curved line

Ep. 78: Bridging the gap


Bridging the gap between technology and the business side of an organization.

apple podcasts buttonspotify podcasts buttongoogle podcasts button
podcast recording


[00:00:00] Peter Maddison: Hello, and welcome to another exciting episode of definitely maybe Agile with your hosts, Peter Madison. David Sharrock. How are you today, Dave?

[00:00:07] Dave Sharrock: Excellent. Always looking forward to the conversation that we have to close out the week. What's topic of conversation this week?

[00:00:13] Peter Maddison: Talking about bridging the gap. By this we mean, the gap between technology and the business side of the organization. Where would you like to start with this?

[00:00:23] Dave Sharrock: Let's think of that as tribes. We know there are lots of different tribes. Of course, if we're on the technology side, and the business is on the business side, between any tribe there's a gap, right?

[00:00:33] We've talked a lot about transformation through the eyes of technical digital implementation. But at some point, there has to be a bridging the gap between the technology side and the business side. Ultimately, any of that digital transformation has to deliver value, which is leveraged and realized through the help of the business.

[00:00:54] Peter Maddison: I would agree. I think one of the one of the pieces that we see, is that gap is getting narrower and narrower by the day. The introduction of low code, and no code, and easier access to technology, and self-service drag and drop interfaces means . There's more accessibility to technology throughout the organization than ever before. And you can't just look at it as this technology department over here, and they're gonna do all the technical stuff. The whole organization is now becoming more aware of technology and how it impacts how they do work.

[00:01:26] Dave Sharrock: Really a modernizing extension of what's always been there. In many cases, the rest of the organization, through partnerships, through the delivery partners that they are working with, through many of those services that they're purchasing and bringing into the organization, have always been technically rich in their understanding of what is out there. But the relationship between technology group and the rest of the business is something that is continuing to see that shift. There's still room for that to move into a stronger strategic partner role, than service provider or gatekeeper, that is often still seen.

[00:02:01] Peter Maddison: I completely agree. I remember the trading floor ordering 15 laptops and we didn't realize why. IT wasn't responding fast enough. They basically strung them together to start to do their own analytics in the middle of the trading floor.

[00:02:14] Dave Sharrock: That that's one of the key things that we have to understand is speed, right? And urgency. Finally, the balance is shifting to where the technology really is faster than business in many situations. Definitely not everywhere, but with the introduction of agility and DevOps and the technologies which are out there, which means that prototypes can be put together really, really quickly. That speed balance has shifted over to technology. One of the things that we find here is what I call the decision gap. The gap between when a business identifies a particular problem, resolves it, gets it into the market, and then sees the impact of that problem. That decision gap has always been quite long, measured in months or years. It's now getting shorter and shorter, at least on the technology side. The organization hasn't always readjusted their own way of making decisions, which means now it's almost like technology is moving faster than the rest of the organization. Which, highlights itself in trying to get any sign-offs or release plans, product ownership guidance. So it's some of the ways that we see that friction play out.

[00:03:20] Peter Maddison: I've seen that in many places too. When we look at value stream mapping and value stream management, you start to see that there's technology that can innovate and start to put things together and develop solutions very, very quickly. But it takes months, and months, and months, and months to engage with technology. If you can identify and engage faster so that we can work together faster, then we become more effective at being able to innovate and get solutions to market faster. It's not the technology space that's the blocker.

[00:03:51] Dave Sharrock: I'm always drawn into the lean disciplines here. Things like optimize the whole, or deliver fast. The conversations that I've certainly been a part of, when we are looking at things like optimize the whole, and it feels like we've got to extend that beyond technology. And when we talk about deliver fast, the focus has always been on why won't technology deliver quicker? It's almost been flipped on its head now, where we need to look at the organization to understand, deliver fast from a customer context. And we under need to understand optimize the whole from a customer experience. Which we've been talking about for a long time, but isn't really becoming apparent until you unlock the speed in technology. Otherwise that's always the stumbling block. And it does feel like we're seeing a transition or a shift into a scenario where that customer-centric approach is really beginning to be something that can be lived and breathed. Whereas before, it was maybe more of an ideal.

[00:04:44] Peter Maddison: Yeah. From lean discipline, value streams, all that interrelationship. From customer requests through to the delivery of customer value and all of the activities that occur within the system of work to get there. Now we can start to see where are the real bottlenecks occurring. Then it becomes a case of organizationally starting to consider how do we break the dependencies between these different pieces? That's often the next piece where we run into problems. We can identify these value streams, but we deep rooted dependencies within the organization because that's not necessarily how the organization's structured.

[00:05:16] Dave Sharrock: It's interesting, even the terminology that we're using is a very technology-centric perspective. And I think part of that whole shift is recognizing there is a different vocabulary, that has to be brought to the table. Or maybe, the other way is technology has to get to that table to be able to talk as a strategic partner.

[00:05:33] Peter Maddison: There's a slide that I use in my presentations where I use the example of how all the different parts of the organization are all talking their own language. How can we get these different areas to communicate?

[00:05:43] Dave Sharrock: Let's touch on customer-centricity versus product-centricity. We've talked in our conversations around product-centric thinking, over project-centric thinking. How does customer-centric fit into that power?

[00:05:55] Peter Maddison: I was touching on it when I was talking about value streams. To look at things from a value stream perspective, customer value is the outcome of the value stream. There has to be some customer value generated, or it's not a value stream. If we're thinking about our organizations in that term, then that drives that customer-centricity. There are multiple products potentially within the organization involved in that. And they may not necessarily align smoothly with their value streams. How do we organize ourselves in those dimensions? That's, I think, part of the work that needs to happen.

[00:06:31] Dave Sharrock: Yeah. That concept to cash suggests it's this pure linear, single threaded view of a relationship with a customer. Think of how personalized services are, and our expectations. We want to be greeted by name in an appropriate way, that fits with what we're looking for right then and there. That means that customer-centric is an individual customer journey. Each of those customer threads, the journeys that are going through, maybe pulling from the same pool of product. That's really the challenge. A customer centric view is so variable and with so many different elements in it, it's not something that you can necessarily build an organization around. So if you look at these bigger organizations, they have to take a product centric view to make it work.

[00:07:15] Peter Maddison: Actually, one of the organizations that has managed to avoid that is, Apple. Is not organized like that. They're organized along technical expertise. But they've had to overcome a number of challenges as they've grown, especially over the last 10 years to maintain that structure. It has become more difficult for them because the expansion of that executive board. For the expertise to remain along the delivery stream, the leader has to be the expert in that particular thing. But as the organization grows, it becomes harder and harder for you, as a leader, to be an expert in everything within the domain. So how do you scale that model? You eventually end up in this point where, what most organizations end up doing, is they break it down into the product silos and areas. What Apple did was they, took a different approach around dividing up leadership. But perhaps I think that's maybe a little more than we can get in today.

[00:08:09] Dave Sharrock: Apple is pretty much one of the largest companies in the world and has resources that are beyond many of us, right? There's a huge focus right now on this value stream perspective. And I think it's a great step forward. There is definitely a shift to this speed perspective of how to get value out of the door. But the idea of a customer-centric view becomes harder and harder the larger the organization gets. I think you need it from a marketing perspective, an understanding of what needs to be delivered and what services you can optimize. But having a product-centric view technically for delivering still makes a lot of sense.

[00:08:45] Peter Maddison: If we were to sum this up in three points, where are we going?

[00:08:48] Dave Sharrock: I think we've just peeled the lid back on that whole customer-centric versus product-centric. But I think that one is something which is a topic of conversation that continues to touch on bridging the gap between technology and the organization, as a whole. The second point that I'd come to is, the gears have shifted on the technology. They are now delivering .Fast speed is part of what is happening in the technology area, and I'm not so sure that's always bled over into the organization. The decision gap between what your customers are seeing, there's still something to be worked on there. They're out of step. That isn't really being discussed or being addressed, necessarily. I think the other side is, more and more that gap is smaller, right? It's more about different tribes than it is silos. Tribes can bang into one another, and you can morph those much more easily and they're much closer than they may appear. Whereas, in the past it's always been a little bit more us and them. I think nowadays we're really all on in the same boat. Much, much closer together. That gap is smaller than it's ever been.

[00:09:52] Peter Maddison: I'd agree. I think there's definitely still a ways to go. Especially in our larger, more complex organizations. But I think there's greater understanding in general of technology and how it can be applied and accessed. People have a greater understanding of those pieces.

[00:10:08] Well, thank you as always, Dave.