Part 1: Is Technology Slowing Down Your Digital Transformation?

July 28, 2020 Eric Robertson

Digital transformation and the proliferation of technology affects every area of our lives—there is no sector untouched by technology today. Ironically though, technology itself can slow down a digital transformation. If you’ve built an enterprise architecture based on outdated development or hierarchical models, it can limit your ability to quickly change and adapt as needed to continually meet customer needs and offer relevant and enduring solutions.

When it comes to executing a successful digital transformation, you often hear about people, process, and technology. Companies are improving and automating IT processes to achieve business agility and now resiliency. Implementing continuous delivery and DevOps practices creates a faster and more agile organization. However, organizations are still struggling to make technology changes that have an enduring and real impact.

Andreas Prins recently shared—in a webinar titled Get Past Technical Roadblocks to Accelerate Your Software Delivery—ways that organizations can speed up IT transformation including which technologies to adopt, how to approach team responsibilities, restructuring the application architecture, and more. In this blog, part one, we will share insights on how to make your enterprise more responsive to change, with a focus on why this is necessary. In part two, we will focus on getting started and what steps you can take now to accelerate business objectives.

Andreas is the VP of Product Strategy at Digital.ai and has a background in testing. His career has focused on optimizing test processes and building better applications through applying Lean strategies. He has worked for one of the largest banks in Europe, ING, enabling them to accelerate with DevOps and transform their development approach.

The reason having a responsive and resilient enterprise is essential is obvious, particularly with what we see taking place worldwide due to COVID-19. We can’t predict the future; all we know is that change is guaranteed and to succeed in business, our technology must help not hinder progress. The goal is continuous transformation.

Andreas lays out three pillars for building a responsive enterprise. Mastering these three will help you focus on improving business outcomes and reaping the value of software applications.

Pillars for Building a Responsive Enterprise

1. Customer Collaboration

You need your customers to help you respond to a changing market. By moving in tune with the immediate needs of a customer, understanding the customer’s goals and vision, you can better grasp where the industry is going. By partnering on prototyping techniques and utilizing data from different areas such as production, you’re able to leverage customer feedback for improvement.

2. Organizational Simplicity

In order to accelerate, you must tackle some of the bureaucracy within the organization. For example, if you want to build autonomous teams and give your teams empowerment you need to rethink how you distribute money and how to manage the yearly budgeting cycle. Modern data capture can transform your auditing process, as another example, which will enable your team to move forward without limitations regarding regulations.

“Simplicity is key because the lighter you are, the faster you can go. You can then respond quickly to change."

This can take years, but if you simplify your landscape, you can start focusing on value stream management – what actually matters.

Ask, what are the applications you can get rid of? What are the commercial off-the-shelf or third-party software pieces that are so complex that you're continuously doing maintenance? Take a look at it and really understand what each individual component is doing and see whether there are smarter or lighter alternatives.

3. Data-Driven Decisions

Data is important because it helps us make better decisions. For example, a user’s transaction data can give you a better understanding of pricing. By first, knowing which metrics you need to track, and then leveraging these for optimal decision making, you will start to make more grounded decisions that have the most rewarding outcome. Having the ability to monitor and trace data is key to ultimately accelerate value delivery.

Taking a Lean IT view will help you on this path toward creating a responsive enterprise. Andreas shared the 2019 State of DevOps report, provided by DORA, and highlighted the differences between low performing software organizations and elite performers. We can see that the frequency of code deployments is more than 200 times for an elite vs. a low performer.

What are the IT practices that are underpinning these numbers? Andreas thinks it’s a combination of factors. These include automation—a key to accelerating value stream flow—and automated build. He also highlights the separation of duties among teams as a limiting factor when it comes to moving into production. This is where simplifying is essential.

Technology Movements that Unlock Acceleration

There are a number of emerging trends within our practice that are helpful or have potential for accelerating software development.

1. Cloud Adoption

The key here is, how do we push our applications to the cloud and are we utilizing cloud-native capabilities or functions from a particular provider or do we build it ourselves? Cloud strategy can take on a more traditional infrastructure, but it depends on the size of the company. You have to take into account governance, security and compliance concerns when choosing public solutions vs. private. Automation is critical to better controlling compliance.

2. GitOps as-Code

Many good practices of developers of review and strategies now apply to business applications but also to the pipeline and infrastructure. We notice that as you use more X-as-code capabilities, the way you standardize and troubleshoot is still an issue, however. To succeed, you need to take into account non-technical users. A UI is still relevant here, particularly for domains where many personas are involved. This is all because we are still in the early stages of GitOps as code.

3. DevOps as-Code

DevOps as-Code enables us to start creating patterns up front that are ready for consumption. How do engineers or cloud-native experts start defining the patterns? How do you set up a cluster? How do you make a playbook and define it as code? If you utilize this, and make these ready for consumption then DevOps teams can just consume the patterns. This helps with the acceleration of development of new capabilities. By applying this method, it’s almost an OpsDev module, pushing businesses applications out to production really fast.

The beauty of these new tools also brings some concerns. Embracing new tools and frameworks needs to be manageable. It’s important to remember that while experimenting with new technology, we don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. It’s easy to forget why we are doing things when the focus is on utilizing a new technology module. New tech can be a great accelerator when it has the right framework around it.

In our next post, part two, we will unpack how to move forward. Andreas will address three issues we see within our customer segment and practical advice for success.

Learn More

About the Author

Eric Robertson

Eric is VP of Strategy and Certified SPC at Digital.ai. Before Digital.ai, Eric served as Director of services and portfolio management for enterprise solutions at Unisys. Eric joined Cisco through a company acquisition, where he led product management for Cisco's cloud automation and SAP ALM extension offerings. Eric has successfully held product development, services and management roles with enterprises and start-ups and has provided consulting services to Fortune 500 companies. Eric holds a patent in the area of virtualization and a Master's Degree in Electrical and Software Engineering from University of Texas in Austin and continues to further his research in domain- specific languages, and intelligent automation.

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