Last year, while perusing the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo™ Barcelona 2019 agenda of keynotes, presentations, and the list of attending vendors, I was reminded of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s insightful adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Used sarcastically most of the time, this axiom posits an inevitability that at its core is also an intriguing challenge. Its truth is a testament of our current digital transformation conundrum.
To be clear, I was excited about and thoroughly enjoyed the Gartner event, and I’m a strong proponent of digital transformation, DevOps, CI/CD, agile, and a string of other concepts that promise lasting IT salvation. Still, I suffer from proverbial realism syndrome—if we are to break the cycle of staying the same, something needs to change—we need a paradigm shift or some achievable breakthrough in our ability to execute.
Whether you are the purveyor at a local coffee hangout or the CTO of a large enterprise, your landscape has become digital. Your infrastructure is a virtual extrapolation of tangible metal, cloud variations, all sorts of tools, toolsets, bits, bytes, APIs, and apps. Business and personal consumers alike are being herded toward a digital landscape that confronts them with wonderful opportunities, glaring risks, and mountains of information.
Fact #1: Our worlds have become a maze of technology discontinuity. We in IT know, all too well, the extent to which the digital landscape has become unnervingly fragmented and (dis)connected.
Fact #2: The constant utopian promise of untapped business value derived from digital is true, and it’s both inspiring and pressure-invoking.
Fact #3: Digital disruption is alive. Organizations that lack access to the technologies, people, and processes needed to rapidly and efficiently bring new digital products to market, will be left behind to wither away.
Fact #4: Operationalizing digital transformation poses countless daunting challenges. A fool with a tool is still a fool. How we work and what we do with our familiar IT tools will only take us so far. The fate of IT and business stakeholders will be determined by the ability of organizations to capture, share, interpret, and act on data points across their business operations in an automated manner in near real time.
How can we, the collective IT community, leap forward in our quest to support digital transformation and bring our business-stakeholder brethren along with us?
Here's Where I See Our Digital World Heading
Businesses are investing heavily in all things digital (money, people, technologies, attention) to the point where IT can guide business leaders to reposition entire companies, adopt new business models for their business operations and business functions, enter new markets, and interact with customers and partners in entirely new ways at a pace that matches demand
One fundamental challenge remains. For the most part, IT and business stakeholders work separately in their own business functions. Try as we might to connect, there remains a chasm of disparity, where the language, metrics, goals, and work processes on one side of the chasm are vastly different from those on the other side.
As organizations strive to bring new products and services to market, inputs and outputs from both sides of the chasm are catapulted back and forth, creating translation errors, timing issues, context confusion, priority mix-ups, and more. While I value the infinity symbol depictions of the digital transformation journey, I’ve always wondered—are we ready to embrace the full impact of this change? And where is business represented? Should it not be incorporated here?
Enter Stage Left, Digital BizOps
One widely accepted definition of Digital BizOps is an automated decision-support mechanism that better connects business functions and enables the smooth operation of an organization.
The Digital BizOps promise presents opportunities to use technology to close—or at least dramatically narrow—the chasm of disparity. It can bring business management and IT closer together by enabling them to exchange in-context, actionable data-as-information in near real time. Digital BizOps can make the entire ecosystem adaptable and manageable while it matures the alignment of people, processes, and technology.
We’re seeing positive, active change with next-generation AI automation capabilities that drive AIOps supported by machine learning that gives organizations in-context, actionable business insights. In-context technology-supported requirements and business management toolsets give us insights into capabilities derived from real-time customer experience data.
These types of Digital BizOps innovations exert pressure on organizations to evolve work processes, gather new and better information to be used by an expanding cadre of stakeholders, and adapt more quickly.
We are standing at a pivotal point in our journey that will usher in a new era when, to coin a new axiom for the era of Digital BizOps, “The more things change, the more things change.”
The trick lies in our ability to translate technology output into understandable and actionable data points whilst enabling organizations with the decision-making power that they can act on. Digital BizOps can help us answer our questions and become enablers of people, processes, and technology within organizations.
It’s time to act by laying the foundation to succeed with innovative approaches for Digital BizOps.
There are some parting thoughts to ponder over. Enormous risks and potential grand rewards lie ahead. To avoid failure and capitalize on success, we need to answer a few questions:
Do we understand the benefits and risks of reducing the chasm between business management and IT when there is a seemingly bottomless chasm between business demand and IT capability?
Have we had an honest discussion of what digital transformation looks like for our organization?
Should we attempt to completely remove the chasm, or should we focus on strategies to bridge the divide?
What outcomes do we wish to provide to customers as a result of this journey?
As we bring IT and business closer together, how will people in both camps respond? How can we help them adopt and adapt?
Given our teams’ skills, perspectives, processes, and technical infrastructure, what can we do to prepare for this quest?
When conditions change and we learn we were wrong, will we be able to correct our course?
To navigate the risks, we need to work with appropriate partners that can guide us through this maze whilst understanding our needs to evolve. We need to invest today for tomorrow’s success. It starts with a solid technology strategy supported by adoption capability that bridges the chasm of disparity.
Pierre Viljoen is the CTO and Global Head of Enterprise Technology and Governance at HCL Enterprise Studio. He specializes in out-of-the-box thinking and challenging the status quo to drive the realization of business transformation and change leadership whilst embracing innovation. Overall big picture thinking enables him to understand the digital and business transformation required to achieve optimized business value whilst achieving inherent realization of investment value through mobilization of teams. He has extensive experience in senior leadership roles covering all areas of services delivery, commercial services sales, regional delivery management, outsourcing, P&L, bookings and revenue management, partner building, technology innovation, enterprise architecture, digital transformation, BizOps, solution innovation, operations, new business development, and business transformation. Pierre has successfully built and run services teams across the solution areas of Project Portfolio Management, IT Business Management, IT Service Management, Security Management, API Management, Continuous Delivery, and Agile Operations.