Stop Making a Mess of Your Tech Investments!

Co-authored by Amit Kaul & Ryan Murray

If you are an enterprise CDO, CIO, or CTO tasked with guiding your organization through a digital transformation, you’re feeling a lot of pain right now. It’s ok, everyone else is too.
 
Your organization has spent decades investing in new business capabilities, modern technology stacks, and business line consolidations essential to bringing best-of-breed solutions to market. However, over time these deep strategic investments have been saddled with a host of side effects:
 
• Friction builds as your business processes fall out of sync with new technology
• Technical debt snowballs, resulting in painfully slow delivery by your teams
• Excess cost and operational inefficiency skyrockets as the organization grows
 
The result? You’re left with a dizzying array of legacy technology, skillsets, processes, and culture. There’s innovative energy all around you, but complexity and friction strangle the life out of new ideas. Whether you spin up a new digital group or not, integrating successful experiments back into your mainline business is like hitting a brick wall at 100mph. Innovation grinds to a halt, buckling under the weight of technical and organizational complexity.
 
And as if this wasn’t enough, you’re watching digital-first startups exploding into your market. These greenfield organizations rush to build credibility and relationships on their way to a hype-fueled billion dollar valuation, while you struggle to build execution capacity. The race is on, and the odds are not in your favor because the digital newcomers don’t have the burdens of traditional organizations. They’re faster, leaner, fearless, and most importantly they adopt platform thinking from the start.
 
Meanwhile your organization is trying to play catch-up, making siloed technology investments; upgrading to a Microservices strategy and implementing Continuous Delivery patterns, but it’s just not enough. You have digital transformation projects churning left and right, but you can’t seem to get that promised uplift. You’ve been ‘doing DevOps’ for months with only minimal adoption organization-wide. You have an expensive consulting firm advising you on how to build a microservices strategy, but your teams have gone too far and now have a chatty mess of hundreds of ‘microservices’ that look more like ‘nanoservices’. Most importantly, time to market on new products and features is approaching embarrassing levels.

Obviously there is hope or we wouldn’t be writing this. Your enterprise has what it takes to win. Over those same decades of investment in which this technical entanglement has developed, you have also amassed significant business assets; brand, loyalty, customers, and intelligence. If unlocked from the tangled mess, those assets can be leveraged to develop new lines of business, products, and services, creating competitive advantage and allowing you to leap frog everyone around you. If not, your organization will most definitely be left behind.

First things first: Unlocking these assets and righting the ship requires more than process change, innovation culture building, or buying into the latest technology hype around Cloud or Microservices. Unshackling your teams to deliver on innovations that will delight your customers requires directly attacking technology debt, as well as building a platform strategy to maximize your investment in modern technology approaches. Not in the way you think of platforms today, but an enterprise platform that unlocks your assets from the technical debt and entanglement in order to move at the speed of a startup. This is not something you buy off the shelf or rent as a service, but instead a custom execution platform that is your core engine for delivering innovation. 
 
So where do you begin? Our teams at ThoughtWorks have been thinking deeply about this over the past few years as we’ve been in the trenches helping many enterprises modernize their technology stacks, while building great new products. In order to unwind the technology mess and start leveraging your core assets, you should consider implementing three concepts that many of the digital-first organizations have mastered:

1. Focus on Removing Friction from your engineering teams, allowing them to deliver product faster and of higher quality to customers.

2. Re-architect your systems to prioritize Exposing Core Assets (business capabilities and intelligence) so that they can be leveraged in new business, product, and feature development.

3. Utilize technology tools and patterns to Experiment Efficiently and Responsibly with your core capabilities and intelligence, testing new ideas with real customers at lightening speed.

These first principles have driven the creation of ThoughtWorks’ Digital Platform Strategy, a holistic approach to enterprise technology strategy that minimizes time to market on new innovation. By taking the best of what you have built over the last few decades and joining it with new technology patterns for innovation and execution, you can free yourself from this jumble of technology, creating competitive advantage that will propel you beyond your digital-first competitors.