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Innovation vs Process in the Technology Age

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Lightbulb - innovation
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If you go back 12 to 15 years, organizations used a structured approach for technology strategy planning, producing five-year roadmaps and planning out project lifecycles of two to three years — and that’s when we had a huge and extremely impactful technology disruption movement. Now, in this age of fail fast without fear, the total lifespan of any technology is two to three years!
 
The world has changed, and things are moving at a rapid and often unsustainable pace. Strategic planning needs to be done yearly, if not more frequently. And you need to be innovating constantly to stay ahead of competitors. If not, your organization could quickly become irrelevant. (And the same goes for your personal growth, too.)
 
The Conundrum of Constant Change
But as the innovation in technology continues, organizations are grappling with an implementation conundrum. For large, global organizations, the constant change can become a huge technical debt. The biggest reason is that, other than in the areas of software and product development, process innovation isn’t keeping pace with the rate at which new technologies are being introduced.
 
The software and product development disciplines have been able to keep up with process innovation through the use of pure Agile, scaled agile framework (SAFe), and similar methodologies. They’ve become the norm in these areas.
 
Infrastructure, on the other hand, is a different monster. Traditionally, infrastructure folks aren’t known to follow strict processes, other than for large-scale projects — and even there it has been hit or miss given the lack of discipline in most cases.
 
Think Agile for Infrastructure
As I made the switch from leading software and product development teams to infrastructure innovation, my belief in strong processes to drive innovation has become even stronger. The biggest issue I hear from most of my industry peers is the struggle they face in implementing and adopting new infrastructure technologies. As large organizations made the switch from using strong processes to going for quick wins, we’ve seen a negative impact on a deployed technology’s influence and usage.
 
Use of Agile methodologies and services such as Microsoft’s Azure DevOps within infrastructure is a great way to handle some of these issues. There’s no reason that this sort of process innovation should apply to software and product development alone.
 
In the end, a great technology that isn’t being used at scale is ineffective. Organizations should stop being afraid of using strong processes and start investing as much in process innovation as they’re investing in technology innovation. (This could have helped startups that couldn’t hit it big despite having great ideas and products. Some saw their demise due to an inability to scale fast while maintaining quality.)
 
Balance of innovation and process is, in my mind, the key to success! And let’s not forget the customer focus in both cases.

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