Multi-speed IT is not a new concept, but successfully scaling it outside the IT function remains elusive. While organizational agility, product velocity, and customer stickiness are hot metrics, measures such as cost effectiveness, service resiliency, and enterprise risk remain powerful drivers. For many CIOs, balancing the multiple sets of metrics has meant walking a line between investing in new ways of working and emerging technology while managing the legacy estate, workforce, and attempting to pay off technical debt. The results have often been incremental improvements, but not the meaningful change that moves the needle for the organization.
A connected enterprise is rethinking this paradigm by recognizing the power of giving everyone the ability to leverage technology systems and expertise to deliver cross-channel experiences, provide employees with enabling tools, and synchronize with partners and the broader digital ecosystem.
For the CIO, this means playing a more influential role as the enterprise technology evangelist and modern architect as well as the champion of breaking down the silos of central control as the builder of all things tech. This is a big shift in not just the culture of IT and the business, but in the structural layers of how products and services are ideated, designed, developed, and delivered.
To be clear, moving at market speed does not mean all technology services and capabilities should be managed as “products”, meaning they are governed by a product manager, continuously evaluated for investment and customer performance, and have agile full-stack teams driving continuous development and release against business Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). For example, while the rush to the cloud makes sense for many use-cases, it may not necessarily be the best fit for applications that require high resiliency, low latency, and handle millions of transactions per day in a regulated environment. Conversely, a set of applications that are customer facing, generate rich data, must adapt to frequently changing requirements, and deployed across multiple platforms should be bundled and run through a modern delivery method. Each product and service moves at a different pace based on a variety of business metrics. “Fast” will not always be the right speed. The market speed operating model continuously evaluates those conditions and has the right methods, skills and architecture to adapt.
Key elements of a market speed organization
Success in moving to a market speed operating model will require a range of delivery pathways, and the right building blocks in place to select the best route to maximize value. Speed without flexibility can be a painful process. A flexible operation dictates how smoothly work flows across the ever-changing terrain of demands. The market speed model employs more flexible governance policies and a broader supplier ecosystem that enables IT and the business to exploit new market opportunities through as-a-service and consumption-based models. For many organizations this will mean redesigning rigid controls that protect against a universe of bad things happening, to an adaptive control set that looks at the potential risk of what might happen to prevent a successful outcome and designing around those specific risks.
New delivery models will enable scalable capabilities. IT will need to broker capabilities from anywhere, anytime, through a mix of build, buy, borrow, and save to support new and rapidly changing technologies. Adding or scaling up services will simply be a case of expanding the automation footprint, without needing to recruit, train, and deploy more people. A component-based architecture will enable delivery at scale through low-code product assembly from a library of distributed patterns. For example, one insurance company transformed its monolithic, low resiliency underwriting, payment processing, and reconciliations system by deconstructing the functions into containerized components that allowed them to scale both horizontally and vertically in response to changes in workloads and customer demand. Not only did this reduce the risk of an enterprise-wide failure, it enabled the company to continually enhance portions of the value chain without disrupting the entire application.
Success in driving market speed comes through a people and culture led approach – a decidedly human organization. New ways of working, breaking down barriers, and driving towards common goals all require empowered teams. In this new collaborative environment, there is a need to build human-centric skills. Focusing on softer skills – encouraging empathy, creativity, design thinking and emotional intelligence – complemented by relevant technical expertise will lead to new ideas, innovation, and competitive advantage. As automation eliminates many repetitive IT tasks, the focus will shift to building the right blend of skills across the organization to enable the future workforce to focus on more creative, challenging activities, to build engagement. For example, AT&T is undertaking a significant re-skilling of 100,000 employees in order to thrive in the next decade as an organization that is capable of delivering “software-defined networking.”
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