- People who do not have a smartphone yet (in emerging countries), using SMS instead,
- People who have a smartphone but are not comfortable with apps (people over 80 for instance),
- People with smartphones and simple mobile application practice, but who lack the level of abstraction and education to feel at ease, or empowered, with many navigation systems proposed by corporations in their commercial apps.
- The exponential rate of change of technologies, such as machine learning or IOT, demands a new kind of organization for enterprises, with more distributed control towards a network of autonomous cells, so that companies adapts continuously to their changing environment and the associated opportunities
- Such organizations – so called “exponential organizations” – exhibit a few SCALE-able traits: to use of on-demand resources, to leverage the power of communities, to master their own field of algorithms – I will underline this aspect in the conclusion - and to engage their customers and partners.
- The set of founding principles for such organizations is summarized with the IDEAS acronym: Interfaces (to attract external contributions), Dashboards (to support decisions from facts), Experimentation, Autonomy (which is the heart of agility and speed) and Social.
2. Digital World Refresh Rate is a Game Changer
- The first pillar is the use of open source software . This is not the only way to reuse, but this is mandatory in the digital world because the open-source community is where a lot of the software innovation occurs. There is a Darwinian advantage for open-source software: the way it is build – incrementally, around communities, continuous testing and debugging with thousands of eyeballs, constant change, etc. - produces the traits that are necessary to fit the digital environment. It is not a simple mandate since it requires strong changes in software architecture and culture for many companies.
- Reuse “at the frontier” is to develop APIs to propose and use web services. The importance of API does not need to be emphasized since the “Jeff Bezos memo”. There is also a culture dimension since API are attached to ecosystems, and since the best way to learn the API game is to participate to software communities.
- Delivering software faster requires full automation, hence the rise of DevOps and continuous build & delivery. There is more to DevOps than continuous delivery but the key point here is that modern software factories come with automation tools that may not be ignored. This is the first lesson of my four years building set-top boxes at Bouygues Telecom.
- Heterogeneous change-architecture with a focus on “agile borders” or “adaptive edge”. The most common pattern for this idea the the bi-modal architecture. Bi-modal is a very old idea in IS architecture. For instance, Octo and Pierre Pezziardi developed the empire/barbarian metaphor 15 years ago (the empire evolve more slowly than the barbarian outpost). Bi-modal is an obvious simplification since the core-to-edge differential design may be decomposed in many ways (cf. our Section 5).
4. Fractal Capability Design
- Mashup, that is, the ability to combine swiftly and deftly different services into new ones. The new term is composite applications, but I like this reference to the “old web days”. Being able “to mashup” is the first digital capability, derived from constant practice and open choices. The mashup capability is derived from many paradigms: source code integration, (micro) service-oriented architecture, tinkering culture, open source community adoption, etc.
- Complex event processing, which is the ability to collect, process and react to complex collection of events. CEP is also sitting on a large array of technologies, from event-driven architecture to rule-based automation. Complex event processing is the critical capability for conversations, and we know that in the digital world, “markets are conversation”. Obviously the arrival of massive amounts of artificial intelligence will make contextual and ambient intelligence a must for future digital services.
- Machine learning, as said in the introduction, plays a critical role everywhere. It is used to generate insights, to forecast and simplify usage, to personalize without becoming cumbersome, to detect threats and fraud. Machine learning is the critical capability for relevance, and no customer has time for irrelevant experiences in this new century.
- There are too many constraints (different integration challenges for each different for each frontier) and its is hard to find a technology that matches all of them,
- Different components have different lifecycle; thus a fractal / recursive implementation (federated collection of platforms) is more flexible and adapts more easily to different “takt times”,
- Integration is about ecosystems: open integration is even more challenging, since each frontier comes with its own culture, not simply technical constraints,
- Resilience : fractal design supports the independence of sub-regions and reduces the possibility of a SPOF.
5. Thinking Outside The Box: Four-Tiers Playground Landscape
- Business / core capabilities: the traditional domain of IT as a function for business support. A key challenge is to make business capabilities easy to reuse and to share, hence the focus micro-service architecture and internal APIs. As expressed in the previous section, mashup, tinkering (CORE requires its own sandbox) or CEP must be grown capabilities in this domain.
- Engagement capabilities: a first frontier towards customers and partners, which is characterized by strong tinkering & integration capabilities. Since the first role of the engagement frontier is to “start conversations”, capabilities such as contextual intelligence or personalization are critical.
- External engagement capabilities: where the state-of-the-art of advanced capabilities live. The topic of this whole post is to get ready to ingest massive amounts of innovation to come, and this is done by mashing up the “agile frontier” of the information systems with services delivered by advanced partners.
- Last, I have represented the “Digital customer world”, with its own capabilities. There is a larger world outside, where our customer live, and it is also getting richer of advanced capacities (such as smart assistants or machine learning) at exponential rate. Companies need to develop a symbiosis with this ever-richer digital environment and try not to compete with it.
To understand the value behind the decomposition of the “capability landscape” into four domains, it is interesting to look at the three following pairs. First, the matrix/edge distinction is important because the edge is bigger than the frontier, so companies must learn to become “parasites” of the software ecosystems that live on the edge. Leveraging the smartphone and the application stores is the most obvious example. Second, I have kept a bimodal core/matrix distinction because of the reasons exposed in Section 3, bit remember that the core domain needs to evolve and that it is also under disruptive attack from “Barbarians”. Last, I have emphasized a matrix/cloud difference because exponential technologies will grow – very fast – outside the enterprise and our challenge is to learn to use the capabilities before we master them (the mastery comes as a consequence of the practice, not as a prerequisite).