Think about how an elite athlete looks the moment before the whistle blows. How a wrestler looks circling their opponent. A swimmer waiting to dive into the pool. A sprinter on the starting block. A lineman anticipating the snap. These athletes are in a ready stance — the embodiment of potential energy that allows them to explode into motion in a fraction of a second.
Over the last year, I have talked a lot about this “ready for anything” approach and am excited to continue exploring it here, in our new “Time for Change” video series.
Here is why: I believe that like an athlete, every IT organization needs its own ready stance. With ever-changing business requirements and shifts in strategy, we need our technology to support the business through these changes. In fact, technology should help to accelerate those changes, not hold them back. We need the agility to swiftly respond to the next security breach, the next new technology, the next sudden cultural shift that changes the way we work (like COVID did). But what is the IT equivalent of the human ready stance?
I do not think we know.
That is why I decided to talk to customers directly and have frank conversations about how we can best work together to define that ready stance. I believe that the companies who are best prepared to drive intentional change and react to what they are faced with are the companies that will survive and thrive, despite the inevitable obstacles we all will face.
So how do we begin to get prepared for an uncertain future? By drawing on and learning from the past.
Hardware, software, cloud …?
One of the most dramatic historical shifts we have seen has been the focus on software as the primary platform for change. Whereas we once viewed hardware as the most powerful tool in our IT arsenals, we eventually came to understand that we could achieve economies of scale if we standardized hardware and layered software on top of it.
Why? Because teams can innovate much more quickly with software. Hardware measures the turnaround to prototype in months, software in hours. Software has allowed or enabled the actual demise of industries and the inception of others because the speed of innovation is so great. Marc Andreesen correctly called out in 2011 that “…software is eating the world.”
The next evolutionary leap in our ability to design and build interactive systems was the development of the cloud. SaaS has been completely transformational, because it offers an even faster feedback loop than did traditional software. Faster feedback loops are crucial when organizations must contend with tremendous changes. And in 2020, we came to understand just how critical that agility can be.
In the face of uncertainty, choose optionality
COVID forced office workers out of the office — almost overnight. How did we make the shift? In large part, by leveraging the cloud. Now, as the world begins its return to normal, savvy organizations are thinking about how they can maintain the same level of service they achieved during the global disruption. But regardless of industry, geography, or purpose, I have no doubt that one common answer will be agility.
When I say “agility,” you may jump to the conclusion that I am referring to technology, such as the cloud, microservices, or containers. But my discussions with customers and other technologists have uncovered another type of agility — one that is profoundly human.
Andy Warhol once wrote, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” In organizational terms, the companies who successfully introduce change will be able to do so only because of the people who work there.
Technologists readily dive into technical problems. But organizations are made up of people. That’s why, in my conversations with other corporate leaders, I explored the balance we must strike between the technical and human sides of doing business. What cultural changes will be necessary? What are the obstacles we’ll need to navigate in our efforts to drive change?
The answers will prove vital to determining our ready stance. In asking questions about company cultures and the human side of doing business, we uncovered a common theme: dealing with the massive changes of 2020 required thoughtful introspection.
Sometimes, from the outside, we may look at other organizations and think they are effortlessly surviving despite the hurdles we all face. You may think to yourself, as an individual or as a business leader, “this problem is unique to my situation.” But the disruption of 2020 forced people to improve and increase communication. Collaboration became the most effective methodology for overcoming unprecedented challenges. We realized that we all shared the same concerns. It is just that before 2020, people were less likely to openly speak about these challenges.
I think this very human notion of being a bit more vulnerable — a bit more open — allows us to be more real. When people have the same issues, open discourse builds tighter connections and forges a path to the most effective solutions.
Let us find IT’s ready stance together
I hope you have watched this video. We created this series to capture my conversations with other folks who are also striving to create our industry’s ready stance.
Because no matter what a company’s bottom line looks like, no matter what innovations it reveals in its grand announcements, it is experiencing its own challenges. We now know that these challenges are not unique to individual companies and that is the best way to address them is through vulnerability and communication.
Please join me on this journey. Take the opportunity to listen to these stories. You will see that the lessons learned by others will also apply to your situation. We are all navigating a similar course and trying to determine how, as an industry, we can best position ourselves to be ready for whatever changes are coming our way. I think we should face them together.