Transforming transformation

Perspectives

Transforming transformation

Digital Innovation & transformation

Technology is not the answer for cloud ROI.

A blog post by Mike Kavis, Chief Cloud Architect, Deloitte Consulting LLP

I recently wrote a post titled Transforming the transformation: Digital transformation as core strategy, where I talked about how transformation won’t be able to provide the returns you’re expecting unless it’s integrated into the culture of the business. In this post, I’m going to dive a little deeper into that premise and look at the components of digital transformation and how they’re inextricably linked. In my mind, no single component equals success. Unless you have the right synthesis of technology, process, and people, nothing you do will provide the ROI you seek.

Technology, by itself, is not the answer

Back in the day, companies built and implemented systems in months, or years, in comfortable software environments. Now developers have to be familiar with cloud development environments like Google Cloud, or Amazon Web Services (AWS). There is also a host of ancillary technologies like automation, containers, etc., that make cloud-native development different than traditional development.

However, while cloud has certainly changed the way companies do IT, it hasn’t necessarily changed how they think about it. I run into a lot of people who seem to think of the cloud as just their data center, relocated to the sky. They assume that all that shiny new cloud technology will provide amazing ROI and change their future. It won’t, by itself. New technology does not equal cloud ROI. Doing cloud right means fundamentally shifting the way you design, develop, and deploy applications.

Beyond technology, part one: Process

Before the cloud, application design and deployment was typically a yearly cycle at most. Now, with the ability that the cloud gives you to spin up and spin down resources as you need them, deployment is on a quicker cycle—monthly or daily in some cases—and old processes won’t work.

Fortunately, along with the rise of cloud technology, processes like CI/CD and DevOps have arisen with the aim of speeding up development and delivery and integrating development and operations to provide a better end product. But even with CI/CD and DevOps, it’s how you execute that makes the difference.

Are you looking for and resolving bottlenecks? Are you effectively monitoring and balancing resources? Are you actively dealing with integration issues? Processes written on paper are nice, but the devil—as always—is in the details. It’s essential to continually re-examine and revise your development processes to ensure that they’re working vis-à-vis what your needs are, now and in the future. Tweak them as necessary to optimize them for performance against technology and against organizational goals. But even with that, you need more.

Beyond technology, part two: People

Shiny new technology and development/deployment processes often don’t work because of the human element involved in implementing them. While I know that old dogs can learn new tricks—I have many times over the course of my career—I also know that sometimes they don’t want to, or that their mindset is so entrenched in old technologies that it’s hard to.

Let’s be clear: I’m not advocating a clean sweep of your IT brain-trust, even if their technological expertise is on the older side. What I do strongly recommend, however, is that you closely examine your talent pool to determine what skill sets you need for digital transformation and either reskill current resources or acquire new ones as needs dictate. Put highly-skilled people in the right place, give them the right training, and let them have as much autonomy to make decisions and change processes as you can stomach. In other words, hire good people and trust them.

The proverbial three-legged stool

Technology is fun—especially shiny new technology that promises spectacular ROI, but technology is only as good as the people and processes who utilize it to develop applications. And, even though the right processes can deliver amazing results in terms of great app design and speedy delivery, it’s the people executing those processes that make the difference.

This symbiotic relationship is a perfect example of the old three-legged stool metaphor. Think of digital transformation as the seat of the stool. Technology, process, and people are the legs that hold the whole thing up. Remove one of them and the stool—and what’s sitting on it—comes crashing down. Don’t be that stool. To get the ROI you seek, value your technology, to be sure, but understand that without the right processes and people in place around it, all that shiny technology is just so many ones and zeros and light running through wire.

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