January 24th, 2017

In the Age of Mobility … Jack Be Nimble

Having spent much of my professional life in the world of large-scale technology transformations, I am finding that the world of digital/mobile business models brings some very different requirements for success. Winners are reinventing the art of mobile service deployment.

My colleagues across DMI recently contributed to a compendium of observations regarding the trends afoot in the adoption of “Mobile First” modes of running business. Our sherpa for assembling these perspectives and placing them into the context of companies across industry segments is Magnus Jern.

As we discuss and deliberate on the significance of the profile that is presented through this work, and review the implications with leading strategists of our clients, I cannot help but remark on the contrasts with yesteryear.

Growing up in the world of large-scale systems integration, IT and Business Process outsourcing, and the accelerating adoption of platform-based services … it is striking to see how businesses are operating with a dramatically different orientation when it comes to digital redefinition of their operations.

Some of the more intriguing innovations include:

Planning in Short-wave Cycles

Ask almost any business architect about the functionality that they will need for the coming year, and the answer will likely be expressed in 3- or 6-month timeframes. Or shorter. Companies have embraced a new form of sensing and prioritizing their initiatives, and marshaling the resources to bring those capabilities to reality. Executives have accepted the fact of ambiguity and imprecision in the design of new or enhanced business services. Most tell me that they’d rather be roughly correct in the near term, than bet the ranch on long-term accuracy. Failing fast, and learning from the experience, has become an accepted mantra.

Dynamic Requirements Definition

Related to this is the acceptance that requirements are temporal. They exist at a moment in time, but change with unprecedented speed and for unpredictable reasons. Most of our Clients are embracing Design Thinking for their technology programs, but also for their core business processes and services. What we may think is important today may, very quickly, be overtaken by other features, functions, or fancies that emanate from unpredictable sources. The art of the possible is alive and well in the world of defining business services, with most executives viewing this as a competitive imperative.

Elevation of Dev Ops as First Form of Production Control

Moving from Planning and Requirements into day-to-day business operations, new roles and permissions are being empowered to activate the rapid cycle between idea and reality. Those, like me, who grew up in a world of highly-structured change planning around any service that carried the moniker of “production” will shake their heads at the authority allocated to the new breed of Dev Ops practitioners. Yet, these roles are far from cavalier in how they approach their mission. Empowered by senior management with the mandate for “agility,” these teams are resolving the age-old complaint that the “IT Department” is slow, plodding, under-informed and mis-aligned with the imperatives of the business. Still, this emerging concept of mobile DevOps faces its fair share of challenges. Skeptical business leaders, old-school security mindsets and a shortage of development skills can all stop adoption in its tracks.

Avoiding Lock-in

In the past, a major decision on an operating capability commonly carried a long-term commitment profile. Development projects were capitalized and memorialized on the corporate balance sheet, while hordes of people and processes were indoctrinated with an eye towards permanence. That’s not how today’s innovators are thinking about their business. Decisions are made with full recognition that the window for harvesting returns is limited, and that structural changes to the technology and process foundations are more than likely within a few years. It was not uncommon, over the past many years, for major change programs to be stymied by the perception that sunk costs were too formidable to allow for a change of direction. Today’s business services are designed to allow for flexibility on many levels.

Analytics-driven Customization

Most progressive companies realize that they cannot know how their employees and customers will behave over time. The sources of influence in how humans ingest information, make decisions, and execute their actions are just too varied. What this reality drives is the need for a commitment to measure every aspect of a process (whether that be how to decide on a consumer purchase, or the means by which an employee executes a task) and channel those findings into refinements to the tools, technologies, and processes that are provisioned to the user. Increasingly, these processes of insight-driven changes are personified to allow for greater effect and efficiency.

The role of mobile devices – smartphones, tablets, wearables, and autonomous devices – is increasingly at the center of the Design Thinking on new business functionality and operations. Untethered is mandatory for effective business.

There are additional remarkable differences that I could recite, but the contrast with traditional approaches towards systems-oriented programs of change are likely obvious. These factors are redefining the profile of companies across industries. New skills are required, and new management processes are being adopted.

Companies are organizing and populating their digital transformation programs with people and partners who embrace these forms of approaching the development of services and the agility of business operations. With the required skills in great demand, there’s a tendency to find sources of leverage in people, process, tools, and methods … applied beyond discrete projects.

I am thrilled to be part of a built-for-purpose specialist in bringing these sort of structural changes to reality for companies. The candlestick is hot beneath those beholden to the systems integration and outsourcing approaches of the past.

Peter Allen

Tags: agile analytics DevOps digital business models digital transformation programs mobile business model

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