Written by; Larry Foster, Head of Product Strategy
My first thought when I read the theme for Cisco Live 2016 – “Your Time Is Now” was that it seemed like a promotion to purchase their latest network technology. But I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, it was more about “hitting the reset button” (I will explain that later) and learning to embrace the rapid changes in technology.
Cisco and similar vendors are now more focused on promoting Software Development Kits (SDKs) versus specific hardware purchases because they’ve evolved from OEMs to being part of a global ecosystem of interconnected open cloud platforms. We’ve progressed from a world where traditional hardware replacements were more “fork-lift” engagements where new components completely replaced previous hardware. This is not the case with software. It’s more common for software innovations to introduce completely new capabilities. However, unlike hardware upgrades, software must simultaneously support the combinations of modern premise and cloud hybrid environments without disrupting production operations.
Practically every aspect of every business is enabled by technology. Technology deployment is no longer the end goal, but rather a tactical element of the overall strategic business objectives. Successful technologists cannot focus just on what’s new and cool when considering innovation, but rather what’s best for their business – and most importantly – why. The only way any person well into their career (> 35 years old), can effectively embrace the continual change in technology is to not try to correlate every new innovation to some tactical thing they already know. Instead, success comes from having a deep understanding of the value business provides their clients. Technologist that continue to be “hardware huggers” will inevitably follow the same path of obsoleting their own career. They need to move from their current legacy structure of thinking and transform into a new way of working. In essence, start a new career path that centers on understanding the value of the business they support.
Now for the reset button. The world has evolved into a hybrid of premise and cloud environments. The era of supporting large capital, multi-year deployments of massive applications is gone. To embrace the continuum of software innovations is predicated on understanding how businesses can benefit from incremental improvements. Which means environments must be architected in a way where the smallest increment of consumable value can be packaged and deployed without disrupting production operations.
Consider the smart phone. The early versions were not dramatically new but rather a packaging of existing technologies like the MP4 player, telephone and web browser. A complete shift occurred when Application Stores were introduced. Smartphone users can now obtain incremental value improvements on-demand without disrupting their production operations.
Incremental improvements can be also achieved across enterprises, for instance, in how users embrace Unified Communication and Collaboration tools. Deploying the technology can be more troublesome if it’s not executed with a deep appreciation of how their business users rely on communication to conduct daily work. The most appropriate way to achieve success is to incrementally release, measure, adapt. In short, follow a progressive and continual PDCA – plan-do-check-act methodology. This requires new insights into how businesses are consuming your services. It requires working with business units to understand the incremental strategic value of communicating over different medians such as Voice, Video, Messaging, Email and WebRTC with clients and suppliers. Organizations will need to have better intuitive and visual means of “inspecting what they expect” in order to drive decisions.
So over the coming years, the inter-dependencies of business solutions and partnerships of technologists with consumers will increase exponentially. Workflow automation will be predicated on the seamless integration of features from multiple solution providers across a dynamically configured, software-defined WAN. Global communication across people and things will increase exponentially. We need to recognize that the IoT is less about the Internet, but rather, more about the smart “things” that are providing some tactical or strategic service to business operations. All of the complex technology supporting their operations will be completely hidden from the end user because the technology team will architect their interfaces to facilitate the most optimal user experience, exposing only what is necessary to support a specific workflow activity. Generalized environments will transform into customized experiences.
Welcome to the new world. Your time is now to get started.