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Sir Isaac Newton once famously wrote, "If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." 

Most organizations recognize the benefits of modernizing application delivery, from accelerated time to value and improved client experience to reduced staff burden and increased talent retention. However, achieving these objectives at scale remains arguably one of the most daunting challenges to IT teams.

Some organizations may find themselves lagging behind, debating where to begin as their environments continue to become more complex and their technical debt increases exponentially. Fortunately, Newton’s words highlight a silver lining: teams behind the curve have an advantage in that they’re able to learn from those who have come before them on the journey toward modernization.

Looking back to move forward

Many modern software delivery principles have deep roots in physical manufacturing and systems engineering. 

For example, Toyota’s philosophy of kaizen (continuous improvement) is an early approach to creating change for the better by identifying and addressing inefficient or bottlenecked processes. Central to this idea is jidoka, or immediately disrupting the actions of a machine or a person in order to address an issue before it impacts the customer experience.

Principles and philosophies such as these teach us what it means to modernize and demonstrate the interrelationship between technology, processes and people. To achieve modernization, change must occur within all three — rather than simply adopting new technologies — in order to derive sustainable benefits and gain competitive advantage. 

However, this is where the past and the present start to diverge.

Modern application delivery cannot rely on archaic models and infrequent releases

Of course, there is a distinction between the delivery of physical goods and digital value, and the key difference is the nature of iteration. Physical goods are largely built the same way with very few iterations, whereas digital goods require innovation at a rapid pace. Traditionally, many organizations relied on large, infrequent releases that prioritized service stability, but in doing so, they created a fear of increased instability with every new improvement and addition. Compromising quality to potentially lower the risk of disruption became commonplace.

Application modernization must be delivered in lockstep with modernizing our ways of working. This means smaller, more frequent releases. Rather than being a disruptive event, change becomes inherent to service delivery, providing continuous value enhancements while minimizing  negative user impact. This changes the relationship of software development — and the role of software developers — by making quality a feature of the software. The business subsequently gains greater agility to capitalize on opportunities and address challenges.

Everyone is an engineer.  Every company is a software company.

When your technology, processes and people follow a successful methodology, this systematized approach enables standardized, lean application delivery and liberates IT teams to concentrate on putting out the best software possible. Developers and system administrators become software engineers focused on delivering value for clients and the business, and the organization reorients towards change as a constant.

The impact of modernization goes well beyond IT. Today, digital interfaces and services intertwine in the customer experience driving interactions, revenue and business growth. Modernization helps to bring out the unique value that your applications provide and aligns everyone to deliver it.

By breaking down cultural silos, you allow your entire organization to see the whole picture and function as a cohesive, socio-technological entity. In this environment, everyone is an engineer. This is what makes every company a software company. It does not mean that your business is the delivery of software. Rather, it implies an engineering mentality and approach toward developing a continuous value stream. 

Learn how to rethink modernization by dispelling some common misconceptions: Read the full white paper.


About the author

I build things that build things. This includes software, people, engineering teams, technology organization, or companies.

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