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Businesses Must Evolve To Meet The ‘Need For Speed‘

by Lee Congdon, CIO, Red Hat September-2015

Founded in 1993, Red Hat ((NYSE: RHT)) is the world's leading provider of open source solutions. The company helps more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies solve business challenges, align their IT and business strategies, and prepare for the future of technology. The company has a current market cap of $13.40 billion.

For business, there's a need for speed that we've not seen before. It's no longer acceptable to use budget constraints as an excuse to not deliver solutions or services in a timely manner. In today's cloud/virtualization/as-a-service world, the business that slows down for any reason is one that will ultimately fail – which is why organizations need to let go of business models that are holding them back in favor of more agile strategies. Traditionally, vendors built customized solutions based on the unique needs of a single customer. This approach would often take years to complete. By the time the solution was built, there were better, more streamlined technologies available.

This problem is known among developers and IT teams as "scope creep" – and it perfectly exemplifies how not to deliver solutions in 2015, as the results of a recent study on IT innovation conducted by my company, Red Hat, and Harvard Business Review show. That survey found a direct correlation between "Innovation Accelerators" – companies pursuing IT-enabled business innovation as a core strategy - and revenue generation. These are the organizations that are changing their approaches to people and processes in order to succeed. And they're starting with IT.

IT's Changing Role

IT has become a service organization that caters to business objectives. IT professionals have gone from making sure the network is up and running to having a seat at the decision-making table. No longer order-takers, they are now strategic visionaries. This may seem like it happened overnight, but the truth is that many IT managers fortunate enough to work in mature organizations have been in this enviable position for a while. They don't work with business partners to select a portfolio and implement solutions over time. Instead, they bring their own proposals and ideas to the forefront. They deliver products and production reliably and quickly, and have built a foundation of trust with senior managers and others outside of IT. Most importantly, they're driving revenue for the business by helping the organization achieve an unprecedented combination of quality and innovation.

More than ever, it's vital that organizations take the time to find the right people to who can fit into this type of environment. These employees need to be able to efficiently manage production processes and deliver products. They also need to be true business partners who are willing to help guide the enterprise forward. Finding this perfect mix isn't easy, since there's a global war going on for quality IT talent. The key to success is offering the right incentives and rewards, providing complete transparency regarding business initiatives, and, most of all, giving IT associates a voice in the direction of the organization.

Changing Processes

Once the people are in place, organizations can update processes to help them accelerate even faster. For example, they can encourage more collaboration among teams and the adoption of more lightweight, resilient, and cost-effective solutions. In effect, they can move from an "industrial-based society" – the old way of doing things - to an "information-based society" that is quick to respond and forever innovating.

I might be a bit biased, but I believe that my company, Red Hat, is a fine example of this type of transition. When we first started we were a small organization focused primarily on delivering the Linux operating system. Evolving into a larger organization dedicated to enterprise solutions necessitated that we change our approach and become the open and fast-moving organization we are today. If we had not done this, we could have ended up withering away like so many other companies.

Now, we're undertaking several initiatives to build our future path. We're becoming increasingly focused on increasingly flowing hard data to help us make development decisions. We're fostering better collaboration, both internally among our teams and externally with our partners and customers. Finally, we've become our own first customer, testing our products internally before releasing them into the market. These approaches are helping us deliver solutions to help our customers today and tomorrow.

We believe that those solutions will be even more resilient than the ones we currently offer. As such, they'll help IT professionals continually guide their organizations forward. That's how a business stays ahead in today's marketplace – by not only looking toward the future, but taking steps toward making it happen.