Technology Transformation: 5 Easy Steps to Master Your Digital Future
If you are a business leader, you might think that keeping up with rapid changes in technology is hard to manage. By most accounts, the world is experiencing an acceleration in innovation and disruption the likes of which we have never seen.
However, after spending four days at one of the world’s leading technology conferences, with over 10,000 CIOs and other IT executives (across almost every sector and industry segment), I think I have it all figured out.
I listened to and learned from industry experts of all stripes. and consumed the best research from the best researchers. After mulling it over on the plane ride home (almost 2.5 hours of quality thinking time!), I now understand exactly what organizations must do in order to thrive in the new world order. As a result of my fine character and excellent upbringing, I have decided to share this insight – completely free of charge – in five easy steps!
Step 1: Basic housekeeping and minimum prerequisites
- Complete your organization’s drive to adopt cloud infrastructure, platforms, and services. Presumably you are almost done with this – everyone agrees its really important! If not, you are already way behind schedule, and we are only on the first bullet.
- Finalize the transformation of all your IT projects and processes to modern Agile practices. Again, you should be pretty far along here – we’ve been talking about it for like… a long time. Note: giving out t-shirts that say “Scrum Master” and calling it a day does not count.
- Ensure a complete transformation of your culture: foster collaboration, innovation and organizational agility. This one is kind of rough, because it is mostly about people, who are notoriously difficult. Feel free to take a few weeks to get it right.
- Completely secure every system, device, and data asset in your organization, without sacrificing any business outcomes, or all that awesome innovation and agility you recently achieved. Take heart – there are a TON of certifications for this, so it should be no big deal.
Step 2: Address a few minor technical issues
- Ensure that your entire development community has expertise in serverless computing, micro-service architecture, open source platforms and frameworks, every flavor of no-SQL, and the entire Hadoop ecosystem. Build all new systems using any combination of these things.
- Build everything with open APIs, because all software will soon be part of an interconnected ecosystem of platforms and services, encompassing not just your business, but your suppliers, partners, customers, and even competitors. Plan for that.
- Take all the cloud infrastructure, agile practices, robust security, and collaborative culture from Step 1, and add a generous helping of automation. Congratulations, you have now achieved DevSecOps!
- Re-architect and modernize all your legacy systems because, well – agility, cost, performance, security, and all that stuff about open APIs, that you currently have none of. Honestly, just do it and stop whining about how hard it is.
Step 3: Get smart
- Recruit a small army of Artificial Intelligence experts, proficient in all varieties of deep neural network and other machine learning techniques. Require a focus on use cases such as Natural Language Processing, Computer Vision, Speech Recognition, Pattern Detection, and Predictive Modeling – to start. Don’t be discouraged by the fact that there are only three of these people looking for jobs globally at any given time.
- Leverage this army (enabled by the culture of innovation and organizational agility developed in Step 1) to infuse Artificial Intelligence into literally everything you do. Also into several things you don’t.
- Find ways to disrupt your own business models, approximately once a month, using Artificial Intelligence. If possible, also incorporate blockchain or other comparably awesome tech.
Step 4: Things, things, and more things
- Deliver many new and awesome capabilities to users by integrating millions of sensors into your mission and business areas. You are now beginning to see how handy all that innovation and agility really is.
- Well, those sensors aren’t going to connect themselves – and some of them need local computing resources. Architect and build new “edge cloud” to provide this.
- Please see Step 1, and don’t forget to completely secure your new gigantic, bloated attack surface – I mean sensors. Don’t worry if the vendors haven’t fully considered all cybersecurity issues – remember, you have people with certifications.
- Obviously, you need to store and analyze the vast amounts of data these sensors will produce, so build a data lake, pond, river, or tributary. Add robust amounts of Business Intelligence capability. Note: please avoid creating a data ocean – salt water is very bad for electronic equipment.
- In accordance with Step 3, continuously feed all this data back into your AI-enabled everything. It needs data to stay smarter than the next guy’s AI-enabled everything.
Step 5: Odds and ends
- Understand your customer’s wants and needs better. Way better. You thought you knew them, but they changed while you weren’t paying attention.
- Master the various disciplines of design thinking, product management, and customer experience – across large swaths of your organization. Be thankful it’s only swaths.
- Did we cover data science? Oops. Go back to steps 3 and 4, because you don’t have any real data scientists on-board and you desperately need them.
- Encourage (dare I say require?) all of your executives and managers to be better leaders. They aren’t nearly inspiring enough, for starters. Also, they need to hire better, execute better, and learn more.
- And finally (well, not really): repeat any and all necessary steps as appropriate. But do everything faster this time!
So, there you have it – the secret recipe for success, fame, glory, and possibly world domination. If you have read this far, I hope you enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek coverage of what many believe is a very serious challenge for business and government organizations.
I am guessing that the reaction to these “5 Easy Steps” will fall into two main camps:
- People who believe the absurdity of the list shows that there is far too much hype and hot air around technology transformation, innovation, and disruption. They think everyone is radically overestimating the potential near-term impact on business and society.
- People who believe almost everything on the list will be necessary to some degree for most organizations to survive the ongoing digital revolution. They think it highlights the overwhelming, almost insurmountable challenges leaders will face over the next several years. If you are in this group, you may feel an urge to curl into a fetal position and cry.
Like with many such things, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. My personal conviction, however, is that reality is much closer to number 2 (see the Fourth Revolution). I haven’t yet succumbed to the urge to curl up in a ball and whimper, but I’m trying to do everything I can to help my organization tackle these challenges.
My advice (amazingly, still free!) to anyone in a position to do the same: Don’t wait to be directed from up on high. Take the initiative, at whatever level you may be, to make progress on critical issues, and help create a better future for your organization. Chances are: you will also create a better future for yourself while you are at it.