The Next Wave of Digital Transformation Is Upon Us
If you’re tired of reading, writing, thinking and talking about digital transformation, have I got some bad news for you.
Digital transformation isn’t going anywhere.
Not now, not soon, and likely not ever. It's as close to an infinite concept as you’ll find in the conjoined worlds of business and technology. To call it a trend or attempt to pinpoint its place in the context of a maturity cycle is to miss the point.
Digital transformation is fundamentally about leveraging technology to improve your business. Unless businesses suddenly decide they no longer need to improve (in which case, they’re not likely to be businesses for very long), or unless digital technology suddenly ceases to exist (in which case, we probably have things like a zombie apocalypse to worry about), the concept of digital transformation is here to stay.
Rather than thinking about digital transformation as a trend with a clearly defined beginning and end, think of it instead as a series of waves in the ocean, each of which makes an impact before giving way to the next one. The most recent wave brought us concepts like sprints, agile development and DevOps. It ushered in widespread automation of repetitive, predictable and mundane tasks. It led to the breakdown of longstanding business and technology silos, and it shined a spotlight on the importance of quality.
But, as is always the case, as one wave crests, another forms behind it. And even though many of us are still adjusting to the changes brought by its predecessor, the next wave of digital transformation is already upon us. Here are three ways it will impact the business landscape:
Ideas Go From Keyboard to Production in Minutes
Forget about all buzzwords for a minute. Forget about all the marketing campaigns. Forget about all the keynotes describing how digital transformation is changing the world. At its most basic distillation, digital transformation has always been driven by the need for speed (by all means, insert your favorite Maverick and Goose GIF here).
It’s about building better software, faster, and getting that software to market before your competitors. If the most recent wave of digital transformation was about putting the infrastructure in place to support unprecedented levels of speed, the next wave will be about slamming on the gas pedal. Expect to see ideas for new features go from whiteboard to keyboard to production in a matter of minutes. You read that right: we’re heading toward a day in which an idea for a new feature conceived in a morning meeting will be coded, tested and released to production before lunch. Digital transformation is ushering a whole new era of accelerated release velocity.
Related Article: Goodbye Digital Transformation, Hello Cathedral Thinking
Risk Signals Get Unified
Speed remains the lens through which organizations evaluate the success or failure of DevOps investments. It’s a simple question: are we releasing high-quality software at speed? But the more digital transformation enables development teams to crank up the speed, the more that speed will become table stakes. Think of it like a NASCAR race. Every car is fast — don’t even bother showing up if yours isn’t. But to actually win the race, you need a heck of a lot more than a fast car. You need a smart pit crew. You need to be able to collect and analyze information quickly. You need great collaboration and communication.
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That’s where we’re headed with this next wave of digital transformation. Speed is still the starting point, but the barometer for success will start to change. Success will be defined less by how fast we’re going and more by how well we’re able to collect and analyze information, specifically information that helps us unify and discern risk signals. Today, those risk signals are scattershot across an equally scattershot collection of DevOps tooling. Developers and QAs have no real way of harnessing and making sense of them in a holistic manner. Teams with visibility into code quality and UI functionality, for example, likely have no insight into API health or application security.
That’s all poised to change in the next wave of digital transformation. The ability to harness signals and leverage them into a unified view of customer-experience risks will come to define the success of DevOps initiatives. Speed will still be paramount, but the teams that best see the entire picture will win the race.
Related Article: DevOps and the Culture of Inclusion
Production Gets Experimental
Digital transformation has already ushered in processes such as continuous testing, integration and delivery (CI/CD) that make it possible to more frequently and reliably deliver code changes. To date, most of those process innovations have been pre-production in nature. That’s about to change though, as organizations increasingly focus on the concept of experimentation in production.
New technologies will enable product teams to continually A/B test different digital experiences and understand in real-time how users interact with an application. Those learnings will then be translated into near-real-time improvements by development teams. In other words, with the onset of the next wave of digital transformation comes the end of the so-called “finished” product release. If digital transformation is an infinite concept, it only makes sense that product releases are as well.
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Embrace the Waves
When you venture out into the ocean, whether you like it or not, the waves just keep coming. All you can do is embrace them. The same is true with digital transformation. If you want to build a successful business now or anytime in the future, you have to accept that the work of improving through digital transformation and innovation is unending. Accept the challenge and embrace the waves.
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