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Views on How Recent Technology Developments and Transformations in the Enterprise Web Applications Space Have Their Impacts On Your Business Environment

Patrick Berry, Senior Director, Brand Technology, Build.com
Patrick Berry, Senior Director, Brand Technology, Build.com

Patrick Berry, Senior Director, Brand Technology, Build.com

If you’ve been in the technology game for any appreciable amount of time, you’ve experienced the phenomenon of some component of your previously novel system becoming a commodity available to anyone that wants it, leaving you with a complex system that is held together with institutional knowledge. These commodity technologies, as you have no doubt become acutely aware, do not always equate to inexpensive. Have you seen your S3 bill lately?

We’re seeing artificial intelligence and machine learning rapidly progress from hard-to-develop, custom solutions into commodity services that you can tap into through individual vendors with specialized product offerings or cloud platforms. Amazon, currently the undisputed leader in cloud services, has a wide offering of AI/ML as a Service and promises to deliver more.

  We must remember that the only constant is change, and our goal as an IT organization is to deliver value to our customers, internal or external, in the form of services 

This typically leads us to the question, what are we going to use these services for? I would humbly suggest reframing the question to, what do our customers need that these services could help us provide? We often get so enamored with a specific technology when it is finally available as a purchasable product, or baked into standard development frameworks, that we don’t always stop and think about what it should be used for. One need look no further than the exuberance to bake augmented reality into mobile applications when Google and Apple provided it as a standard component in their SDKs. Being able to say that your application or product checks a box for having some new technology is not a valuable reason for adoption.

So, which of these new technologies and services should you adopt? I have found the Technology Radar from ThoughtWorks to be very valuable in helping to spot upcoming technologies, and it also provides guidance on the readiness of said technology. The concept is relatively simple, yet it’s clear much time goes into its production. As with actual radar, the point is to observe how close something is to your position and in this case we take ‘close’ to be adoption. Things that are farther away are candidates for assessment or proof of concept implementations to better gauge their value to your organization.

You don’t have to rely on ThoughtWorks for this though. Your organization likely has a wealth of people who enthusiastically research the up-and-coming technologies in their areas of focus. Getting these people together for a session where they share what they’re seeing on the horizon and provide their opinions on tools and technologies is a great way to increase situational awareness across your IT organization. Exercises such as this are also valuable engagement tools that scale to almost any size organization.

Another exercise that can assist you in predicting the future is to create a value chain map of your current system. Simon Wardley, through his numerous talks and his free online book, shows the difference between your standard architecture diagram and a map. Having a true map of the technology landscape can help you make better decisions on where to invest your precious resources of time and money. A visual map will help you see the landscape and assess what movement in that landscape will require.

We must remember that the only constant is change, and our goal as an IT organization is to deliver value to our customers, internal or external, in the form of services. When we fail to deliver the value our customers desire they will go around us or abandon us altogether. With the explosion of easy to access technologies and services, I doubt that it has even been easier for our customers to move away from or avoid our provided services. Tools like maps and radars can help you identify how you can better serve your customer while staying technologically relevant.

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