There is no refuting, the internet has forever changed the way we live, work and conduct business. Innovation has brought the IoT (Internet of Things), digitally enabled services and organizations that are digitally transformed. This means conducting business in significantly different ways because of digital technologies and/or offering significantly different products and services because of digital technologies.
For example, think about the taxi industry in the traditional sense as a public transportation service where you call dispatch, provide your address and wait for someone to show up or physically hail down a taxi on the street. Granted, these methods still exist and often are very effective for the situation. However, in contrast, what about a car service like Uber with an app to order, track, and pay for your ride? How about the airline industry and the ability to check yourself in from anywhere and use a scan code on your mobile phone at the checkpoint? Of course, you can still go to a ticket counter at the airport to check in or use a kiosk to self-check upon arrival to get a boarding pass. What about online banking services, online grocery services, emergency service for your car like OnStar, smart homes, “digital” marketing, shared restaurant delivery services like Seamless? Society, companies, organizations, and industries of all types are benefiting from digital transformation.
Each of the above examples and thousands of others you can think of, are based on strategic decisions to evolve gradually to achieve the next newer better way to live and work. The changes won’t stop, ongoing improvement is inevitable. Consumers accept and expect all these business services in the modern era as normal, but it requires IT expertise and solutions to enable these products and services. Therefore, IT service teams and providers have also transformed in how they deliver products and services. Digital transformation has also come to the IT industry with modernized approaches and tools to keep pace with and enable business in digital transformation.
If you work in the IT industry you know the advancement of technology is never ending. What needed to be done by big expensive computers has scaled down to smaller and smaller devices over just a few decades. Devices with more memory, processing speed, graphics, storage and even at lower prices and reduced footprint are the new reality. Software evolved from stand-a-lone dedicated user, device installed licenses or simultaneous licensing to cloud subscription and service models.
Apps for mobile devices, the smartphone as your main device, tablets and huge innovation in laptop devices has rapidly occurred. Physical desktops and servers are teetering on the cusp of extinction. Servers were consolidated and optimized via virtualization techniques. Telephones, storage, network (Wi-Fi, cellular, satellite) and every type of IT hardware, software, system, access, and security has forever changed.
Driven by the availability of anytime anywhere access and consumer appetites for convenience, the biggest technology game changer has been the cloud. Cloud services such as SaaS (Software as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) reduce the need for in-house procurement, build, configuration, installation, operation and maintenance of traditional hardware and software solutions. Cloud services offer on-demand consumption-based pricing with ease of scalability.
Instead of hardware and software only, newer IT speak is about environments, configurations, code commits, microservices, containers, continuous integration, continuous delivery, automation, portals, cybersecurity, cloud, ecosystem, virtual, remote, products, and services to name a few. Modern means digital and the era of big data, bots, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Traditionally, IT has always been challenged to keep staff skills developing at the same rate as technologies. However, the digital transformation of business now adds complex layers to the IT challenge. Organizational structure, process, knowledge, and learning must also adapt.
Tiered staffing levels and siloed skills or groups in IT will not allow for endless improvements and speed of change required by the business. A single skill set being honed and applied in a linear fashion will just slow everything down. IT professionals must be quicker to complete tasks, empowered to make decisions, intuitive to solve problems, address uncertainty faster, share experiential learning in real time, and overall speed up its change cycle end to end without sacrificing quality and stability.
Modern IT has evolved to an autonomous cross-functional team model. Multiple specialties and broad- based knowledge are required of everyone. Teams may be dynamically formed for a purpose like a swarm, tiger team, Scrum team, or dedicated to a business product or service. The name of the game today is unbridled innovation, truly effective collaboration, a safety (high trust) culture, elimination of waste, and automation with just enough policy, process, and control.
The popular phrase, “haste makes waste” might come to mind. However, when “haste” or the speed of business change is the highest priority for IT to achieve – can risk still be managed and quality still achieved? Surprisingly and emphatically, yes!
Producing changes faster might even improve quality and risk. The key is smaller changes more frequently. Traditional IT projects are very large, very complex, with long planning cycles, heavy documentation, and phased approach. These projects introduce product and service changes into the production business environment in large scheduled batches during agreed periods of down time. Incidents after these change events often occur and customers are rarely without complaints.
Low velocity business changes may still fit the traditional model, whereas digital product and service changes won’t. They instead, require high velocity and modern techniques. The combined effect of popular disciplines like Agile/Scrum, Lean, ITIL High Velocity IT practices and DevOps all promote the same message. Smaller, more frequent changes, just the right amount of process control for governance, risk, and compliance (GCR), as much feasible automation as possible, with self-forming autonomous teams equals success! The goal is to have a continuous pipeline (flow) of business prioritized changes moving to market for consumers to reap the value. This way, IT can match its cadence with the business cadence (or velocity).
The various industry examples we started with did not flip a switch overnight to become significantly different and digitally enabled. Nor are the current products and services done evolving. Consumer driven improvements for enhanced customer experience are inevitable and ongoing. The convenience of knowing exactly when your ride is arriving or avoiding long airport lines to get a boarding pass took many progressive iterations of improvements to achieve. The perfect storm of technological advancements, smart business innovation, and widespread consumer access allowed for the opportunities to emerge. For any business in any industry to be competitive today, their IT teams and suppliers must transform to work in a digitally enabled world as well.
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