Think of the greatest creative minds throughout history, the artists who open our eyes to new visions of the world, the scientists making breakthrough discoveries, or the sports stars that evolve physics-defying techniques.
Whichever individuals are in your mind, if you look more deeply, we’ll see that their unique, creative approaches are always grounded in a set of fundamentals: the artist whose training is based in perspective, colour and light, the scientist who firstly learns the essentials of physics or chemistry, or the sports hero that ploughs hours into fitness and strength training regimes.
In the same way, most creative and successful companies of the modern era have one fundamental thing in common – a strong set of core infrastructure, reliable and versatile, from which every new innovation can be borne.
When it comes to enterprise technology, we often refer to two distinct domains: ‘run the organisation’ (where the focus is on efficiency, stability, and reducing technology costs), and ‘change the organisation’ (looking at new innovations and business transformation).
But the reality is more nuanced, as the two domains often interrelate and overlap. Technology that starts out in the ‘change’ space will mature and eventually become embedded in the ‘run’ space. And not all new technologies will immediately land in the ‘change’ portfolio – consider breakthrough innovations in areas like automation and robotics, creating efficiencies on the ‘run’ side, for instance.
While the bi-modal framework certainly has its merits, looking at your IT strategy from a purely bi-modal perspective is too one-dimensional. It is advisable to engage with a partner that takes a holistic approach to their clients’ digital transformation strategies – considering projects and programmes from various perspectives.
I believe that firms should adopt an ‘outside-in’ approach, with design as the starting point.
Design – in its broadest sense – seeks to deeply understand customer requirements, draw on strategy consulting and design thinking, and ultimately discover new business outcomes that can be achieved with the tools and capabilities that one has. From there, ideas move into conceptual prototypes in the ‘change’ space, before moving further inside, towards the ‘run’ space.
Finding the balance
The real challenge, though, lies in addressing one’s core infrastructure while simultaneously building and incubating these new digital innovations at the fringes. To truly embrace the digital era, organisations need to refresh, refactor or replace some of their existing assets held within the ‘run’ area.
Here, I advocate the concept of ‘business processes as a service’ – essentially applying a technology layer that transforms core infrastructure, and incorporates the benefits of cognitive analytics, artificial intelligence, connected devices, and automation. The goal is to simplify and automate as much as possible, aggressively drive costs out of the ‘run’ portfolio, and divert as many possible resources to new programmes in the ‘change’ area.
But too many firms are failing to balance their change and run portfolios – either investing so heavily in ‘keeping the lights on’ that their innovation efforts are stifled; or swinging to the other side of the pendulum, with popular new digital services, but failing to maintain the stable IT core that enables these innovations to be sustainable.
The biggest challenge of the digital era is keeping a dual-focus on maintaining the core, while accelerating the innovation efforts at the edge. With a skilled IT partner, and with the optimal technology solutions, organisations can create a stable foundation – like the artist, scientist or sports star – from which new shoots of creativity can grow.
* Gavin Holme, Country Manager, Africa, Wipro Limited