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Approaching 2021 – Technology Becomes the Business

 
 

Next Gen Insights | Helena Nimmo |
25 November 2020

 
 
 
 
 
 

Like most conferences, the Gartner IT Symposium EMEA went online for 2020. There was no compromising on content though, with over 200 sessions available. The notable difference was the amount of “checking in” taking place across all of the sessions – recognising feelings, emotions and behaviours, and discussing them collectively as part of technology leadership. Fittingly, one of the three themes for 2021, people-centricity, featured in nearly all discussions and in each of the keynote speeches. The other two themes, location-independence and resilience, have been in discussion for some years already but have been accelerated by the pandemic.

The pandemic has focused the spotlight on a number of societal streams, ESG and social justice to name two. The presentations recognised these and raised some challenging questions like the shifting need for companies to take a political stand to maintain and grow their business, challenging monetary profit-thinking and questioning the future fitness of corporate governance processes – and the role that technology has in all of those. They also recognised that most of us have been very operationally focused over that past few months as 1 billion people moved to working from home globally. Of course, all of this happens in addition to the acceleration of digital evolution.

 

MODULARITY

To bring all these strands to life in a manageable way, Gartner introduced the concept of the Composable Business. The concept extends the use of modularity and orchestration from the technology arena into all reaches of the business. The power of modularity has long been recognised when putting technology solutions together, as being able to add and remove functionalities like Lego blocks has been regarded as a key advantage of digitally native companies.

Extending this idea to the wider business makes sense, and the challenge is timely with so many societal changes coinciding. You can start by implementing business modularity within one of your teams. Rather than focusing on the individual members’ functions, the aim is to manage people and deliverables collectively across the team. While this requires a high level of trust, transparency and willingness to take the time to understand each other, it will give organisations the visibility needed to be nimbler in their decision-making and more focused on where to spend their effort.

 

AGILITY & ITERATION

Another concept introduced was the Agile Learning Manifesto to support the Composable Business. The Agile Learning Manifesto is all about iteration – not in the sense of iterative development of a software solution, but iterative self- and organisational development tied with the company’s revenues.

Rather than focusing on monumental multi-year transformations, organisations should adopt a sprint approach to delivering business and product offering changes whilst keeping the vision (iteratively) in sight. This supports the Digital Necessity way of delivering technology enhancements, breaking down transformation into evolutionary and bite-size steps. Given that technology and processes are so interconnected, especially in the digital world, you need to think of them together to deliver incremental success.

Bringing technology concepts and processes into the wider business ecosystem is not wholly new. Many leadership teams hold weekly stand-ups, adopted from Agile, and technical proofs of concept have become business incubation units. There are a number of positives to promoting a wider use of these concepts and practises. Lowering the language barrier between “IT and Business” is the first one that springs to mind. IT and technology become the business, challenging the traditional functional structure and allowing for, dare I say, more self-organising teams and distribution of IT across the business.

 

TECHNOLOGY

Gartner’s technology recommendations were less about the next great technology trend but more about ensuring your entire estate interoperates in a way that makes the digital experience relevant to your customers and employees. In Endava, we approach this as Digital Necessity, bringing your digital plan together and focusing on creating a digital platform that drives the business forward, not just matching your competition. The focus for your future technology plan is driven by three key elements: ensuring your basics are in place by utilising cloud, maintaining focus on data and establishing automation.

 

Cloud

The conversation around hybrid and multi-cloud is becoming more prevalent. With interoperability improving, the options available to technology leaders are broadening. Recognising the strengths and focus each public cloud provider offers, you can then take the elements needed for your digital environment. Additionally, utilising SaaS solutions can reduce your in-house IT support costs.

Clearly, cloud and increasing your SaaS footprint will come with different challenges, identity and access management being one, and data being another. So even though interoperability is improving, the monitoring and financial management of hybrid and multi-clouds will require additional effort. As you set out your cloud strategy, focus your attention on the steps needed to manage it successfully before you choose your providers. The cost models provided by the vendors become irrelevant without the management capabilities and processes.

 

Data

Keeping your eye on data is one of the cloud challenges. Data residency can raise issues, let alone the risk of losing sight of it as it moves and fragments across systems and clouds. This comes at a time where data continues to increase in importance, with the big data/tech companies such as Google and Apple leading the way. The ability to access and investigate data is the premise of ML-led decision-making, another topic explored by Gartner as technology takes on a bigger role in managing business processes.

When approaching data, start small – a PoC or MVP is ideal. Data is hard, much harder than technology. Technology you can switch on and off, but data copies and fragments, leaving tiny footprints in its wake, sometimes surfacing in unexpected places to cause havoc, messing up a management report or turning up in a tweet.

Before enhancing your data management capabilities, spend some time understanding the data. Focus on identifying the key data objects relating to customer, employee, product, service, finance, legal, etc. You should be able to boil it down to a few key objects to help you get started in mapping the data journey. Also, do not be afraid to tidy up your data or to keep critical data on-prem. Hanging onto 10-year-old data in your production systems is rarely necessary, and running it in the cloud can run up quite a bill.

 

Automation

Which brings us to the final technology point: automation, or Hyper Automation as Gartner has named it. With distributed working becoming part of our working practises, automation is moving from manufacturing to the service industries. For decades, automation has been used to decrease manufacturing cost and increase quality and consistency. With 1 billion, mainly service-sector employees working from home, Digital Breakages highlight the reliance on human intervention to keep the process going. 

The biggest opportunities lie within the public sector services, which have been slower to move away from paper than private sector service companies. Recently, Japan announced it was removing the need to use a personal stamp in a selection of official approvals. The Digital Breakages caused by the pandemic served as a final push, resulting in the digitisation of 15,000 official processes impacting every citizen.

Finally, another option to consider is the re-use of your automation scripts. This is not always easy, especially if the technology estate is diverse, but it may allow you to simplify on-going support and make it more sustainable.

The conclusion is clear. When we take the necessary steps to make our businesses organisationally and technologically future-proof, we also bring ourselves into a position where we can better focus on the people who drive our business: our customers and employees.
 

Helena Nimmo

Chief Information Officer

Helena is a technologist with over 20 years of experience in change and organisational design through product development, data management and technology transformation. Prior to joining Endava, Helena has worked in multiple sectors and started her technology career with Nokia. She is also a keen mountain biker and enjoys spending time with her husband, their 5 children and their first grandchild.

 

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