Over the past few years, Disruption has become a very powerful term to refer to extraordinary events in an industry, technology, or within a domain. Technology teams and their leader – CIO/CDO have been the ally for Businesses that led (or greatly influenced) that disruption. 2020 was a year of disruption – for many however it was more literal than it was meant previously. The year presented challenges that were unprecedented for businesses of our generation. Sustaining through what was one of the toughest years in a century was considered a success.
The year saw several business models evaporate and yet several more coming to a grinding halt which seemed an unpleasant pause at first but then demanded rapid and dynamic action to resume. In such uncertain times, Businesses urgently turned to their Chiefs of Digital to quickly turn things around. This posed the CIO with some of the greatest challenges of our times – Rapidly Digitalize the current business models, sustain the technology platforms in play while enabling a remote workforce overnight, protecting the digital fortress (from cyber-attacks), oh and while at it continues to innovate and deliver tech excellence for a customer who has now embraced a new digital normal.
One thing that the pandemic of 2020 highlighted is the critical role of technology in creating resilient business models. CEOs are looking up to CIOs more than ever before to design a vision for high-speed recovery of businesses, improving the total experience for customers, and creating fast-twitch technological structures all while sustaining in the interim.
Designing this vision will draw on bold resolutions and turning them into action with agility like never before and approaching problem-solving with next-level thinking, architecture, and technology platforms that can deliver at the speed of business and customers. This creates the need for innovation-centric people culture, incremental and agile value delivery, and a modern technology stack that is effective, efficient, and self-healing. This article provides some of the resolutions that we think will accelerate your journey to success this year and beyond.
1. Legacy Modernization – As a Digital technology leader what seems to be the most obvious decision when it comes to modernizing legacy applications or technology stack – ripping the Band-Aid may not be the best choice. While it does sound like a hot resolution right now, it may not be the only thing that is slowing down your technology to match the speed of business.
For context according to IEEE spectrum, since 2010, at least $2.5 trillion was spent on trying to replace legacy IT systems, of which some $720 billion was wasted on failed replacement efforts – a staggering 29% percent.
Not all legacy applications are bad or maybe they are – but what exactly are legacy applications? I don’t think there is a formal definition or guideline by which you call a system or technology a “legacy application”. Typically, they are high-value and critical to the business operations and are built on older technology stack but are solid and reliable in their current form. The argument of rip and replace originates from their lack of integration abilities to other modern applications, vulnerability to attacks, outages, knowledge availability, and sometimes overall customer experience. Ripping the Band-Aid– replace/platform/modernize you call it what you do, is great as long as you understand the implications and the pros outweigh the status quo.
However, before taking the road to implement a multi-year transformation program to replace your legacy application, pause and explore a different view, take a fresh approach towards modernization.
Re-assess the current legacy stack and explore opportunities to employ modern technologies as wrappers to minimize efforts and money. Cloud Computing, Robotic Process Automation, API Wrappers, and Strategic Continuous Modernization help in realizing final net full value from – and justify – modernization initiatives. These approaches have a high potential for success without making CIOs tight on budget.
2. Unthink DevOps, it is time for NoOps – DevOps, and the integration of Operations and Development has been great if you did it right, if not, this is the time to optimize your DevOps value chain. Leverage efficiencies that automation and cloud can bring to your engineering teams and simplify the application engineering lifecycle. Commit to having NoOps on your charter and your technology roadmap.
Make a bold proposition of eliminating IT operations with NoOps. Solidify your argument by sharing how cloud computing is leapfrogging, DevOps is becoming fluid with hyper-automation and AI-remediation engines becoming usual. Together they are ready to remove the human enablers from the underlying system infrastructure. Automated patching, backup, upgrading systems, and database management do not sound new anymore. Further software-defined hardware provisioning and hyper-automation of traditional infrastructure and security management make NoOps a reality, instead of an elusive dream.
3. Let Automation lead the way – Now is a good a time as any to kick start those Automation initiatives that have been on the back burner. Every organization has its own set of routine, mundane tasks that make good candidates for Automation. In 2021, take a deeper look at the tasks, processes, departments, profiles that can be optimized using Automation.
Explore the three camps of Automation: Workflow Automation, RPA, and Intelligent Automation. But there is no one-size-fits-all approach with Automation. CIOs need to implement their ‘Own Best’ approach and not ‘The Industry Best’ approach for Automation. And do not be surprised if pilot projects are successful and scaling them becomes a challenge. Prepare your team to take the scaling issues head-on and transition from a regular to a digital workforce. Most importantly, listen to the feedback that comes from with-in!
4. Measure what matters – It sounds clichéd, but this should be highlighted as Big and Bold in every CIO’s resolution plan. Businesses want to deliver powerful and end-to-end rewarding experiences to their customers, partners, and employees. As CIOs keep a tight hand on the execution wheel, the next crop of tech leaders might overlook metrics for assessing success. When technology metrics fail to connect the dots between transformation initiatives and business-outcomes, uncertainty takes place.
To overcome this, organizations need to put IT and technology-driven initiatives in a Technology equals Business context. It requires sewing various data and capabilities from the traditional and modern applications, infrastructure, and software delivery practices. Further, enterprises are embracing Automation, Multi-Cloud, Microservices, and Containers making the landscape complex.
Easier said than done, this requires tools with prescience capabilities for measuring their transformation programs that cut across diverse business functions. How will CIOs achieve this Technology equals Business metrics? A majority plan to use data from business units by stitching them together and packaging them into metrics using internal or external applications.
To achieve this, decide on 5 to 7 important KPIs for your transformation programs. Create an outline of what applications, infrastructures, people, and processes are required to measure them. Build or look for bespoke product/solution implementations that cover the entire lifecycle, insights, behavioral patterns and antipatterns, process anomalies, and so that transformation programs can be linked to the business context. The more you measure, the more chances of uncovering improvement areas, delivering better results, and taking the credits of overall success to justify the next set of investments.
5. Perfect Experience Strategy – Leave aside customer journey, moments of truth and experience, multichannel marketing and customer service and those pleasing customer experience jargons. In 2021, CIOs need to build a Perfect Experience Strategy. When I say Perfect, it means not an inch here and not an inch there.
A Perfect Experience will be the tightest possible integration of Multichannel Experience, User Experience, Design Experience, and Employee Experience. There will be a plethora of technologies required to achieve this. CIOs will be one of the key leaders in evolving Customer Experience strategy. For different aspects of Customer Experience – Design to Delivery, they need to search for the right talent and right technologies architecting new customer experience. In organizations that depend on technology as their primary driver, Chief Customer Experience Officers might be the answer to the difference between a great CX to a disruptive CX.
From designing a product that connects more to the customer to make it design and user friendly while achieving seamless performance across multichannel is the goal for CIOs.
Innovation Centric People Culture - Make all the resolutions you want but nothing trumps the significance of having a motivated, passionate, and innovation-driven team to run technology in your enterprise. In the exciting digital initiatives, CIOs and leaders unintentionally shortchange the Culture part. Ignoring the Innovation centric cultural aspects can be catastrophic.
As the current disruption served to highlight the biggest imbalance between the current workforce and their companies, it also provided an opportunity to build a future-fit workforce. Upskilling and reskilling programs are rewarding organizations in terms of strong corporate culture and higher workforce productivity, but a huge gap persists in terms of individual contribution towards innovation. There is a need to update outdated job descriptions (regular day-to-day operational tasks) with innovation as part of every role.
The element that will put innovation into practice is Vision-led Leadership. When CIOs share their powerful vision led by technology, employees flock to it. When they walk the talk, people mimic the same behavior. When they invest in staff and the workplace, it improves employee performance. The existing crisis has stressed businesses and culture to the point of breaking; those who did not break emerged stronger than ever.
Leap forward with high-risk payoffs!
The biggest risk in the technology world is not experimenting and innovating. CIOs need to invest in high-risk payoffs and create a culture where “fail fast and learn faster” is encouraged.
With 2021 upon us and Digital Transformation shaping the business landscape, an organization’s competitive advantage is determined by how effectively CIOs are going to turn this crisis into an advantage. The five resolutions outline above will help in extracting real value out of existing investments and build the ground for next-generation customer experience. Make 2021 your best year by perfecting the customer experience, driving legacy modernization, and exploring the true extent of Disruption with NoOps.