Nacho is CEO of BairesDev, a leading nearshore technology solutions company, and General Partner of BDev Venturesa venture capital fund for B2B companies.
The pandemic has added a new business imperative to businesses across all industries: the growing need for agility. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, as most leaders (especially digital natives) warned of this before Covid-19 even hit. The health crisis has just accelerated a process that was supposed to happen.
In today’s environment, businesses with increased agility operate more efficiently, can respond to changing demands, and demonstrate higher engagement with customers and employees. Unfortunately, this seems to be more common for digital natives and disruptors than for traditional businesses that are still in the midst of digital transformation processes.
If you’re one of the latter, you can’t afford to be left behind. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to increase your business agility and secure all the benefits that come with it. Generally speaking, you need to rethink your entire operations at multiple levels, including the strategic, structural, operational, talent, and technology levels. All of these levels require different tasks and processes, but today I’m going to focus on the last one and suggest three IT changes that can help increase your agility.
1. Embrace the cloud. One of the keys to the modern, agile enterprise is cloud computing. Gone are the days of having to have physical infrastructure to host your digital environment. Today you have a wide range of cloud-based services that can almost instantly increase your operational efficiency and reinvent your processes.
The all-as-a-service (XaaS) model, powered by cloud computing, can give you virtually everything you need to meet new demands and solve problems faster and more efficiently. From adding AI capabilities to increasing your data processing power, many cloud services can provide you with a competitive advantage and increase your agility.
Automation algorithms, testing services, storage space, devices and infrastructure, operational tools, and many other services are available through cloud computing. Adopting them can save you from having to invest in custom development, reduce your overhead, and provide you with a quick way to scale critical assets when you need them most. In the ever-changing business landscape we live in, these three elements can be crucial.
2. Ditch monolithic architectures in favor of microservices. Not so long ago, most businesses relied on huge, monolithic systems to run their day-to-day tasks. The goal was simple: to concentrate all functionality and features in a single hub so that all employees could easily access it. At first glance, this seems like a good idea. In practice, however, this poses many problems, the main one being that maintaining and upgrading such a system could be a nightmare (and that’s not to mention how difficult it is to extend such systems to incorporate newer technologies and services such as cloud computing and mobile capabilities).
Fortunately, the microservices paradigm that has been gaining popularity in recent years is a great alternative to these digital behemoths. Basically, these services focus exclusively on one function and one function only. Thus, solutions using microservices only have to combine them as needed, which can enrich a simpler system at the core.
By adopting microservices, you can increase the agility of your digital infrastructure. Updating and upgrading features is easier, as is adding new ones, removing outdated ones, and testing everything. Additionally, this approach gives your development team (whether in-house or outsourced) the ability to scale functionality as needed and with increased speed.
3. Bridge the gap between your IT team and other teams. Finally, this is a problem that many people still overlook, even though it is one of the oldest IT-related problems in the business world. I am of course talking about the isolation of the IT team from the rest of the company. It’s quite common to find that IT professionals work almost disconnected from other teams, focusing so much on the technical side of things that they often lose sight of business goals and overall priorities.
It’s a tough problem to solve, mainly because it requires an operational overhaul where you break down the IT silo by connecting IT experts with the rest of the teams. You have several alternatives for doing this, including building cross-functional teams, creating spaces for weekly meetings focused on IT needs, or adopting new methodologies that emphasize collaboration.
The idea behind doing all of these things is to put IT experts in close contact with key members of other teams, including product owners, sales and marketing, UX designers, and senior executives. This is the key to agility because requirements are reprioritized on a daily basis (even throughout the day). This way, the IT team will always work on the technical tasks that bring the most value, whether it’s integrating new technologies, upgrading an old system or maintaining the infrastructure.
Part of a larger process
As I said in the introduction, the only way to increase your business agility is to act on many levels. In this context, these three IT changes are only part of a larger process that necessarily encompasses strategic, structural, operational and talent-related changes in addition to these technological changes.
That doesn’t mean that following these suggestions alone won’t get you anywhere. They can definitely increase your agility on their own, especially if you are one of those companies that lag behind in this regard. Even if you don’t plan on embarking on a larger process (which you should, but that’s a different discussion), you should definitely embrace these changes.