In 1960, the average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company was 75 years. Today, the average lifespan is just 15 years and declining further. So what gives? We only have to look as far as the “Uber-effect” to understand why so many companies fail. Uber very simply and quickly disrupted a centuries-old industry with the touch of a button—making cab service part of the On-Demand Economy, where consumers get what they want, when they want it, with no delays. Today, agile companies are winning.
So, ask yourself, is your company a disruptor or a disruptee? The reality is, most companies are the latter, with IT organizations under more pressure today than ever before. Whether it’s the fear of being “ubered” by the competition, or business demands to pick up the pace, IT organizations face a balancing act of ensuring the operation of core applications and being innovative. But the truth is, innovation and maintaining the efficiencies of legacy systems can co-exist.
While the prospect of competing with born-on-the-web companies such as Uber or Airbnb might seem daunting, there are a few things you can do to become a more agile IT organization:
Automate manual processes
How long does it take your organization to deliver a simple, new feature in an application? Two days? A week? A quarter? Traditional approaches to software delivery are too slow for today’s speed of business. These often-manual processes are fragmented, error-prone and time-consuming. A recent Forrester Total Economic Impact study revealed organizations that automated their app deployments experienced an increase in speed-to-market and reduced development cycle times up to 75 percent.
Take a look at your delivery pipeline and assess where you’re testing and deployments could be automated. Are developers able to easily deploy applications to a test environment, or are they bogged down with unnecessary wait times and manual deployment and configuration steps that are susceptible to errors? If you’re facing a development-testing cycle of two to five days, that’s simply too long. Look to adopt DevOps by automating release and deployment processes wherever you can and aim for continuous delivery, so you can push apps out quickly and be more agile.
Lean and Mean Equals Agile
No company will risk its core systems of record for the sake of innovation. At the same time, you cannot invest in becoming innovative if the delivery and maintenance of your core systems are inefficient. The goal is to make these core systems as lean as possible by automating repetitive tasks, freeing resources that can be directed toward speeding innovation. Today there are cloud technologies and services and API management systems that can help organizations streamline the maintenance and operations of these core systems and expose their services as APIs for consumption by new applications.
Create a multispeed IT process
While you’re making your core systems as lean and agile as possible, create a second layer, where innovation and agility are the key focus. As your core systems are exposed as APIs, you can begin to use their business functions and services to experiment and innovate. Cloud-based development platforms allow organizations to stand up complete development, test and production environments quickly to incubate and deliver new, innovative applications that consume these services from the core systems, delivering new and innovative business capabilities in a fraction of the time traditional methods would take. These innovative apps can be delivered and decoupled from the speed of delivery of the core systems, enabling what is known as multispeed IT.
While the status quo might seem like an easier option, by doing nothing, you risk not only being passed by the competition, but your line of business leaders may bypass you altogether, turning to “shadow-IT” and outside vendors to meet their needs. While this hypergrowth of the tech industry is unprecedented, it is not a fad. The pace of innovation will only get faster and your only options are to fail or adapt and be agile.
About the Author / Sanjeev Sharma
Sanjeev Sharma, CTO and Distinguished Engineer – DevOps Technical Sales and Adoption, IBM Cloud Unit, is a 20-year veteran of the software industry with expertise in DevOps, mobile development and UX, lean and agile transformation, application lifecycle management and software supply chains. He is a DevOps thought leader at IBM and speaks regularly at conferences. He has written several papers and is the author of the “DevOps for Dummies” book.