Businesses are realizing the fact: Entering the digital era means that key recognized truths have come under fire. The way most managers and consultants alike have been thinking about management, organization and cooperation are increasingly losing its validity. Ideas that not too long ago was thought to be some developers’ new-fangled craze have spread like viruses throughout the enterprise, even entering CXX-level and boardrooms.
It’s cost reductions, stupid!
We might be tempted to ask what it is that’s hitting us so hard, and why do we have to live through these changes so frequently? “It’s the economy, stupid!” is of course one answer – to paraphrase James Carville, Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigne strategist way back in the ninties when he was asked what message to prioritize in the Democratic party’s marketing materials.
This time the answer is more than just economy. It is economy driven by technology.
While James Carville was still planning Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, the world around him was deeply involved in creating the era of telecom and information technology. Internet was growing like a mad spider’s web and traditional land-line telephony was being substituted by mobile devices all over the world. Among the consequences of these new technologies was the opportunity to allow for parts of the enterprises’ business processes to move out of the company’s headquarter, even to another country or another continent. In the years before, ‘outsourcing’ had meant moving complete factories from high cost countries to low cost, but now, due to the new technologies, businesses were able to outsource specific functions while keeping the rest at home.
Inside most enterprises, when management were asked for a criterium for choosing between different alternatives, the answer would always be “It’s cost reductions, stupid”.
Now, due to high speed communication lines connecting virtually any country in the world, a whole range of low-cost, relatively high-skilled laborers were suddenly available for managers fighting for cost reductions. Call centres were among the first functions to be hit. Later came administrative functions like accounting and IT.
The wind of digitalization
Let’s move ahead a couple of decades. A new wave of technology has been building up. A new generation of buzz-words have arrived. AI, automation, robotics, IOT and Big Data, as well as containers and cloud services have become vital parts of any pundit’s vocabulary these days.
Based on the communication technologies from the previous decades, enabled by laptops and smartphones, digital technologies have invading ordinary people’s everyday lives. Having been accustomed to the dynamics and flexibility of apps and webpages these people have for long time found it difficult to understand why the solutions they use at work and towards their customers are so far away from the cool apps they can access as soon as they leave their jobs.
However, while the systems and the user interfaces still look the same and new functionality still is released just four times a year, things have happened, also with the IT department.
Stemming from an undercurrent among system developers in USA, the agile movement have for some time been catching wind. The development process is changing from waterfall to iterative. Comprehensive requirements specifications have lost ground against nimble lists of epics and user stories. New ways of cooperating between IT developers and business users are being implemented.
It’s time to market, stupid!
Things are happening inside IT too, between development and operations. Where there used to be strict boundaries and highly formal hand-over routines, a total new way of thinking has emerged. Powered by a plethora of tools and technologies those two tribes are increasingly melting together into DevOps, adding yet another level of flexibility both inside IT and between IT and business.
New technologies allow for new ways of working. New ways of working allow for new answers to old questions. When searching for an answer to the quest for criteria for choosing between business alternatives, more and more IT managers will now hear from their business peers: “It’s time to market, stupid!”.
Things are happening faster and faster. Competitors are becoming digital and new ways of interacting with the customers are disrupting well-known business models. Cost focus alone is no longer enough. Your organization as well as your technology must also provide nimbleness and agility and allow for intimate cooperation between management, users and IT professionals.
It’s obvious. It’s a no-brainer. Speed and agility are the answers to most questions these days. That’s a fact. But what we shall we do to realize that fact, when we are still stuck in our here-and-now-realities?
Between the devil and the deep blue sea
This is where we still are, at least most of us. Provided we’re not among the ingenious (or lucky) few who years ago saw what was coming and were able to move ahead, we are here and now, fighting our realities, struggling to keep our heads above the surface.
High above us, we see a shiny new world, wrapped up in glossy white-papers, flashy webinars and costly seminars. It looks both promising and convincing. But it is still so far away.
Looking down at ourselves we see the realities. Our own organisation – built around the traditional competency centres. Our own tools and technologies – bought and implemented for a variety of reasons. And we see our resources, some employed, most hired. Do they have the necessary skills and attitudes?
Around us, people are no longer asking “Where should we start?” and “How should we start?”. Such questions are obsolete. The reason is that they have already started. All over the place, from NGOs to multinational corporations, from government departments to private enterprises new technologies are being implementing and new ways of working are being introduced.
Among the key questions managers are posing these days are what to do next, how to cope with complexity and how to move from management to leadership.
Something that never goes out of fashion
The old Greeks named it “arete”. In their world, the basic dichotomy was not between good and evil, but between good and bad. “Arete” captured their conception of excellence. It meant using all their faculties—strength, bravery, and wit—to achieve real results.
We should pursue arete. Achieving real results never goes out of fashion. Neither does rational thinking.
Thus, for us in Infocom Group arete means realizing and incorporating the essence of the new situation and the new paradigms and simultaneously use our experience and our competencies to broaden our understanding of each current situation’s “whys” and “hows”. In order to achieve real results.
This is how we approach new situations. This is how we like to work. We are bold enough to call it “The Infocom Way”.