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Digital Transformation isn’t just about technologies like cloud computing, blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning and the internet of things. It is about how leaders can embrace those technologies in every element of an organization’s culture, strategy and operations to improve agility, speed, scale, scope and reach. These priorities are applicable right now for airlines, casinos and hotels that have seen their operations come to a complete standstill, microbreweries and 3-D print shops that have successful managed to redirect efforts to produce hand sanitizer and face masks, and manufacturers struggling to keep pace with exponential demand for what were already their core consumer products like Clorox wipes and toilet paper. Wherever an organization lies on the spectrum, hyper-responsiveness and adaptation are necessary to survive and thrive. 

In computing, a legacy system is an old method, technology, unit, or application program that is clearly outdated but still in use. Unforeseen or not, any leader that is finding their organization unprepared to respond to the current crisis – in terms of quick pivots, sustained outputs or long-term adaptation – should be asking if the core strategy and business model they have been using are themselves elements of an irrelevant “legacy system” in desperate need of an overhaul. Hint: If an organization’s strategy and business model aren’t centered upon Digital Transformation, the answer is “yes”.  

Last October, when the world was operating at full speed, I wrote an article titled, “7 Trends in Digital Transformation that Encourage a Futurist Mindset in the C-Suite“. The piece is still overtly relevant and worth reviewing, but for this post, I want to take a deeper dive into one theme that came up in numerous conversations that I had this week: Prioritizing workflows over silos, particularly through the lens of containers and microservices.  

Technical engineers in lower levels of the “stack” have been familiar with the advantages of distributed systems for decades, but it has only been in the past few years (because of cloud computing) that concepts like containers and microservices have been embraced on a broader level by enterprises and small businesses alike.  If you are not sure what those solutions are, below is quick overview.

Practices for data storage have evolved through time. Initially, data was stored on a single devices and/or servers, until virtual machines became an appealing option for more advanced housing needs. Today, in response to (and because of) Digital Transformation, while some still resides in private centers, more and more of the data is being migrated to the cloud. 

Compared to virtual machines that require total replications of an operating system and tend to be code and tier specific, containers are more open, agile, fast and efficient data carriers that only share relevant elements on a “need to know” basis. They can be utilized regardless of the operating system and allow us to deploy to the level of a single function (ie, a microservice). When a change is required, an entire monolithic system doesn’t have to be modified…only the elements required for that specific application or workflow. By focusing on a single purpose and filtering out the rest, agility and speed can be maximized.   

The scale potential of container applications in the cloud is notable because it efficiently focuses on (only) the concise, direct and targeted information that we need to accomplish a specific task or function. It inherently takes anything irrelevant out of the equation. That same approach is what leaders need to embrace with respect to crisis strategy. Most don’t have to reinvent their entire organization, just the elements that are precluding adaptability. 

Containers represent the kind of universal, streamlined and readily-accessible solutions that cross-disciplinary, autonomous teams need in order to focus on workflows and to alleviate silos. On a broader strategic level, they are a reminder how we can overcome noise and complexity in the balance of an ecosystem to focus on orchestration and the achievement of a particular, targeted task.  This is critical as many are seeing the world noisier and more complex than ever. When the total sum of strategic solutions are overwhelming, it helps to focus on specific tasks and functions broken out as a smaller, surmountable challenges. In other words, it helps to think of everything we as leaders have to do to overcome this crisis as its own, achievable microservice.  Break the overreaching needs into targeted tasks that can be independently achieved, and prioritize those that will have the greatest impact. Remember that just because the challenges are massive and overwhelming, the steps to overcome them don’t have to be. 

I don’t know of a single business that isn’t revisiting its strategic plan right now.  The organizations that are going to survive and thrive are those operating with a Digital Transformation and Agile mindset. If your strategy or business model was a “legacy system” going into the crisis, you were in need of evolution anyway. The only way to navigate the waters today is to get on board with those who were already operating their business with the priorities of agility, speed, scale, scope and reach. There is no other way. 

Escalate Solutions exists to help organizations with their evolution into Digital Transformation, in good times and in bad. If you need help strategizing how to make this happen, please outreach.