There is a major trend towards IT-led operations and industry-wide adoption of modern technology practices as organisations drive forward strategies for self-service, operational efficiency, customer experience and data.
There is also a huge amount of noise in industry about how to gear an organisation for technology-centric tactics. There are dozens of new “ways of work” with fancy names and a never-ending list of tools promising to get you there. Reading between the lines however, there are really only a few major themes which are worth recognising when sizing up and planning your major digital initiatives ahead.
1. Platform orientation
Implementing an internal technology platform strategy, where you logically group your IT efforts into platforms for a specific product, service or channel towards users, allows you to launch products faster and offer a more consistent customer experience across all channels.
Internal platforms are the secret weapon behind rapidly growing companies who are further along the path to technology-centric strategies. They are also one of the keys to leverage limited technology capacity within an enterprise.
2. Product vs project thinking
Product-centric development encourages a way of budgeting, planning and executing technology projects as if they will never end, and as if they are revenue-generating lines of business – rather than cost centres. The principle is to fully maximise the potential of each technology idea or need, without strangling it in fixed plans, timelines and budgets. This fits the malleable nature of software, encouraging experimentation, but also creating accountability and team buy-in.
Results globally are telling us it is high time to campaign for this way of thinking, but it will almost always take substantial internal effort to promote the concept and culture within the ranks (and execs) of an established organisation.
3. Technical debt will put the brakes on agility
Technical debt will be unavoidable as you chase deadlines and competition in order to deploy new products, features and systems. As this debt builds up, it becomes ungovernable, and technology teams become mired in it. They will spend the greater part of their time paying off the “interest payments” from past projects, instead of working on new features or critical new updates.
The trick here is to have the right intent upfront, which is to be committed and aware. It has been proven to just take discipline in how you proactively measure, assess and address in a constant cycle to prevent tech debt spinning out of control.
4. Invest in continuous delivery (CI/CD)
Frequently aggravating many smaller risks is far safer than taking huge bets once a year. A rollback from a week’s worth of work will hardly be noticed, unwinding 6 months of work because one of the features broke takes a toll on brand, opportunity and on the stress levels in the business!
Installing continuous practices for integration and delivery depend on culture within the organisation. Gaining business buy-in can be tough when doubt is based on misconceptions. This means we need to invest the time in experimenting and demonstrating business value, starting immediately with smaller pieces of less critical work. It is possible to create a groundswell of support from business which goes beyond evangelism.
5. Talent is the key to all of this
Getting these few big areas right will make the difference in your big tech bets over the next few years. The theme in all of these is really one of internal culture: gearing your teams and stakeholders to think about technology’s central position in business strategy.
If you have the right IT talent at your disposal, they will naturally know and embody most of these concepts fundamentally, leaving you to only point them in the right direction. With excellent people, excellent culture and excellent leadership, adopting these themes correctly should be a seamless experience as a high level of ownership and critical evaluation happens constantly at the lowest levels.
This means that there are really just two critical challenges you will face when looking at combined agility: forging the right team with the skills and energy to drive the project, and generating business buy-in for a way of working and thinking which is evolutionary.