Dr. Jai Menon, Group Director, Technology – HT Media
Though clichéd, Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest/most adaptive continues to play an important role in business evolution. Over the past couple of decades we have seen a deeper implication of this principle … with some old established businesses collapsing and some new age businesses zooming. Organizations that have survived reflect quite often on their ability to change and adapt – especially, in their underlying technology models. Today, we stand at a unique crossroad where we have two distinct technology styles, yet their value to evolving businesses can be unleashed only if a well thought out approach for co-existence can be worked out. Herein lies the genesis of the “e2i” (enterprise to internet) framework.
Existence of two colliding worlds
With dramatic advances in business requirements as well as the role of technology, especially over the past five years, there are broadly two styles of technology emerging – enterprise and internet. Startups typically embrace the “internet” style to innovate speedy outcomes (success/failure) and scale their businesses with a “pay per use” variable model. Traditional enterprises on the other hand have the legacy of “enterprise” style technology typically associated with long cycle times and capital expenditure.On surface the two styles seem like they are poles apart, but the two appear to be meeting in what is evidently emerging as a new continuum.
Why the continuum?
Enterprises need them …
Enterprises are finding that their business models are largely at inflection points due to the onslaught of digital disruptors. For example, the telecom industry is making the transition from voice/sms to data/content, with competing forces kicking in from the OTT (over the top) players. In another example, the media industry is finding that audience and advertisers are rapidly shifting from traditional media to digital channels.Traditional manufacturing is being challenged by recent advancements in 3D printing, thus giving corner shops the ability to compete with larger players with innovative products at competitive pricing. It is precisely at these inflection points that enterprises find the need to maintain their traditional (read “enterprise”) tech models while simultaneously being nimble with light-weight contemporary (read “internet”) technologies. In fact, several government projects globally arealso witnessing this trend.
New age companies need them …
Startups that scale find that they now need mature IT systems (e.g. ERP, SCM, GRC) for financial rigor and compliance. In addition, they also find that they may need to relook their architecture blueprint and topologies to build for sustained scale and continuity. These forces, in turn,nudge them to start looking at enterprise style technologies.
In short, a continuum of needs is beginning to emerge … and sowe need a framework for addressing this.
“e2i” (enterprise to internet) is a simple framework to address this continuum, described as a 2x2 grid comprising a 2-layer applications/infrastructure stack of enterprise and internet styles respectively.
The enterprise stack is representative of the classic style of IT, symbolized through “waterfall” development techniques with long cycle times between requirements, SOW (statement of work), drops, UAT and production. Applications are typically of the COTS (commercial of the shelf) variety. Infrastructure is typically of the in-house data center or private cloud variety. These are characterized by capex investments followed by ongoing opex (e.g. AMCs) and depreciation benefits.
The internet stack is representative of the contemporary style of technology, symbolized through “agile” development techniques with shorter scrums/sprints, and now, more recently, moving towards continuous development through newer dev-ops techniques. Applications are typically in-house engineered open-source code modules or SaaS (Software as a Service) implementations. Infrastructure is typically of the public cloud (e.g. compute, storage, content delivery network) variety. These are characterized by opex “pay by the drink” investments.
Consumption and supply side applicability
The first thing about this framework is to check whether e2i is applicable to you or not. Given the massive digitalization that is underway, chances are that the answer would be “yes”. Consequently, it also becomes evident that this framework is applicable both for the consumption side and for the supply side.
On the consumption side, CIOs and CTOs would need to chart out a roadmap (consistent) with their business models to have parallel tracks running for “e” and “i” – with temporal bridges between these tracks. Investment models – especially around the balance of capex and opex – would need to be drawn out so that there is predictability for technology costs/benefits over (say) a 3-year period. The organization would need to be “brought along” this journey so that there is awareness, new technology/business engagement models are constructed and expectations are set accordingly. Finally, a coherent partner ecosystem and governance model would need to be framed to ensure a conscious and flawless execution of these two styles.
There is a huge implication of this for the supply side as well – the so calledtechnology service providers. Some of the larger SIs (System Integrators) would need to embrace two cultures, bring in new people, and plan out their offerings to be relevant to their clients who are embracing this continuum. Relevancy is not just about prices, but about speed, talent and capabilities - for which new training programs, orientations and go-to-market approaches would need to be put in place. Productization of some of these e2i packages could prove to be a very attractive business model. Finally, new eco-systems will evolve where we will find the large players partnering symbiotically with smaller players to create joint offerings, value propositions and VC models – perhaps industry focused – to make it attractive.
With applicability being established, the next thing is to check whether you have the right kind of people (read talent) within the organization or active eco-system. These two rather contrasting styles of technology also tend to get associated with rather different styles of professionals – in skills, competence, attitude, mindsets, possibly age, dress styles, etc. Quite often new people would have to be brought in to bridge the continuum so that a balanced ethos can be established to drive the continuum to become effective. It becomes a cultural challenge … and opportunity to develop organizations with new DNA and leadership models!
The “e2i” continuum triggers a re-think of the IT framework of a business – be it on the consumption or the supply side. It would also redefine how IP (intellectual property) gets created, with potentially new co-creation models (between the consumption and supply sides) emerging. It would start redefining execution models, (such as outsourcing) in the way we know them today. Digital disruptions are leading to new horizons in technology creation and adoption in this ever-changing world, catalyzed by evolving business forces. It creates terrific opportunities for professionals to learn and grow … thus redefining roles of CIOs, CTOs and service delivery leaders. In short, we are at the beginning of some exciting times to re-invent technology CQE (cost, quality and elasticity) and ROI (return on investment) within the new continuum called e2i!