Digital Innovation

Digital Innovation
What's a greater concern for returning to the office? Comment how you are prioritizing...

Top Answer : The majority of our focus is definitely on the human factors as the technical factors are mostly related to things we had to solve as we went distributed.  We will need some additional technical stuff to support the human factors (eg. scheduling software to limit the # of people in the office at the same time) but solving the human factors of helping people to feel comfortable, ensuring that safety precautions are being followed, etc... are much harder and why it will be a while before we go back.

Digital transformation unlocks a ton of opportunity. How do you focus and prioritize? How do you choose what to say yes to?

Top Answer : It's really important to go from outside to in, and to think left to right. Outside-in is basically that you've got to start with the customer in mind and really understand what's happening in the market and understand what your customer is, or prospective customers are, hiring you to do: What job did they want to hire your platform or an alternative platform to do for them? Because that starts to really get you familiar with what are the obvious features that are needed to solve the requirements that they have. And then what are the non-obvious or the latent desires that they have to solve those problems? You just have to spend a lot of time on that dimension first, before you come back to determining the solution, or how to build something.  It's a foundational point because it can be so easy for an engineering and a product organization to start thinking about the things they know how to do, or technology they are comfortable building, and start building technology for the sake of technology. That's not really helpful. I think you see this a lot, for example, right now in AI companies. Every company that wants to get funded in the Valley is basically like, well, we're an AI company. And that's awesome. AI is a transformative technology. There’s going to be a ton of really big companies that come out of this wave, but I've talked to various senior IT leaders at big companies and they'll say, “look, if I talked to one more AI company that is solving a problem for me that I didn't even know I had or cared about, I'm going to scream. I want an AI company that's going to solve a problem that I do care about because I've got like 50 of them. So please help me with that.” So that's really what I mean when I talk about outside: start with the customer. Really start outside your four walls and then work backwards. That's outside-in.  Left to right is really about ensuring that as a product organization, I'm not just thinking about building technology and delivering it into the market. I've got to be thinking about how that connects all the way through to what we're marketing, what we're selling, how we're supporting it, and what our channel partners are going to do. Our product really is foundational to what the customer is hiring us to do, but it really is that whole portfolio of how what we're building is aligning to what is being sold and how what is being sold by the people on the front lines is aligned into what we're building that is important.

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How do you know that your digital transformation is going to be successful?

Top Answer : There isn’t really a great metric to say, "Hey, this is really working out or not." There's some things that just don't work out that you've got to pull the plug on. Can I tell you when you know that this is the right time or not? Not really. Each project, each engagement's a little bit different in how you go about doing things, but the worst thing you can do is be paralyzed by indecision. We always try to do things as a two way door. Usually if you embrace it and you get the right team, and you get a few projects under your belt, you know how to operate and you can make sure you have two-way doors. That way you aren't going through a one way door and you can't get back out. Make sure that when you're making decisions and you're moving forward, you can come back out that door to course correct and move quickly forward. I don't know if there is a good way to say, "Hey, are they just going slow and taking advantage of this new freedom and independence to operate independently." That's why you do have some leaders in place. If you can get some people who have done this practice, you can tell pretty quickly what's succeeding and what's not from that standpoint, but it's a delicate balance. You still need to keep an eye on it. What you can't do is paralyze people to not have any action because that's the worst thing. It's not really a science. It's kind of an art.

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Does digital transformation necessitate organizational transformation?

Top Answer : Recently, Docker has become more accepted with the mainstream technology audience. That audience transformation shifts the kinds of things you build and the kinds of problems that need to be solved. Docker is no longer only for bleeding edge early adopters who don't want to pay for anything and who have 7,000 microservices. It's now going into places that are earlier in their technology modernization journey and that need a lot more guidance and handholding. Docker is a small startup company. It doesn't have the resources to do those kinds of hand holding. And so that creates some very interesting overlaps where people are trying to learn complicated technologies. Technology has only gotten more fragmented and more complex as we've gotten things like microservices and polyglot programming over the past couple of decades. People are trying to get up to speed, and they're trying to figure out how to do it right. It remains a significant challenge for people to onboard and understand what a modern technology stack and a modern application means.  In the large enterprise context, I think a lot of it comes down to, are you willing (as a company and as a culture) to empower your people to the level necessary to really take advantage of these modern approaches? Why do you want microservices in the first place? So you can innovate independently and empower the team that owns them to do the right thing and to work with their customers and to have their own product manager and be embedded within the team, engaging with customers, building what they need, iterating quickly. If you're working within a larger corporate context (may have siloed development and operations groups in different geographical locations, or a legacy of executives leading rather than teams leading) you have an organizational structure and culture that it's going to hold you back from the benefits. It is the same as lifting and shifting an application from an on-prem data center into public cloud without doing anything to it. You're taking something that was built for infrastructure and highly available at the single node level, and you're moving it into something where you have to build for high availability at the software layer instead. If you just move it into a new environment, you're probably paying more for less because you're not taking advantage of all the capabilities necessary to improve. With the org structure and the processes you've got to put in the work to tell the right story that helps them move forward instead of telling a story that puts you at odds and makes it extremely difficult to make that kind of progress. How do you take everybody, wherever they are, and help them all shift forward and move their applications forward?

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How has GDPR and CCPA changed your use or procurement cybersecurity tools?

Top Answer : Not much directly but in some situations avoiding an agent, a plugin, or something that requires a cookie will mitigate privacy risks.  Many security technologies in how they are architected, deployed, and how the vendor gathers and shares information actually is generating a substantial amount of privacy risk

Is digital transformation always disruptive?

Top Answer : The way I describe it to my teams has always been that change is the new normal, and we need to adapt to a reality in which change is constant. That means we have to make change cheap and easy instead of making change huge and expensive in this big heavyweight organizational change management process. You can't bring in a seven figure consultant every other week when you want to roll out your next iteration or your next evolution in how you create value. You have to figure out how you operationalize that lightweight change approach so that you can continue to progress forward. Transformation is a journey, not a destination. You're never done. You're only getting better. And you're getting better as you measure yourselves by the outcomes that you defined as success. I think in the case of the travel agency I used to work for (CWT), they did a good job of paying attention to what their customers needed, where their customers were headed, and more importantly where the market as a whole was headed. It's very easy to plug your own shrinking customer base all the way to the grave. What's hard is watching where everybody's going, where the market is going and making the investments necessary that may end up cannibalizing some of your existing revenue streams to create the feature. This is your classic innovator's dilemma. And so CWT made a very conscious decision to say, "We're going to invest a lot of money over many years to make sure that we're preparing ourselves for the future." When I joined, part of my task was to help drive a lot of the platform, process, and DevOps changes necessary for us to be able to deliver at that next level.

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How do you inspire companies to take on digital transformation, even if they don’t have the money up front?

Top Answer : It's a classic problem and every business faces it.  We'll sit down with customers and say, "Let's write a press release. We're going to release something in five years from now." It seems silly to them at first, but we look at where they want to be, and then we work backwards from that. It really becomes intuitive. We don't have to build that thing on day one, but at least we know the vision that we're driving towards. We start, we fail fast, we iterate and then move forward. It is a much different way of working and thinking. Companies that embrace that have a much better idea of, not only what they want to do, but where their customers want to be, and then how to take the steps to move towards that. When I talk to customers, we'll get everybody hyped up with all the amazing things you can do to transform your business. Then it comes down to, "Oh my God, where do I start?" I can guarantee you in every business there is some group or person that wants to be first adopters. Start there. Don't start with transforming your full IT staff, or vacating 10 data centers in 2 years. Start with the first adopters, the ones that are asking for this transformation. From there you can pilot things, test it out, and prove the model. All of a sudden you start getting inertia within the company. They see the advancements are being made. I always tell them, let's start with the group, business unit, or team within your company that has been asking to do things differently. They're going to be open to it, they're going to be motivated to do it, and they want to prove to the company that there is a different way of doing things.