The 4 Key Drivers for Digital Transformation in the Enterprise

The following is an excerpt of a chapter from my forthcoming ebook on Digital Transformation in the Enterprise.

Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation is effecting every company across every vertical. While no company is free from the impact of disruption in the form of rapid innovation not all industries are being effected at the same rate. Therefore each company’s transformation will look slightly different which can make it difficult to pinpoint a transformation journey that leads to success.

At its core Digital Transformation is about people or culture and technology and will impact every facet of business for many. To respond to this disruption organizations will need to make fundamental shifts to their business that will drive changes to their core. Many companies are already reassessing how they deliver value to their customers in attempt to retain their market leading positions.

Compounding the complexity in defining a transformation journey is the need for organizations to embrace experimentation and continuously innovate. In a digital economy where user needs are changing often it’s imperative that organizations have the agility to adapt to market needs and embrace failure in the quest to delight their customers. The digital economy is less about certainty and more about finding comfort in experimentation and continuous adaptation in product and process.

Transformation Drivers

Companies seldom choose to disrupt themselves. Most companies fail to evolve and transformation is required to maintain pace with market needs. There are some key drivers for transformation that have created urgency across our industry:

  1. Everyone is doing it. Every company is effected by continuous change in the digital economy so it’s a good bet that your competitors have a strategy to transform themselves and will eventually out-innovate and out-pace you. So you better get started soon or risk being left behind.
  2. With enormous change comes opportunity. Massive opportunity has and will be created for incumbents to dislodge the big behemoths as they fail to change at market pace. In extreme cases companies can double their profitability by accelerating time to market and gaining a jump on their competitors by delighting customers first.
  3. At the heart of the change is reducing costs and driving greater efficiencies. Those companies that can unshackle themselves from legacy slow-moving monolithic systems can drive even greater efficiency across their business.
  4. Apple introduced the iPhone and with it came the app store. The app store changed our expectations on how we adopt new software. We expect continuous rapid releases that either introduce new features, fix bugs or improve security etc. It didn’t take long for the enterprise to align their expectations for enterprise software. Our customers are demanding that we deliver software continuously and with greater efficiency. They no longer want to wait 12-18 months for a new feature or new release.

Getting Started

People and customers are the life blood of any successful company. Some of the most effective ways to kick start an organizational transformation is to align around a holistic customer mission. There are few roadblocks that can stop a team when they’re aligned around a mission to deliver customer value. This single activity enables teams to implement the fundamentals of the Toyota Production System some of which include, eliminating wasteful activities, improving efficient, limiting work in progress etc. Delivering these digital experiences rapidly to market and receiving continuous customer validation provides the motivation teams need to maintain rapid momentum.

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The Rise of the Digital Economy

A new economy – a digital economy – is emerging fueled by rapid technology innovation. An economy that is moving so fast enterprise companies are finding it near impossible to maintain pace. Technology is changing our lives in ways we could only have imagined 10 years ago and that rate of change is only going to accelerate.

The technology of today has allowed us to be much more efficient. Software applications have become the modern tools of business and personal life. Whether we are sending a message around the world, transferring money, or tracking a shipment, there is a software application that we can use.

These software tools allow us to do our work. They assist us in completing a task and excel at things that are repeatable. We use software by opening an application, entering some information and asking it to execute. Well, until recently.

This new generation of software is different in a small but important way. They aren’t applications anymore. They are now software services. You’ve probably been using some for a while and didn’t realize it, but it’s about to completely change your world over the next decade. The Rise of Software Services.

Staying warm, or left out in the cold?
As as example, let’s look at thermostats. Did you know that at one time all thermostats were purely mechanical? If you are old enough to have adjusted a thermostat, you have almost certainly used one, in a baseboard heater, a refrigerator, or even in a hairdryer. But there are certain drawbacks to a mechanical thermostat. It is only set on one fixed temperature, for one. That isn’t very efficient. And so we have the rise of a digital thermostat that is programmable. You can now have the furnace turned down at night automatically so you don’t have to remember. That is certainly more efficient. This is an example of a common software application. It takes our input (the schedule) and executes it tirelessly.

But it isn’t perfect, is it? What about the dreaded daylight savings time? Is it smart enough to adjust for that? What about when seasons change and you have to reset the schedule from heating to cooling? How about extended absences like a vacation? Does the schedule still execute even though you aren’t home? Of course it does. That’s what applications do.

You know what is better? A thermostat service. A service will know when the time adjusts and the seasons change. It will detect when you’re not at home. It will know the outdoor temperature and forecast and predict what impact that has on the indoor temperature. Basically, don’t ask me for inputs, just do the right thing. The Rise of Software Services.

This small but important change will drive efficiency in to everything we do. We’ll have self driving cars that know the right way from point A to point B. We’ll have music services that know the right music to play. Maybe we’ll have grocery services that know the right food to buy this week. Maybe inventory control systems will know the right way to stock the warehouse.

In a world that is becoming more technology intensive, how do we deal with information overload? By asking our software services to make small but important decisions for us.

Key emerging themes
Our future landscape and economy are already governed by some key themes:

1. Artificial Intelligence – advanced machines that not only learn our behavior but predict our behavior will be the norm. Application developers will no longer be asked to build purpose-built applications and instead be asked to program machines that can learn.
2. Digital Dark Side – there is a digital dark side to the rapid pace of innovation and expanding options to deliver software. We still need to maintain pace with GRC, Security and other regulatory requirements and doing so won’t be easy. Choosing a vendor that will abstract away these important details but make sure we’re in compliance will be paramount to balancing velocity and business integrity.
3. People – our greatest asset will need to transform. Those companies that create cultural factories where new employees are assimilated into teams that work in new ways, will dominate our future.
4. Insight to Code – companies who have not transformed how they work will soon learn that building software isn’t the hard part. Knowing what to build is at times agonizingly painful. The next generation in the Silicon Valley approach is Insight-to-Code. The study of human behavior for the purposes of building solutions with even greater predictability.

At Cognizant we get it
At Cognizant Digital Engineering, we get all of these. In co-operation with ReD Associates we can discover insight to your industry’s future. At Cognizant Labs we can develop the software that powers your service. Cognizant can differentiate you in the marketplace and help you delight your customer.

To learn more about our digital offerings and how we’re partnering with customers to redefine their competitive advantage reach out to brian@cognizant.com

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Why Your Hiring Process is Derailing all your Hopes and Dreams

It Really is about Changing the World

If you’re anything like me you embark on your job search with a mentality something like this:

I’m looking for a job that’s going to give me the opportunity to change the world (or company X) in a meaningful way. When I’m done there I’ll look back on my time with pride and know I did something AMAZING.

Sound familiar? Maybe you’re not exactly like me, but I doubt you start with the mentality that you’re going to find any old job and do something mediocre. If you do you should probably stop reading now 😀

I’ve had my fair share of ridiculous interviews. I’ve been asked all sorts of idiotic questions.

“Tell me about a time…”
“Have you ever faced X situation …”
“How would you design a microwave on a space shuttle?”
“What would you say your greatest weaknesses are?”

All of these are ridiculous especially the last one. Um, let’s see you really want me to give you reasons to NOT hire me? Thank you for the ridiculous question, I’ll see your silly question and raise it with a ridiculous answer, “my greatest weakness is I work too hard, do everything better than everyone else.” Come on!

If you’re chuckling at the insanity that’s great it was meant to be entertaining. But if you’re one of those hiring managers that actually asks these questions you probably have no business hiring people. I’m really not joking.

If you don’t relish being asked these questions then why do you ask them? And better yet who are you hoping to hire?

Here’s what We do …
I believe your hiring process should help you find the best talent. That’s why we test our developers and product managers by asking them to participate in relevant exercises that reveal their actual on the job skills.

In the case of developers we ask them to code. We pair with them. We want to see how they’re going to work with others. Will they be able to keep up? Do they have a huge ego? I value teams of people that work together. Teams that support each other and lift each other up. The confluence of everyone’s opinion leads to the best outcomes. Therefore working together is of paramount importance.

Likewise for product managers. We ask them to build a product. Why? I want to see and understand their approach. Will they listen to the requirements we specify? Will they seek to understand? Will they build a solution that solves our problems and needs. After all that’s what they’re going to be doing every-single-day. So if they don’t enjoy this exercise then that’s a pretty good sign if I hire them we are all going to be miserable.

Back to Those Hopes and Dreams
When great individuals start their job search they want to change the world. They want to find a team (family, home) where they can contribute in a meaningful way. They want to know that you’re serious about changing the world. There’s no better way to demonstrate you have no clue what you’re doing than asking them ridiculous questions.

Candidates want you to take the time to get to know their skills. They want you to value their capabilities. After all that’s what you’re hiring. A person who is going to materially change your organization and help you take on the world with their amazing skills.

If your company is embarking on a journey to adopt DevOps and transform their applications then your Hopes and Dreams are going to be destroyed if you hire all the wrong people. Not only that, you’re going to destroy their hopes and dreams. Developers, Product Managers… your teams, they’re the rock stars. They deserve more and they expect more and so should you.

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Adventures at VMWorld 2017

The Grand Canyon at night can be an ominous place. Standing on the lip staring off into the abyss gives way to a deep enveloping darkness that overwhelms all but the bravest. This is exactly how many enterprise companies feel when they look at their competitors out pacing and out innovating them. This week at VMWorld Pivotal in collaboration with VMware and Google announced the launch of Pivotal Container Service™ (PKS) in front of over 30,000 attendees. Bold announcements that may just lift the darkness for many in the enterprise …

Pivotal Container Service (PKS)

So what is PKS exactly? PKS is a commercially supported release of the open source Kubo project, adding two important new capabilities for Pivotal customers: a simple way to deploy and operate enterprise-grade Kubernetes, and a seamless mechanism to migrate to container-based workloads to run On-Premises on VMware vSphere and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). This latest move is a significant step forward in capabilities for traditional VMWare customers and a major statement that the big players are listening to the needs of their customers.

The journey to the digital economy is as perilous as wandering around the Grand Canyon in the dark. It’s easy to lose your way with no end in sight. That’s what’s happening to many enterprise companies as they lose themselves in the journey to the cloud. But cultural transformation needs software to accelerate adoption. PKS is to the enterprise what automation was to Dev + Ops. It enables seamless and rapid delivery of end-user value in a repeatable way.

PKS enables container workloads across multi cloud environments leveraging the power of BOSH for automated infrastructure provisioning, configuration and operation. It’s the commercially supported version of the Kubo release. Essentially it’s BOSH-Powered, Web-Scale Release Engineering for Kubernetes. It brings all the power of BOSH to Kubernetes. Kubo was launched by Pivotal & Google in Feb 2017 and donated to Cloud Foundry Foundation in June 2017.

Developer Ready Infrastructure

While we are at it why don’t we talk about the gap between development and operations because this can often feel like the distance from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other (no really). How can we bring these 2 groups together so we can deliver software faster? As a starting point we can enhance communication but that alone is not enough. We need to enable seamless provisioning and monitoring of applications and infrastructure. That’s where DRI comes in.

PCF needs scale, security and availability from the IaaS. It also needs robust integrated monitoring. DRI provides just this. Beyond just monitoring it also provides isolation zones. The ability to run enterprise applications alongside POC environments with complete isolation. NSX also provides a network plane for addressability.

What does all of this mean?

No one makes money from managing operating systems (well maybe the cool hyper scale guys do) but let’s face it, we’re not them. That doesn’t mean we’re not cool though. What’s not cool is when we write infrastructure code when we should be focusing on writing application code. Because applications drive our business.

The announcements this week may have lifted the darkness on the enterprise, by bringing dev + ops closer together and providing better infrastructure for us all to host our applications but much work still remains. We need to think about value based outcomes. A single-pane-of-glass that enables us to categorize workloads, move them seamlessly from one cloud to another without reducing security. We need to unify this fractured technology space so we can focus on building our applications.

I’d like to thank Kit Colbert and Paul Fazzone for inviting me to share my excitement about the recent announcements on their panel sessions this week. My excitement is genuine, we are inching towards our goals. The Grand Canyon seems a little smaller every day.

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