Peter High wears many hats. He's the president of Metis Strategy, a Forbes columnist of many years, host of the popular Technovation podcast, and is an author of three books on IT-business strategies. Peter's abundant industry knowledge makes him a perfect guest to discuss the patterns and priorities of today’s IT organizations.
Peter’s conversation with Unleash IT host André Christ touched on a range of topics such as:
- The evolution of IT priorities during the pandemic
- 5 aspects of digital transformation
- The benefits of cloud infrastructure
- Insights for roadmap planning
The evolution of IT priorities during the pandemic
Early in the pandemic, IT focused on ensuring that virtual communications and collaborations were as seamless as possible. Organizations invested in various technologies to make sure they enable their employees to work and deliver the business continuity required in these unprecedented times.
Companies also focused on cybersecurity. Because the pandemic dispersed each of us to our homes for work, security concerns became increasingly important. The model wasn’t just about securing one office building. The threat landscape extended into home offices across the world.
Then, according to Peter, an interesting thing happened.
As opposed to the economic crisis in 2008 when organizations cut investments into IT, the reverse happened. Organizations realized that IT was not only a strategic investment but also a source of organizational resilience.
“Those that had embarked on a digital transformation and done so most effectively were actually the ones that were most resilient as we entered into this crisis and certainly as it has continued.” — Peter High, President of Metis Strategy
Technology leaders are enhancing their financial acumen and using bottom-line cost-savings to justify innovative, top-line investments. This trend has coincided with a larger proliferation of technology roles, and for many organizations, the traditional responsibilities of product and corporate IT teams have shifted to accommodate tech-driven transformation initiatives.
5 aspects of digital transformation
Many organizations still aren’t completely sure what digital transformation means for them. To be specific, what is digital transformation and what is IT transformation? Can these two work streams go together?
When helping others to understand this subject, Peter spoke about what he believes are the five aspects of digital transformation: people, process, technology, ecosystem, and strategy.
- People: Having a team in place that strives to learn new skills for the future and not rest on the laurels of the past.
- Processes: Bringing more agile development to the organization and making the traditional silos more permeable so that collaboration can occur at the earliest stages of the development of an idea.
- Technology: Leveraging modern technology like cloud computing, containers, and APIs to enable a faster and more secure scaling of the business.
- Ecosystem: Thinking more broadly about aligning with strategic partners to help modernize and build a set of cohesive best practices that are emblematic of where technology is going and not where it has been.
- Strategy: Getting into the traditional implications of tech or digital strategy, but also drilling down into data strategy since it’s what leads to greater insights that enable a quicker and more accurate decision-making process.
Digital transformation is about bringing these two work streams together — the digital business and the regular business — and designing a more holistic organization.
“It’s critical for organizations to not think about digital business and regular business as two streams.” — Peter High
Benefits of cloud infrastructure
Beyond having the right engineering capacity to leverage the technology, Peter was asked how organizations should intelligently govern cloud landscapes.
A lot of companies, in his opinion, wrongly view the cloud from a cost perspective. While there are many benefits from a cost perspective, the primary justification for a move to the cloud should revolve around these benefits:
During the economic downturn, those who had not made the transition to the cloud were forced to cut costs within IT by letting people go due to the amount of fixed costs associated with managing that portfolio of technology. On the other hand, those who had made the leap to the cloud had more options when cutting costs within IT. For example, they could more easily scale down operations in order to save money.
Peter believes there will be a lot of pent-up demand unleashed in a variety of industries once the pandemic passes. As such, the ability to scale up operations is equally as important and another benefit of transitioning to the cloud.
“It’s not as easy as flipping on a light switch to all of a sudden have modern technology, but it does mean developing a plan.” — Peter High
The transition can be particularly difficult for older companies that have critical data flowing via more dated technology. Transitioning to modern technology is not something that happens overnight. But with planning, it’s attainable and can become a great source of resilience — no matter what the future holds for an organization.
5 unique sources of insight for roadmap planning
Peter recommends five sources of insight that CIOs and CTOs can leverage when planning their roadmaps:
- Leadership Team: This is, of course, the first place to start. One can gain insight from their peer group within the organization, the CEO, and the board of directors, too.
- Technology and Digital Leaders: This applies to technology and digital leaders within organizations as well as those within and even outside of an industry. One never knows what insights can be gained from those outside your ecosystem.
- Venture Capital Community: The venture capital community can show leaders where the smart money is being spent and how it impacts your organization. It can also help one to capitalize on investment opportunities faster than your competitors.
- Executive Recruiter Field: Those in the executive recruiter field have their fingers on the pulse of organizational changes. They also know how peers are succeeding and failing and what can be learned as a result.
- Strategic Partners: Strategic partners like LeanIX have vast knowledge as a result of working with clients throughout industries. Their views and the shape of their products reflect conclusions carefully measured from across the technology landscape.
According to Peter, it’s important to cast a wide net when planning. Expanding one's circle of influence contributes to the kind of conversations that lead to truly surprising insights. And these insights, in turn, can easily lead to new ideas, new wrinkles to current products, and new features and products altogether.