Instantly Digital: Tech Accelerates to a New Normal - Part 1

April 21, 2020 | What's Hot | 4 min read

It’s April 2020 and in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s normally a time of extended freedom from the malaise known as "cabin fever." Temperatures are rising; the sun and chirping birds put a smile on our faces as we step outside to catch a whiff of that magic spring air.

Unfortunately, one word in the paragraph above changes everything: normally. This particular April is unlike any the world has faced in modern history. We’re all adapting, we’re all insulating, and we’re all doing our best to deliver on our business goals—using ingenuity, creative thinking and where possible, humor.

Much of our traditional workweek has gone by the wayside, and it’s not just manifested in pajama bottoms that none of your colleagues see. Projects are slowed, or even put on hold for some, but that doesn't translate to slower workdays for tech professionals. Nor does this time allow for insufficient support, security, or connectivity. It is certainly not a time to make incorrect decisions, but if they happen, how quickly can an organization learn from them and move forward? With the pandemic affecting most countries around the globe, and with tech professionals working at home, a few lessons have become apparent.

How can tech fail-forward-fast to create our next, new normal? This situation has been a massive wake up call. Ready or not, most companies had to become instantly digital for their employees and customers. Think about that.

Let's take a look at some of the issues being brought to the forefront today because of this Instantly Digital phenomenon.

Leading During a Crisis

Does your organization demonstrate sound and quick decision-making, including equal influence from your tech leaders? Are your tech leaders adept with critical thinking, leadership, communication, collaboration, and other "soft-skills" that typically evade many who pursue tech as their career?

Hesitation and indecision can cripple an organization, trigger significant delays in services, or cause failure. Critical thinking skills will serve any tech leader well when necessity outweighs longer-term strategic planning.

In times of rapid change, game-changing decisions must be made in real-time. Imagine phone surveillance by one of the large carriers to track people that were in the vicinity of a virus outbreak. Tech leaders must be able to quickly weigh all of the ramifications of personal privacy, identity, security, legality and ethics before committing to requests from government agencies. Now and in the future, when you have to be fully digital in an instant, communication among tech teams is paramount.

Maintaining Agile in an Instant Digital World

Is this pandemic a threat to working in Agile teams and using Lean practices? Could some companies revert to older methods? Will siloed teams perform better or worse once they are all working remotely?

You're likely finding out now whether your organization and your tech team can deliver products, services and capabilities in a genuinely Lean-Agile manner. Organizations that have already torn down silos and restructured teams from a project-mentality to a product-mentality, guided by customer testing and data, are transitioning to fully digital much quicker.

Organizations that aren't thinking this way need to accelerate towards this or be left behind with archaic processes and products.

As an example, let’s take a look at what Microsoft has done in the past five or so years under CEO Satya Nadella. He brought in a new mindset, and everyone is pulling their oars in well-timed cadence now. It's a remarkable turnaround. DevOps, Agile, and Lean are all embraced by Microsoft's developer teams. Under Nadella, Microsoft now has more subscribers than Netflix, more cloud computing revenue than Google, and a near-trillion-dollar market cap.

Microservices take this to another level, allowing organizations to avoid risk and fail-fast. Consider organizing your teams into squads or smaller units that are focused on specific parts of a product or architecture. Perhaps now is the time to look at microservices to keep your resources focused and products and services working well or even better.

In the second part of this two-part blog, I’ll discuss how the pressures of our new reality can create not only challenges, but also opportunities. Necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s critical that we have all the facts and data before us to steer the course to tech productivity.

Mike Hendrickson is the VP, Technology & Developer Products at Skillsoft.

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