Business discussions these days revolve a lot around buzzwords and trendy jargon. A survey conducted by TrustRadius indicates that as many as 56% of respondents hear more than they would actually like to on a daily basis.
Source: September 2019 survey of 764 business professionals conducted by TrustRadius
This is an all-pervasive trend in itself and not surprisingly, quotidian in the Technology sector. Many well-intentioned conversations with CXOs centre around how their strategic & technology objectives can be met via the utilization of the latest and most happening technologies such as AI, ML & Blockchain (to name a few these days).
In many cases this mode of thought is driven by an “Abilene paradox” oriented psychology-after all, everybody else is doing it-so shouldn’t we? Even while better judgement might suggest not.
The Technology “Abilene Paradox”
Needless to say, potential and existing suppliers (whether internal (as in the case of Offshore Captive Centres/GICs)-or external i.e. Third-Party vendors), are quizzed extensively on their experience and expertise in these “happening” fields. All in order to evaluate their capacity to deliver. While an awareness of the existing environment and trends to guide decision making is indeed essential, we would venture to say there are a few things that need to be fundamentally examined:
1. Business readiness for an adaptive shift of quantum magnitude:
The first thing we share with our partners looking to venture deeper into “trend-space”, is whether their businesses are ready to make a paradigm shift-and if so- to what extent. Transformation for the sake of change is not always right- in fact, many organizations go through tremendous growth and adaptive pangs after investing large amounts in a Technology shift that they were not ready for in the first place.
Therefore, it is essential to conduct a macro level study of each business to determine its suitability when it comes to adopting new technologies.
2. Putting the cart before the horse:
Conversely, at a more granular/micro level, it is also essential to ensure that a thorough analysis is conducted of the technology status quo in comparison to where it is needed to be within a defined period. A retrospective path/trajectory mapping exercise can then establish the necessary steps to get there- and be further broken down into sub-steps with costs and timelines allocated accordingly.
3. A Firm Foundation: The Pyramid Methodology
Every business, concept, idea, no matter how revolutionary or brilliant, has to be built on a stable structure.
Consider the analogy of a pyramid, universally recognized as one of the most stable structures in the world. For a business to consider implementation or deployment of “cutting-edge” Technologies (such as Microservices, AI ML, Blockchain) at the” top” of this metaphorical pyramid, it must first have the lower, foundation layers firmly in place.
At ScrumStart, we are driving Technology innovation with the world’s Fortune 1000 & mid-size companies as well as dynamically growing emerging companies. Here are some fundamental “Foundation level” issues that ScrumStart actively addresses and resolves:
Drive towards Standardization: Lack of Standardization is very common. Standards are undefined with no firm policies for framework development, maintenance or reuse. We work with clients to drive standardization, demonstrating the many benefits that emerge as a direct consequence of the same.
Consolidation of Siloed Frameworks: Zero confluence between disparate systems and their outcomes. An apt and recurring example of this is evident in the implementation of frameworks observed in many organizations. Each department/vertical utilizes (or is in the process of implementing) its’ own framework with little or no consideration for consolidation.
System Architecture redundancies: Extensive duplication of applications, frameworks & services-permeating across all departments/verticals in the enterprise. Consolidation of these multiple technology entities is a time and capital-intensive task.
Microservices – Best Practices: Microservices have become the norm for implementation in most situations. Yet, in many cases, we observe that they are not implemented in a specific way that they should be. Microservices are about being agile in all aspects and delivering cohesive and high-performance solutions. Yet, we often observe that there still exists a Single Point Of Failure (SPOF) within the system developed- leading to low reliability. There are also dependencies which are tightly coupled. To compound the situation, the usage of different technology stacks without appropriate thought behind the same becomes a nightmare for operations and maintenance in the future.
Legacy Modernization of Recon Systems: Voluminous and tedious real-time recon system needs are sometimes addressed with rudimentary systems. Take the case of a large Telecom company that used just MS-Excel for this task. This drained manpower and validation time tremendously at each stage, creating a lot of issues. A curative fix was enabled via the adoption of open source based framework and architecture deployed after careful research and understanding of the extent of process complexities.
“White Elephant” Technology: Like the eponymous pachyderm that once obtained- must be retained, maintained & fed, many organizations have invested in licenses for sub-optimal technology that is smartly marketed to convince them that they are going with the in-thing. They then feel compelled to persist with the same, despite the many drawbacks and the time and money spent correcting flaws and managing something that was inherently unsuitable in the first place.
A CXO we spoke to in this context referred to his experience in the Implementation of major NoSQL DB as a “database for everything”- and reflecting afterward, “Did we really need this? Will we in the future? Is this the right database for everything we do?”.
All of this post-mortem questioning can be prevented. With the number of NoSQL DB’s increasing, it is apt to conduct Decision Analysis and Resolution (DAR) to analyse possible decisions using a formal evaluation process that evaluates identified alternatives against established criteria and then proceed accordingly.
Fail early, Correct Fast: Even with the strongest Technology foundations developed after rigorous analysis and planning, it is possible to fail. In such cases, the best approach is to understand the situation early into the process cycle, absorb sunk costs and work towards reinvention & optimization of the same. A case in point recounted to us by a CXO involved a custom ETL development that was 3+ years into its implementation cycle without using any structured frameworks. Diagnosis came late, and it was disappointing for all stakeholders to see it failing after so many years of effort. In this specific case, after a thorough analysis, open source technology alternatives were identified.
Cybersecurity: Today, the digital revolution is transforming the world, especially in the field of payments. Digital transactions are scheduled to hit 726 billion this year, according to a report by CNBC.
And yet, those in the know are aware that there are medium and large sized banks that are not using adequate safeguards.
E.g., Security is sometimes based on plain SSL (Secure Socket Layer) protocol-with no hardware security module (HSM) to manage digital keys for stronger authentication or provide crypto processing.
System security, monitoring and analysis- and investment in the same is afterthought-while companies are building their Technology stacks to be in line with the “Next Big Thing.”
To compound the issue, there were no standards defined for staple “Foundation” elements like coding frameworks and technology stacks. This leads to huge operations and maintenance costs across the organization. All because the company’s focus is often purely on developing and implementing the best possible apps using the latest technologies- a well-intentioned thought aimed at delivering the best customer experience-albeit, unwittingly at the cost of fundamentally fragile security.
At ScrumStart, we are Technology (and Buzzword) agnostic.
When we engage with our partners, we always make sure that our approach is “Foundation based”, starting with custom-built layers and gradually building up to the top of the Tech Pyramid. Our goal is not to ensure “Implementation of the latest technologies”-but rather to chart a robust, customized technology blueprint that is rigorously conceptualized and optimally suited to each partner’s long-term vision and objectives.
What are your experiences with “cutting-edge” technologies and their implementation? Are they all that they were made out to be? Solid Pyramids or Spinning Tops?
LetsTalk@ScrumStart.net or share your comments below!
About the Author:
Mr. Amit Angarkar, CTO ScrumStart, is a distinguished technologist. He has over 22 years of experience in the field of technology and has worked on high throughput and scalable systems with hands-on technical architecture, design, and coding. With strong management skills and capable of leading and mentoring teams to maximize productivity, has demonstrated success in challenging environments.