By Greg Lush
The implementation of cloud platforms in recent years has become, well, a bit pedestrian. Now, the challenge seems to be in experimenting with different approaches to get folks to recognize the value. For many years we have been driving the use of applications. An application-based approach worked, the financial model for software manufacturers and the licensing clarity for businesses was effective. It all started with the box of software, floppies, CDs, and even DVDs. Nobody had any question which app did what — it was crystal clear that Word assembled sentences and Excel crunched numbers. This concept of applications extended into the workplace as well. Remember back when your company decided to deploy a new accounting system? Not a problem. Heck, for good measure, let's throw in an inventory and PO system. Still not a problem, until someone started to talk about integration, or heaven forbid the deployment of a one-size-fits-all Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Suddenly this idea of an abstraction layer between our comfortable applications created confusion and anxiety. When mobile devices started to hit the market and gain momentum, what did we see? You got it, a sea of applications. So many applications and so little value; however, the race to win the mobile consumer and business would be won by the software company with the broadest set of applications.
Much different than today, when one could argue that applications are simply a collection of micro-services bundled together — especially if you are leveraging cloud platforms. All these services stitched together, using the newest form of dynamic integration known as graphing. Set the book down for a minute, open your computer, launch Outlook and compose an email. Heck, send me an email with feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, when you are composing your message, notice the rich text features (bold, italic, formatting, etc.), the ability to drop in a picture or render a small sketch. Yep, you guessed it, these are all micro-services found in Microsoft Word, split up into little functional components leveraged across the Microsoft suite of products. In this example, they surface in Outlook. You can see similar logic within many software manufacturers’ tools. One that comes to mind is the brilliant progress made by Adobe and their Creative Cloud, wow. This behavior is not exclusive to the software giants — you can see, at varying degrees of sophistication, these tools across most cloud providers products. When the graphing term was introduced a couple of years ago, I thought, now that is a silly name. Yet, much like the seemingly chaotic genius of cloud platforms, it makes perfect sense when you consider that literally every feature of any given application may be graphed to one another. Brilliant! Enough of the quasi-technical background, are you ready to change the way that you think about computing? If your brain just jumped to thoughts of which email client to use, then we are not on the same page. Come on, man, think past email and file storage in the cloud. If that is your only destination, then I only have one thing to say: shame, shame. Talk about a great sales job… "Mr./Mrs. Customer, let me move you into the future, we will move your email and files into the cloud. You may proclaim to your clients how forward-thinking you are, phooey." Before I jump off my soapbox let me get this straight, you moved from a networked solution, to a cloud network riddled with variables and latency, and decided to keep business as usual? Have I offended you just a tad? Great, now we are ready to start discussing the solution to this comfortable yet totally absurd stalling point of email and files to the cloud. As mentioned, we MUST change the way that we think about computing, and specifically a transition from apps to outcomes is paramount. Focusing Not Only On Outcomes, But Micro-Outcomes It is a rare event when an organization contemplates an investment and does not discuss the desired outcomes, I get it. Yet, what if you turned the conversation around and started with "what" you are trying to achieve? Staying with the modern approaches from above, take the outcomes to micro-outcomes, small changes within the business which can collectively have significant impact. While this makes sense to many, it is much easier said than done. Context seems to be the biggest challenge when asking the question, how are things going? Subconsciously humans will adjust their responses in conversation to align with common points of understanding between all parties. Thus, when a technologist initiates a business conversation, folks often respond in terms of applications or software, and this will simply not work. Instead, you must encourage discussion surrounding "why" things are happening, good and bad, inside of the business. In my experience, this is a tough approach as our memory recalls only the latest details. When things are bumpy, a discussion about extracting the value of a cloud platform will be deferred. All is working well, our immediate memory says, "we are good" and change is also re-prioritized. The key is to extend past the recent memories to value-packed areas within the business, untapped veins of gold, mined easily with a deliberate use of modern digital tools. In order to transform an organization, where we change institutional habits, a new set of tools must be used. My recent experience suggests that starting with relevant "best practices," or what some refer to as accelerators offer the most comfort. The best practices may be as simple as; sign off approval, or modern meetings. Each best practice, which I refer to as a transformation element, align to high level business groupings; business performance, sales, workforce, margin, and industrial IoT. Certainly, your business categories would be focused on your business and the transformation elements would capture your micro-outcomes. Over time I learned that the number of elements could be a bit overwhelming and do not show expected outcomes before and after the transformation. Thus, a level above the elements was created, I lovingly refer to as transformation triggers (suggesting action). Triggers are based on business conditions such as control field spending, project delivery, sales not selling value, etc. Transformation elements are bundled within triggers helping folks see the magnitude of effort required to alter an existing business condition or challenge. Depending upon the organization, they will be more comfortable starting with triggers or elements, either works. Your goal is to have a conversation which extends past our short-term memory. The trick is to have a different discussion, focused on changing the way that we compute. Driving outcomes, and more specifically micro-outcomes, is the only path to finding hidden profits and undiscovered efficiencies. Remember, everyone can provide what and how, those ready to transform will always start with "why.”