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The Intentional Organisation - Issue #21 - Cloud-based Intentionality
1. Cloud-based Intentionality
December is the month of the year where Benedict Evans publishes his yearly presentation, exploring macro and strategic trends in the tech industry. I've been finding his capability to distil and summarise the key trends always fascinating, especially in terms of capturing some "early warnings" of what happens in the market.
This year's presentation is focused on Three Steps to the Future and looks at three trends shaping technology: first visions of the future, second the deployment of technology innovations of the past and third disruption extended to more sectors of the economy based on older technologies now widely available.
I was particularly fascinated by the latter point, especially because of the focus on the Retail industry. The idea is simple: eCommerce is an innovation of the 2000s, yet it is increasing its penetration in some sectors and in some countries only now. Yet the shift is looking impressive, especially for some categories.
There is one other aspect, however, that caught my eye in terms especially of organizational impact: Digital Transformation. Essentially Evans' point of view is that Digital Transformation is just starting, and uses the "move to cloud" strategy as a key indicator. IBM is still installing mainframe systems, and most cloud computing belongs to a few companies (Amazon and Alphabet notably).
But what is the biggest change in moving to the cloud? One of the technical consequences is that we move to a scenario whereby hundreds of applications coexist in the cloud, even within individual teams.
The big problem starts when we move to the cloud the "old ways" of working. Evans summarises this concept in one slide, where he writes that The Cloud Means Workflows, not Better File Shares.
I have already discussed this concept when talking about Remote Work Maturity, and I want to reiterate a concept. The pandemic has allowed us to assist to largest technology adoption effort ever seen in the world of work. Millions of people had to start working remotely, and we discovered that the technology to allow this was in the making, and (luckily) allowed most companies to thrive.
This has not yet been a revolution though: the reason is that we simply adopted technology, letting old work habits coexist: we have moved our excels to the cloud, often just as email attachments, rather than changing the way we iterate.
One of the keys for mature distributed organizations is the fact they adopt technology differently, moving to asynchronous work as much as possible. Most organizations did not interrogate themselves about how work was performed remotely. This is why, I suspect, there is a widespread notion that productivity decreased. For sure it did as micromanagement does not work well remotely. After all, micromanagement belongs to the same organizational logic that built centralized mainframes in the first instance.
The logic of Cloud is instead completely different. It requires macro-management, in terms of a great vision, then lets individual users act on a system that is universally available. People can invest more time in the content and the workflows, rather than on the tool itself.
As 2022 is one stone-throw away, we can clearly see materializing the big challenge for every organization. How do we take that massive technology adoption into something useful for the organisation, its productivity, its customer service, its value creation?
The only way of doing this is intentionally building a cloud-based mindset. Yeah, I know, having your head in the cloud doesn't sound like a great concept in many languages. Yet, it is what we need.
We need to start understanding the basics of technologies and understand how these can support the change needed by our organizations. Concepts such as micro-services are critical also from an organization design perspective. Yet they all need to be pursued in terms of Intentional Design. This is why we need even more today to sit down with our IT counterparts and provide a joint architecture model that looks at the combination of hardware, software, and wetware.
Only by intentionally building the best interaction between people and technology, we can profit from the advancement of speed in innovation and not be a victim of it.
Are you ready to start?
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