I recently read Deloitte’s “Tech Trends 2018” report, which captures perfectly an idea that continues to come up during my conversations with C-level executives—the importance of disruptive technologies working together in harmony. A big focus in this year’s report was the “symphonic enterprise,” a concept that describes strategy, technology, and operations functioning together rather than in silos.
It’s relevant because traditionally, when game-changing technologies have emerged, technology leaders dealt with the spectre of disruption by launching dedicated transformation programmes, which too often happened independently of other technology and strategic business initiatives.
This approach is far from efficient. Think about predictive analytics without alignment to big data, or even big data operating outside of cloud computing efforts. This approach limits the opportunities and potential benefits of each technology. Failing to align such programmes with the strategic and operational goals of the broader business is a missed opportunity.
Many companies come from a world where innovation is bolted on to existing technology stacks through acquisition. This means incremental changes to introduce new technologies, yet often without a view of the overall enterprise technology strategy. But the tide is turning.
Don’t stand still. Innovation is moving at unparalleled speed and will continue to do so.
There are organisations that see the move from on-premise to systems in the cloud as just the first step of a more fundamental shift. Some companies, including Netflix and Commonwealth Bank, are working towards a different kind of transformation—built from the ground up to support future technological changes.
Take AirAsia, as another example. Discussing the company’s use of technology to help AirAsia take “smart risks,” CEO Varun Bhatia told The Malaysian Reserve, “AirAsia continuously changes and reinvents itself. We’ve been around for some 16 years and things are changing very fast, so we also have to continuously be relevant to our customers. We also behave like a startup as we continuously experiment. We make a decision, we try it out, if it doesn’t work, we change direction. That’s what is unique about this company, and the founders have instilled that culture of risk-taking.”
Is it possible to bring these disruptive technologies together to achieve company-wide strategic innovation? If we think about the traditional conflicting goals of different business functions, it’s easy to see this will not be straightforward and will require those leading such change to spark a cultural shift. I would suggest that now is the time to start thinking about what technology transformation looks like within your organisation, and how you can best support this new business mindset.
Many legacy vendors out there claim to be able to conduct the entire enterprise orchestra. However, as discussed earlier, these organisations come from a different world, one where innovation was bolted on to the stack and pieced together through integrations. It’s hard to find symphonic harmony when most of the instruments have never played together before.
Innovation means having the ability to adapt and keep up with change. It means that when the next blockchain or AI emerges, that your technology provider is ready to welcome them into the orchestra—it means being built for change. These are exciting times to be conducting a winning harmony for your organization. Here are three ways that business leaders can embrace transformation.
- Business and technology leaders should think of themselves as the conductors of the enterprise orchestra. They should own that strategic purpose and the task of ensuring all technology initiatives meet the broader business goal.
- Instead of thinking about technologies in isolation, they need to consider deployment more holistically, focusing on how disruptive technologies can complement each other to drive greater value. Think of it as the orchestra’s strings, woodwind, brass, and percussion working from the same sheet of music rather than playing their own sound.
- Don’t stand still. Innovation is moving at unparalleled speed and will continue to do so. When choosing a technology vendor, take a close look at their innovation roadmap and how they are continually updating their stack with the latest technologies.
Business leaders who keep these principles in mind are much more likely to find their organizations humming along with technology.