Today we’re living in a world of overturned apple carts, where nothing is permanent. Trends, from politics to social and business trends, routinely turn in an instant. Unexpected change is our constant companion.
In such a world, businesses face a stark choice that should not be so difficult: Learn to adapt on-the-fly, or die.
Unfortunately for many companies, learning to be nimble — building software quickly to serve customer needs and iterating continuously to keep up with a changing marketplace — has proven difficult, not for a lack of creativity but because they’re constrained by legacy processes and methodology.
In a keynote at the recently concluded CA World ’16, CA Technologies executives Otto Berkes and Ayman Sayed made a strong case for eliminating those constraints by turning every company into what they call a “modern software factory.”
“The modern company is, by nature, anti-establishment,” said Berkes, the company’s executive vice president and chief technology offier. “”The modern company removes friction on every level. … It never does something just because that’s how we’ve always done it. … The modern company is collaborative, and it’s all powered by software.”
Or, to quote Berkes’ boss, CEO Mike Gregoire: “The modern company has been built to last if it has been built to change.”
3 Factors Driving Change
Berkes pointed to three factors driving change in enterprise software.
- The boundaries between the enterprise and the outside world have tumbled. Thanks to technology, there is no longer any difference between a company’s internal IT and the rest of the tech world. Consider, for example, rogue IT and the use of outside apps in your corporate environment. We and all of our devices are now just nodes in one mammoth, interconnected space.
- The very notions of identity and existence have shifted. It’s no longer science fiction: Our very notion of self is dramatically different as man and machine merge toward being one. Humans stand on the verge of chip implants that allow us to control computers with our minds. Moreover, all of us now have online identities, assembled with data gathered through online activity, that will likely outlive us. Why that matters to business: Your ability to harness customers’ online identities and translate it into actionable insights will determine your success or failure in the online economy.
- The nature of how we make decisions is changing. The reams of data now available, along with analytics and artificial intelligence, give companies with the right feedback mechanisms in place have the ability to meet the customer where he’s going. “The customer is king” never had more meaning.
Berkes says the chief new goal for business should be to better understand customers through the software they build. Until recently, software was thought of as supporting business. Today, it drives business and creates differentiation. To reach the new goal, companies need an outward focus — and a different process — when designing apps.
That’s where the “modern software factory” comes in. Agile should be the core principle in a software lifecycle methodology that engenders staying nimble to customer needs and collaborating across the SLDC like never before.
Some other qualities your company should be striving for:
Automation. Routine processes and testing should be automated to speed development, reduce errors and ensure more attention and resources are paid to the user experience and creating customer value.
Security. The issue of locking down you data, and your customers’ data, should move to the forefront. It should be a consideration from the start, not just as an afterthought before moving the app into production. Just as important as protecting data is the need to move a continuous security process to the background so the customer experience isn’t ruined by bothersome, slow security checks.
Insights. You need feedback loops throughout the software value chain so you’re on top of how your software factory is working and, most importantly, whether customers are getting what they need from you. There’s also the issue of uncovering unmet business opportunities. Data on the user experience must be gleaned through continuous feedback and used to inform the SLDC from start to finish.
On top of that, you need the ability to iterate and improve your customer-facing apps continuously.
“The modern software factory gives you the ability to rapidly build and deliver customer-focused innovation,” Burkes said.
Getting to that point requires more than the willingness to tear down walls within your organization. You also need the tools to perform functions such as automation and environment simulation (i.e. Service Virtualization).