An uncertain world needs responsiveness and innovation - but the right approach to technology is crucial
The advent of digital technology has brought with it a rapid pace of change. This provides a host of pressing challenges to modern organisations, as they attempt to navigate their way through a constantly evolving landscape, often using business models and thinking formed in a very different time.
Today, you would struggle to find a senior leadership team unaware of the term 'digital transformation' or the need to adapt to survive. But what does this look like in practice?
Legacy technology and delivery models are still prevalent today
For most organisations, technological change - in some shape or form - isn't anything new. However, it used to require hundreds of people to implement, typically planning and delivering in a waterfall fashion with several siloed, specialist teams for functions like architecture, infrastructure and testing.
This linear, layered approach to delivering solutions often resulted in failed multi-million pound projects and there are particularly noteworthy examples of this in Government, Health, and other regulated sectors. Often those high-profile failures would be guided by one of the big technology consulting firms, who no doubt market themselves as agile experts.
Even today, those large technology consultancy firms are struggling to break free from their roots in this era of technology delivery. Their engagements with clients are often associated with the use of unnecessarily complex architectures, proprietary legacy solutions, and convoluted project management and governance models. Although they might claim to be agile, this isn't always truly the case, as their ways of working are still characterised by outdated operating models. They might place multiple staff members on an account, for example, in order to generate the revenue needed to meet high overheads. The cost of inefficiency is inevitably passed on to the client.
Doing more for less with modern Cloud technologies
This situation can be directly contrasted with the opportunity to do things differently that exists with technology today.
Cloud platforms such as AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Azure; evolutionary architecture paradigms such as microservices; and cutting edge technologies such as serverless and Intelligent Automation, are all tools for securing efficiency gains and cost savings. When combined with the right strategies around agile operating models, user-centred design, and product focused agile delivery, organisations can unlock real value and provide the high quality customer experiences their users demand.
This is the power of transforming, not just improving, the state of technology in an enterprise setting - with the benefits flowing straight to the organisation.
For example, thanks to the native services on Azure, Google Cloud Platform and AWS, forward-thinking organisations don't have to worry about many of the underlying elements of technology infrastructure. Complex functions such as authentication or integration with advanced services around data processing and artificial intelligence can be provisioned as consumable services, giving engineers more time to work on the most important aspects of a solution without having to reinvent the wheel.
Through the use of Cloud services, and high performing, multidisciplinary teams, forward-thinking consultancies similarly operate on a much leaner basis. We can assemble smaller teams of experts to create enterprise solutions with much greater focus, ultimately providing more value to client organisations. Smaller teams can also focus on building solutions rather than managing complex communication and governance networks.
Huge opportunities exist for CEOs to do things differently
The opportunity here really cannot be underestimated. It is there for the taking by organisations who are willing to approach technological transformation in a radically different way. This involves breaking away from monolithic technology platforms, obstructive governance procedures, and the eye-wateringly expensive delivery programmes so often facilitated by traditional large consulting firms.
The truth is, you simply don’t need hundreds of people to drive significant change or digital transformation. What you do need is to adopt new technology approaches, re-think operating models and work with partners who are agile experts, who will fight for their clients' best interests and share their knowledge to upskill internal staff. Hand picking a select group of top individuals to work in this way provides a multiplier of value when compared to hiring greater numbers of less experienced staff members.
Of course, external partners must be able to deliver at the scale required by the clients they work with. But just as large organisations have to change in order to embrace the benefits of the digital age, consulting models too must adapt to offer the services their clients need at the value they deserve.
Oil tankers vs. speedboats
In an economic outlook marked by extreme challenges, enterprises across industry can no longer afford to risk the underperformance of their digital transformation programmes, mounting organisational inefficiencies due to challenging legacy technology, or the failure to meet the expectations of their customers and staff.
We can describe the difference between legacy and modern approaches quite simply by comparing an oil tanker with a group of speedboats: an oil tanker is cumbersome, carries a lot of overhead, and is a single point of failure; whereas a group of speedboats can move at pace, are well aligned yet de-coupled and dilute the risk of failure out across a much greater area, making everything more manageable.
In an age of disruption and uncertainty we need our technology platforms to enable organisations to be more responsive, deliver great customer experiences and add value. That is our mission and we believe it's the minimum you should expect from your partners. It's why our group, The Panoply, was designed as a collection of unified smaller businesses, offering specialist expertise at scale with agility at its core.
So if you're still focused on oil tankers then the message is clear: look for the speedboats.
Stuart is a strategic and innovative CTO with strong leadership, technical, and delivery skills with broad and deep experience across a range of different sectors and cloud technology platforms.