At a recent design and manufacturing conference, a question came up. “Is the industry ready to make use of new technologies?” The answer came back, a resounding no. Most companies have skipped the step of digitizing their existing processes, so they’re not ready for new digital inputs. Perhaps an excellent intermediary step would be to reimagine business as usual by partnering with a managed service provider (MSP).
Shifting to a managed services environment is a critical step for many businesses. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with wondering about your next best business decision, then you’re not alone.
Many companies haven’t figured out how to change themselves enough to grapple with legacy challenges, let alone how to solve new, more complex puzzles like digitizing operations. By having an MSP like IronOrbit, companies can take their time becoming more comfortable with the idea of digitizing. When companies are ready to digitize, they won’t need to do major surgery on their IT infrastructure or data architecture before they begin. Instead, they’ll have a reliable partner who can focus on providing the right technology at the right time.
The Growing Skills Gap
In January 2021, a McKinsey study found that 87% of companies worldwideare aware of a skills gap. Gaps in IT departments will become increasingly conspicuous as emerging technologies continue to get a foothold. In the digital age, companies need to move fast. Ongoing IT education is prohibitive for many organizations. Even if the financial resources are available, the process is too slow. There is a genuine need for businesses to move faster than before. Whatever they can do to enable their operations to be more transformative and innovative with their use of technology, the better off they’ll be for whatever happens next.
As soon as an IT, enterprise resource planning (ERP), or e-commerce business solution is down; an organization instantly loses profits. Efficiency and expertise are necessary for getting these solutions back up and running. Bracing for the storm of increasing demand and decreasing labor power, business leaders may feel stuck when making their next move. If this is the case, managed services could be a solution. Here are the factors to consider.
Bridge the Skills Gap
A recent Prudential survey reports that businesses that focus on continuously expanding employee skills have a tremendous advantage over those companies that don’t. When critical business technology goes down, companies can’t wait for internal IT teams to figure it out. Having a managed services partner like IronOrbit can efficiently solve the issue; moreover, a predictive analysis might prevent such disruptions in the first place.
Your Perfect IT Partner: Five Things
When considering a managed services partner to fit your business, there are five key characteristics to consider:
Cost Savings – With IronOrbit’s managed services expertise and ability to efficiently solve IT challenges, you’ll notice significant cost savings by filling the skills gap and preventing extended downtime, lag issues, and recurring IT problems.
An Increase in Productivity & Efficiency– Supporting your business and employees is IronOrbit’s reason for being. IronOrbit’s Managed Services free your internal IT, so they can focus on other priorities and increase your business’s efficiency.
Quick Response Times – IronOrbit’s support staff is available when you need them so you can increase efficiency. IOCentral’s self-help automation tools make it fast and easy to open support tickets and check status around the clock, three hundred and twenty-five days a year. IronOrbit guarantees a consistent and reliable communication line to address urgent issues efficiently. Access to IronOrbit Resources and Specialized Expertise. IronOrbit service providers are certified professionals who have the expertise your business needs.
An Extension of Your IT Department – With IronOrbit’s Managed Services, you’re not just getting a solid and secure IT infrastructure; you’re getting a partner who can liaise between your IT department and your ERP and e-commerce providers for the most effective solutions. Your team will have more time to spend on furthering business-critical activities than solving IT problems.
Finding What Works for Your Business – IronOrbit has the expertise and innovative technology to best support you and your team regardless of the business needs. IronOrbit’s Smart Managed Services enables you and your teams to step away from any IT needs to focus on critical strategies for sustainable business growth. You’ll have more bandwidth to experiment and figure things out. Plus, you’ll have a technology partner ready to provide options for any challenge that may appear on the horizon. Companies face innumerable disruptive threats and risks. IronOrbit’s Smart Managed Services ensure smooth sailing for your IT environment now and in the future. We’ll be there whenever you’re ready to do more of anything, including digitize operations.
Please call us now at 888-753-5060 for a free no-obligation consultation.
Cyberthreats to your business are at an all-time high. They are, as President Biden states, “the defining threats of our time.” Is your company prepared to withstand such attacks? According to a recent Gartner article, business leaders need to do more to strengthen their cybersecurity.
“There are only two types of companies: Those that have been hacked and those that will be hacked.”
Robert S. Mueller, former Director of the FBI – 2012
“There are only two types of companies: Those that have been hacked and those who don’t know they have been hacked.”
accredited to John Chambers, CEO Cisco – 2019
Days before Russian tanks began rolling into Ukraine; a significant connectivity outage hit Viasat Inc. (VSAT). The Carlsbad, Calif.-based company is a leading provider of high-speed satellite broadband and secure networking for military and commercial customers worldwide. Viasat modems control thousands of wind European wind turbines. Suddenly, they went offline. The outage hobbled the Ukrainian military as generals began preparing for the Russian invasion. Reuters later reported the blackout to be sabotage.
Although most well-organized ransomware gangs are in Eastern European countries, state-sponsored hacking groups are from China and North Korea. They use sophisticated tools to embed malware deep inside the most extensive networks. In many cases, malicious code can go undetected for months, infecting millions of computers.
On January 15, 2022, members of one of the main ransomware gangs, Our Evil Group, were arrested in Russia. The Putin regime has recruited them to become a state-controlled group of hackers. About a month later, we began to see a resurgence of attacks. And that’s only the attacks we read about in the headlines. For every ransomware attack you hear about, there are three others that go unreported.
The Software Supply Chain Attack
SolarWinds is a company that supplies its software to over 14,000 companies. Russian military intelligence inserted a form of malware that served as a sophisticated backdoor to these companies. It’s a certainty that some of these backdoors have been successfully embedded without US companies knowing about it. Corporations probably can’t determine conclusively whether-or-not a backdoor has been installed.
In the case of the SolarWindsCorporation, one of their customers, a cybersecurity company called Fire Eye, discovered the malware by chance. They had received the software and, months later, somebody noticed a questionable anomaly. SolarWinds is not a unique situation. There are sure to be other corporations that have been infiltrated.
Escalation of Ransomware Attacks
Recently, the President sent warnings to the citizens and businesses across the country and urged everyone to take steps immediately. Key targets include private companies and any organizations that could apply pressure to the national economy and the government, including critical infrastructures.
When it comes to ransomware attacks, no sectors are off-limits. Hackers are going to go after everything that they can. Last year, we saw how no company, large or small, was immune to attack. For example, there were ransomware attacks on the following:
Small Family-Run Fishing Business
Ferry company on Martha’s Vineyard
Casino Hacked through a Fish-Tank Thermometer
Large meatpacking company
The Colonial Pipeline
The Colonial pipeline was devastated in May 2021 by cyber terrorists. Attackers distributed malware through email then demanded a ransom to restore services. The 5,500-mile pipeline transports 100 million barrels of gasoline and other fuel products per day to the eastern United States. According to a report from Reuters, gasoline futures spiked 3% and have remained above trend since that time.
Two months later, Jennifer Granholm, the Energy Secretary, saidthat bad actors gained the ability to shut down the U.S. power grid. Hackers embedding themselves in the nation’s electrical grid displayed tremendous sophistication that analysts hadn’t seen before. Whoever was behind the cyber-attacks on our country’s infrastructure was succeeding at an alarming rate. Who did the government call in to investigate? CrowdStrike. Why? Because CrowdStrike has been investigating high-profile cyberattacks since 2011. Investigators at CrowdStrike have even unspooled more recent attacks where the code dates back to 2010. So, CrowdStrike has been on the frontlines of cybersecurity since their beginnings.
What Can Be Done?
There are basic preventative steps that everyone must apply regularly. For example, don’t respond to SMS text messages from unknown origins. Don’t open links from emails of anonymous sources. Make that a personal policy and individuals will effectively eliminate most threats. Companies, on the other hand, are different. They need comprehensive and robust security protocols that are more sophisticated than the attacks.
Companies must realize that antiquated technologies like antivirus and firewalls are weak defenses against modern, sophisticated cyberattacks. Businesses must modernize their cybersecurity by using the new technologies mentioned by President Biden in his message to the nation. Businesses must use security measures like EDR and XDR to protect against modern ransomware groups.
EDR stands for Endpoint Detection and Response. It’s an integrated endpoint security measure that combines real-time continuous monitoring and collection of endpoint data with rules-based automated response and analysis capabilities. In the case of CrowdStrike’s EDR, the security technology combines a high degree of automation with machine learning to enable security teams to identify and respond to threats immediately. The next-generation endpoint protection leverages CrowdStrike’s state-of-the-art file and behavioral-based proprietary machine learning and Indicator-of-attack methodology. This is particularly effective at stopping new, polymorphic or obfuscated malware, which is often missed by legacy antivirus solutions.
An essential ingredient of “next-generation” is reducing overhead, friction, and cost in protecting your environment.
You don’t need a large staff to maintain the CrowdStrike environment. Everything is cloud-based, so there’s no equipment to maintain, manage or update. The Falcon sensor is unobtrusive, and updates are seamless, requiring no re-boots. The web-based management console provides an intuitive and informative view of your company’s complete environment.
XDR is Extended Detection and Response and is the evolution of having EDR as a pre-requisite technology. CrowdStrike’s Falcon XDR uses artificial intelligence to improve threat visibility by making sense of structured and unstructured data at lightning speeds. Falcon XDR rapidly and efficiently hunts and eliminates threats across multiple security domains. What separates Falcon XDR from all others is its ability to isolate and identify relevant telemetry from systems and applications across an organization’s entire IT security ecosystem. Falcon XDR delivers proactive, automated responses to threats across the security stack.
CrowdStrike’s Falcon Complete protects an organization against someone clicking on a link they shouldn’t have. The technology sees the behavior, and as executable files begin unzipping, Falcon Complete begins monitoring for questionable activity. As soon as malicious activity, Falcon Complete isolates it.
CrowdStrike has been leading the charge against cyberthreats since 2011 when it was founded. The security firm uses cloud-based software that collects threat data across all connected devices. Artificial intelligence analyzes the information and seamlessly updates all endpoints.
The fast-growing Austin, Texas-based company provides cybersecurity to 15 of the 20 largest banks and 77 Fortune 100 companies. Private sector clients are apprehensive about the escalation of cyberthreats against Americans amid Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Severe ransomware attacks are likely to increase as sanctions on Russia become more effective.
CrowdStrike has a long history of working with the federal government state, and national oil and energy firms to investigate cyberattacks and shore up defenses. Much of their innovations in security came from listening and working with clients to help solve the most challenging cybersecurity problems. Years of forensic analysis, fine-tuning, and adjusting to meet threats as they emerge have made CrowdStrike the pioneer of cloud-delivered endpoint protection.
CrowdStrike Falcon has revolutionized endpoint security by being the first and only solution to unify next-generation antivirus, endpoint detection and response (EDR), and a 24/7 threat hunting service. Millions of sensors across 176 countries collect and analyze more than 30 billion endpoint events per day. All of them use some form of machine learning and automation. These powerful capabilities are possible through a unique combination of prevention technologies. They include indicators of Attack (IOA), exploit blocking, real-time visibility, and around-the-clock managed hunting to discover and track the stealthiest attackers before they do damage.
The country cannot defend against cyberattacks alone, nor can your organization. Companies need the vigilance of every employee and every contractor. Business leaders must “accelerate efforts to lock their digital doors.” Using CrowdStrike is an effective way to secure all entries to your company’s infrastructure.
IronOrbit knows the importance of having resilient cybersecurity. That is why we protect our virtual desktops, INFINITY Workspaces, with CrowdStrike’s highest level of AI-enabled security technology augmented by live monitoring by a team of CrowdStrike’s team of security experts. Imagine having multiple full-time expert incident responders conducting day-to-day monitoring of alerts.
CrowdStrike® Falcon® Complete™ is a 100 percent hands-off and worry-free managed detection and response (MDR) solution uniquely provides the people, process, and technology required to handle all aspects of endpoint, cloud workload, and identity security, from onboarding and configuration to maintenance.
Digital Manufacturing Can Be a Game Changer for the Industry
Manufacturing is the lifeblood of American industry and was once the envy of the world. No other industry can mobilize the nation like manufacturing. America’s response to World War II was the most extraordinary mobilization of an idle economy in the history of civilization. During the war, 17 million civilian jobs were created, there was a nationwide productivity increase of nearly one hundred percent. Corporate earnings more than doubled.
Today, the manufacturing industry is a pale remnant of what it was before inflation and companies moving manufacturing offshore to places like China. But American manufacturing is at a crossroads. US Manufacturing could continue its downward spiral or turn things around in a big way. For American manufacturing to reclaim its international glory of years past, it must embrace the willingness to learn, innovate, and adopt new technologies. Collectively, these technologies are a part of digital manufacturing.
Defining Digital Manufacturing
Digital manufacturing is the application of cloud computing systems to manufacturing services, supply chains, products, data collection, warehousing, and processes. Digital manufacturing technologies link systems and processes across the production environment to create an integrated approach to manufacturing. This strategy encompasses everything from design and development to production and servicing the final products. Traditional factories were analog environments where everything was built by hand, have become Smart Factories.
Think of how the basic 1970’s cellphones evolved into the 90’s smartphones—taking a phone that only made phone calls to a mobile computer that can browse the Internet and run software applications. Then in 2007, the hyper-connected iPhone burst onto the scene. From the beginning, the iPhone was like a Swiss Army knife. It included everything you could want to do with a computer-driven gadget. The iPhone is now a professional quality camera and many other things.
Similarly, a Smart Factory is hyper-connected, predictive, and does many things old analog factories can’t do. These next-generation facilities are the core of digital manufacturing. A fully functioning next-generation manufacturing facility is built on cloud computing to optimize operations, store, and process tremendous amounts of data. The rest of the intelligent factory digital platform utilizes AI, big data analytics, automation, and an array of sensors.
In 2017, an article in The Economist stated that “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” Today, data’s expanding amount and role are the driving force in Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum first identified as “the Fourth Industrial Revolution” or Industry 4.0. Manufacturers can break down siloed workflows and blend employees’ digital and physical worlds by utilizing technologies ranging from IoT (Internet of Things) to M2M (Machine to Machine) communications. Digital technology can dramatically improve productivity in planning and streamline production processes. It could also help solve another growing problem.
According to a study by Deloitte last year, as many as 2.1 million manufacturing jobs will be vacant through 2030. The report warns that the worker shortage will hurt revenue and production. Positions left unfulfilled could ultimately cost the US economy one trillion dollars by the end of the decade. Skilled labor hasn’t been the only hurdle. Supply chain disruptions and difficulties sourcing raw materials hobble the industry. Digital manufacturing can help fill industry jobs by attracting talent who want to use new technology. These people want real-world experience on digital tech designed to increase efficiencies because they know how valuable that experience will be long-term.
On August 12, 2021, Forbes article, Willem Sundblad writes that even if manufacturers can find what they need, prices are so high that they threaten margins. High inflation is sure to exacerbate the supply chain problem.
The battle cry from leaders in manufacturing is to seek out
suppliers geographically closer to production centers
more resilient supply chains
technology that can help modernize processes
skilled talent to operate effectively in a next-generation factory setting
Sundblad reminds us that the US is good at innovating but not so good at scaling those innovations compared to other countries. While the manufacturing industry might averse to risk, the American spirit is all about taking a calculated risk, especially when our backs are up against the wall. The window of opportunity is open, but it won’t remain open indefinitely. Remember, things move fast, and the stakes couldn’t be higher for manufacturing to get innovation right. Writing about transforming businesses through technology and innovation, Ethan Karp is the President and CEO of a non-profit manufacturing consulting group called Magnet. In his Forbes article, 4 Reasons 2022 Can Be A Game Changer for American Manufacturing, Karp recognizes the opportunity for American manufacturing.
If American manufacturers can invest in talent, technology, and innovation, they’ll be in a good position to take advantage of available opportunities. Karp identifies five of them. They are:
Take Back the Supply Chain
Use a combination of technology and innovation. Think about the incredible pivots thousands of manufacturers made during the pandemic to meet the demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Take Calculated Risk
Karp urges manufacturers to override being conservative and take calculated risks. He suggests ways to mitigate the risk of innovation by asking four questions:
Are you solving a real problem?
2. Does your product solve the problem?
3. Can you deliver this solution?
4. Can you sell it?
Invest in the Smart Factory of the Future
Take whatever capital is available and invest in the technologies used in a Smart Factory. These technologies are the most direct way for manufacturers to excel in a competitive and dynamic marketplace. Over time, Smart Factories lower costs by speeding up processes, reducing downtime, and minimizing waste. These digital innovations will improve supply chain efficiencies.
Automate to Offset Talent Shortages
Karp emphasizes the importance of automation by sharing the story of Gojo, the company that invented the hand sanitizer Purell. The family ran operation successfully tripled its production almost overnight to meet pandemic demand. The company was ready because of its investments in Industry 4.0 technology over the years. Gojo has automation to do repetitive tasks and frees employees to do more value-added technology work, like programming and running the machines. The company hired 500 new people in 2020.
Capture the Infrastructure Boost
Manufacturers like steel and transportation suppliers will be kept busy with the government-sponsored trillion-dollar investments in transportation and public safety. Karp offers two recommendations:
Evaluate margins to provide a buffer against the unknown
Have the technology and talent already in place to manage production surges.
As accurate as the threat of digital disruption is, future success is more about making informed decisions with a view of the long-term consequences. Leadership is about establishing a direction and vision for the future, aligning people around that vision, and motivating and inspiring them to take action. Making better choices is a necessary ingredient.
In the February 2022 Harvard Business Review article, How Incumbents Survive and Thrive, Julian Birkinshaw looks at how Fortune 500 companies remain stable despite disrupters. “When companies face a disrupter, their natural response is to fight fire with fire: to set up a competing digital unit, build an incubator or accelerator, or pursue a transformation.” He cites a McKinsey study that found “companies that adopt bold, offensive strategies in the face of industry digitization improve their odds of coming out winners.”
Companies must embrace digital technology to improve operational effectiveness. The global utility Enel has a division that experiments with new business models (demand management and electric vehicle charging). The unit is called Enel X and has enormous growth potential. However, it currently represents less than two percent of the parent company’s revenues. Everyone else at Enel focuses on optimizing the existing business and providing its nearly seventy-two million customers with high-quality service. But the new technology in its factories and distribution networks, including reengineering its infrastructure and processes, that went into Enel X has bolstered operations throughout the organization. For technology to help manufacturers succeed, leadership should take the time and energy to develop an adaptation strategy that best fits their organization’s unique needs and capabilities.
Considering how Digital Manufacturing and the Smart Factory of Industry 4.0 can help you streamline workflow, be better positioned to seize opportunities, and maintain margins. Don’t start out by going for the big objective. Start with low-hanging fruit. Even still, before beginning any digital manufacturing initiative, understand the technology. Learn what technologies perform what types of tasks and the strengths and weaknesses of each. If you have a chief technical officer or IT director, get them involved in discussions as soon as possible. Suppose people in the IT department have a good understanding of the different Smart Factory technologies. In that case, they’ll save the company wasted time and money pursuing the wrong technology. They’ll also help prevent making technology choices that don’t fit the company objectives. Again, the real tipping point is the willingness to learn.
If you don’t have information technology or data science capabilities on staff, build a team of external service providers. Having the right pool of resources is essential.
The Key Areas of Digital Manufacturing
Utilizing cutting-edge technologies to optimize processes can result in financial efficiencies within a manufacturing operation.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Customer-facing technologies help give the customer transparency into the manufacture of their product and ease of communication and collaboration with the manufacturer.
Provisioning of Resources for Employees
A modern workplace nurtures better employee satisfaction and retention rates. The next generation of employees has grown up with high-impact technologies. They expect the deployment of quality effective technologies within their working environments.
Traditional manufacturing and production methods are undergoing digital transformation. Going beyond production automation, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) found in Industry 4.0 blurs the boundaries between the physical world and the virtual in cyber-physical production systems (CPPSs). A report from Deloitte describes CPPSs as online networks of social machines organized like social networks. They link IT with mechanical and electronic components that communicate through a network. Smart machines continually share current stock levels, problems, and changes in orders or demand levels.
Improved Operational Efficiency
Although last on our list, operational efficiency is the biggest “selling feature” of the move toward Digital Manufacturing strategies. By digitizing operations, data can be collected, categorized, and analyzed at every stage – from raw materials to finished and delivered products. The utilization of this data then allows your manufacturing firm to use agile cycles to grow and scale.
Digital Manufacturing Isn’t Just for Global Giants
Most manufacturers across the country have engaged in a digitization effort. That digitization allows their CIOs to develop digital transformation strategies to help their manufacturing operations inch closer and closer to Industry 4.0 ideals.
Digital Manufacturing is a genuine game-changer for the industry. To say there are many benefits to digital manufacturing is an understatement. The hyperconnected Smart Factory merges complex manufacturing processes across different departments. Smart Factories eliminate the paper-based process and automate data exchange in fractions of a second. Communication and collaboration going in all directions simultaneously far extend the reach of any manufacturer. What is more, digital manufacturing inspires people to learn and innovate on a much higher level.
Every manufacturer is at a different stage of their Digital Manufacturing journey. The decision to convert traditional factories to smart facilities requires deep engagement with the entire company. Set priorities and create a portfolio of projects. But keep this in mind; the benefits are well within the grasp of even small to mid-size operations. Remember the story of Gojo and how they routinely invested in modernizing their operations. Not all at once but over time. When the time came, regular investments in technology made all the difference. Using smart and autonomous technologies, CIOs are blending the physical and digital worlds while making the most of human resources along the way.
How can organizations unlock the full potential of IT to accelerate?
Can you scale while keeping all the plates spinning? Your current employee base may be doing an excellent job of keeping all their plates from crashing to the floor with the current technology in use, but adding many more employees and ramping up operations with that same technology stack results in pieces and shards of plates smashed all over the floor.
Business scalability is all about efficiency and growth. To be genuinely scalable in the modern sense of the word, an organization must:
accommodate increased demand
stay on top of trends
be agile enough to handle disruption
The punch line is that all this has to be accomplished quickly. The need for speed requires companies to be highly efficient. That’s where the advantages of cloud environments come into play.
Scaling within the cloud helps you avoid the crash-resume-crash-resume cycle that companies are faced with when trying to scale with an on-site IT infrastructure. Modernizing operations is the “end game” of the digitization phase, which is foundational to the digital transformation journey—establishing an operational backbone is the objective many forward-leaning companies have pursued diligently in the past few years.
Operational excellence is now the minimum requirement for being competitive in the digital age. Let’s explore.
The Old Models of Scaling Won’t Work Anymore
For many, digitization has been the goal for years. The pandemic lockdowns were a coercive force pushing companies to send their employees home to work; thus, digitizing many aspects of their operations. Correctly digitizing operations move the organization further to become a digital company. That is being able to offer digital-value propositions to its customers.
Scalability used to be strictly about increasing profitability and improving efficiency when workload increases. It is also about adding new value propositions (digitization) at speeds that can keep up.
Older ways of doing things will work for a short while, but it won’t take long for businesses to fall too far behind.
Companies have used a siloed way of doing business since day one. Managers would create systems, data, and processes within business silos. Leaders often fail to consider how their systems and processes might eventually need to coordinate with other parts of the business. Once they recognized integration requirements, they’d tweak the systems and processes to achieve their objective, again within their given silo. Managers would address the need for linking systems and processes. The operational environment was complex, hierarchical, and too slow to be effective in today’s digital business world.
The New Dynamic in Scaling Operations – Digital Transformation
According to a December 11, 2020 article by McKinsey & Company, companies worldwide are hard at work evolving their operating models at unprecedented speed.
The hurdles go far beyond shifting back and forth between remote, in-office, and hybrid work models or simply adding or subtracting work-from-home talent as needed.
Digitization enhances operational excellence.
We’re talking about creating a coherent set of enterprise systems, data, and processes supporting core operations. Becoming digital enhances the customer value proposition.
Don’t confuse digitization (doing things we’ve always done only better) with digital transformation (doing things differently than we’ve done before). Being digital enhances the customer value proposition.
Business leaders who think they’re leveraging digital transformation strategy when, in fact, they’re just digitizing some aspect of their operations may achieve operational excellence on an outdated value proposition. For example, you are a taxi company that’s just perfected its operations (digitization). Suddenly Uber and Lyft arrive (digital companies). How’s that going to impact your business? Or consider the impact Amazon has on traditional retailers.
The Next Generation Model of Scaling
This operational backbone, or next-generation operating model, is a new way of running an organization. Next-generation operating models replace messy legacy systems, processes, and data generated by siloed business units. The new design is more open and non-linear. Systems, data, and processes become like the building blocks of a lego kit. that can reallocate resources and develop new digital capabilities in a matter of weeks. Now that’s a challenge.
No wonder, despite Herculean efforts and substantial investment, few companies can move to a modern, digitally-enabled way of working across the entirety of their operations.
Einstein is Never Wrong and Why Scaling in the Cloud is the Right Call Now
In their book “Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make it and Why the Rest Don’t,” Verne Harnish and the team at Gazelles explain scaling all aspects of an organization (including the technology) by quoting Albert Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Harnish goes on to say, “Scaling a business is a complex endeavor and requires robust – yet simple enough – tools and techniques to get the job done.”
That’s why companies worldwide are attracted to cloud-based applications and workflow as they try to scale. It’s robust enough to handle their “complex endeavor” but with tools simple enough to be implemented and utilized by a fast-growing internal team of employees.
Verne Harnish also helps us envision the stages of scaling infrastructure when he writes, “When you go from two employees to 10, you need better phone systems and more structured space. When your company reaches 50 employees, you still need space and phones. You suddenly also require an accounting system that shows precisely which projects, customers, or products make money. Between 50 and 360 employees, your information-technology systems need to be upgraded and integrated. And above that, you must revamp them again….”
The Two Pizza Rule – Everyone Needs Access, but Not Everyone Needs Their Own Pizza
Amazon has the “two pizza rule.” By it, they mean that no team should be any bigger than can be fed with two pizzas. While that works for physical teams, it doesn’t work for your IT. If you’re going to scale your personnel, you have to scale up your IT – applications, cloud assets, infrastructure, etc. You can’t scale with a “two pizza” rule for your IT infrastructure. Sure, everybody needs access to the “pizza,” but not all your employees are going to need the same key or even access to the same kind of “pizza” as other employees. Scaling technology isn’t simple and requires a partner who understands how the organization’s goals, people, and roles all funnel into the need for tech access as the company scales.
Harness Cloud-based Data Power to Inform Your Scaling Strategy
Your data for your KPIs has to scale – and evolve – with you. Big data, IoT, and AI can help your business leverage more granular data than ever before. Today, under the direction of Reed Hastings, Netflix is a prime example of how scaling a company’s IT can result in game-changing data usage. As Netflix tracks every action of its 213 million-plus subscribers, it can accurately predict what shows, and movies from its production wing will be successful. With this visibility into customers comes the ability to be nimble and agile with their service delivery.
Where Did Outdated Scaling Models Originate? – The Industrial Revolution
Alfred Chandler, Jr is one of the most respected figures in business history. His work redefined industrialization’s business and economic history and gave us a fresh perspective on how the modern digital firm differs from the industrial-age model.
Managerial firms, according to Chandler, evolved to take advantage of productive techniques available after the establishment of rail networks. More profits came from higher productivity and lower costs. America’s “managerial class” arose from this operating model where managers coordinate increasingly complex and interdependent systems.
The New Kind of Firm & a New Way to Scale
Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani’s HBR article of Winter 2021, “Competing in the Age of AI,” describes how Chandler’s model focuses on the benefits for those companies that successfully achieve greater production scope, and/or variety. On-going efforts to improve added learning as a key characteristic of successful scaling.
“Scale, scope, and learning have come to be considered the essential drivers of a firm’s operating performance. And for a long time, they’ve been enabled by carefully defined business processes that rely on labor and management to deliver products and services to customers, and that are reinforced by traditional IT systems. After hundreds of years of incremental improvements to the industrial model, the digital firm is now radically changing the scale, scope, and learning paradigm.
AI-driven processes can be scaled up much more rapidly than traditional processes can, allow for much greater scope because they can easily be connected with other digitalized businesses, and create incredibly powerful opportunities for learning and improvement, like the ability to produce ever more accurate and sophisticated customer-behavior models and then tailor services accordingly.”
The Foundation of Operational Excellence
Becoming digital is an essential watershed for any modern company.. Leveraging SMACIT, digital expands and accelerates innovation. However, companies cannot afford to neglect the pursuit of operational excellence.
Executing a business strategy that is consistent, reliable, and cost-effective is foundational to sustained business health. Operational excellence is also the mindset that embraces constant and never-ending improvement. Continuous attention to pursuing operational excellence means every employee can see, deliver, and enhance the flow of value to customers.
The constant pressure for all companies is a perfect storm of demands that include the speed of delivery, technology, and communication acceleration. Every employee from the top down is busy making decisions and exploring ideas. They don’t have the time to waste on broken operational processes. Information technology that encompasses systems, processes, and data must make things easier for employees and customers alike.
Perfecting the business model via digital transformation has been key to the expansion and domination of household brands today.
Apple began its journey in 1976 and slowly climbed, but its rocket ship of success didn’t go into orbit until 2001 – 25 years later – when the iPod was released. Their launch into this new realm was only made possible with the scalable technologies needed to supply and service the massive demand for the iPod, and its succeeding generations of small devices for the mass market.
Starbucks also had its learning curve. The company took 20 years from 1971 to perfect its business model and underlying corporate technologies to scale from 100 locations in 1991 to 18,000 locations in 62 countries today.
But that was then, back before the availability of cloud resources. Now, the cloud, and cloud-based technologies, can propel companies, big and small, into a new stratosphere of capability within a short amount of time.
Investing in Scaling Tech Capability Pays Off
While you expect a company like JP Morgan Chase to be investing heavily in technology, what may not quickly come to mind is that they have been investing in tech all along the way as they scaled the business. They are investing in IT-based workflow advancements because that investment pays off. JP Morgan Chase has more than 50,000 technology professionals and invests eleven billion per year in its digital development.
But JP Morgan chase isn’t the only big-name company where we see investment in tech as a part of a scaling strategy. In 2018, Walmart chose to bring on an additional 1,700 IT staffers. To quote USA Today, they “beefed up” their “omnichannel presence to better compete with Amazon, Costco, and other peers.”
Walmart’s stock rose by 17% over the next two years.
While neither JP Morgan Chase nor Walmart took on massive “scaling” projects over the past two years (not many did), we can guess that the industry leaders see technology as the business expansion enabler that it is.
Scalability is a necessary ingredient to future-proofing your network. Businesses have survived without a scalable network, but that won’t be true as we move into this decade.
Business leaders must liberate their companies from legacy systems, safeguard their data, and continuously conserve costs by implementing technology that fits where they’re at and where they’re going strategically. Scaling a business with agility and resiliency can only be achieved by embracing new technology, and that begins by designing an IT environment built for the digital age.
Success in 2022 is going to be about flexibility and scalability. If you’re going to compete and win, the cloud environment will be critical to your success.
Choose options that allow enough elasticity for you to reimagine what optimal scalability means to you.
Lay the groundwork so that there’s a solid foundation. That way, your digital journey will move forward with incredible, even inspiring, momentum.
What Happens When You Need to Scale Your Business?
If you want to scale up your peanut butter factory, you get a bigger building, bigger hoppers, giant dehulling, and processing machines. It takes months, maybe years. But what if you’re not in the peanut butter business?
What if you run an architectural firm, a company in the travel industry, or even an up-and-coming animation or gaming business?Well, you don’t need the peanut processing machines, but you’re going to need serious computing capability. To get that computing capacity, you’ve got two choices.
Choice #1 – You can invest months and significant capital in on-site servers and workstations. Time will drag on while you get an IT professional to design the system, order the servers, install the servers, set up the applications, etc.
Even if you’re willing to put big bucks into on-site infrastructure, you won’t.
Because 2022 is all about flexibility.
Everything from 2019 to today has demonstrated that the companies that can scale up and down with the most speed and agility win the race.
The big deals aren’t going to wait for you to get your on-site IT systems up to speed, and you’ll miss out.
So, let’s talk about the better option.
Choice #2 – DaaS or Desktop as a Service
What is Desktop as a Service (DaaS)?
DaaS is a cloud-based workflow solution that gives you access to a virtual desktop in the cloud with your applications, operating system, and personal settings all in place. You can access your virtual desktop securely from any internet-connected device, regardless of location. Because all the computing power is in the cloud, virtual desktops can be set up or “deployed” for new employees within minutes compared to days and weeks with traditional, on-site infrastructure. Scaling back is just as efficient and straightforward.
But wait, not all DaaS solutions are the right fit for your company. Some offer more control and flexibility than others. Some virtual desktops demonstrate much better responses when using demanding graphic applications.
These clients need reliable access to intensive graphics resources worldwide, and performance matters. Check out IronOrbit’s DaaS solution called INFINITY Workspaces.
So, let’s get back to the question.
How Does DaaS Help Your Company Scale Up Faster?
1. Employees Can Use Their Favorite Device – BYOD
Because DaaS provides all the computing power within the cloud (including all the applications, databases, etc., that your employee needs to get work done), an employee can use whatever computer they have and like. How does that help you? Well, you don’t have to source, buy, and provide high-end desktops and laptops. Sure, if you want to buy your employees’ laptops, that’s great, but if you’re going to get things up and running quickly, BYOD will work as a temporary stop-gap measure as you scale up and wait for your laptop order to arrive.
2. Expand Within the Cloud
The cloud is the clear winner compared to sourcing, buying, installing, and setting up in-house servers. Because cloud solutions like those offered through IronOrbit are nearly infinitely expandable, you never have to wonder whether your infrastructure has the capacity to handle the next pro-growth project you need to tackle.
3. Scale Without Huge Up-Front Investment
Perhaps the most attractive feature of DaaS solutions is that you only pay for what you need, and you don’t have to spend money to buy infrastructure up-front. Monthly subscription payments make paying for usage only easy. Scaling up is simplified when you don’t have to develop CapEx funds to get it rolling.
4. Scale Up Without Cybersecurity Worries
One of the challenges of scaling up with on-site infrastructure is the security component. It takes time and a team of cybersecurity professionals to deliver 24/7/365 protection. In stark contrast, the IronOrbit private cloud has world-class security. That high level of security is a protective umbrella that keeps your data safe while you ramp up operations quickly.
5. Even if You Have Existing On-Site IT Infrastructure – Hybrid Scaling
Companies that have invested in on-site infrastructure sometimes get tunnel vision for scaling, but it doesn’t have to be an either/or question. You don’t have to choose either the cloud or your on-site setup. If you have existing on-site IT infrastructure and need to scale up a specific business area or need extra capacity, DaaS is your best friend. Employees can use their virtual desktops across the company network and leverage cloud computing power, thus diminishing the load on your on-site infrastructure.
6. Get New and Remote Employees Up and Running Quickly
For the reasons mentioned above – cloud use and BYOD – DaaS is the perfect solution for efficiently computing resources for new employees.
Whether your employees are all in the office or scattered worldwide, you can provide them with access to their virtual desktop and all the company resources they need to do their job. DaaS deployment for new employees is lightning fast compared to traditional, on-site infrastructure and computers.
7. Streamlined, Remote Management, and Configuration
Updates, upgrades, configurations, and compliance adherence protocols can be pushed out to all your employees’ virtual desktops quickly and easily, helping you move the entire company along without the usual hassle and slowdowns associated with IT maintenance.
Wrapping it All Up
Let’s talk about your company for a minute. If scaling means hiring more people and giving them the IT resources necessary to handle more work and bigger deals, then DaaS is worth your serious consideration.
It’s the best way to scale up your IT resources without wasting time, money, and opportunity.
Call us for a free consultation at (888) 753-5060.
Scalability has always been an essential characteristic for companies to develop. Today, an organization’s capacity to scale quickly, effectively, and economically can mean the difference between winning new business or missing it altogether. At the rate business moves in 2022, the window of opportunity opens and closes quickly. Being prepared is essential.
An increase in scalability enables businesses to grow their capacity and capabilities effectively and with minimal disruption. The benefits of increased scalability extend beyond handling more business. The foundations required for modern scalability also deliver immense value in other areas, including:
· Enhanced & Improved Customer Experience
· Improved Resiliency
· Nimble Operations
· Highly Engaged & Motivated Employees
Scaling is complex and involves many moving parts ranging from building the right corporate culture to hiring high-performing talent, having the proper structure, and the financing to support it. Using the right technology is an essential ingredient, and that’s where this article will focus.
Everyone Benefits When People and Tech Work Together
Any discussion about technology and modern scalability involves leadership because leadership needs to communicate closely with internal IT and external technology partners. A technology engaged leadership is the only way an organization can prepare its people and culture to handle the growth. Improving scalability in the modern sense means a paradigm shift in how the company operates. The intention and drive to become a better company, to escalate its level of service to its customers, has got to be part of the equation, or attempt at scaling to any significant level will fly off the rails.
Complacent leadership or a culture of doing business-as-usual is one of the reasons companies procrastinate investing in upgrading their technology infrastructure. If current equipment is working, why mess with it?
Legacy Systems Are More Susceptible to Cyber Attacks
This kind of reliance on legacy equipment not only hobbles any attempts at scaling, old hardware, and outdated operating systems are a disaster waiting to happen. Legacy systems are a significant cybersecurity risk.
Our articleWHY IS DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION SO IMPORTANT TO SUSTAINED SUCCESS (PART 1)? Explains the importance of having people with good communication skills leading technology, data, and processes. It would be best if you had good communicators knowledgeable about available technologies and how they can help. These consultants can help you rethink your operations from the top down. The right partner can also maintain and refresh technology roadmaps to ensure a consistent unified architecture (referred to as an “operational backbone” in the article mentioned above).
IronOrbit is the kind of partner who has the business operations experience and technical expertise to get your next-generation operating model started on solid footage..
Increasing scalability is a challenge for any company on multiple levels, but significant changes can become seamless with the right technology in place, at least from an IT perspective.
Talk to one of our consultants today. We can help get the conversation started and help you evaluate the best available options that are right for your business.
There are many examples from business literature comparing decisions made during the chess game to decisions made living life and running a business.
On March 22, 2021, Fast Company article, author Alan Tefler shares some of the lessons he learned as a chess master and, later, the CEO of Pegasystems. The lessons he learned while playing chess helped him become a better leader of a multinational company.
Many of the principles involved in developing a chess strategy apply to making business decisions. Chess is an ancient game of unparalleled depth and complexity. As in business and life, advantages come and go with each player’s move. After one move, you might be at a disadvantage. After another move, you may suddenly take the lead and be in a stronger position.
Garry Kasparov, world chess champion and Founder of the United Civil Front, frequently draws parallels between developing chess strategies and making business decisions. Leaders have to make decisions constantly, sometimes armed with little more than a hunch. That’s why experience can be such a prized commodity. Building experience is an ongoing endeavor. The way to improve is to look back and analyze decisions, particularly those that didn’t turn out so well. There’s a tendency to assume if something worked yesterday and is still working today, it will work tomorrow.
In John Moore’s Brand Autopsy Marketing blog, Kasparov is quoted,“There’s a massive amount of uncertainty and almost endless variety in terms of the moves you can make in both chess and business. Think about it: After just three opening moves by a chess player, more than 9 million positions are possible. And that’s when only two players are involved in the game. Now imagine all the possibilities companies face with a whole host of corporations responding to their new strategies, pricing, and products. The unpredictability is almost unimaginable.”
Make Good Use of Your Resources
In a Chess game, each player has 15 pieces. There are eight pawns, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, a queen, and a king. Each piece has its particular strength. The object of the game is to checkmate your opponent’s king. Beginning chess players tend to see their pieces as individual components. They’ll immediately take their first moves to get their most powerful pieces out into the open. As chess players become more experienced, they learn how to use their pieces in combination to create a series of threats to their opponent.
The more you understand chess, the more you realize the interrelation between each piece and the importance of each piece, from the pawn to the king.
It’s the same way in business. An effective leader knows how to get the right person into the right seat. Take the time to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each member of your team. Take steps to ensure they realize the expectation and what they can do to help. The more effective teams learn how to help each other by working together and helping to cover any blind spots.
Reexamine Your Reasoning and Learn from Mistakes
Making mistakes is an essential part of learning. It is a vital step to becoming a success at anything.
Playing chess can better acquaint you with your nature. For example, you learn how persistent you are. Are you aggressive or defensive? How determined are you to overcome obstacles to achieve a larger objective?
Kasparov said in an interview, “Your nature is your nature. So whether you play chess, run a business, or deal with family affairs, you should understand that when you face challenges, your reactions will come from your nature. That’s why you have to work it out. You have to do regular research on your strengths and weaknesses. You have to be open-minded and relentless with yourself. I learned these things from playing chess.”
This process of self-discovery can be productive in self-realization, which is essential to becoming a leader. Personal strengths and weaknesses must be recognized and acknowledged before improving leadership skills.
Take time to reexamine the decisions made in the past and the ones made today. Pausing to reflect is essential for processing information retaining lessons learned.
Never Underestimate Your Opponent
Look at the world through your opponent’s eyes to better understand their perspective. Apply this practice to see your brand through the lens of your customers. Working to see the brand through customers’ lens can also help better understand the competition.
When playing against another chess player or a business competitor, don’t let amateur moves lull you into complacency. Doing so will only take attention away from considering the whole board – especially the other side.
In business, this underestimation happens most often with startups. McDonald’s didn’t think that Burger King could take away market share initially, nor was Coca-Cola concerned about Pepsi when it first appeared on the market. Ignoring the up-and-coming because they lack resources, processes, or leadership can be a fatal strategic error.
Keep a Psychological Edge
Yury Markushin, in an article for thechessworld.com, tackles the topic of deploying psychology in a game that’s all about strategy. In it, it quotes 27-year world champion chess player Dr. Emanual Lasker who famously wrote, “It’s the players who fight over the board, not the wooden pieces.”
Your psychological edge isn’t just about your psychological health and strength – although that’s important, it’s also about knowing the psychological makeup of your opponent.
In the book Chess for Tigers, the author, Simon Webb, says, “before a World Championship Match, each player may spend months making an in-depth study of his opponent’s game. The study looks for weaknesses in opening strategies, identifying the types of positions in which he is at home or ill-at-ease, assessing the tendency to over-optimism or pessimism, and so on.”
If you’re going to prevail over business competitors, you must spend the time, energy, and resources to understand not only what they are doing but WHY.
This research into the psychological disposition of your opponent will help you have the upper hand when you match wits with them, vying for dominance in the market.
Be Comfortable in Enemy Territory
In a Harvard Business Review article titled “Strategic Intensity,” writer Diane Coutu says, “If you can convince your enemy that you’re comfortable on their ground, then you can often trick them into moving into your territory.”
In many business settings, your opponent will be playing their “own game.” In some ways, it may look like their game isn’t going to affect your business – that is, until it does. Playing on their turf with confidence (even taking the battle to them) forces them to change their strategy. No longer are they alone on the field of battle, but now they must adapt their formerly unchallenged trajectory to your presence on their side of the chessboard.
Eventually, this dynamic can create a shift that forces opponents to play where they are uncomfortable.
Get a Worthy Adversary
Leadership will probably never rise to its potential if the adversary isn’t big enough, smart enough, and cunning enough. Kasparov reminds us that “Great champions need great enemies.” After all, what is a victory over a lesser prepared, ill-equipped, underfunded company? This same principle applies to the efforts required to overcome significant challenges. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
In that same 2005 HBR interview, Kasparov eradicates the sentimental idea of chess when he says, “There is nothing cute or charming about chess; it is a violent sport, and when you confront opponents, you set out to crush his ego. Over the years, the world chess masters I have competed with share my belief that chess is a battleground on which the enemy has to be vanquished. This is what it means to be a chess player, and I cannot imagine that it is very different from what it takes to be a top-ranked CEO.”
MMA fighter Donald Cerrone echoes Kasparov’s call for engaging worthy opponents when he said, “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”
Who you choose to be your competition will either make you better or allow you to be weak.
Rely on Intuition
Sometimes problems can be complex and have a multitude of possible outcomes. At a high level of complexity and possibilities, relying on logic fails. Learn to trust your imagination and feelings. But relying on intuition is more than simply acting on a “gut instinct” at the moment.
Chess masters know that intuition develops over time. A chess master develops intuition through playing thousands of games. There’s almost a sixth sense about how the opponent will move and how the game will develop.
In business, instinct should not be a “shot in the dark.” Instead, relying on business instincts is to trust the accumulated years of lessons learned from successes and failures. So, sometimes, using intuition to guide strategy is the best option, even though there’s no convincing reason why one move is better than another.
Plan an Approach in Stages
There are 3 phases of developing a chess game. These are the opening moves, the mid-game, and the endgame. In the opening chess game, pawns may be moved out one or two squares (only when a pawn moves for the first time).
Don’t push your pawns too far out on the open chessboard too early in the game. All moves in chess are essential, and so is their timing.
Making solid moves is especially true during the early part of the game. Don’t waste opening moves by getting several pawns out onto the board or picking off your opponent’s pawns. Key the overall objective, which is to checkmate your opponent’s king, in mind.
In business, like in life, you rarely “get a second chance to make a first impression.” It is critical to carefully consider the opening moves of an expansion, a product launch, or rolling out an initiative.
Move at least one knight and bishop out onto the board early.
The business parallel here is clear. Be cautious with the pieces of your business that are less strong (the pawns) or need more development. Be bolder with those parts that are more powerful, flexible, and agile – knights and bishops. Calibrate the timing of the overall strategy with a mix of caution and forward-leaning action.
Move the Queen off the Backline
The Queen can be the most effective weapon in your arsenal. Since it is the most powerful piece, use it with caution and careful calculation.
People and initiatives are valuable because of their potential impact on business success. Set them up for success by supporting them properly and supplying whatever tools they might need. Utilize these resources so they can be effective.
Castle Early in the game
Castling is a move frequently used to help protect the king and bring the rook (castle) into a position near the center of the board where it can be more helpful. In business, look for win-win moves like castling that help you get closer to your business objectives in more ways than one.
Attack in the Middle Game
Setting up your defense is key to winning. Many failed business ventures can trace their demise back to attacking before establishing a defensive groundwork. Protect your intellectual property, make sure your patents are in place, and put best-practice protocols around your IT systems to ensure that cybercrime – like ransomware – doesn’t derail you in the middle of your attack strategy.
Use your pieces in combination to protect each other and capture control of the center of the board. Like many other endeavors, business is a team sport. Choreograph the moving parts carefully, utilizing each individual’s strengths and protecting them (and the company) from blindspots and vulnerabilities.
Think Three Moves Ahead
Always think before you move. Don’t jump at the first thing that looks good. Envision the consequences in your mind before making a move. Consider all possibilities. First, consider moves to capture your opponent’s piece or threaten your king. Continually ask, “What was my opponent’s next move? What is his plan?” Do the moves under consideration leave pieces unprotected or fully supported?”
See the whole board – your staff, your customers, your family, your competitors, the market – and take a beat to consider the impact of the move you are considering upon all those spheres. The advantage you have in business that the chess master doesn’t is that you can call in trusted advisors to help you see the forest for the trees and make the best move.
Don’t Take Your Finger Off the Piece Until You’re Certain
The touch-move rule in chess requires you to move a piece if you touch it during your move. It also states that if you don’t take your finger off the piece, you have moved, you can move it to a different spot. Once you let go of the piece, your move is complete.
Some business leaders feel committed to a move when they mention it to their senior leadership. Their egos won’t consider a different move with the same piece of business mid-stream. They “take their finger off the piece” too quickly, cementing their action in the game.
When considering a move in business, sometimes you have to adjust based on new information. By keeping your options open until the decision is finalized (instead of stubbornly insisting on your move), you gain the trust of your employees and senior staff.
Maybe more than any game in history, chess has captured the imagination of strategists – from kings and emperors to the guy hustling speed chess games in a local park. The good news is that the leadership and strategy lessons embedded in chess aren’t a secret. They are easily accessible and applicable to many business scenarios. All you have to do is apply them.
2022 will continue to see the digitization and virtualization of society and business. The need for sustainability, increasing data volumes, and computer network speeds will drive digital transformation as companies move from a survival strategy to one of thriving.
As promised by Moore’s Law several decades ago, technology advancements continue to accelerate, but the speed at which these accelerations are occurring far outpaced earlier projections. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report says, “Developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and genetics and biotechnology are all building on and amplifying one another. More than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that at not yet considered crucial to the job today.”
When you think about what technologies might be game-changing for your company in 2022, you aren’t thinking about nanotechnology, quantum computing, or neural interfaces. As much as the tech giants may want to forecast a utopian future based on these technologies, what your company needs right now is technologies that will help you get more done with less, work from anywhere, and support your organizational objectives.
Let’s dive into some “right now” technologies that can be disruptive in a good way to your workflow and organization as a whole in 2022.
Digitization and Virtual Environments
The trend toward leveraging big data and the digitization of workflow within organizations makes virtual work environments possible. During the pandemic, everybody scrambled to set up home offices. The organizations that already had a virtual IT infrastructure had a much smoother transition. Employees just had to grab their computers from the office and take them home. Others had to work through it and make adjustments along the way. Most of those that didn’t transition went out of business.
It’s interesting to note that many business leaders are still grappling with the employee question of when (or if) they’ll be returning to an office environment. Sharyn Leaver writing for Forrester, predicts only 10% of companies will remain fully remote. Of the 60% planning to shift to some sort of hybrid model, one-third of those firms will fail in their first attempt at anywhere work.
New technologies are emerging in every area. Cloud computing continues to be at the forefront of every discussion because it is foundational to everything else. All IT services, applications, and cybersecurity protocols are delivered through the cloud.
Last October, at Gartner’s IT Symposium in Stamford, Connecticut, analysts reported that enterprises must move away from “lift and shift” migration and toward Cloud-Native Platforms (CNPs). The power of cloud computing provides scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities “as a service” to technology creators using internet technologies, delivering fast time to value and reduced costs. For this reason, Gartner predicts CNPs will serve as the foundation for more than 85% of new digital initiatives by 2025, up from less than 40% in 2021.
Aamer Baig writes in an article for McKinsey, “Most companies we know are well into their cloud journeys and understand notionally that the cloud offers a big opportunity. But many are struggling to capture the full value cloud offers. As in the adoption of any new technology, of course, hiccups are inevitable. But the fundamental issue is that companies are looking at the cloud as a source of IT productivity improvements rather than as a source of transformative value—which is more than $1 trillion, by our calculations.
Improvements in productivity and efficiency gains through cloud-migration programs can generate significant cost savings, but they essentially represent better ways of doing what IT already does. CIOs have a crucial role in getting the business to focus on the far bigger prize: the new businesses, innovative practices, and new sources of revenue that cloud either enables or accelerates.
One pharma company built its GxP-compliant IT environment on the cloud and uses an ecosystem of cloud services that connect with manufacturing instruments, robotics, and other systems. It has been using a combination of scaling, instance management, storage, workload processing, and data-warehousing services to accelerate vaccine development.
A large agriculture company put into the cloud the vast amounts of data it had accumulated on improving equipment maintenance and used advanced analytics to generate insights that became the basis for a new business offering to growers.
CIOs need to master cloud economics and target business areas that can benefit from the cloud’s advantages of speed, flexibility, and scale. As importantly, they need to consider how to make the large-scale changes to IT’s operating model that are needed to build the capabilities to generate new value. Fewer than 10 percent of technology leaders, however, say they are most focused on hiring cloud talent, placing it at the bottom of hiring priorities. That’s a red flag, especially considering that almost 50 percent of CIOs plan to migrate more than three-quarters of all workloads to the cloud in the next two years.”
AI will continue to improve and become ubiquitous in the year 2022. Even the most rudimentary of businesses are utilizing AI devices connected to nearly everything and using AI in:
Robotic Process Automation
Companies using AI devices accumulate tremendous amounts of customer data. This well of information just then needs to be categorized and analyzed for pro-growth decisions based on real-time data. 2022 will see a dramatic jump in the utilization of AI due to the higher speeds available through the widespread adoption of the 5G network.
Before rushing out to buy the latest and greatest in AI technology, it’s a good idea to do some research or delegate an IT innovation team to do some preliminary homework. Become familiar with the capabilities of the technology and ensure it aligns with the mid-range and long-term strategy of your organization.
In a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article first published in 2018, Thomas Davenport and Rajeev Ronanki wrote about the importance of understanding which technologies perform what types of tasks, and the strengths and limitations of each. They write, “we encountered several organizations that wasted time and money pursuing the wrong technology for the job at hand.”
Since many organizations, even large enterprise companies, can lack the necessary in-house expertise to evaluate new and emerging technologies, it’s necessary for business leaders to work closely with IT to identify the right consultants to advise on high-priority projects.
Davenpot and Ronanki found that nearly a majority of cognitive technology projects had to do with robotics and automation. Business leaders have two schools of thought when it comes to automation. Some see automation as a way to eliminate full-time employees while others see it as a way to automate menial tasks in order to make better use of its people. Amazon for instance has been looking at ways for its people to devote more time to building new products. The Hands Off the Wheel program began in the retail management division to develop ways for machine learning to handle repetitive mundane work such as keeping its gigantic warehouses stocked with products to sell.
When companies make it clear that they are using AI to help people rather than replace them, they significantly outperform companies that don’t set that objective (HBR).
Alex Kantrowitz, author of ALWAYS DAY ONE: HOW THE TECH TITANS PLAN TO STAY ON TOP FOREVER (Portfolio, 2020), writes in an article for Harvard Business Review, that Amazon’s transition to Hands Off the Wheel took years to roll out and a great deal of training. “The retail-division employees were despondent at first, recognizing that their jobs were transforming. Yet in time, many saw the logic. ‘When we heard that ordering was going to be automated by algorithms, its like, ‘OK, what’s happening to my job?’”
According to Kantrowitz, Amazon didn’t implement this program to reduce headcount but rather free up personnel to invent and oversee new product development. Kantrowitz makes an essential point: “Had Amazon eliminated those jobs, it would have made its flagship business more profitable but would have missed the next new business opportunity.
Entrepreneurship and seizing opportunities through leverage are at the heart of Amazon’s raison d’être. At no other time in history has it been as easy, fast, and inexpensive to start a new business. Amazon’s view is that it is a facilitator of entrepreneurship, providing the investment, platform, and resources to help build new businesses.
Amazon first opened its online shelves to small businesses in 2000. In 2018, the company created an internal Small Business Empowerment team. In a press announcement, CEO Dave Clark said, “We made the decision to open our store’s virtual shelves to third-party sellers. At the time, big-box retailers had been pushing small businesses out of the retail market. We bet that bringing selling partners into our store would not only be a win for customers who want vast product selection, low prices, and fast delivery, but it would also be a win for small businesses wanting to reach more customers, increase revenue and profits, and create good jobs.”
The number of US sellers who surpassed $1 million in sales grew another 15%. Kantrowitz concludes, “If Amazon is any indication, businesses that reassign employees after automating their work will thrive.”
A recent Forrester study shows that technology leaders will focus on human-centered technology transformations. Indicating that less than 15% of firms nominated digital transformation as a priority in 2022, the report suggests leading firms will use emerging technology to unlock the creativity of their employees and drive innovation that focuses on outcomes, not just financial results.
The trend of “______ as a Service” technologies has exploded in the past few years. 2022 will see more of this trend – for several good reasons.
Subscription-based business technologies:
don’t force you to buy more than you are using
are easily scalable up or down
are flexible to match market fluctuations
can be deployed easily and quickly
Maybe the best part about subscription-based technologies is the zero-coding needed to utilize them. You don’t have to have an in-house IT team. These technologies come pre-built and can integrate easily with other technologies in use within your business. In addition, because the technologies are virtual (in a cloud environment), your business has less exposure to cyber risk and a higher level of business continuity readiness.
The more data that a company creates and gathers from the public, the greater their social responsibility becomes for the protection and use of that data. Whether your company needs to have transparency, governance, and accountability regarding data to protect your brand or you have legislative and industry-standard compliance mandates to adhere to, the technologies revolving around compliance are here to stay and will be growing throughout 2022. These new compliance technologies will help streamline your compliance efforts, minimizing the effort and money expended on compliance concerns.
Employee Wellness and Retention Technologies
The pandemic has brought a wave of resignations and shuffling of employees from one company to another. Business leaders are looking to technology to make employment at their organization more attractive to prospective – and current – employees. This desire to improve working conditions for employee retention has resulted in the utilization of many technologies. These advancements range from wearables that help employees monitor wellness for a work/life balance to new features built into ergonomic forms that reduce stress and improve employees’ workday in repetitive motion tasks.
Other considerations regarding employee wellness and retention technologies are tech that improves communication and collaboration on tasks and incorporates that “water cooler” chat function lost in the social distancing and work-from-home exodus of 2020.
By using tech to reincorporate that human connection into the virtual workplace, companies are helping to give their employees more of a sense of camaraderie and belonging – rather than isolation.
Your business, like many others, is reliant upon technology to maintain your competitive edge. It’s important to know what technologies other companies are leveraging – both within your industry and the broader marketplace. But knowing that other companies are having success with or planning on implementing game-changing tech within their organizations isn’t enough. Companies that take decisive action will face the fast-paced challenges of the next few years much better than those that are more cautious. Combine strategic planning with bold decision-making as you prioritize your technology objectives for the next 12 months. You must have a trusted IT partner to vet those technologies and advise you about their potential ROI within your particular business.
2022 is shaping up to be a year of both promise and uncertainty, but one thing is sure: companies that build a platform to embrace new tech within their workflow will have an advantage out of the starting gate.
While not the magic bullet that solves all your operational problems, moving to the cloud forms the foundation of building a solid technology platform.
Businesses that took the opportunity to remake and future-proof their infrastructure and workforce during the pandemic will continue to pull ahead of the competition. As we move into 2022, it becomes imperative for companies to move to the cloud to accomplish two strategies:
Be agile and flexibly prepared for the unexpected
To Take advantage of emerging AI-enabled digital technologies
These two objectives mean large-scale changes to IT’s operating model. The more technology-savvy people in the company should take the lead in understanding what moving to the cloud would mean for the company. Target specific business areas and look at how having workflows on the cloud benefits operations through increased speed, flexibility, and scale, which are the standard hallmarks of having operations in a cloud environment.
Speed, Flexibility, & Scalability
If you want to deliver digital capabilities anywhere and everywhere, consider how the IronOrbit ecosystem uses the core capabilities of cloud computing to provide scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities. Our teams of engineers and business visionaries have taken the complexity out of migrating your environment to the cloud, so you benefit from faster time to value and reduced costs.
The improvements in productivity and efficiency can generate significant cost savings over time; however, the actual benefit delivery is optimizing IT functions. You’ll be doing things you’ve always done, but you’ll be doing them better, and your operations will be much more resistant to disruptions.
Our new automated self-service portal, IOCentral, delivers a fast and easy way to scale storage, networks, databases, and computer functionality. An intuitive interface allows you to scale business functions more quickly by connecting essential software and microservices. Using AI-enabled technology, IOCentral enables flexibility and comprehensive ecosystem management from one pane of glass.
Speed, flexibility, scalability, and reduced costs indeed represent long-term value, but those in and of themselves do not convey the urgency for moving to the cloud. For that, we need to look further ahead.
The Bigger Business Benefit of Moving to the Cloud
Taking full advantage of your move to the cloud means looking at the new possibilities available to your business because now your business is part of the global cloud ecosystem. The cloud now becomes a catalyst to build new capabilities and value propositions for your customers.
This larger prize focuses on building innovative practices, new sources of revenue, and learning from the unique knowledge flows that will inspire leadership, not IT, to create new digital value propositions for your customers.
Without the cloud, leadership will never be able to enter the competitive arena of 2022 and beyond, let alone have the possibility to innovate new products and services.
The Cloud Delivers All IT Services, Apps, and More.
Be ready to use new digital technologies and stay ahead of change. Call now for a proof-of-concept of how IronOrbit can prepare your business for sustained success.
Future-proofing is the process of preparing for anticipated (and unanticipated) business disruptions. It has always been problematic but is now even more of a challenge.
In this article, we’ll explore the “why” and “how” of future-proofing your business and provide actionable steps to take.
The Future-Proof Challenge of Quickly Evolving Technologies
The rapid acceleration of technology has made future-proofing a business exponentially tricky.
Jimmy Rotella, Sr Solutions Architect at Nvidia, said in a recent episode of “What’s Up AEC?!” that 2020 accelerated a work-from-home movement that was inevitably going to happen in 5 to 10 years.
In an October 2021 Harvard Business Review article, authors Michael Mankins, Eric Garton, and Dan Schwartz write, “technology was already changing the nature of work before Covid-19 took hold. Innovations were redefining the basis of competition in most industries and, consequently, the talent companies need to win over the long term.”
Companies held on by their fingernails for economic survival. The article points out that the businesses that took the lead in the aftermath were the ones who seized the opportunity to remake their organizations and adapt to the new environment.
Disruptors in the Marketplace
Business leaders are worried about what’s going to happen to their companies moving forward. KPMG reports that 74% of CEOs are afraid of some new company disrupting their business model.
Companies look for indicators of possible future disruptions. Things could be going perfectly today, and the next thing you know, someone does it better than you, faster than you, and cheaper. Focus on solving specific problems for your customers. What will the market share be for a product or service in Q4 next year? How about the year after that? Part of this inquiry requires discovering where the weaknesses are in an organization. Spending more time on future-proofing an organization increases your chances of being more proactive instead of putting out fires as they happen.
The Statistics Aren’t on Your Side
Forty thousand companies out of one million will last over ten years. That means that 960,000 go out of business before their first ten years, and only 45 companies out of a million last 100 years.
Why are these figures so grim? What is it that makes preparing a business for future needs such a daunting task? To understand the background of the problem, let’s look at a parenting metaphor.
Parents spend nearly twenty years preparing their children to enter the adult world. In essence, those parents are “future-proofing their children. After all, Mom and Dad don’t know what the world will be like when the children reach adulthood, what kind of people they will encounter, what troubles will come their way, and what dangers they will face. The children will have to be self-sufficient, capable, and adaptable to the inevitable change that will take place during their lifetime.
Your business is no different.
It must be prepped for any eventuality. Every variable is considered.
As we have experienced over the past few years, the future is uncertain. But, with the right preparations, your business can move confidently into the future. The right technologies and strategies can put a forward-leaning company ahead of the competition that hasn’t invested in preparedness.
Let’s explore future-proofing your business, so you can outpace your competition when the next market fluctuation takes them by surprise.
The Connection Between Future-Proofing and Your Company’s Lifecycle
Tendayi Viki, an author, and corporate innovation expert, gave an insightful keynote address at the 2019 Solita Meeting Point. He said all business models have a life cycle, and the problem many companies make is taking the life cycle of a business model and making it the same thing as the life cycle of the company. These cannot be the same thing if you want to future-proof an organization because it chains the two life cycles together. Future-proofing should develop a portfolio of business models (not to be confused with a portfolio of products) that balance risk and return.
McKinsey reports that only 6% of executives are satisfied with their company’s innovation.
Coming up with ideas isn’t so much a problem as shaping those ideas into new value propositions that resonate with customers. Combine those value propositions into sustainably profitable business models. New value propositions require innovation. The objective is to build a portfolio of rising and fall business models to strengthen resiliency.
Reduce uncertainty by experimenting with ideas so that they become sources of revenue.
Innovation Readiness – Embedding Flexibility Into the Future of Your Business
As work and customer transactions continue to grow in a virtual environment, the need to experiment with ideas and business models in the digital realm will grow. Experimentation requires a purposeful engagement between leadership, employees, and technology.
According to the previously mentioned Harvard Business Review article, few business leaders “manage engagement with technology in a coordinated way, so employees become suspicious of it, and the technology underperforms management expectations. That’s a pity because when people and tech work together, everyone benefits.”
The article tells how USAA Insurance uses an integrated approach to developing and deploying AI-enabled tools. The use of next-generation technology frees up people on the claims team to focus on helping customers. “This kind of work is more satisfying for the people and better leverages their capabilities.”
The Future with Your Customers
One aspect of preparedness that makes becoming digital a competitive necessity comes from the customer engagement side.
As Deloitte reports, in nearly every industry across the globe today, customer expectations continue to rise. An explosion of device types and data means that most consumers now expect personalized experiences and increased access to increased amounts of information, when and where they need it. As the number of touchpoints grows, the customer wants “same customer” recognition at every point of interaction. Customer service is more than easy engagement. Today’s customer wants to be necessary each step of the way.
Customers expect products and services tailored to them in personalized, contextual interactions. Customers also wish to read reviews from other customers. The days of siloed IT systems and business functions are behind us, and those who do not realize this will soon be out of business. There is genuine pressure today, much more than a couple of years ago, to digitize operations and become digital companies. There is no time to lose.
Future-Proofing Your Profitability
A recent McKinsey report found that the top 20 percent of companies earn 95 percent of economic profit. Any organization that isn’t seeking new approaches is on borrowed time. By leveraging current technologies and embracing experimentation, organizations can discover new ways of doing things that are not as fragile and vulnerable to unpredictability.
Companies must define data, business, and infrastructure components and design them for reuse to succeed digitally. Reconsider customer offerings in terms of individual components (see the Lego analogy in Part 2 of Why is Digital Transformation So Important to Sustained Success?). One of the powerful benefits of being digital is the repository of reusable business, data, and infrastructure components.
The “How” of Future-Proofing – Operational Backbone and the Digital Platform
The operational backbone supports core business processes and relates to operational excellence. This set of systems is the cost of entry for doing business digitally into the future. In Designed for Digital, Jeanne Ross explains that companies with an adequate operational backbone are 2.5 times as agile and 44% more innovative than companies without an operational backbone. The digital platform, built on a foundation of cloud services, delivers new sources of revenue, leveraging the capabilities of digital technology to enhance customer engagement and solve customer problems. Digitizing operations is a much easier and shorter journey. Most companies experienced a certain amount of it during the pandemic when they had to, under duress, move to remote work environments. Full-on digital transformation is an ongoing process.
Think of it as a journey. New technologies show up on the horizon so frequently that companies have to adapt and adopt almost on the fly. Operating on legacy systems will make this level of agility impossible. Traditional siloed business environments will also prevent progress. It’s far too slow.
The traditional hierarchy of the corporate organizational chart is mechanical by design. Built on antiquated 18th and 19th Century Industrial Revolution ideas, the focus was uniformity, bureaucracy, and control. These are the antithesis of what companies need to focus on today. Now we need creativity, elasticity, and speed.
Protecting Your Data into the Future
From a technology perspective, companies must build ways to capture and store data because even if they don’t know how to make practical use of this gold mine of information now, they will figure it out shortly. An essential aspect of paradigm-shifting towards a future-proof strategy is realizing how important data will become for the long-term success of your business. Think in terms of components and modular applications. These are things that can repurpose for something else. Tap into the power and multiple benefits of accessible scalability-based technologies. Learning to utilize connecting and scaling data will enable companies to develop new products and digital value propositions.
A Future-Proofed IT Environment
In Four Factors to Help You Future-Proof Your IT Environment, Vivek Agarwal writes, “future-proofing means taking steps so you’re able to flex and expand as needed for as-yet-unknown needs and opportunities.” He goes on to explain how the cloud can make companies more agile in meeting customer needs. Moving away from traditional data centers into scalable cloud infrastructure can make enterprises nimbler and more adaptable.
Your core business – the value you deliver to your customers – is the flower that must be protected and nurtured.
With the evolution of technology and fluctuations in the market, the soil that your core business is in may change.
Future-proofing your business means fortifying the core business to thrive in whatever soil conditions it finds itself.
As a technology website, we are writing about technology and how digitization impacts all levels of business and the customer experience. But here’s the thing, technology is only a means to an end. Let’s summarize your next steps in the future-proofing your business.
Take advantage of cloud-based tools and digitizing operations to future-proof your business. They are merely ways to grease the rails of adopting new ways of doing things and liberate the most precious of your resources – people – from tedious manual input tasks.
Build easily scalable systems. Scalability will also impact flexibility so that management can focus on inspiring and revitalizing their teams and organizations.
Shift your team’s focus from reacting to the unexpected to one of possibility thinking. Human creativity and resilience work best in flexible environments that nurture growth, reward their strengths, and help compensate for their weaknesses.