It may be time to evaluate your partners

We are at an inflection point for new technology and process adoption. We are under a time of rapid change and there are several new tools and processes available to the enterprise that can enable dramatic cost savings, time savings, and modernization not seen for a decade. But recommending and consuming these; from a perspective of adoption and integration is a foreign concept to most folks, including legacy technology vendors and system integrators.

Just this past week, I had conversations with four technology manufacturers that are struggling to find teams to work with that understand new approaches and tool chains. For many this may seem like a captain obvious statement; new tools mean that they haven’t been widely adopted and finding experts is difficult. But that is not what is concerning. More so are the number of vendors that are selling transformation and change without a real understanding and practical experience of what they are pitching.

Since we are in the business of transformation, modernization, and being an agent of accelerating change we have a track record of helping companies accomplish these goals. I thought that it would be worthwhile to write a little on three characteristics that we feel are critical for evaluating and aligning new partners to your next-gen IT initiatives in order to ensure success.

Education First

Anyone that you are thinking of working with should have a training and education offering. Full stop. It must be core to their business; a driver that is placed at or above all others. See, today’s technology and processes are very different than what most folks have been using for the last decade or longer in enterprise IT (maybe not so much in development). The lack of skills is a real issue in our industry.

We call this up-skilling, and I t is much more than just off-the-shelf training that is required. It is an approach to thinking differently and having practitioners that understand every process and tool is going to require adoption of new skills to be proficient in their use and enable continuous iteration. Also, and maybe even more important, is a focus on continuous learning; imparting knowledge as quickly as projects are being announced on GitHub. Only with this support will organizations realize meaningful, successful change.

So, ask: Is there an education offering that can be customized to meet our unique needs, and how is that part of our engagements?

Eating the Dog Food

I’ve heard this time and time again over my two decades of work in technology. Do you eat your own dog food? In the past, companies like Oracle or IBM would say that yes, they do; we run POWER servers and we use the latest version of the Oracle database. But this is a thin veil of adoption that was easy to accomplish. Set a corporate mandate and have the moral authority to enforce the use of the technology. Great! Well, not so fast.

As companies adopt software defined everything, move increasingly more workloads to the cloud, and embrace infrastructure as code, setting a corporate directive to use these tools and adopt the necessary required processes is much more difficult. In fact, it is this change that most companies are attempting to accomplish by adopting a modern IT supply chain! So, if you are trying to adopt these principles should not your partner be doing the same in a relevant fashion?

So, ask: Do you believe in agile, operate lean, and actively use tools and processes as you recommended? How?

Speed vs. Velocity

This is another gotcha. Ever take the time to understand the difference between these two words? Well, most vendors don’t either. The devil is in the details.

Speed is a scalar quantity that is defined as distance traveled over time. Itself, this is decent metric. Formula One car A can do 190MPH through Eau Rouge at Spa, while car B was clocked at 199MPH…it must be better, right? If the only thing that mattered was the speed at that part of the track, yes. But we know that lap times matter more, as does reliability.  So we need to look deeper.

Velocity, on the other hand is a vector quantity. It considers both magnitude and direction, which for the enterprise IT shop is far more important than just going “fast.” Take for example the whiz-bang new storage that you can buy. It has mega IOPs! It may increase the ability for a transaction to be completed, but does it map into a direction that provides or supports transformation? Like providing a single platform capable of being delivered programmatically across any environment, increasing agility?

So, ask: How do you determine and map the velocity our business is seeking into requires into your optimized processes or technology?

What about that Change?

As you sit at that conference table or participate on the WebEx while you are getting the latest speeds and feeds from an incumbent partner or vendor, I hope this post stirs up a new line of questioning and challenges. Looking beyond the status quo serves companies well, regardless if it is implementing change through internal process optimization or digital transformation through the far-reaching implications of adopting AWS Lambda or leveraging machine learning algos.