VMworld5 min read

How Businesses Survive Disruption—and Why Some Thrive

Ashley Speagle
Some organizations seem incapacitated by abrupt changes, while others appear invigorated by it. Tech leaders at VMworld 2020 unpacked the defining difference: the digital foundation and culture needed to rapidly adapt and innovate.

We're in the midst of a profound ‘rethink’ across every dimension of our lives—how we care for our sick, how we connect, how we live, how we worship, how we learn, how we work. At the center of this profound rethink is digital innovation. ... We're seeing a historic increase in our reliance on apps, clouds, devices.


The extraordinary events of 2020 have impacted every industry in a unique way.

  • Sectors like biotech, retail and software providers acted decisively to meet massive, urgent demands for vaccine development, groceries and video conferencing.
  • K-12 schools and universities quickly adapted to fully online learning, while medical practices expanded their use of telemedicine.
  • Manufacturers, public safety and other essential organizations rapidly instituted strict safety protocols to protect workers while continuing to meet high demands.
  • Non-profit organizations continued serving communities in urgent need, with fewer volunteers and resources.

Organizations everywhere continue to navigate a world transformed by disruption. ​More than ever, they rely on rapid digital innovation to survive and even thrive through unprecedented circumstances.

“I’ve connected over Zoom with hundreds of CEOs and CIOs over the last several months,” Gelsinger said. “What I hear is a deep sense of urgency—from hospitals on the frontlines, to schools, airlines, banks, retailers, carmakers. All are under pressure to turn the corner and chart a path forward. They’re looking to engage with customers in new ways, searching for a strategic lifeline back to stability and growth.”

“At the heart of it all is software innovation,” he said. “The next question becomes: How do we accelerate the software that will power our researchers, our educators, our small businesses and our communities?”

A Trusted Digital Foundation for an Uncertain Future

Much of the future is unpredictable. What leaders do know is that they need the right tools to confidently navigate through the roughest waters.

That’s how Feeding America, a U.S. hunger relief organization, keeps all 200 food banks in its network operational through pandemics, hurricanes or wildfires. Using cloud services, the organization ensures its digital infrastructure is always available to track food, trucks and day-to-day operations across the country.

Food and volunteer shortages strained their supplies during the 2020 pandemic. So, Feeding America quickly updated and scaled its digital donation platform. This made it easier for any food business in the U.S. to donate unsold products—keeping communities fed during these turbulent times.

Technology also enabled American Hospital Dubai to act quickly under pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff converted a field hotel into a fully functioning field hospital, where patients could be quarantined and treated. Within 72 hours, doctors and nurses could access the hospital’s electronic medical record (EMR) system from the hotel.

And Brisbane Catholic Education moved to remote learning during the pandemic almost immediately due to technology. Prior to the spread of COVID-19, IT staff securely provisioned and managed around 40,000 devices for e-learning. During lockdown, they were able to quickly set up about 50% more devices so every student could access apps outside of the classroom—as well as during their return to “normal” class delivery.

What made it all possible was a digital foundation—a software-defined, dynamic digital infrastructure designed to meet new demands and prepare for future ones. A digital foundation aligns with business goals and IT priorities, enabling organizations to create new value, protect brand and customer trust, and transform engagement, according to VMware.

5 Strategic Priorities for a Digital Foundation

Five strategic technologies form a digital foundation that accelerates organizations on an unconditional path forward.

1. Application Modernization

Businesses create value by unlocking innovation and responding to new opportunities with applications. Organizations modernize applications and infrastructure to deliver better software to production, continuously. With modern apps and infrastructure, developers and IT can quickly and collaboratively build, run and manage any app on any cloud.

Innovations in app modernization:

2. Multi-Cloud Strategies

Applications are at the heart of any successful digital transformation effort—enabling enterprises to deliver personalized digital experiences to their customers and employees. The complex and diverse needs of applications are driving multi-cloud strategies. Every organization is now on a multi-cloud journey to support app modernization.

Innovation in multi-cloud:

3. Digital Workspace

Digital workspace solutions engage the workforce with intuitive experiences that boost productivity. New and expanded capabilities empower customers, help improve business resilience and prepare for the hybrid workforce of the future.

Innovation in the digital workspace:

4. Cloud Networking

Modern app architectures, multi-cloud environments and distributed workstyles introduce levels of complexity that the network of the past 20 years is simply not designed to address. Organizations harness a cloud network to deliver and distribute all networking services in software across the enterprise. This provides the public cloud experience of automated one-click application deployment, pervasive connectivity, intrinsic security and visibility from data center to cloud to wherever users are.

Innovation in cloud networking:

5. Intrinsic Security

Security remains vital for protecting brand and customer trust, especially in times when threats are pervasive. And the transformation of work requires businesses to rethink their approach to application access and security. Intrinsic security solutions architected into everything empower businesses to intelligently manage and secure access to any app on any cloud delivered to any device, while providing an optimal experience for users and IT.

Innovations in security:

Future Ready Technologies for Future Ready Business

“Business as usual” is no longer an option. Instead, businesses must prioritize three steps to return to a state of stability, growth and differentiation.

Step 1: Respond to Business Continuity Needs

First, businesses must respond to their most pressing, immediate concerns, like:

  • Sustaining business operations in a time of crisis.
  • Securing vital data, information and systems.
  • Rapidly enabling remote workers and preserve customer engagement.

Step 2: Adapt to a New Reality for Business Resiliency

Next, businesses must adapt to a “new normal,” one which requires more efficiency by:

  • Investing in automation and flexibility.
  • Optimizing costs, while eliminating complexities, redundancies and inefficiencies.
  • Expanding the workforce’s efficiency and capabilities.

Step 3: Accelerate Digital-First Innovation

Finally, to create new value, businesses must accelerate systemic and structural change, such as:

  • Increasing velocity and new service delivery.
  • Adopting digital-first business models.
  • Deploying next-generation digital tools and workflows for employees.

The journey will look different for every organization, but there are three universal outcomes:

1. A Future-Ready Workforce

The new reality is employees are increasingly distributed, flexible and remote. They access data, collaborate as a team and engage with customers from anywhere and at any time. So, they need scalable and secure technologies, new policies and inclusive cultures that support new workstyles.

2. A Future-Ready Cloud Strategy & Operating Model

Multi-cloud strategies enable organizations to scale resources for changing business demands, including new remote work initiatives and expanded disaster recovery solutions. IT also takes advantage of more efficient operational models, optimized spending and modern app development services in the cloud.

3. Future-Ready Apps

Organizations increasingly look to apps to enable new business services, adapt customer engagement models, create new revenue opportunities and serve a more distributed set of employees. This will require new approaches to teams, tools, processes and architectures to build, run and manage the next generation of applications.

Disruptions like COVID-19 tend to expose the limitations of existing systems, processes, team structures and business models. Apps are complex, and skillsets are limited. Budgets are uncertain, and existing investments weigh heavy. Agility is low, and security and compliance requirements are strict.

So, how can IT begin creating a “future-ready” infrastructure today?

Together, Anything Is Possible

Organizations work with industry pioneers and strategic, trusted advisors to architect a path back to stability, growth and innovation. Partners provide a valuable blueprint for how many organizations successfully do so. And technology providers offer robust solutions for accelerating the future-ready journey and building a digital foundation.

Only through new levels of collaboration can organizations, technology providers and industries jointly produce powerful innovation. Together:

  • They’re finding new and better ways to unite application developers and operations teams around the shared goal of faster release cycles.
  • They’re joining forces to deliver new architectures that support the needs of next-gen applications.
  • And they’re taking the lead on making emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence and Kubernetes, a reality for enterprises.

In rapidly changing and uncertain times, business and technology leadership together can lead organizations, people and communities toward a better future.