Through the Cloud
Software is now everywhere, and every organization is becoming a software-driven organization
Software-driven organizations are organizing around flow
The profound transformation organizations are undergoing is fromstable states to stable flows
The journey to the cloud starts from an enterprise era where change between stable states is tightly controlled
The journey continues through the cloud era where agility unleashes change
The journey ends in the matrix era with stable flows managing constant change
Now we are all software
Software is now everywhere, and every organization is becoming a software-driven organization.
We all know a big change happened, forced experiments, compelled decision-making and reset markets. The history of pandemics shows some to be historical turning points, but all accelerated change. In DXC, we noted nearly fifty candidate social and economic accelerations that informed our 2020 report Shock Treatment: Developing Resilience and Antifragility, some rediscovered, some current, some new. Figure 1 shows just a few of the technology-centric accelerations.
As far as digital technology is concerned, there has been a great acceleration – software is now everywhere, and every organization is becoming a software-driven organization. Data is increasing, but it is useless, even dangerous, without software to create insight and action. Software development used to be the province of the IT organization and the rebels of ‘Shadow IT’. As the consumerization of IT exploded (see, for example, The ‘Consumerization’ of Information Technology), employees, customers and citizens became involved in every stage of the app development lifecycle. In 2021 almost all products and services have a software or data aspect requiring the organization to develop, procure, integrate and support software. Do that well and you have an edge; do that poorly and you lose users. Every organization has to become a software-driven organization.
The Journey TO the cloud is now the journey THROUGH the cloud
Software-driven organizations are organizing around flow.
The pandemic accelerated many traditional organizations to the cloud era, some through the cloud era and a few into the matrix era, a perspective that we set out in our 2017 report The Renaissance of the IT Organization. By 2021 the three eras had evolved, and organizations continue to progress through them. Most organizations are now partly in the Enterprise Era, an era of engineered software, dominated by monolithic systems and approaches; and partly in the Cloud Era, an era of engineered operations: small teams, agile processes and cloud infrastructure with a bias to action and change. The most advanced of the traditional organizations now have a few ‘digitally intense’ units in the Matrix Era: an era of engineered organizations built on micro-enterprises, guildcraft, cognitive load management, progressive deployment, adaptive systems and systematic industrialization (Figure 2). Here organizations ‘ship the org chart’. This is the realm of Haier, Amazon, Buurtzorg, Zappos, Nucor, W.L. Gore, fast-scaling digital natives and hyperscalers.
How does an organization drive through the eras? In Next Generation Operating Models, Chris Surdak sets out the Four Ds of proactive transformation: Direction, Dollars, Data, Do it. As to the mechanisms, there is no shortage of advice: architect with microservices, scale agile, adopt DevSecOps, introduce lambda, speed up your CI/CD pipelines, become platform-centric, enter digital ecosystems, decouple your monoliths, API everywhere, industrialize your components. Where do you start? What are the patterns and antipatterns? Which are the most important?
We need a Unified Field Theory of Getting Things Done.
From stable states to stable flows
The profound change organizations are undergoing is from stable states to stable flows.
The more advanced the era, the more the organization responds to change, the more it designs digitized operations around flow (Figure 3):
- The flow of work, e.g. progressive/continuous deployment, assembly vs. build, modern productivity
- The flow of data, e.g. data fluidity, data metabolism, data ‘flywheels’
- The flow of change, e.g. matching organization and product/service change to the cadence of both the customer journey and the ecosystem.
Matrix era organizations engineer flow through thinnest-viable, stacked platforms and high-velocity pipelines used by small, autonomous, long-lived teams. Similar platform teams choreograph components using flow architectures. These teams are the basis of entrepreneurial, largely self-managing micro-enterprises which ‘plug and play’ into platforms that supply shared services and physical/technology infrastructure. Stabilized flows of change, work and data enable these teams and micro-enterprises to change fast and grow fast. These are engineered organizations.
The journey to the cloud starts from an enterprise era where change between stable states is tightly controlled. The journey continues through the cloud era, where agility unleashes change, and it ends in the matrix era with stable flows managing constant change. Thus the profound transformation organizations are undergoing is from stable states to stable flows.
Journey through the cloud
The first of three research sprints into ‘The Journey Through the Cloud’ updated the eras – stages a software-driven group moves through to become a more adaptive organization, one that masters flows of change, work and data. We still have to integrate our Digital Anthropologist Caitlin McDonald’s research and Alex Kokkonen's research on Expertise as an Asset. The second sprint now looks closely at the mechanisms those software-driven organizations use to progress on the journey through the cloud. We are grateful for the insightful contributions of the thought leaders in the broader software engineering community mentioned here and those in the front line in DXC. We would welcome discussions with others creating next practice in their journey through the cloud.
 LEF’s David Moschella predicted the characteristics of the Matrix Era (constantly evolving horizontal process/software/data/infrastructure stacks cross-fertilizing vertical sectors) half a decade ago in the report Embracing ‘The Matrix’ & the Machine Intelligence Era