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Strategy First, Technology Second Should Be Your Strategy

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Technology won’t magically reinvent your business and make all of your problems go away. That takes a strategic vision, guts, and determination. 

Execs Must Land on a Strategic Vision for Cloud Native Technologies

Every enterprise has its own set of challenges. You have a large business to run, while also navigating a changing market and evolving customer needs. And while technology can help address some obstacles, it is not a strategy by itself.

So many executives that I talk to get caught up in which technology to choose that they fail to realize the actual technology is, in many ways, the least important decision. During the next five years, the cloud native boom will entirely transform the foundations on which we build and rely every day — from company culture to developer workflow to product development.

If you have a well developed and forward-thinking strategy, it will make a tremendous difference in whether your organization rides this wave of success or becomes just another business wondering what could have been.

Think Today and Tomorrow

When I think about “digital transformation,” I come back to three key tenets  — the ability to be more innovative, the opportunity to iterate on new ideas more quickly, and becoming more responsive to changes in the market and customer needs.

While we often talk about this shift in terms of technology, or more often a singular technology, I would like to challenge you to think beyond that paradigm. While adopting new technology can enable innovation, that actually isn’t the destination. Instead, I would challenge you to think of it as adapting  — to a new way of working, operating, and growing your company.

I empathize with executives who are grappling with these challenges. You have existing business, and technology stack (or more likely, multiple technology stacks) that must be managed, while at the same time you’re trying to plan for the future. A future that is still largely unknown. That’s a difficult position for IT and business leaders.

How do you change the culture in your organization that allows you to adapt to these new changes? Which technologies do you choose that allow you flexibility for the future — however it unfolds.

Risk is inherent when so many options are available. And you don’t want to be locked into a technology that may be all kinds of wrong in three years. Believe me, I understand. The rapid cycle of technological changes can be overwhelming. And many business leaders don’t know where their company is going to be in three years, let alone the state of technology.

It’s not easy, but I encourage you to make choices based on where your business sits today and where it needs to be tomorrow. Identifying a strong vision of what you want your business to look like, and backing into that vision with a plan for culture change and technology adoption. Your technology choices should support your business outcomes, not the other way around.

This dual approach allows for some flexibility in the journey, so you can make more holistic decisions along the way — and you won’t have to uproot and redo everything you’ve built.

‘It’s supposed to be hard’ 

My advice? Sit down, analyze the market, your position and determine a business goal. Moving to the cloud should not be a business goal. The ability to write software and innovate more quickly so that you can remain competitive in the market you’re in or target in a new way — that’s your business goal.

Building agile teams, adopting new cloud native technologies or moving some of your workloads to a public cloud are pieces of the puzzle, but they’re not the entire story your business wants to tell.

Rallying ourselves to the cloud is almost a foregone conclusion now. What’s more important to consider is how cloud native technologies are quickly becoming the foundational capabilities on which we’re building the future.

I am a huge fan of technology and the cloud (in fact its my chosen profession). However, I would suggest that you focus less on the latest technology you last heard or read about, and zero in on strategies that make the most sense for your organization. Talk with your teams, your developers, your colleagues in tangential industries, and land on a vision that can be defined as something more than simply moving to the cloud.

While this is more difficult in older companies, it’s hard in smaller organizations as well. Unless you’re the type of organization that regularly metamorphoses, this is going to be a new and challenging process. And you will probably feel like you’re doing it wrong! But remember: Stay true to what matters most to your company and what will set it up for success down the line. Embrace the challenge. Not everyone has the competence, the commitment and the fortitude to do that.

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Abby Kearns
Executive Director of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, the industry-leading open source Platform as a Service. With a technology career spanning operations, product marketing, product management and consulting at a mix of Fortune 500 and startup companies.