“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
The more and more we think about the quote above from the former first lady of United States, we cannot agree more with the fact that how it still holds true in present circumstances. People remember the experience more than anything else and hence, great experience always sells, be it internally to the employees or externally. The proof is evident if you draw parallels between the stocks of most successful companies and the likes of trillion-dollar Apple Inc. and with the experience they sell.
But how do you create something like experience which is described nowhere and without any guidelines? You simply cannot buy user experience with technology and enterprise software. However, you can only enable it as user experience requires other factors such as cultural change within an organization.
Today, there is a new technology and enterprise software paradigm. The ever-changing world is making life difficult for an IT CXO to break the boundary between real and artificial change. Generating a return on investment (ROI) from technology adoption is getting more difficult day by day because the total cost of ownership (TCO) may not be the real or only indicator of success.
Now, the discussion is no longer on TCO reduction but how the technology itself can enhance/improve the user experience. In the long run, technology can be replicated but experience and culture can’t, and that’s the differentiator organizations have been gunning for.
All the applications around HRM, finance, intranet apps, etc. which are being used within an enterprise bear a common trait, i.e., they are all basic in feature sets and run on specific devices only. But why is that so?
The reason for this is that people at different layers and across geos expect different outcomes from the applications. Add the practice of bring your own device (BYOD) and the problem becomes much bigger with security constraints in the picture.
These reasons have forced IT to play it safe and design applications which are basic in nature and perform ‘must-have’ functionalities mostly.
The question here is: Can we change this scenario and give users the experience they desire? Or, in other words, can we design applications like Facebook which people love to interact with? The answer is a resounding yes, but the fundamental problem is that you need to change your enterprise software architecture and how it interacts with the underlying infrastructure because if these two are tightly coupled, the application development cycle can never be agile. This may lead to longer product development cycles for the enhancements that people and community, in general, need.
That is why organizations like Twitter, Facebook, and Google operate on the principles of software-defined enterprise. For these conglomerates, the experience is everything.
‘Software-defined enterprise’ (SDE) essentially refers to the consumerization of the enterprise where every enterprise application can run on any device — anytime and anywhere. Think of this in a banking scenario; when was the last time you went to the bank to do a transaction? The idea here is to simplify everything, be it internal or external applications.
Today’s business challenge is about reacting faster to find new growth and the balance between maintaining operational costs and legacy infrastructure.
The Starting Point
The need for speed is an essential trigger for an enterprise to embrace the SDE journey, i.e., if you agree with the fact that if you don’t move faster with products and services, somebody else will. Respond to the market and find the right product fit.
Define ‘what’ needs to be achieved; for example, a banking app’s experience must be elevated because people are frequently downloading and uninstalling it. The reason for this might be a lack of interest and engagement in the app itself.
Once the need for speed is established, understand, in our case, that the banking app experience must be elevated and there might be multiple reasons why the experience can be improved a lot. One of the ways is to observe the community feedback, including reviews, app feedbacks, and emails. Once product features which need enhancements are established, the next step is to develop it.
Here lies the most crucial aspect. If the feature release process is slow, users could even lose interest and move on to another application which listens to them more actively and incorporates their feedback.
For this complete development cycle to be agile and fast, the developers need to work hard and that has to be supported by the infrastructure provided. They cannot wait for months to develop a small feature release and that is where SDE comes into play.
When your whole infrastructure be it on-premise, public cloud and platform services all behaving in a symphony on the tunes of agile development then only a true SDE can be established.
Programmability is the Key
If you could program the way your life operates, how many things you could control and how many things you could do — but this is still a dream. However, thanks to technology advancements, we can program the infrastructure using intelligent automation and software.
Once the need for speed is established and agility becomes a key ask, think about the programmability of the software-defined infrastructure. Some call it DevOps, infrastructure as a code, agile infra etc. but the genesis is that the complete infrastructure is programmable and controllable using a piece of code and your dependency on the underlying infra is minimal.
Just like humans where the brain does all the thinking and other body parts follow the instructions rather than having their own siloed intelligence, software defines the intelligence and rest of the infra follows what gets commanded.
In The End
SDE is a cultural change within the organization. Appreciate the fact that experience is what sells and users have the ultimate say. If the culture within the organization shifts from product to user experience, then only SDE can be established.
Define goals like the adoption of containers, public cloud, configuration management tools, etc. in a step-by-step manner and set shorter achievable cycles. Adopt infra that is programmable and only pushes you forward and not the other way around.