Why digital business needs constant movement
BY SABINE KÄRGER
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 2 2019)
Life is all about movement – and we live in a rapidly-changing world. And this also, or particularly, applies to the world of business. Here, ideas for new ways of working, software architectures and qualifying staff are required. Today, businesses must face the challenges associated with future developments and rethink in many areas in order to survive within the market and to remain competitive.
Located in Bangalore and with more than 20 years of experience, Umasankar Diddi – independent consultant, certified executive coach & certified personal transformation coach – spoke to us about business trends within the digital world, providing invaluable tips and ideas as to how businesses must act in order to keep pace with constantly-changing requirements.
Umasankar Diddi, what are some of the business trends that you are seeing in today’s digital world?
I believe the biggest trend is about where, when and how enterprises engage with their customers. Customer journeys are starting in more unexpected ways than ever before – whether they originate on social media or on a partner platform. Similarly, they may end in channels that might have seemed completely unrelated just a couple of years ago. For example, someone purchasing a home may be led to a series of banks to identify the best mortgage option and then on to a home furnishing retailer to set up their home while utilising a wide range of delivery and installation services from yet another partner. With students, their educational, financial, living and personal needs may all link to one another with different enterprises serving specific needs. This means that enterprises now need to go beyond the view of just themselves and their industry to something much more and beyond.
There is clearly also a focus on delighting and retaining customers through subscription & loyalty programmes that provides annuity revenues to enterprises as well as added value to customers on an ongoing basis. To add to that, we are seeing a key trend for customer segmentation and addressing needs of those segments in an effective manner.
So, tell us a bit more about what this means to an enterprise – how are enterprises dealing with this?
The cycle of origination, continuation, inactivity and rejuvenation of customer journeys is driving enterprises in varied industries to connect with one another in unexpected ways, all the while ensuring that the customer journeys are seamless, maintained and brought back to life as and when required. From a technology perspective, this means that enterprises need to expose their business capabilities in the form of services to other enterprises and in turn be able to consume the services from them. This has led to a real increase in the API (Application Programmable Interface) technologies and related services. Enterprises are working extra hard to expose their business services granularly and in a scalable way while similarly consuming those from third parties. This requires a scalable and flexible architecture that can deal with hundreds or thousands of APIs and changes around them – new, modified and redundant.
Are there any other technologies or services that can significantly help enterprises take big steps to meet this reality?
Yes, adopting the cloud can be a game changer to keep pace with the rapidly changing business demands. Service offerings from AWS, Microsoft Azure, for example, are extensive and can play a pivotal role in driving enterprise maturity in terms of interoperability, security, scalability and speed. Additionally, the cloud adoption can be very cost-effective and can significantly increase business resiliency. While cloud offerings have been around for a few years now, this is the time when enterprises are adopting them as an imperative for which there is no excuse.
How are enterprises readying themselves to be able to operate on the cloud as you describe?
Enterprises have worked in varying degrees to increase the maturity of their legacy environments to be digital-ready and now cloud-ready. Scalable, modular architecture that can deal with exponential increase in transactional data in real time in an ecosystem of a large number of partners will be key for success. While many enterprises have dealt with large transactional volumes with mainframe solutions, a lot of it was within the enterprise boundaries. However, the new volumes are with external enterprises in totally unrelated verticals. Hence, there are formal programmes focusing on converting monolithic legacy applications to more open, modular systems that can provide granular services. This allows for solutions to be developed and made available to customers rapidly and seamlessly.
Enterprises have been trying to do this for a number of years now. What differentiates those that have made progress from those that have been sluggish?
Enterprises that have been able to execute on modern-ising their technology estate while supporting running business have progressed much farther. The fact that billions of Euros of current business rides on the legacy systems and that making a change to them may turn out to be very disruptive has acted as an invisible fear and has put off many enterprises. It is, of course, complex to make changes to monolithic systems that are intertwined in ways that are undocumented. However, leading enterprises have taken a disciplined approach to studying their technology estate, made tough decisions on re-platforming, rewriting, or re-tiring the key applications and have executed them well. They have also been able to bring their technology environments (testing, pre-production and production environments) under control and in sync. Additionally, gaining greater control on enterprise data has provided significant insights to enterprises on their digital journeys. Setting goals for leaders to collaborate and work together with an end-to-end approach coupled with ruthless prioritisation and execution have also been key factors for successful enterprises.
To make all of this happen, what changes do you see in the ways of working in enterprises?
We are seeing the methods of working changing in two major ways. The first is the way teams are assembled and work together. Putting together teams based on specific skills and competences needed right from defining business needs all the way to putting developed solutions in production is a key trend. Competences such as legal, compliance, cyber security and risk are also included. These teams are aligned by business capability or domain and can have team members located in different offices around the world. The virtual teams work together as a unit to deliver specific business solutions and the teams may be adjusted in their composition as business needs evolve. This can be a very significant change to many organisations that are used to working as functional silos. This also brings about a change in expectations of leaders responsible for delivery management and competence management.
The second major change to the ways of working is in regard to increasing automation in the solution development lifecycle. There is increasing focus on achieving continuous integration and delivery with tools that allow for automatic builds, more effective unit testing, and greater automation of functional and non-functional testing followed by release and deployment activities. To be able to do this, sound practices with respect to source code management is critical. This reduces time spent on manual and coordination-type activities, increases speed and allows developers to focus a greater portion of their time on developing solutions.
What does this mean to coworkers?
A key expectation is for coworkers to be able to adapt and take an end-to-end solution view while working with team members across functional areas and dispersed in different locations. Flexible workspaces as well as changing virtual team compositions require coworkers to rise above the need for a fixed functional identity and work environment.
Increasing automation of manual and coordination-type tasks also means that there is an increasing focus on coworkers to have specialised skills. It is essential for coworkers to be able to find their niche, be on a constant journey of learn-ing, to hone their skills and to bring a distinct value proposition to the team. Utilising online resources both within and outside of the enterprise, participating in hackathons and focusing on finding solutions will also be key. Enterprises that can enable and support coworkers on this journey will clearly be able to attract and retain top talent.
So, overall it seems like there are some very interesting times ahead.
Yes, every aspect of the enterprise, whether it is people, processes or technology, are all being significantly impacted by today’s business world. Those enterprises that can stay agile and constantly adapt their ways might be the winners in the long term!
Umasankar Diddi is a management consultant with focus on IT and digital strategy, agile and lean organisations and change management. He is a certified executive coach and a Cosmonaut of The Group of Analysts. Umasankar helps organisations and individuals work towards their goals in a simple yet meaningful and effective manner.
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