Over the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion of flashy, bold and creative businesses. Companies that have made their mark with brightly colored business apps, wacky user interfaces and millennium filled marketing campaigns. The era of the brash business strategy has arrived, and there’s a lot to be said for such an approach. It’s not only caused more established businesses to wake up to changing customer demands, it’s also delivered countless innovations to markets suffering from stagnation.
Michael Cote is Staff Technologist at VMware.
Digital transformation has been the figurehead for most of the progress seen, but now we’ve had the excitement, we should focus on being boring. Now it’s time to focus on the day job, ensuring the business is running to the required demands, and making sure that software developments are rolled out on a continual basis, rather than in fits and starts.
In the past, IT has been the cause of many bottlenecks within business development. It took years to deliver on projects, at high cost, and with a fraction of the long-ago promised features. Plus, systems would often go down or perform poorly during an initial launch phase.
Most IT organisations still run this way, especially the larger more established organisations that have years of legacy IT systems. But an emerging cohort of high-performing companies have perfected how IT builds and delivers software.
Software release cycles should now be weeks and sometimes days, rather than years and months. By accelerating these cycles and how software is used, new business value is created more steadily, and organisations are kept alive and thriving.
The software tends to work better under such circumstances too. A result of these daily or weekly software release cycles, apps incremental changes and are hopefully unnoticed by the majority of users – the opposite of a big rollout that completely overhauls the existing apps creating confusion by trying to change too much at once Delivering a stream of small changes may seem boring, but they are also fundamental to development and growth.
Boring is reliable
For a business to be boring in the current climate may seem like a risk. But boring is safe. It’s reliable, it’s comfortable and it’s secure. For everything that new upstart businesses have, the market and customers ultimately love stability and reliability. Boring doesn’t mean relying on legacy IT systems to conduct “business as usual”.
If anything, boring means a business is using the cutting edge of technology to implement its small, software release cycles that go unnoticed. The cloud services technology epitomizing the exciting, cutting edge, yet boring, is Kubernetes. Joe Beda, one of the pioneers of Kubernetes said at KubeCon back in 2017 that “boring is good”.
A recent report found that two-thirds of respondents (64%) are using Kubernetes to run on-premises. These respondents’ businesses are using Kubernetes operations in environments that they operate today, with their deployments aimed at their existing IT infrastructure.
This brings immediate benefits to the business and helps to modernize those legacy IT systems to hopefully prove less disruptive to operations in the future. Benefits were found to be improved resource utilization (56%) and shortened development cycles (53%) – the ideal target for the modern day, boring enterprise.
By implementing continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) pipeline, businesses can shorten their application release cycles by automatically building and kicking off test automation. By working on smaller development and release cycles, the scope of things that could, or will, go wrong is reduced.
If these smaller projects form part of a wider, overall project and are rolled out in a short, sequential waterfall approach, it is often likely that the small changes will go unnoticed by the majority of users. This might seem like not much happening to the average everyday user but in reality, small changes added together to make a big difference overall. While there might be the perception of boring, behind the scenes it is far from the truth.
Businesses need to be focusing on how they can ensure they are delivering services to their customers to exceed those of their competitors. To thrive in today’s business environment, competition is a must. Innovation is key to maintaining a competitive edge and constant innovation is central to delivering business performance. Whether it’s through CI/CD principles, agile software development, or Kubernetes, software developments need to be delivered regularly and on time to create a safe, stable and reliable business.
Now, the twist to all of this is that when most of your IT stack is boring, you free up time to reliably work on the part that helps your business the most: the apps you're developing. You want IT to be as "boring" as possible so that you can make your business exciting.
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Michael is Staff Technologist at VMware and works in technical marketing. He’s been an industry analyst at 451 Research and RedMonk, worked in corporate strategy and M&A at Dell in software and cloud, and was a programmer for a decade before all that. He blogs and podcasts at Cote.io and is @cote in Twitter.