I had the opportunity to talk for a few minutes at the recent Global CIO Institute day held in London this last week. It was so good to present to real people for a change!
The day was generally about Innovation, Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Transformation and all the other topics currently on the mind of the "C level" technology executives.
I had a difficult task of talking about something that is not trending or glamorous. It is just real world practicality. Boring. I know. But we have to discuss it.
Most Of This Relates To Change. Change Is Hard.
Thinking about change and doing it are often 2 different things and most people need some kind of catalyst to make that change. I have been intending to change and go on a diet every Monday for about 10 years now. But nothing has really happened to force me to do it, even though I know it will be good for me. I have had many catalysts for change in my personal life that caused me to actually get up and do something and I am sure you have had to.
Businesses are no different. We have had one of the biggest catalysts of our generation happen. The global pandemic forced businesses to change the way they do business, interact with customers and the way their people engage and work for them.
Technology people have been at the coal face of this. We have had to move users to work remotely, get applications accessible from anywhere, upgrade telephony systems, enhance networks, implement collaboration tools and the list goes on and on. Without the technology department, many businesses would not have been able to weather this storm.
Temporary Becomes Permanent
A massive challenge we face is that many of these solutions were envisaged to be temporary for a few months at most. We are now years down the line and those temporary solutions have become permanent and there are realities around Data Protection, Data Resiliency, Security, Access, Identity Management and User Experience that we may not have dealt with fully. Those chickens will come home to roost at some point.
In a world of easy Cloud deployment, "Next, Next, Next" is your enemy and NOT your friend.
This example of a customer who moved an application to Azure to quickly respond to requirements brought on by the pandemic found this out in a very expensive way.
They experienced application performance problems. The first response was to throw more resources at it. That didn't work. It must be the Database then? So DBA's were called in to tune and optimise it. Same issue. What we spotted was that the servers were quickly set up, but with no regard given to networking and the fundamental aspect of how things talk to each other. The Application Server was talking to the Database Server by breaking out over the internet. Not ideal and a quick fix. That solution is now permanent and actually running on less resources than when it was on-premises.
What Does This Have To Do With Innovation?
It is very difficult to innovate and change when you have a poor base to work from. When technical complexity, cost, time and user experience get in the way, our initiatives will fail. We term this "Technical Debt"...and its damn expensive in the long run.
One of the biggest factors in deploying new killer apps is the users rejecting it. They have a very short attention span and a bad experience sends them back to "we like it the way it was".
The Cloud Myth
Many people have moved on-premises application like SharePoint to SharePoint Online and adoption of OneDrive and Teams has increased massively. We are now faced with the issue of ensuring the data in the Cloud is protected. "But it is in the Cloud, it is safe" is what we often encounter. That is simply not true.
You are responsible for your data and making sure it is secure and available. Even the biggest cloud vendors recommend 3rd party tools to backup your information because they are not going to take responsibility for it. You need to make sure you have adequate controls, processes and tools in place to make sure that you have both availability of systems and data should it be required.
Many of these things are not exciting. I know that. They are however necessary to discuss and be aware of. This is not the sexy stuff that makes it onto presentations to the board. This is the mechanics that allow that sexy stuff to work.
I like to use this analogy often and my marketing team hates me for it, but I can't think of a better analogy... You can have the most beautiful building or home in the world. But if your toilets don't flush, none of it really matters as you are going to be covered in....poop.