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September 15th, 2016

Supporting the Agile Business through Nimble IT

I recently took several field trips to meet clients and business partners to gain insight into the market pressures impacting their businesses. The general trend related to what I heard and saw is easily be summed up by a quote from Albert Einstein, “if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” Business owners and leaders are looking for ways to change and evolve to benefit the customer with IT services at the forefront.

Across the board, each business professional I visited identified key initiatives underway designed to shift how their organization is doing business. On one extreme, I found companies changing their culture and business models to ensure corporate data and market feedback within their IT systems will foster an environment of innovation. On the other extreme, I found companies that already have an environment of innovation and are now focused on adding new service offerings. In between, I found the companies trying to make adjustments to be more proactive in making business decisions.

Regardless of the evolution, technology was a common thread in the discussion with these clients and business partners. These are smart business owners and leaders preparing for the future. Richard Foster, who is a lecturer at the Yale School of Management, found the average lifespan of an S&P 500 company dropped from 67 years in the 1920s to 15 years in today’s world. He predicts new firms will replace 75 percent of the S&P 500 firms by 2027. Why? Consider the Titanic Theory and this quote from Titanic Captain Edward Smith, “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” Business owners who think status quo is modern, think again. There is no indestructible business model that can survive all market conditions. History suggests that the Titanic would have survived if the captain and his crew had heeded warnings.

During my recent field trips, I found that IT leadership was very interested in learning how they can become nimble. Their systems can and should be a great enabler for the business. If nothing else, their teams provide the technical solutions to help the business innovate during times of change. The desire to build a series of small applications that can be integrated to build the larger solution was a consistent theme. This is becoming known as the microservices approach.

To date, businesses took a monolithic IT application approach that is now proving to be a challenge, as changes in the desired nimble business model require changes to the application. In many cases, a minor change to a monolithic application requires significant time to test and deploy. Whether homegrown or a package, the solution needs to go through the proper software development lifecycle processes to ensure changes do not adversely impact the current functionality of a large system. Then good luck if you live in a regulated environment that requires additional levels of rigor.

To address this, organizations are looking at the microservices development approach. In this model, the technology solution is broken into smaller chunks, which allow updates to be made for a specific area of the application without impacting functionality, full process review, and testing. This speeds up the test and deployment process. To put this in perspective, would you rather look through a few hundred or a few million lines of code to find a bug?

The microservices approach also impacts maintenance of the application. Updates and patches are much easier to test and deploy with a small piece of the application. Business leaders are looking to the cloud for the development, testing, and deployment of these solutions. The team can quickly spin up an environment, without going through the laborious server setup process, and then turn the environment off after the solution has been moved to production. Microsoft or Amazon are responsible for keeping the environment secure, providing uptime, and along the way saving countless hours and dollars for the organization.

Does your organization want to be part of the 25 percent of businesses still making a difference in 2027 or will you fall into the 75 percent who Foster predicts will be replaced? The answer to that question may be found in how your organization adjusts to the new microservices IT approach to a nimble in our ever-changing business landscape.

Andy Brockett, Director, Business Innovation

Tags: agile microservices

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