Who in your company owns your technology stack?
Is it architected or accidental?
Does it give you a competitive advantage or does it hinder your efforts to serve your customers?
Whether you are embarking upon a digital transformation programme or delivering an isolated digital project, it is important to look beyond the functional activities of writing code and delivering software.
Sure, they play a part. A big part even. But maximising the value of technology to your organisation requires you to retain the expertise to understand your full stack of hard and soft skills.
If your company has an over reliance on dated technologies, inflexible processes, clunky tools and does not use data to understand and service your customers you are leaving space for your competitors to steal business from you.
This rule of thumb can be applied in countless industries.
The reason is this: if you are in business you have customers, you have employees and you have processes. If your processes do not allow your employees to service your customers in a timely and efficient fashion you risk losing your customers.
In this context the definitions of "timely" and "efficient" are transient, with customer expectations shifting continuously. Expectations are being driven by tech natives such as Amazon, Google and Facebook. Yesterday your customers might have thought your 48 hour lead time was wonderful, but now that Amazon can deliver same day service and Google can provision infrastructure instantly, the expectation is that you should too.
Your inefficiency is your competitor's opportunity. (Hat tip to Jeff Bezos).
If your competitors can apply new technology to improve their processes quicker than you are able to then often the only way for you to maintain an equivalent level of customer service is to increase your team size. The risk is that you are ballooning your operating expenses by investing in a slow moving workforce that does not scale, while your competitors scale easily with minimal impact on operating expenses having made a strategic capital expenditure in their digital capability and flexibility.
This is why your tech stack matters.
You need infrastructure that is stable, secure and performant so the lights stay on 24/7.
You need data that is clean and accessible that can drive profitable business decisions.
You need code that is clean and maintainable so that you can extend and innovate.
You need processes that allow you to deliver projects quickly with low risk.
You need to be able to act on creative thinking to innovate in ways that will delight your customers.
You need a strategic framework and the technical flexibility that will allow your company to continually change and evolve.
Here is a quick example showing how lack of knowledge about your company's technology stack could result in costly mistakes made while trying to upgrade your digital capability in order to better service your customers.
In today's world of microservices, APIs and decoupled systems it is easy to believe that you can procure any new application that hits the market, plug it in and start to realise value. While there is some truth in this, it is important that you scratch the surface and look beyond feature sets and slick user interfaces.
Let's pretend your company has a preference for cloud hosted SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, XaaS and you are considering a new, cloud hosted ERP system, of which there are many benefits. It has a rich API so you are confident it will integrate with existing systems. However, after building it out and completing functional tests some data is ingested. The problem is, you have a lot of data and to make matters worse it is dynamic data that needs to be kept in sync with other systems in near real time.
While testing the ingestion it becomes apparent that the cloud based ERP throttles the API to protect infrastructure and defend other customers from performance problems. The net result is that you cannot get your data ingested quickly enough to create a viable solution.
Perhaps you also have aspirations to build a data warehouse to feed business intelligence tools in order to make data driven decisions. You need to know how fresh your data needs to be and you need to consider volume of data. If you need real time data you need to ask whether your source applications can deliver it quick enough, or whether they too will need upgrading. You need to consider the benefits of ingesting from source versus the risks that could have on production systems.
The moral of the story is that the risk attached to significant projects and procurement decisions can be dramatically reduced if you retain team members with detailed knowledge of your various technology stacks and their dependencies. The alternative can be a spaghetti like mess of systems that have hidden incompatibilities that over time result in the type of siloed company that cannot keep pace with its competitors and customers.
Understanding the layers of your full stack and in particular the dependencies between them will empower you to:
- Assess your readiness to embark on large digital projects
- Make better decisions relating to digital transformation and digital delivery
- Keep your digital projects under control
- Manage system integrators and other IT suppliers effectively
- Minimise the risk of IT projects failing
- Optimise your digital budget
- Maximise innovation, velocity and quality