Evaluate your IT culture in five questions

I was invited to address a group of CFOs on the new challenges of IT and its effect on them. At the Q&A period one of the attendants came up to me and asked,

if you had 5 questions for my cto, what would it be?

I don’t quite remember what I answered on the spot, but the question stayed in my head and kept nagging at me. Obviously, there would be different answers for different business cases. However, whenever writing software is key to an organization, these next questions should definitively be high up on the list.

Is technology an enabler of innovation in your organization?

Many companies are finding out the hard way that innovate or die is more than a catchphrase. Just ask a traditional taxi company what they think about Uber! In today’s business landscape, you can literally wake up one morning with a new competitor you never saw coming. No business is immune to this reality. If innovation is not just about technology, it is often a key component.

The business ecosystem is changing and IT must adapt. The fundamental issue here is not to determine if IT is slowing down the business — in which case red flags should already be clearly visible to your top executives. The less obvious question is to ask how IT contributes to supporting or even fuelling innovation.

  • Technology should allow a business to innovate faster, not hold back innovation.

  • Technology moves at an exponential pace and software architectures need to be “evolution ready”.

Software is often the key element to the technology puzzle. Actually, very seldom is software not involved. At Ingeno we believe that every business is a software business. We also believe that every line of code should be about the business!

How confident are you about the new software released in Production?

When new software is released into Production, what do you think are the honest expectations of your users or customers… Confidence? Apprehension? Although your customers badly need the new functionalities you are providing, do they push back on upgrades until others have had it in Production for months to “iron out” the issues? What about the actual mindset of your own developers? Confidence or apprehension?

Lack of confidence is not just a symptom; it can be a real showstopper for business innovation because it will prevent you from rapidly delivering innovation. Imagine the competitive advantage of new features in the hands of all your key customers immediately versus a long deployment cycle of months or even years! There are so many things you can’t even begin to consider as a business, so many lost opportunities, so high costs incurred when you can’t guarantee the quality of the code being delivered.

  • If developers aren’t ready to support their code in Production 24/7 it might be a sign they don’t fully trust it.

  • Automated testing should be front and center in any IT strategy.

  • Models like DevOPS are key to IT and organizational performance, but require a shift in mindset.

Can new code be pushed into Production in a matter of minutes?

Let’s assume that your code is of the utmost quality and you are confident that it will not break current functionality or cause any type of regression once in Production: you’re off to a terrific start. Now you have to make sure that your testing and deployment processes are sufficiently automated to deploy it in Production rapidly? If not, then you have to rethink you approach to software development. Many successful innovating companies of diverse business domains have adopted the concept of a continuous delivery pipeline and have implemented it at the art of their development approach.

  • New code is useless if it’s not in the hands of your users/customers. Unless it is it’s not creating value.

  • Expectation is now for very short, high quality, no-downtime releases.

  • Pressure to shorten release cycles and increase quality is incompatible with traditional delivery approaches.

  • Agile development is not synonym of short release cycles. Agile development is one ingredient. Other key ingredients such as application architecture, automated delivery pipeline, adequate infrastructure and development culture are also required.

How competitive is your TCO?

CFOs especially need to consider technology investments with a view of true cost over time. This is usually when SaaS solutions or Cloud computing in general, unavoidably come up in the discussion. Not that a Cloud option is necessarily the right choice, but when you consider all the costs associated with self-hosted, capitalized options, it is sometimes very difficult to justify them when compared to cloud based approaches. The key here is exactly that; properly considering ALL the costs of the different options. This is not easy to do. But this is definitively now part of the combined responsibility of the CFO-CTO team, no doubt about it!

  • CIOs and CTOs are more than ever accountable for the cost effectiveness of IT solutions.

  • Innovative companies inevitably turn to the Cloud, not only to increase agility, but to leverage cost benefits.

  • No CTO today can claim to have a valid IT strategy if it doesn’t consider the potential benefits of Cloud technologies.

Do you have confidence your IT is secure & compliant?

In today’s world, every business needs to be able to answer “yes” to this question. Lack of vigilance on the topic of security or adhesion to industry standards can obliterate your business overnight. I won’t bore you with the usual gloomy statistics of survival probability following a major security incident; we all know it’s something we would rather avoid. IT security requires access to the right expertise and the right processes, and it’s not cheap. I’m always surprised that among the first arguments against Cloud approaches is security; in my opinion, it often should be an argument in favorof it! Again, that’s a topic in itself, but think about all the knowledge and investment Amazon, Google and Microsoft are allocating to security? Not sure many companies can compare favourably. I think all agree that the CTO obviously needs to be on top of this one!

In today's complex and quickly evolving technology ecosystem security must be a constant focus
  • Skill sets, best practices, massive investments CAN be leveraged by a Cloud approach.

I hope that this was valuable food for thought.

Denis Brochu

by Denis Brochu, founder at INGENO

Learn more about us, how we build software and how we help companies deliver business value at ingeno.ca.