With 2016 just beginning, everyone is thinking about what the new year holds. HPE’s Software Services team focuses on the intersection of technology and business success, and initially, I sat down to think about “tech trends,” but soon realized that the trends IT should care most about are less about the technology that you can buy, and more about the way your organization pursues success in an increasingly competitive, and disruptive, marketplace.
Two Key Cultural Trends
Two complementary cultural shifts topped my list of what matters in 2016. There’s a major, ongoing external change in the marketplace. Then there’s a second, internal IT shift that is needed in response.
- The Age of the Customer: Customers want it now. They expect software to work all but instantaneously, they expect new products and services to appear in a finger snap, and “delay” is just another word for “take my business elsewhere.” This pressure drives the move to cloud, the urgency to improve analytics, the drive toward greater agility, the embrace of DevOps, and more. The next trend is the IT response we’re seeing to this customer-centric world.
- IT as a business partner: Because every initiative must serve the (very demanding) customer, IT leaders are accelerating their ongoing shift to service brokers, becoming hubs for not only internal IT services, but cloud and third-party technologies as well. But that shift means more than just being the department that buys a server or vets the next jumbo software package:
- The “services as a service” model reflects an enterprise desire to shift from the traditional CapEx model to an OpEx-driven model. This means you don’t buy the software and the services to implement it, but provision the services on-demand to deliver an outcome. The underlying software is a means to get there, but the solution is the real vessel.
- The cloud services broker role takes on the great complexity of services, because the days of IT just working with the same few vendors over long stretches has ended. There are countless cloud solutions that your business stakeholders will want to leverage, and as the cloud broker, IT manages the complexity—integration, onboarding, SLA governance, security—so the business doesn’t have to. And it reins in shadow IT in the bargain.
These complex new IT roles demand new skills around contract negotiations, charging back services, and having business conversations with your stakeholders. Ultimately, it means matching the best solution to your stakeholders’ needs, with the purpose of delivering value.
Bottom line: optimize around the customer. Nothing else is sacred.
Two Tech Trends
Though culture and context matter, there are some technology trends we cannot ignore. Here are two that have been on my mind—and on the minds of the customers we work with.
- The Internet of Things: The explosion of software-enabled devices will have a tremendous effect on software development: We’ll need more developers, and those developers will need new, broader skill sets. We also need to improve testing. It needs to be an earlier part of the process, and it will require a lot of automation. Testing must encompass security as well as performance. Every organization’s potential attack surface increases dramatically when internet-enabled sensors and other devices create new points of contact.
- Open Source: IT organizations are populated by tech-lovers, and we’re very receptive to new ideas. But there’s a higher level of responsibility when you take that exciting science project into your business. We’re seeing enterprise IT teams increasingly look to combine the innovations and efficiencies of open source software with more mature management and support. It’s almost “Open Source as a Service,” because you’ve got a trusted vendor helping you incorporate and maintain that initial free technology.
The Drive to DevOps
Some would argue about whether DevOps fits under “culture” or “technology.” DevOps uses technology to help transform processes and culture for better value delivery. As DevOps gains traction at the enterprise level, legacy technology and infrastructure seem to prevent a grand “transformation.” Yet DevOps is about continual improvement, not about achieving some textbook-mandated final state.
So start without the “DevOps” label. Just improve the provisioning of environments, increase your automation, and accelerate your testing. Focus on projects and processes where higher agility is needed, and the burden of legacy systems is lighter. Tackle how you deliver mobile apps to customers, not your antiquated backend payroll system.
For a broader transformation that transcends the traditional barriers between business and IT, you’re going to need executive buy-in. It takes top-down commitment to really change the flow of value from idea to design, development, delivery, and feedback, and there are many stakeholders that look at it as a threat.
Seeing the Big Picture
And we’re back to the culture discussion. While it’s important to understand technology trends and developments, it’s really about the goals your organization is trying to meet. No one should be asking, “Are we doing cloud this year? How about big data?” The question is always, “How can we better achieve our business goals?” IT leaders need to keep asking that question—which is a cultural transformation all its own.
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