every corner of the globe, bringing affordable wired and wireless broadband to billions of consumers in developed and developing markets alike.”

According to Dedicoat, Cisco’s estimation is for 500 billion devices to be connected within the next 10 years. In the third quarter of 2016, connected “things” will outnumber laptops and PCs for the first time ever. This growth, he said, “will revolutionize everything we do.”

The One Roadblock: Security

The one roadblock customers have cited time and again, he said, is security. Along with the upsurge of billions of devices connecting to the Internet comes immense security risk.

Citing the Mirai DDoS event and the ransomware attack on San Francisco’s Municipal Transport Authority, Dedicoat said Cisco is embedding security into its next generation of products to combat such attacks. To do this, the products providing security to the world’s largest network will minimize risk by keeping threats out of “everything and everywhere,” while at the same time dramatically lowering the time to detection.

The focus on security comes from a clamor from customers who feel it is, as mentioned, the major roadblock to digitization. “In all the dialogue we have with our customers,” Dedicoat said, “literally within two to three minutes, you’re talking about security, whether it’s a small or medium business or enterprise or service provider.”

Feature Image: Kieren Andews,