Business Technology: Adaptability Demands Flexibility
There is a reason utilities are shared: lessons from prior industrial revolutions
For nearly a decade I have shared numerous articles (both curated and authored) highlighting the need to embrace chaos in order to survive and compete in this period of rapid-cycling innovative disruption. Browse our Knowledge Exchange, and you will find two messages stand out: do not underestimate the impact of continuous tech-driven change; and, rapid adaptability is a strategic imperative required to build resilience in the face of an exponential acceleration in the rate of tech-driven change.
According to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends Report, 90% of respondents ranked adaptability as the most important attribute for business leaders to possess.
After shouting these messages from the rooftop, it’s time to answer an important question: if adaptability and resilience are critical attributes to every business's survival, what can be done now to develop such attributes?
To answer that question, it's helpful to consider what part of your business operations is most susceptible to innovative disruption. Which part of your critical business operations is the least elastic - the least able to rapidly adapt to unforeseen changes given what we know about the drivers of change? Looking at the four major pieces of the global digital ecosystem foundation - big data, AI, IoT, and cloud computing - it seems that cloud computing, which I am defining as the public cloud provided by cloud service providers ("CSPs") such as Amazon's AWS and Microsoft's Azure, is the most integral to creating an environment supportive of adaptability and resilience (Siebel).
Consider this: if you’re not able to operate your business at least in large part using a major CSPs cloud native environment, then you do not have access to the infrastructural components that enable the continuous flow of change marked by rapid-cycling innovation. The following infrastructural components serve as a foundation necessary to adapt in this digital world - network, storage, and compute resources and technologies. What makes a cloud native focus critically important is the fact that even the technologies serving as the foundation enabling continuous change are changing just as rapidly. It is therefore helpful when we think of the cloud as a critical utility serving the global digital ecosystem.
Imagine if you had to provide your own electrical power grid for your business. Imagine if you had to add to your businesses overhead costs the expense of all transportation infrastructure necessary for your employees to get to work. It is hard to imagine, because the previous three industrial revolutions have taught us that it’s best to share critical and complex infrastructure, freeing up limited capital resources to invest in your business’s core function.
I suspect that upon considering what parts of your business are most vulnerable to all this tech-driven change, your digital infrastructure will appear less adaptive and resilient than other areas of your business. When businesses embark on major infrastructure changes while continuing to operate, a common refrain I hear is, “it’s like changing the tires on a car while driving 60 mph along a busy highway.” I think that’s a pretty spot on analogy.
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