Saturday, May 18, 2024

How important is your time? Choosing the right platform

Years ago, one might have thought that with the introduction of cloud-based solutions the landscape or enterprise architecture of organizations would have simplified.  As it turns out, the opposite has happened.  There are more choices in today’s technology market than ever before.  The “rush” to the cloud has been more of a “walk” for many large organizations that are starting to consider what should and shouldn’t be cloud hosted.  Contrast this with midsize high-growth organizations who have the advantage of being flexible and not set in their ways (regarding business processes).  They are more apt to adopt a cloud-first mentality, fit to the standard through in-application configuration over customization.  One thing is for certain, being “cloud focused” is different depending on aspects like the size of the organization, its industry, the line of business, the criticality of the solution in terms of contributing to competitiveness, and more.  Organizations are asking themselves whether they need a cloud provider to host software they would have traditionally hosted in their own data centers (a “bring-your-own-license”, or BYOL model on a “Platform-as-a-Service” or PaaS) or whether they should seek a solution that is fully managed by the provider (a “Software-as-a-Service” or SaaS).  Some organizations are choosing not to move certain solutions in their landscape to the cloud at all.  A somewhat surprising dynamic is that some organizations are moving some business solutions back to on-premise!

Cloud. On-premise.  Hybrid.  Those are terms that describe “where”.  There’s also the change to “how”.  Enterprise application providers are moving away from monolithic to modular solutions, intended to address finite business needs.  They are finding ways to replace historically synchronous oriented solutions with asynchronous operations through an event driven architecture; thereby creating continuity when individual component failure occurs rather than wholistic business process failure.  Organizations must make difficult decisions about when to employ “best-of-breed” or “best-of-suite” solutions.  The decision is largely driven but the overall impact on the organization.  Does the “best-of-breed” solution provide contributions that accelerate the organizations business processes, allow for rapid adjustment to new business models, and promote the greatest level of throughput?  How does it differentiate from the “best-of-suite” capabilities?

Satisfying business process requirements seems more complicated than ever.  “Off-the-shelf” solutions can address most of the needs.  Perhaps as much as 70-90%.  Unfortunately, satisfying business process requirements is not like a classroom grade where the range of “C-“ to “A-“ is sufficient.  The remaining, unsatisfied portion of the business process requirements must be addressed.  Historically, this was done with multiple business applications, bolt-on and core application customizations, and manual steps.  It employed broad concepts like integration, application development, data management, data strategy, and analytics.  Today we need to include intelligent technologies like machine learning, robotic process automation, generative artificial intelligence, and more.  The collection of all these capabilities might be grouped as “platform” services.  They help organizations meet the remaining aspects of their business process requirements that are not fully addressed by “off-the-shelf” solutions.  If organizations, feel amazed with the choice of “off-the-shelf” solutions they are likely astounded by the number of platform related services in the marketplace.  There is a natural tendency to want to pick a standard cloud provider that hosts the largest volume of these services.  The belief is that by choosing one provider the organization can develop core competencies in platform services that can be deployed across the entire organization; thereby addressing all business process requirement gaps left behind by the “off-the-shelf” solutions.  This can work but it sidelines the most important asset every organization and we as individuals have – time.

There are some interesting data points, statistics, and polls that suggest that organizations in the US should be asking, at every turn, what is my time-to-value?  How long does it take to realize value from my investments?  There’s an interesting Gallup Poll that suggests “Quiet quitters make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce – probably more…” .   So, what’s a “quiet quitter”?  These are employees that are doing the bare minimum.  They could be considered uninspired or disengaged from their jobs.  One might ask what this does to organizational productivity.  It can’t be a good thing.

U.S. employers might think they could overcome this problem by weeding out the “quiet quitters” and replacing them with more energetic contributors.  The problem is that the U.S. unemployment to job opening market is still somewhat upside-down.  As of March 2023, there are 6 people unemployed for every 10 job openings. This is not a good statistic if you are an employer.  It means those who are unemployed have lots of options so replacing “quiet quitters” with new employees from the pool of job seekers is not a quick solution.  This describes current conditions.  Is this likely to get better?  A little bit.  We’ll go from a current labor force participation rate of 62.6% to 63.2% by the beginning of 2024.  If the number of job openings remains static this increase would result in roughly 7 people unemployed for every 10 job openings.  This still isn’t a good statistic for the average employer.  If we summarize, these data points suggest that the U.S. marketplace has a problem with employee engagement.  There are plenty of opportunities for employees to seek new employment and that the conditions are not likely to improve soon.  This should be coupled with the fact that the most expensive cost of most organizations is their workforce and employees we are referring to, Information Technology specialists, rank among the highest paying human resources in the U.S. marketplace.  Reducing the time-to-value is probably the biggest expense impact on any organization.

Platform services should be complimentary to the off-the-shelf solutions selected.  They should reduce the time-to-value.  Platform providers with services that most-effectively complement their off-the-shelf solutions have an accelerating effect on addressing all business process requirements.  Native integration, prebuilt business content that maintains business context, that is offered and maintained by a “best-of-suite” provider equates to speed of delivery, simplicity, and ease of maintenance.  Time is arguably the most valuable asset.  Are your business applications and platform choices making the most of yours?