Creating positive futures in an era of uncertainty

Combine the Covid-19 pandemic with environmental change, political instability, and rapid advances in technology trends in business, and it feels as if traditional approaches to strategy are inadequate. The scale of change, in short, seems almost overwhelming. So what should business leaders do?

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This is a contributed article by Ron Tolido, CTO of AI for Capgemini.

Martial artist Bruce Lee once famously urged people to be like water: shapeless, adaptive, constantly flowing. Although almost five decades old, this wisdom seems to be made for the world today – a world in which a concept such as ‘uncertainty’ barely scratches the surface of what is going on and agility and responsiveness are non-negotiable essentials. In addition to a pandemic that continues to disrupt societies and economies, we are also grappling with environmental change and rapid technological advancements.

It’s no wonder that the traditional approaches to business strategy feel inadequate. Businesses must look to renew and even reimagine themselves over and over again in an infinite number of ways, to stay relevant and competitive.

This is particularly important in the context of technology. Technology plays a pivotal role in helping businesses respond to unpredictability, but in order to take full advantage of its many benefits, businesses need to craft technology strategies, architectures and solutions that are shapeless and formless, yet always flowing – just like water.

By applying this lens of being like water, there are several technology trends business leaders should be mindful of as they look to prepare their businesses for the flurry of unpredictable events, challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

StratOps: always changing

It’s not enough for companies to be able to simply adjust their strategy; they must be able to execute any adjustments seamlessly, transforming both business and technology in one continual, unending flow.

So what if we apply the DevOps approach enterprise-wide to achieve continuous strategy development and delivery? Let’s call it StratOps.

As we have learned from years of applying agile ways of working and DevOps, StratOps will depend on a combination of a powerful, highly automated technology platform, cross-discipline teams and a healthy, culturally established appetite for change. An enterprise that adopts this new approach to deal with a shifting business context, disturbing challenges and arising opportunities in equal measure, can see itself as renewable – morphing to a new state and readjusting to a changing external context.

IT infrastructure: omnipresent, elastic, autonomous

Like water, IT infrastructure must be fluid and flexible to the demands of any technology business. It simply needs to be delivered anywhere, whether on or off premise, through the cloud or not. To flow uninterrupted, this infrastructure needs to tap into a connected, always expanding and changing network of people, systems, organisations and ‘things’ – devices and sensors at the very edge of the IT operations scope, where unexpected change happens the most and where instant responses are essential.

This calls for infrastructure that is fully secured, automated, and orchestrated by code. Any hardware configuration, storage provisioning and network configuration is seamlessly managed through software. As such, infrastructure becomes hyper-virtualised and containerised – the main ingredients to becoming shapeless and formless, ultimately even invisible.

Data: algorithmic, federated, shared

Data has the potential to power resilience, performance, innovation and even renaissance-style breakthroughs – but only when it is shared and collaborated on with others.

Data platform architectures, traditionally inflexible, are evolving to better reflect this truth. We are now seeing new ‘data mesh’ principles and technologies that acknowledge the value of exchanging data as a high-quality product and facilitate its continuous flow.

Process: binding, portable, self-driving

For a business to move with fluidity, it must be able to quickly turn insights into action, respond to events, overcome silos, and seamlessly ride the wave of change and adapt if circumstances dictate. This is where process technologies deliver: fluid, agile, reactive and proactive, and are ultimately able to self-adapt to weather every storm.

Process technology bridges the gap between the corporate or intercorporate systems without intruding upon them. It is the glue binding microservices and APIs together. It automates tedious, error-prone human interactions, providing an always-on responsiveness and elevating knowledge workers to more inspiring, higher value work.

The combination of sensor-style, real-time capture and analysis of data with cognitive process automation capabilities, is not only relevant to Intelligent Industry – it also has the potential to transform core enterprise management processes. Business processes, such as HR and finance, will become configurable and portable, easily adapting to a rapidly changing contexts both internal and external. The only question: how long will it take before we see the first autonomous, touchless, self-driving enterprise?

As we look towards technology trends for pointers on how to become more like water, it is best to keep in mind though that technology itself does not change people or organisations. Instead, these trends simply provide guidance to business leaders on the ‘how’ of change-making with technology. As to the ‘why’, business leaders must look to their company purpose – the undisputed champion of technology-driven transformation, especially in this time of conflicting challenges and opportunities.

After all, water does not stand still; it is almost always trying to go somewhere.

Ron Tolido is Global CTO and Chief Innovation Officer Insights & Data at Capgemini. He is an expert in I&D, IT strategy transformation and applications innovation. Tolido guides global clients in understanding and embracing breakthrough technologies such as AI and autonomous systems to radically innovate and transform their business. He is also the lead author for Capgemini’s annual TechnoVision trends series and frequent co-author of Capgemini Research Institute publications.