Digital Transformation: The term has been discussed a lot since it was coined over a year ago ten years ago† However, I think we can all agree that the “using technology to radically improve the performance or reach of enterprises” really took off when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
As we all remember, the entire world went digital in a matter of weeks and businesses raced to meet the skyrocketing consumer demand for digital products and services. In fact, according to McKinsey, global companies have accelerated the adoption of digital offerings by an average of seven years – in just seven months. I clearly remember a client of ours describing how to create 70,000 homeworkers in three days!
The same McKinsey report finds that most business leaders expect society’s digital shift to be permanent. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, is confident that the increased use of digital apps and services is here to stay. He recently announced a 26% increase to Chase’s technology budget, with the $12 billion investment focused on scaling Chase’s portfolio of digital apps and services.
However, delivering innovative technologies is only half the battle. There’s a problem lurking for business leaders: they can’t afford to let these systems fail.
One hitch in today’s vast IT ecosystem can set off a cascade of problems. And when one of these issues crashes an app or service, businesses risk disrupting revenue streams, running out of inventories, disrupting supply chains, losing productivity, and dissatisfied customers who can be quite vocal about their dissatisfaction. (Just ask companies like flaccid and facebook†
Maintaining uptime is critical to business continuity, but ensuring availability is difficult. As companies digitally transform and move their assets to the cloud and consumers adopt more digital innovations, IT environments grow in scale, complexity and vulnerability.
Therefore, keeping apps and services constantly running should be a primary business objective. While leaders have traditionally outsourced these responsibilities to the IT department, technology has become so critical to business success that availability can no longer stop there. It must be a matter of culture and leadership.
Here are five steps executives can take to embrace availability:
Increase availability to priority #1.
When considering a company’s many priorities, executives must take stock of the critical importance of availability. Does the company employ virtual or hybrid employees? Does the company interact or transact with customers online? Is income generated from online transactions? The questions can go on by industry, but chances are most modern enterprises would agree that they rely on a range of apps and services for their desired business outcomes.
Given the critical nature of digital apps and services — and their ability to work together seamlessly — executives should consider creating a culture of availability as a key performance indicator. In practice, executives can and should treat availability figures in the same way as sales figures or other respected business metrics. One senior leader should be held accountable for availability metrics and responsible for relentlessly researching and reporting these numbers alongside the company’s other KPIs.
If executives really want to underline the importance of availability, they can encourage their staff. Business leaders can turn availability into a business objective that influences pay, such as beating profit or sales targets. And they can feed these availability stats back to it comes down to†
All IT talent.
In the era of “every company is a software company”, companies can no longer hide tech talent out of sight, away from customer interaction. In fact, they should do the exact opposite, show off their IT departments and make them part of the company’s core value proposition. Actively marketing a company’s tech and geek credentials will increase confidence in the brand’s digital presence.
Of course, raising the IT team goes both ways. Executives must also show genuine trust and respect for these professionals. Even without extensive technical knowledge, business leaders can ensure: advanced tools that make the work life of teams easier by automating and improving the service guarantee. And they can give them the freedom to use modern paradigms like DevOps and CI/CD pipelines. An IT team with respect, resources and support will gain a foothold in delivering innovations and protecting their availability.
Consider incessant innovation as standard.
As most executives know, today’s digital business world requires continuous innovation as a minimum requirement to keep up with competitors. This incessant innovation requires executives to abandon risk-averse attitudes and embrace reinvention.
Besides digital innovation, reinvention and even failure, availability naturally remains a top priority. Executives need tools that allow companies to experiment and sometimes falter with the least negative business impact. After all, standing still is no longer an option.
Unleash the inner Dimon – invest!
As an enterprise relies on various digital apps and services for business continuity, executives must ensure that the entire infrastructure supporting these technologies is unparalleled.
While only the lucky few have an additional $12 billion to invest in technology, executives should be arguing for much of the pie to go to technology investment. And investments in technology should not stop at tools. Forward-thinking companies invest in next-generation tools, along with talent, training and time to innovate.
Cultivate a leadership team with technical know-how.
Executives should ask themselves a simple question: Does anyone on the most senior team have “coding” in their past or even current core competencies? While leadership teams usually possess impressive qualifications (CPAs, MBAs, and JDs), few engineers have hands-on coding experience. But given the importance of technology, executives need to surround themselves with real technology practitioners.
A Chief Digital Officer (CDO) can become a business leader’s availability officer. With deep technical experience, this role can help executives understand and benchmark their company’s digital performance and balance digital transformation efforts with operational management.
Following these steps sends a clear message both internally and externally: innovating is no longer enough – these innovations have to work. If executives want to maximize their digital investments and thrive in a digital-first world, they need to embrace availability.
Phil Tee, Ph.D. is the co-founder and CEO of Moogsoft, a leading provider of artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps). Phil has founded and led numerous companies, including Micromuse, RiverSoft (IPO), and Njini (acquired by Riverbed). An innovator and pioneer of artificial intelligence, Phil has written numerous peer-reviewed journals exploring the fundamentals of artificial intelligence, graph theory and network topology, and has filed more than 70 patents for the application of artificial intelligence.