Organisational survival in today's market is about speed, innovation and ultra-relevance. ‘If you can't do something first, do it better’ requires deep abilities in all these topics. Achieving this balance can be tough as digitally transforming an organisation to the degree required to remain competitive and able is not something that can be run over and over as an annual program.

If we accept the premise that technology in general is both an enabler and a disruptor and that it progresses exponentially, then we could draw a line that looks like the purple arrow in the graph below.

Additionally, if we are happy to accept the premise that organisations (which may have owner, shareholder and employee responsibilities) are by nature more controlled and risk-aware then we have to assume that their progression will be more logarithmic when compared with ‘technology’s’ steeper gradient (as represented in green).


 



This creates an interesting paradigm that I believe represents one of the greatest management challenges of our current time. How does the modern organisation withstand continuous, exponential disruption and capitalise on continuous, exponential enablement?

In recent times the answer seemed to have been Digital Transformation, sweat of the brow trajectory changes of systems, 3rd parties, partners, processes and just about everything else in between.

Organisation change management of this scale comes with teeth. Consider the 3rd line in our graph - even if we manage to predict where the Technology line of disruption will be, for how long will we remain Digitally Transformed and market appropriate?

This line of disruption also impacts more than just the customer’s views of an organisation’s products and services.

Our incoming workforce, the uni students of today, are more than ever aware of the job market they are entering, the organisations who are shaping and shifting the future and, most importantly, they are clear on their desired involvement in that future. The most talented amongst them will be seeking organisations that can continuously innovate.

If this problem were representable mathematically it would look like this:

So how do we avoid the pitfalls of such an issue?

It's all about Increments

Start by bringing your own Technologists and their ways of working into business at a strategic level, denounce their former ‘cost center and requirements recipient’ status and hold them accountable to a different level of engagement and output. 

Most businesses want: outcomes, help in improving competitive positioning, tech inspired innovation, deeper relationships with customers, repeatable low-cost business, streamlined operations, better use of employee time and mental capacity, managed risk etc.

Most businesses ask for: on time and on plan projects, reduced costs, good customer service, take in ‘BU’ requirements, deliver as stated. 

The wants do not equal the asks, and they have to if an organisation is going to exist in unison in an innovative and market appropriate state.

Ironically, recent(ish) times has seen a plethora of non-technical innovation coming from the very technologists who are disrupting/enabling global markets.

DevOps, Agile, SRE either draw from, are influenced by, or are based on the notion that small, incremental pockets of prioritised evolution or innovation results in business value and an uplifted customer experience. These actions are far more likely to help an organisation transform (see the ‘Digital Existence’ line in the 2nd graph) than large scale resets of trajectory.

Organisational priorities change, problems become more pronounced (or recede) and opportunities present themselves in fleeting windows - it stands to logic that we should be operating in a state that is able to pivot, able to evolve, able to innovate and most importantly able to lead customers rather than the other way around.

This cannot be achieved if we are bringing change to our organisations and customer experiences once every 12+ months. Compound this with an outcome that misses the market or line of disruption, by even a few degrees tolerance, and you have the definition of a failed ‘Digital Transformation’.


In today’s technology-driven world, speed, agility and reduced time-to-market are the new source of competitive advantage.

DevOps is a key tool to compete against this backdrop – giving you the tools to go faster, whilst retaining a rigorous, professionalized approach to IT.

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It’s also all about Culture

Perhaps unsurprisingly a newer method of achieving speed also requires a newer approach to delivery and operating velocity. Even less surprising is the elevated and vital role culture will play in an organisation’s success. Culture is key to speed, innovation and ultra-relevancy.

This is where the rubber hits the road and many organisations will baulk at or shy away from the changes necessary to effect true, business as usual digital existence within the increments.

We are predicting an increasing trend that moves away from traditional Managed Services. The main reason for this is the difficulty in outsourcing or consigning culture effectively to 3rd parties or traditional internal frameworks.

The purpose of this cultural shift is to own high value, differentiating services, to fully exploit the dynamic capability of technology (such as serverless) for prototyping and continuously reduce the time to value of new releases.

Consider the office of the ‘enabled’ CFO, who now has the ability to make a series of substantially smaller investments in multiple areas in order to capture new capital markets. This is because IT is aligned to the organisation’s strategy, can prototype the solutions to determine its viability, action in priority with the business's goals, before market conditions change and all without the need for protracted delivery timelines.

It’s also, all about Proof

Nothing promotes momentum like a run or two on the board.

These days technology is more directly attributable to business outcomes than ever before. Scale, speed, resilience, durability, time to market and satisfaction all have technical markers that can be logged, accounted, audited and monitored for fine tuning based on seasonal, situational or even speculative need.

Proving these levers exists and are within arm’s reach should no longer be encumbered within the confines of a traditional project and its associated timelines for procurement, governance and transformation. It should be freed to pass through a product framework, managed in an agile fashion and value should be rapidly identifiable.

Product creation over project delivery works effectively in driving rapid, measurable change as well as cultural changes. It uses ideate-build-run teams working on a prioritised business issues or opportunities. Product-mode allows teams to reorient quickly, reduces their end-to-end cycle time, and allows validation of benefits. Teams operate cross functionally, from architecture, development, test and operations, and communicate the value created and gains made continuously to the business.

Within Contino we utilise the concept of a Lighthouse to scientifically identify and measure the value of an initiative and how it could manifest within the real world. Each Lighthouse is created based on visibility, schedule, value (perceived vs non-perceived), team, business engagement, automation, complexity. The gradation of these factors is by and large up to organisational appetite, but we have found that the below configuration is optimal for the start of the journey.

Digital Existence

Through no other mechanism is speed, innovation and ultra-relevance more achievable than when you marry increments, culture and proof with cloud, and specifically serverless technologies.

One of my favourite quotes is ‘serverless is a consequence of a focus on business value’. Never has that been truer than when we consider existing digitally within incremental, well-constructed, rapid pockets of value that have been closely aligned to an organisations ambitions and goals.

With all the options now available to organisations, we could consider the enormity of companywide, one shot digital transformations to be unnecessary and mismanagement on a large scale.

It is tempting to swing for the fence and score big memorable wins but in reality, it’s the teams who constantly tick the scoreboard over that win constantly.

This is what it means to digitally thrive and why the adoption of which will provide a greater outcome than digitally transforming.

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Paul Stafford

Principal Consultant