Wherever you are in the world, 2020 is a defining year.
Coronavirus is the elephant in the room when discussing business—operationally and strategically. Add to it Brexit, the USA’s trade posture, and localised disasters (which is no overstatement), and there has been a lot to react to. For some, the reaction has been positive, while for others, less so.
Worldwide, we see tourism and hospitality have been universally negatively impacted.
At the same time, we see some winners. Supermarkets and suppliers of PPE (an acronym we would have had to explain in 2019) have seen an uplift like never before.
Leaving aside the outliers, businesses in the middle have had to adjust their business practices and decision-making to accommodate a new normal—a recovery pattern that some economists have predicted to follow a “sawtooth” graph shape. Our economies will make progress in fits and starts on a slow return to pre-coronavirus levels of production and employment.
However, we also see many mid-tier and larger companies have kept a business-as-usual approach to their technology investments.
This is good news for technology suppliers.
More importantly, it reflects these technology buyers’ confidence in the outcomes they had and still have. And by holding the line, they are providing some needed predictability in an otherwise uncertain world.
Typically, rather than cost-cutting on technology investments, most businesses are continuing with their technology trajectory.
The problem is, this is a completely missed opportunity and says more about their business’s lack of adaptability and less about the business confidence they might want to project.
Research says that most organisations have not successfully adopted agile management practices in their application of technology. And more importantly, most organisations lack agility in responding to changes in their market, or in the case of the government, the changing needs of their citizens and the wider business community.
We see the stories of this in our everyday lives. Everyone is trying to be accommodating and to “be kind“. But mostly, they are succeeding at “keep calm and carry on“.
Parcels are going undelivered, and service requests are being left unresolved. People are queuing, calls are unanswered, and emails are banking up.
The travesty in this is that while we are having a slump in some areas of our economy, others cannot adapt fast enough to benefit from the newfound demand. It’s bad all around.
- Losers — are seeing demand for what they do drop off a cliff. They are holding on to resources and have business models that are not serving them well—costing them money. This is not sustainable, and they know it.
- “Winners” —have more demand than they can match with supply. They are overworking their resources and have operating models that are not serving them well—costing them money. This is not sustainable, and they know it too.
- The complacent — a group of businesses who do not see themselves in this narrative at all. Generally unaffected, they have seen little disruption to their business—projecting few losses or gains, now and into the future. They would say, “business-as-usual is serving us well.” But they underestimate their competition’s appetite for their customers. They are complacent.
All these experiences tell us that when faced with one of the most significant economic events of a lifetime, many organisations fail to adapt.
“Winner”, loser, or the complacent business-as-usual — it is failure all around.
If you are still investing in the same projects and in the same way you were before coronavirus, then you are not investing in your future.
But don’t worry about your customers. If you do not adapt, many of your existing and new competitors have, or will, change to accommodate them. They will seek out your customers to offer a better-scaled alternative or an innovative substitute. And they can do this because they have learnt to harness technology successfully.
The new way
The good news is, there is a better way.
Your technology investments are a vital strategic asset. If you are to stay on a mission, your technology needs to be on a mission with you.
To create the necessary alignment between your business, your technology, and the rate of change that our markets now demand, you need to focus on your people, processes and technology from the bottom up.
There are many important things to address when leading people into a new world. But the critical insight from our current economic crisis is that 70% of projects that desire change fail without a sense of urgency!
You should “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” and embrace our current climate. People will not be left anxious from discussing a problem as long as your communication includes a plan. And by focusing on urgency and opportunity, you harness the energy of your people and a desire for change.
Agile and lean software development practices are arguably the most significant advancements in technology in the last 20 years. But, because they are management theory and not sexy new tech, they are probably overlooked.
Organisations who have tried and failed with Agile are often trying to showboat what’s possible with Agile. Rather than focusing first on what is necessary. And that’s what is discussed next.
Agile delivered projects are four times more likely to succeed than those that came before them.
Responding to your customers’ new demands in days is no good if it takes months for you to feel confident that changes won’t break your technology platform; breaking it by overloading it, costing more than you can afford, or making it less secure. And further resulting in you or your people not wanting to change anything more, or at least not at speed.
To deliver change fast, you need to have a platform that supports the required rate of change.
It is as simple as that.
What you need to do
Working with and across your people, processes, and technology, you need to:
- Start first with technology that supports other technology, as opposed to technology that directly delivers business functionality. Start with your core technology platform;
- Engage those people responsible for your core platform, energising them with the urgency for change, coupled with the plan and vision for the future. That plan should include: a) using Agile processes as the long term goal AND as the way to get started; and b) creating an Agile program of work to modernise and standardise your core platform so that it delivers securely, reliably and can accommodate change confidently.
- Within your first Agile work program, remove the noise and drag created by snowflakes and other “special” implementations. Your business has no proprietary advantages from proprietary implementations of otherwise standard technologies. These slow you down and are evident when security patches and revisions require significant planning and are treated like they were never envisaged; and
- Create an automated DevOps pipeline that is capable of supporting continuous development and deployment. This capability is vital for what comes next.
Once you have got this far, you have a new underlying platform comprising:
- People who understand why change is necessary and are motivated to keep change going;
- Agile processes that are becoming foundational as to how work is deployed on your platform; and
- Technology that is standard, secure, reliable and adaptable, so it matches the required [and faster] rate of business change.
What you need to do next is to
- Make your core platform of people, processes, and technology available to the rest of your organisation. Repeat the process above to each layer out at a time. As you do, you are reusing and building on your past success and becoming faster, better, and more adaptable.
By doing this, you will be able to respond to a crisis or an opportunity (often they are the same thing) by fending off the competition and, when the opportunity arises, becoming the predator.
SECTION6 is invested in making sure what we do builds on what we have achieved in the past. It’s not just about having great people and a way to identify and hire them. It’s also about having excellent know-how and intellectual property. IP that we share with our clients so that they can achieve their goals better and faster. Helping you get and stay on mission.
This is what SECTION6 DevOps delivery services providers and has successfully achieved for several mission-critical platforms for clients whose work is essential in people, communities, and the country.