If you are finding yourself running out of puff at the accelerating the pace of change in technology then you “ain’t seen nothing yet”! The computer revolution has only just begun and it has already changed just about every aspects of our lives, both at work and at home. While we are still busy working out how to align to the new sleeping patterns that our smart watch’s suggest, organisations are ramping up to make very large bets on new technology.
“In today’s world of exponential change, organisations that get too comfortable with the status quo are at major risk of disruption. If you’re not experimenting and, as a director, if you’re not asking questions about how your organisation is navigating and plugging into disruption, forming new ecosystems, and tapping into open markets, then your organisation is at risk. In the area of talent alone, if you’re not leveraging talent outside your organisation, you’ll never win the war of ideas because the smartest people in the world don’t work for you.”
Andrew Vaz | Global Chief Innovation Officer at Deloitte
Will 2020 be the end of “digital transformation” strategies. After all “Disruption” is only a passing phase right?
Struggling to deal with change?
Large organisations have a habit of succumbing to the rigours and demands of their share price. This often translates into more conservative thinking, strong appetites for profits and a 30-60-90 day mentality. But while all of this is going on, early-adopting, cutting-edge tech users prepared to take risks with the purchase of new services. These new services are often delivered by smaller, more nimble, highly agile start-ups. They offer newer platforms with the latest in development technology and are often cloud services that can be purchased with relative ease. What do these platforms offer? Innovation without the head-ache and complexity of dealing with a legacy, behemoth of an on premise platform. No wonder the SaaS companies are growing at such an astonishing pace!
That white-knuckling roller coaster isn’t for the faint of heart. Those that adopt these new platforms and attempt to burden and load them up with antiquated and bloated processes do so at their peril! The other common fail is to invest in too many single purpose solutions then deal with the horrific nightmare of trying to connect them all together through complex enterprise busses and complex data processes.
There is however a more measured approach, allowing those that are keen to exploit new technologies, but also do so in line with and hopefully, exceeding the demands of their customers, employees and the market. Agile processes in delivery allow for the flexibility of productising, testing and delivering at a much more accelerated pace…and the good news is that SaaS platforms lend themselves very well towards this new way of getting capability out the door. The best part is that if products fail to meet the requisite demand, agile deployment allows for a built in “get out of jail” free card. You can always fail fast and revert even faster!
Don’t have a digital transformation strategy?...don’t worry you are already doing it!
Most IT organisations that announce a digital transformation strategy, probably don’t realise it but this won’t be “new” to their users. Many companies find that they joined the digital economy some time ago and mostly by accident. If you ask them they will say we are moving from waterfall delivery to agile not realising that many of their businesses have already been early adopters of agile-delivered consumption based services already. Often these businesses asked the poor sods in IT for help but found it much easier to simply procure their own solutions themselves, managing their own support, compliance and processes within the confines and safe walls of their own departments. IT directors then wonder why these important stakeholders roll their eyes at the announcement of whatever new digital shared service offering is being delivered as part of a “new” digital transformation strategy.
The problem IT organisations however isn’t simply that of “keep up”. It is of relevance, awareness and organisational process. By properly understanding, measuring and keeping tabs on what the market, competition, users and customers are doing they might even stand half a chance of being able to meet that demand. It is a critical first step in IT organisations getting out of their own way. Whether they like it or not the consumers of their services are no longer chained to a desk, as captive recipients of underperforming legacy platforms. They are exporting the data and running with it in their own shadow processes. Whether these be in new tools or simply elaborate spreadsheet applications and stunning power BI dashboards. If they have Office 365 guess what, they can build their own applications! If you make it hard for them to export data they will simply have other systems of record authorised or unauthorised. Worse case, if all else fails the good people and smart customers will simply leave, and they’ll do it in droves!
What’s your appetite for risk?
The irony of the whole thing is that despite the best intentions of IT to manage compliance and risk, these very processes designed to save the organisation from peril can in fact cause the risk in shadow IT that the organisation is trying to avoid. But still, none of these challenges are not new to IT. All we have to do is remember the rise of public cloud hosting providers to see that this has been going on for sometime! What is different this time though is the rapid pace of this change but when combined with the rising tide of cyber risk there is no doubt that there is a perfect storm brewing. IT also stands to be in the firing line as the primary custodians of IT risk for the organisation and reporting to the CISO/CRO and the board as to their plans to remediate and solve IT and Cyber risk position.
This brings IT up the totem pole rather quickly. Ultimately, they are still the recipients of large IT budgets that are there to manage the IT needs of the business. The way that this budget is managed will be critical in determining how an IT organisation, that now needs to be more fluid that ever, manages this challenge. It’s no longer about keeping the lights on, it's about managing risk, consumption and experience all whilst keeping ahead of the needs of the business. No mean feat!
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water: IT People are your IP
The good news is that you're IT personnel still remain IT’s best chance of surviving all of this change, demand and increasing risk. Their natural strategic skills will need to be leveraged to drive a service broker mind set. Being able to leverage your IT people’s natural requirement gathering skills, delivery, operations and vendor management will be critical. What will hamper growth however is “religious” legacy beliefs and mind sets, too much bottom up technical thinking and some of the baggage around old ways of working. This type of organisational change can be hard for people that have built careers on specific technology areas and it may be hard to let go of redundant skills that were built on foundational legacy technologies and ways of working.
The in-house IT team has a great opportunity to deliver inordinate value to the organisation by getting a handle on demand, intuitively listening and understanding first then leveraging strong IT skills to deliver the requisite innovation. Understanding the organisations current and future digital profile will be the vital pillar activity that will define and determine the organisations path into the digital economy. The opportunity to align great solutions and platform thinking represents a terrific opportunity for IT to step up and take their rightful place in the sun. Quite frankly there has never been a more exciting time to work in IT and those with the ability to adapt, learn and deliver quickly stand the most to gain!