Stephen Miles, Chief Technology Officer, Asia Pacific and Japan, CA Technologies wears many hats. Unlike the traditional CTO whose role largely involves driving the technology and product strategy, Stephen is tasked with empowering business technology architecture teams internally and driving greater customer collaboration and interworking externally.
In doing this Stephen works closely with the sales organization and the partner community to deliver technology thought leadership and solution innovation to meet the growing needs of customers in the applications economy.
After this complex and amorphous explanation of his role, Stephen gets down to a terrific simplification of his role. He says, “In this software-driven world, there are two kinds of companies— the ‘unicorns’ who are digital-native disruptors and the ‘horses’ who are the traditional enterprises trying to mirror the attributes of the unicorns. My role is to help the horses become unicorns.”
Unicorns and horses behave quite differently. The difference in behavior stems from the difference in their mindsets, Stephen says.
He brings up some finer nuances of the difference in the behavior between unicorns and horses. Unicorns have full digital DNA, whereas horses look at quick digital makeovers; unicorns are customer-obsessed, horses measure customer experience through NPS scores; unicorns are cloud-native, horses use cloud when they must; unicorns believe in experimentation and failing faster, horses structure themselves rigidly for control and compliance.
For the horses to become unicorns, Stephen believes that the mindset and conversation must change from ‘optimize’ to ‘agile transformation’. He says, “Having a pain-point conversation is useless if you are looking at digital transformation, the traditional approach of best practices consulting does not work here. The effort has to be in guiding and advising, creating a culture of experimentation, and continually modifying iteratively.”
Stephen goes on to recommending a blueprint for digital transformation. He borrows a marketing terminology above-the-line and below-the-line to explain this. He says above-the-line is about business models and growth and below-the-line is about building adaptive, composable IT environments. The key to enabling the latter is the API (application programming interface) that plays a crucial role in enabling adaptive composable microservices architecture.
The API is the giant hook to connect a slew of services and entities such as digital content, digital services, digital partners, and other ecosystems of value. The API is supported by modern IT architecture that is scalable, replicable, and amenable to continuous change.
On the concept of business agility, Stephen says that agile systems are run on hybrid IT, microservices architecture, and bimodal processes. He says that agile today is used in the context of software development and not for portfolio process. Companies need to reimagine agile, he exhorts. Agile in business stands for continuously iterating with the customer. The bimodal aspect comes in when you blend agile microservices with core legacy architecture.
The ultimate holy grail and the destination of all this is customer-centric analytics which is the core of winning applications, Stephen says. Three key processes that need to support this are continuous planning and collaborative portfolio management guided by business-IT alignment, continuous integration and delivery dealing with API management, release automation, cloud testing, test data management, etc. done in DevOps style, and continuous operations involving operations monitoring, performance and capacity management, leading to enterprise reliability.
This is what ultimately creates the software-driven innovation factories that will churn out winning applications that would turn horses into unicorns.