Corporate IT: Thoughts on staying relevant and becoming competitive

Woman's month

Silicon Valley and technology hubs around the world have become incredibly good at fast, lean product development. It makes sense to be lean and quick, given the high volume and low success rates that are features of the tech-startup industry.

The tech-startup ecosystem has driven the demand for fast-paced agile and lean software practices in all areas of software engineering, as well as an incredible amount of innovation in software tooling and technology. The landscape is shifting constantly and so too are approaches to designing and building software systems, organising teams, and managing deliverables.

What does this mean for members of the corporate IT community moving forward? How do we make sure we’re delivering against industry’s best practices and leveraging the benefits of modern tools to stay competitive in our industry?

Here’s a good place to start:

  1. Adopt a culture of continuous improvement

We are on the steepest part of the technological innovation curve in history. Change is more frequent, rapid and pervasive than ever before. According to a recent Deloitte university press report, the unit cost of computing power between 1992 and 2012 came down by a factor of 3700. What cost R3000 then, costs 81c now. More importantly, they found that labour productivity growth flat-lined while advances in core digital technologies skyrocketed, exposing a clear innovation gap. Conclusion? We are not capitalising on this innovation in software organisations. It’s understandable. We’d like to avoid becoming victims of the latest flavour-of-the-month practice but we don’t want a tendency toward risk-aversion to limit our potential as an organisation either.

Change doesn’t come easily to us in IT. We are, by default, attracted to certainty and predictability. Who can blame us? There is enormous complexity in what we do and, as a result, a huge intellectual and emotional investment in ‘getting it right’ once, let alone again and again. The data is clear, though: change in approach, technology and people are all connected to our future success because change ensures we can remain relevant and can meet our customers’ needs.

  1. Update how you evaluate and seek talent

If your organisation values deep experience in specific technologies, then you could end up with people who are good at the past and (potentially) bad at the future. When hiring, prioritise ability, attitude and aptitude for change. Seek these traits out at the cost of all others, and you’ll build teams that constantly deliver work that is fresh and current.

Accept that on-the-job training for any technology, tool or environment is part and parcel of your operational costs. Plan for it, embrace it and get really good at making it happen quickly. If we can build organisations that are resilient to high churn and operate efficiently despite it, we stand a greater chance at succeeding in the current climate. There are modern approaches designed to tackle this:

  • Lean, fast recruitment – invest in shorter, smarter interview processes
  • Smooth onboarding and orientation to ramp up productivity and employee engagement
  • Align with popular tools and technologies to access a wider skill-pool
  • Reduce setup time with preconfigured, out-of-the-box development environments
  • Remuneration strategies that target shorter tenures
  • Leverage software development partners
  1. Adopt a low-hanging fruit approach

Delivering solutions that meet your customers’ needs is at the heart of being competitive. Try out a feature-team approach on your next deliverable. Well-designed systems should allow you to ring-fence components and experiment with new technology in a way that lowers the risk of impact on the rest of your ecosystem. Start with the least critical systems and get comfortable, working your way deeper as you go. Start the conversations in your team and challenge your team to think outside of the box: what should we be doing differently?

Trust your team but contribute to the decision-making process. Software engineers don’t need to be architects or have 15 years’ experience to bring good ideas to the table; the best ideas could come from the graduate you hired three months ago. Encourage a culture of joint accountability and continual learning and innovation, and change will happen seamlessly and without prompt.

  1. Adopt structures that enable quick, collaborative decision-making

Finally, bringing your entire team along for the journey is a non-negotiable. Change requires teams to be able to move quickly. Decentralise technical decision-making. High-performing teams don’t necessarily need complete autonomy but they do need trust and cohesion, which are two things the old-guard has a poor track record of fostering.

As you build confidence in your new approaches, tools and technologies, you’ll build an organisation that is not only resilient to change but thrives on it. A philosophy of continuous improvement will help you consistently deliver against industry best practices. As a result, staying competitive will be the very nature of your business.

By Timothy Kroon, Chief Operations Officer at Entelect

Edited By: Darryl Linington
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Follow @DarrylLinington on Twitter

Editor of Tech IT Out. Former radio host of Former Editor of IT News Africa and ITF Gaming. All round techie, gamer and entrepreneur. For Editorial Enquiries Contact: or via +27788021400.