Across almost every industry, from CPG to construction to hospitality to financial services, virtually every company in the world is trying to position themselves as a technology company. Apple, the world’s largest company, just closed out their first quarter of 2021 with revenue up 54% year-over-year and a market cap of $2.24 trillion. It’s been a decade since Marc Andreessen, co-founder and general partner of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, said “Software is eating the world.” It was a provocative statement at the time but now feels blatantly obvious (like most provocative statements ten years in the rear view mirror).
From our vantage point in April 2021, with spring springing and our vaccine injected arms just sore enough to remind us of the hope that we’ll have a normal-ish late-ish summer, technology has clearly been the hero of the last year. Perhaps the most unprecedented thing about our unprecedented year was the rate of technology adoption, both internally (Microsoft Teams saw 894% growth from March to June 2020) and externally (84% of execs interviewed by HBR agreed new business opportunities are emerging as their organization digitally transforms). CIOs entered 2021 with a much bigger seat at the C-Suite table than ever before:
— Angus Loten, Wall Street Journal, CIOs Enter 2021 With Expanded Role, https://www.wsj.com/articles/cios-enter-2021-with-expanded-role-11609849800
The impact isn’t just limited to CIOs. We agree with our friends at Accenture: every leader is now a technology leader (follows naturally from every company wanting to be a tech company). All leaders regardless of their remit have to keep technology in mind, at the ever-accelerating pace of change we often talk about in these posts. That pressure is increasingly keenly felt as priorities keep shifting in response to ever changing market conditions. The luxury of having years to plan and implement new technology is a thing of the past. Successful internal and external launches are now measured in weeks.
Survival of the fastest tech delivery
A few years before Andreessen’s famous quote, Jim Barksdale, famous as the VC who backed Netscape’s original web browser, financed a company called Spread Networks. He spent two years digging a trench between Chicago and New York to lay a one-inch wide, dead straight fiber-optic cable. It saved 100 miles and 3 milliseconds off the previous route, meaning automated algorithmic stock traders on either end to save three one-thousandths of a second. Although their tech has since become obsolete (Spread was acquired in November 2017 for approx. $127m after investing at least $300m in that cable), that need for speed has never been replaced.
Thankfully tech delivery projects aren’t measured in milliseconds, but the competitive advantage faster delivery creates is the same. You could win against competitors a few years ago by being the one who proactively delivered tech transformations rather than the ones who delivered it deep in a fail state (we’ve been calling this out since at least 2017: see my Transformation is a Fail State talk at Constellation Research’s Connected Enterprise event). The bar’s been raised and now you have to assume everyone is transforming in parallel. The fastest will survive and thrive. The rest will perish.
Delivery technology in 2021
CIOs across the board are reporting significant increases in their operating budgets (IDG is reporting 49% of IT leaders anticipate their tech budgets will increase in 2021), which will fuel their ongoing delivery of new collaboration tools, return to office technologies, and expansion of other internal platforms. It will also fund the ongoing delivery of customer-facing technology platforms to support redefined business models and to power new product and service offerings. You used to know you could always bet on death and taxes — now you can add expanding IT budgets and faster tech delivery as near certainties.
So what does that mean for today’s leadership, especially in tech? Remove every possible obstacle, internal and external, to achieve better results faster. Look for shortcuts by leveraging proven approaches rather than reinventing the wheel on delivery and outcomes at the same time. Work cross-silo to ensure that internal tools are meeting rapidly changing team member needs for new ways to work and safe return to offices (remember: if you can get hacked through a wifi-connected fish tank thermometer you can get hacked through a COVID air purifier or any of other new safety equipment showing up in your offices!). With the increasing profile of tech leaders and the importance of their seat at the executive table comes a more pressing need to be able to analyze, understand, and communicate progress and time-to-value to stakeholders of critical projects, so find or make the time to brush up on the business side of your skillset.
For our partners in professional services, who help their clients deliver tech projects, it means rapid growth and leveraging your existing IP and approaches to speed timelines and reduce risks. It’s a busy time for tech consulting and it’s only going to get busier. For our direct customers, around the world, it means launching tools like Conductor to plan, orchestrate, and deliver their most critical tech delivery faster and more reliably with less risk.
Enterprise Orchestration Era webinar series
We launched our Enterprise Orchestration Era webinar series offering individual sessions, each focused on a topic that enterprises are grappling with. In each webinar, we share the knowledge and expertise we’ve gained over the years, customer case studies, and Conductor features that help leading enterprises orchestrate their teams. I hope you’ll join our next session on Accelerate Time to Value: Improve New Technology Delivery Orchestrated with Sensei Labs Conductor Platform, or take a look through our past sessions and watch some of the on-demand recordings.