Rarely now do I open my newsfeeds or social media timelines without finding a story about a business that is making – or struggling to make – the transformation demanded by the application economy. This is a great sign of this exciting time when “all businesses are becoming technology businesses”.
Lately much of this discussion has turned to the cultural changes required for businesses to successfully transition to the application economy; and nowhere is this more prevalent than in discussions related to DevOps. While this is fantastic, I believe a critical aspect of this is not getting the attention it deserves.
The discussions of cultural transformation I witness in this context are most often (nearly always) centered on how the culture of technology professionals – most often developers, but frequently operations teams, and sometimes the senior business leaders they serve – must change. While these are great, necessary discussions, a conversation I had during a recent trans-continental flight illustrates why we must think beyond those borders.
During that flight I had the pleasure of sitting next to someone from a very successful, large, industry-leading enterprise with a long history of success. (A name I am confident most of you would know.) While still successful and leading in their field, this company realizes that changes are coming to their industry. They are being challenged by newcomers that, while much smaller, are offering compelling user experiences and innovative new business and delivery models that are beginning to gain traction with their customers. (I would bet that sounds familiar.)
We discussed the impact mobility, social media and cloud computing were having on their industry, and their approach to developing innovative responses. My traveling companion talked about some of the innovation impediments they faced. Their greatest challenge is one I encounter often: constrained thinking.
As a senior team member, my companion found they were often dealing with teams who were unable to see past the walls they had created over decades of working in a specific way. They were bound by years-old constraints that may no longer even be relevant. And in the face of those constraints, they were at risk to innovation killing behaviors like the downer dog pile.
It was not difficult for my 5-hour neighbor to ignite my passion with this topic (as anyone who has read “The Innovative CIO” or attended one of my presentations can likely attest). Though this is a frequent topic of conversation for me, the key thing that made this one different from most of the others was that my traveling companion was not an information technology professional. They were neither in “dev” nor “ops”. Furthermore, they were not a Chief Digital Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, nor were they the head of a digital line of business. My companion was a customer-facing employee in a traditional line of business. They were being directly impacted by the app economy and by the mobility and devops initiatives their company had launched in response to it.
The app economy, mobility and DevOps are impacting everyone in their organization. Today.
When you think about the cultural transformation necessitated by the app economy think broadly. The impact can often be far reaching, deep into an organization’s structure, into “old” lines of business and job functions, and far beyond technical personnel and senior leadership. And you may not be fortunate enough to have someone like my traveling companion in every one of your teams.
We need to:
And don’t forget to find ways to capture the great ideas those closest to your customers (and possibly furthest from those leading the change) are sure to have.