Disruptive Palooza : Possibilities, Futures and Predictions

 

I started this blog entry no fewer than ten times in the last three months. I have tried under a range of titles and verbosity to map out my thoughts on the overall complexities of the roles of Enterprise Architects, and how that also comes with connotations and expectations that include the need to be a balanced mix of Consultants, Analysts, Forecasters, Futurists, Thought Leaders, Visionaries …

Yet, whilst we are meant to have those answers, we are still being asked to “shoot behind the duck” as we manage implementations, offerings and solutions that have passed their hype cycle climbs and peaks. Just like a perfect bowl of morning cereal, we are meant to wake up on the dawn of an engagement, be able to pour out a balance of business wholesomeness, technical nutrition and financial tastiness to provide the kick start needed. We’re meant to have the answers to be not too heavy on the legacy and not too light on the predictions, all while being “Just Right”.

Meanwhile, our industry is undergoing major shifts as we move away from the client-server model of the second wave of enablement to the cloud-based third wave and building rapidly to a fourth wave of contextually aware computing. With these changes comes great disruptions, as combinations of economies of scale, commoditization and an increasing abstraction from “traditional” patterns of implementation occur.

For many of us in the industry, especially in those offering IT Services, I am sure, there is uncertainty around our own jobs and the future they may hold …

 

“There is no future in any job. The future lies in the person who holds the job.”

– George W. Crane

Looking forward, I believe, requires us to develop ourselves to people with the ability to maintain potential in a world of disruption. This is something that will be achieved not by gaining a new set of technology skills, but in developing a core set of competencies.

We need to look at how to address our clients’ toughest challenges and to do that, we need to think in a different way.

Let’s take a step back …

So, in the second wave of enablement of IT, in the pre-Internet days, life was simple. Things were somewhat predictable. We had theories and laws of how things worked. Moore’s law told us how fast computing would be, physics told us how fast we could communicate and we had ideas about what that would mean, so futurists had a go at predicting the future and even made an industry out of it.

But you know it’s a saturated market when the even the economists tried to get in on the game.

During this wave, everyone planned. Everyone. Our clients, they planned their way into the industry. We planned our way into the client and somewhere along the way we planned to align the two to each other.

What we did, just like everyone else, was we tried to create services. We would create the hardware layer and the network layer and the software and the support and the governance and and and … it would cost. Hundreds of thousands. Millions. Especially if you want to do anything that is even partially substantial.

So, what happens when it costs millions of dollars to do something substantial? Well, you would get together a team – Architects, accountants, people with an MBA after their name – and they would define, and scope and plan and seek approval for budgets and if you got it then you’d hire the designers and the engineers, build the thing and then you’d go out and you’d sell it.

And then the Internet happened.

At first it just changed far we could communicate. Then it changed the way we communicated. Then it changed the way we interacted.

Then, over the last decade, it got complicated.

The world became extremely complex, extremely low-cost, extremely fast, and those laws that we so dearly cherished turned out to be just local ordinances.

The world, the industries and our clients were all thrown into a completely unpredictable world where the known cycles, timelines and principles all went out the window.

That whole before Internet innovation model? Well, throw that out the window. All of a sudden, things got faster.

What changed? Well, the cost of collaboration – via the cost of distribution and the cost of communication – got smaller, and with it, the cost of innovation went down as much as the speed it was increasing at.

Taking Moore’s Law to the cost of trying a new thing, and the costs around trying became nearly zero as people took out the old “publish or perish” and turned it into “demo or die”.

Very soon, we had Yahoo, Google, Facebook … and then we had permissionless collaboration. Then we had virtual think tanks. Then we had innovation that didn’t have or need permission. They didn’t have PowerPoints or planning meetings or project plans. They just built the thing. Then they created demos. Then new ways of raising money came like kickstarter and pozible. So, they raised a starting capital, and then they sort of figured out a business plan and maybe later on they hired some accountants and MBAs and a strategic planning analyst and maybe even an Architect.

So the Internet caused a huge disruption in the way we did innovation.

Innovation was pushed to the edges and back into garages and out to startups. This wasn’t just in the technology industry either, it moved away from the large and dare we say stodgy old institutions? The ones that had the power and the money and the authority.

And we all know this.

We all know this happened … on the Internet.

So we need to have a new way of thinking. We need to think disruptively as a matter of course.

That state of thinking, is not just about the IT industry. Being aware of the the IT Industry revolutions and disruptions is all well and good – but we run the danger of selling hammers when wrenches are needed. We need to be aware of what disruptions are occurring in the sandpits of our clients. What is the revolutionary change occurring in their industries?

For the purposes of delivering to our clients, and for our own growth, we we need to be Architects of Disruption.

As is usual, some will already consider themselves in that arena, others will find this more natural than others whilst a few will still be staring at me blankly. In the HR trade rags, there is a lot of chatter around this arena and it is spoken in a way that presume individuals either have the potential, or don’t. As someone who is inherently an INTP and tends to present as an ESFP, I can tell you it is possible to train your potential.

So, what are these elements we need as Leaders and Architects of Disruption? Here’s one list:

8 Things to seek in a leader— source 21st Century Talent spotting, HBR June 2014

Having been within the role of architecture, certain elements within this list should be familiar or already part of your career and personal development plans.

There are three elements that we need to focus on to exercise those disruptive thought process …

1. Strategic Orientation – namely the “complex analytical and conceptual thinking”

2. Market Insight – namely the “understanding of the market”

5. Collaboration and Influence – namely the “ability to work effectively with […] those not in the line of command”

The easiest of the three to target is the market insight. But each requires the focus of their own separate entry which I am happy to do in the following weeks … but until then, why not give me your own thoughts?

 

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