I am fond of innovations. I love to stir people up, encourage them to think differently, and inspire them to embrace new technologies. Moreover, I get excited myself when our clients challenge me to explore new horizons. However, I am equally put off when clients aspiring to innovate are tragically stuck into old-school thinking. Be it their snail-paced change processes, their stubbornness in clinging on to on-premises systems, or their resistance to adopt cloud-native architectures. I simply believe in the power of fast-paced innovations, to test ideas on the market early, and to not risk being outpaced by competitors.
So, I asked myself, why is it that some of my clients seem to lack the kind of vitality others excel at?
Well, I’m not a doctor, but I certainly do recognize a particular pattern.
Before diving into my observations, I want to share another insight. I grew up in this business with a certain worldview. A worldview pillared by the separation of “the business”, “software”, and “infrastructure”. I’m sure many of you will recognize this in your own organizations. A large IT department, with a software development division and an IT services division, set apart from the business departments. The software development division and an IT services division each developed their own culture, with intricate formal and informal processes to collaborate on keeping the business running. In a sense, having "the business" as mutual frenemy was their greatest unifying force.
Over the years, I’ve seen a fair share of initiatives to outsource part of the IT department, often infrastructure and application management, or to merge parts of the IT division of different organizations into shared service centers. These initiatives never bore the fruits that were predicted. The lack of a mutual frenemy might have been a major part of failure.
But I digress.
Enter the cloud era
When the cloud happened, things started to shift. Cloud providers took responsibility for large-scale, worldwide IT infrastructures. They developed new technologies to share those over multiple tenants, while investing in world-class security, internet-class availability, and cosmic scalability. To make this happen at scale, they virtualized their infrastructure, enabling their customers to consume it tailor made at the click of a button or at the firing of a script. Today, we are rolling out data centers for our Connext clients in mere minutes. It just works. All the time.
I fully understand that the on-premises world has not stood still, and does its best to keep up in their private cloud initiatives. In the meantime, professional cloud providers are innovating at a staggering pace, offering revolutionary machine learning services, container orchestration services, and DevOps tooling, to mention just a few. All this while continually driving prices down. Way too fast to follow for but a few global players, if you ask me. As a result, particular cloud providers I’m sure you all know well, have become exceptionally successful businesses in and of themselves.
So I can’t help thinking that, for the large majority of ordinary businesses, running your own private cloud is a symptom of old-school thinking.
Meanwhile, cloud-ready business departments have quickly started to experience that with a small, dedicated DevOps team, delivering results quickly, was feasible, fruitful and even fun to do. Business and IT alignment has become as simple as assembling the right team. And the developer mindset shifted from “I develop software” to “we build great cars”, “we keep the power grid stable”, or “we collect taxes”. Now, that’s the kind of spirit I admire.
Nowadays, we label the organizations that make the most of today’s technologies and market opportunities as “digital businesses”. They have a different mindset in common. They do no longer stack business processes on top of software services on top of infrastructure. Rather, they have a grid in mind, with tangible and intangible products – goods and services – of a physical and a digital kind. They typically deliver a hybrid over all axes – a combination of goods and services, each with a digital and a physical component. Our most forward-thinking clients have started to define those combinations in terms of business APIs. An exciting endeavor indeed.
I like to call this advanced thinking the One Business Mindset.
If you think about that, a cloud provider itself has a remarkably similar structure. They own a bunch of physical infrastructures supplemented by management services that they offer as virtual infrastructure, supplemented by virtual services. No wonder there’s a great cultural fit between digital businesses and cloud providers. And also, no wonder that organizations stuck in outdated structures have a hard time to adapt to the cloud.
How to revitalize?
That leads us to my final question of the day: How can you eradicate old-school thinking and rejuvenate your business? Of course, that’s the million dollar question. How to shift your mindset and become one business. Well, it’s not that hard, fortunately. Here are the three steps to take:
1. Embrace the cloud
If we’ve learned only one thing from the COVID-19 pandemic, then it must be that the ability to move quickly is a virtue for every organization, without any exception. Business-driven IT is the proven key to agility. But the typical business concerns only partially overlap with IT concerns. Nobody in the business really cares about running a datacenter if all you want to do is sell products, offer services, manufacture goods, or run a community. The first step is to stop investing your resources into information technology you can get as a service. Embrace the cloud. After all, who is better at running computer infrastructure than the ones who actually build it? Who is better at running software than the ones who actually build it? Why throw your money at problems others have solved before you?
2. Embrace your retained IT
Embracing the cloud will be your first relief. Sure, you still have to use those systems, and you might need to organize for some technical expertise to put them to good use. But that should be easy to arrange once you’re in a One Business Mindset. Actually, it’s not so different from other business assets you are managing.
Additionally, many organizations also depend on software systems that are too specific or too strategic to leave those to the market. That’s where hybrid business development comes in. It’s really no rocket science. Once you’re in the new mindset, it makes sense to develop your goods and services in harmony with the virtual good and services that underpin it. That’s hybrid business development. It’s not that different from your hybrid sales department, your hybrid operations department, or your hybrid logistics department. It just makes good business sense.
3. Embrace Connext
I know, there is one important part of technology I've left out so far. In fact, that’s where we come in. It’s of course about integration. Whether you as a company only consume services from the cloud, or have a mix of cloud and homemade services, chances are they have to interoperate. That’s why we built Connext, our managed integration cloud. You can use it to implement any integration pattern to interconnect your own systems, wherever they run, and also to securely offer your virtual goods and services as managed APIs.
Although it is not particularly difficult to create the integration flows you need to actually glue your systems together, there’s no denying it does require a particular expertise to design and develop a secure, efficient and resilient integration flow. In case you’re happy to assume responsibility for development and maintenance of these flows, you will appreciate Connext as a versatile and reliable platform to run them. However, if you prefer to leave it to the ones who built Connext in the first place, you will appreciate Yenlo as your one-stop-shop for all your integration needs. Either way, your vitality is set to blossom once again.
Now it’s entirely up to you.