If you’ve done it once, you can do it again

Digital transformation

Accelerating digital transformation

We’ve been having several conversations with organisations and public sector bodies lately, where Covid19 has forced them to accelerate their digitalisation plans, by months or even years. In an unprecedented move, businesses that would typically a long time to develop and deploy software – have been deploying MVPs in weeks.

Speaking with them, there’s a view that they needed to do it or they would die. Ways of working and techniques that, in the past had been rejected because:

“We can’t adapt to that way of working.”

“Yeah that works fine in Acme Corp or that local authority, but we’re different, it simply wouldn’t work for us.”

Or that old favourite killer of innovation:

“We’ve never done it like that before.”

Or simply:

“That’s not how we do things here.”

are now being considered and actively encouraged.

The people we’ve spoken to have been able to deploy software faster – in fact, they’ve had no choice… The current crisis has forced them to remove the stabilisers and the blockers, throw caution to the wind and give it a try… for many of them, it’s paid off and it’s been successful.

They’re energised because they’ve been able to put to bed some of those myths around why Agile won’t work here or why we can’t deploy something in the cloud… Many have a newfound optimism – that’s great.

The flip side

But there’s a flip side to this incredible innovation and progress. When we speak with the people who’ve implemented these systems – they always knew they could do it IF they were free of the constraints of ‘the old ways of working’ – but what’s worrying them now is how do they keep doing it.

In order to get that product out of the door, they’ve cut a whole load of corners – they’ve done whatever they needed to do to make it happen. Senior management have seen that and they’re impressed. Good on the one hand but now expectations are sky high and they see this as the new normal, they’ve done it once, they can keep doing it.

This has created a double whammy of expectation: they have proved that they can develop new products at this pace AND develop new features for the ones already out there at the same pace at the same time! In the eyes of the C-suite, they’ve become like Monzo or Spotify in the space of a few weeks… they were always told they couldn’t do it… whereas it turns out they could the whole time!

This is just the beginning, they’ve been drinking deeply from the cool IT well and now they’re drunk on the possibilities!

Meeting the expectations

Talking with the tech leaders who’ve made this happen, they’re more aware than anyone of the expectations they have set, and even more aware of the corners they cut to make this happen. You go into battle with the army you have, not the army you want… They know what should be in place to make this happen – a robust test process including test automation and the appropriate CI and CD processes to be able to deploy software continuously – evergreen IT with the processes in place, ensuring you can continue at this pace.

I recall working with a company with all of the above (and more) in place which was working well for them. Due to a very large time-bound opportunity they had to grasp, they took the business decision to “not do any test automation and just focus on features for the next couple of sprints…” they did, and then took a long time and significant amount of help to get back on track.

We work with organisations and public sector bodies who we’ve taken on this journey to digitalisation – we know, and they know it takes time, it takes buy-in and above all, it takes cultural change to make it happen. It takes people with the right skills and experience to build these processes and to keep the wheels on the wagon whilst doing it.

These organisations and public sector bodies aren’t in that place. They did what they needed to do to survive – as a one-off, so how do they move to doing it all the time?

Help is at hand

They need help. They need help to put in place the tooling, processes and assets in order to sustain the pace of progress they’ve started. They can’t build a team from scratch, make mistakes, and cause the necessary upheaval whilst keeping the wheels on the wagon – especially whilst budgets and hiring freezes are tighter than they’ve ever been.

They need help in the sense that an organisation can quickly come in, see the lay of the land, and recommend the tools and processes that are the best for them, their organisation, their technology map and their culture. They also need people to do the work, who can quickly overcome the technical debt they’ve built.

What they don’t need is an organisation to come in and build something for them, deploy their people, and then ride off into the sunset… Leaving them with the tools and assets but not the ability to move forward.

They need people to come in – take the pain away, build the assets quickly, and then hand them over. Training their own employees on the tools and letting them have a go – whilst providing support. Finally, whilst they don’t want these people hanging around forever – they want the option to retain that knowledge and ability – to be able to bring it in-house, at their own pace. They want the people with the skills, knowledge and capability transfered to their organisation, and for them to become permanent members of their team – delivering a lasting legacy and the ability to continue to keep the wheels on the wagon.

Further Reading

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