Ravi Maguluri, CTO, Sify Technologies
It is that time of the year where most of the leadership teams will be engrossed in fine-tuning the annual operating plans and goal-setting for the coming year. And without fail, they will be the beneficiaries of mostly unsolicited deluge of recommendations on trends, what are the best technologies that everyone else is pursuing mostly, what is the upcoming technology curve…all of it without tangible evidence of demonstrable success.
The most clichéd theme is how most of the time and resources are sucked into the routine of keeping the lights on and how little time and resources are available for innovation or strategic initiatives. It is of course a given that everyone wants to maximize focus on innovation rather than the mundane …or pursue the path of Transformation.
The pursuit of transformation is typically colored with a mystical mix of new and fancy technologies, the implementation of which should open up unknown possibilities for success. The first question in the pursuit of transformation should instead be about the business imperatives.
What are the top few critical business imperatives that one needs to focus on?
How can one deploy technologies for the realization of reasonably articulated business requirements or even alleviation of pain points that need attention? Often times, technology implementations that are not pursuant of clearly articulated goals will end up becoming failures. It has to be a business transformation that employs technologies rather than technology transformation as a standalone (however attention grabbing) project as a goal in and for itself.
Where does one start? Are there best practices or guiding principles for pursuing transformation?
Technology product development teams often use the Agile Methodology where a product or feature enhancement is accomplished in a series of quick paced sprints each of which is a few weeks in duration. Some of these sprints overlap each other in order to optimize time and materials used in the timeframe, typically crunched compared to a conventional project time. There is a valuable lesson in this methodology for transformational projects that eventually seek to demonstrate the benefit of optimizing time and agile methodology for comparable success.
It is important to understand that to start with, technology will only help discover the tacit knowledge spread across the stakeholders within the business. And harvesting of the tacit knowledge opens up possibilities for innovation – be it removing inefficiencies or improvising for new possibilities. It is critical to foster and reward a culture change towards Constructive Collaboration. The agile methodology alluded to above is in fact all about increasing the productivity by collaboration.
Once these two aspects of transformation are understood well – a clear set of business objectives and an associated cultural change needed to pursue the transformation – the next steps are to get into the nitty gritties of qualification and selection of the technologies and planning for the execution of the initiatives.
One basic transformation goal – ubiquitous availability and scalability
At the outset, any business service now manifests itself as a software application (or Workload) that runs in an operating environment which can be legacy data center, hosted private cloud or a public cloud such as AWS or Azure. The operating environment can be further extended to include the network that connects the different nodes/branches with each other and with the cloud data center – private or public as may have been selected.
Hitherto, the means to accomplish availability and scalability was to be very conservative and resort to overprovisioning. The goal of most of the transformation initiatives will commonly start with investigating avenues for ubiquitous availability and scalability.
The best way to realize on-demand elastic scalability and ubiquitous availability is to deploy Software Defined Infrastructure and of course invest in transforming the applications to be rewritten using Cloud Native platforms that are inherently elastic and fault-tolerant in nature.
How to start the transformation initiatives?
Often times, organizations find it challenging to keep pace with the ever-changing technologies, forget about developing competencies to evaluate options for finalization and adoption. The most common and effective way of grappling with the decision-making challenges is to define a set of Proof of Concept projects to discover sufficient information to predicate the further roadmap decisions on. Even with committed resources and funds, these activities can take very long cycle times stretching to several quarters before the right choices can be made.
How to bring in risk mitigation?
It is by now well established that, technology verification can be pursued with minimal risk by choosing the As-a-Service or Cloud Subscription Model/Methodology. The most immediate concern that follows this option is how to blend existing investments in various forms of technology to effectively coexist and collaborate with the cloud-based services. There will be further concerns about unpredictable costs, security, governance and so on.
Foster partnerships and collaboration
It is important to foster partnerships and collaboration with reputed and experienced partners who have expertise in the different technology domains. An experienced partner can bring to bear the practical wisdom of addressing similar and more complex challenges, having learnt from earliest instances of deployment.
These practices can then be implemented for the client organization and can be of tremendous advantage as a catalytic and synergistic influence for ramping up the skills and successful execution of the transformation initiative.
Businesses are in the throes of compulsion to partake in transformation pursuits as strategic differentiators in order to capture new customers, stay relevant, to stave off stagnation and so on. And the inclination will be to invest on novel technologies like voice search, artificial intelligence with machine learning and so on. By all means it is not incorrect to do so…
However, in the absence of the underlying platform to effectively support a new model, that can wreck the whole initiative, and the transformation projects will be ineffective. For example, if we have a voice search or an online chatbot to enhance the customer interaction experience, one has to anticipate the range of queries that the user can make and be ready with the API calls to be able to service the queries. Most often, what starts as an attractive experience for the end user will conclude in a rather dumb manner – the only benefit of the user gets is to get a category under which to file the full details of his query!
Why? In pursuit of their ambitious goal and haste the project teams grossly underestimate the level of detail needed for transformation. It is very important to refactor and strengthen the underlying technology platforms spanning software and infrastructure to be able to scale to provide a fresh experience to customers.
Author: Ravi Maguluri, CTO, Sify Technologies