In the final game of the FIFA Men’s World Cup played this summer, France and Croatia battled for the championship in a thriller that France won 4-2. What was interesting to me about the match is that neither team had a bona fide superstar. Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Lionel Messi of Argentina, the two current superstars, and rising stars Neymar of Brazil and Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, were all watching, not playing.
The reason for that is simple: the two World Cup finalists, while full of players who belong to some of the world’s best teams, were cohesive units of players that rely an intricate infrastructure of teamwork to win. In fact, that could also be said about the two other teams in the semifinal, Belgium and England. Or, if you look over the last two decades of World Cup champs, you can say the same about most of them.
When I look at innovation in the IT industry—or in business in general—I see a similar story.
A few years back, Gartner had the IT world talking when it introduced “bi-modal” IT. Given Gartner’s propensity for lengthy definitions that are difficult to parse, the concept isn’t easily understood. The major premise is that IT today is characterized by two tiers called “Mode 1” and “Mode 2.” Mode 1 is traditional and sequential, emphasizing safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and nonlinear, emphasizing agility and speed. However, Gartner was unclear whether the two tiers should continue to exist as separate tiers, each borrowing characteristics from the other, or if they should work together.
Those who interpret “bimodal IT” as permission to keep the two tiers separate see innovation as only being the product of Mode 2. They point to the innovations of the Uber, Tinder, and Facebook apps, and praise them for their revolutionary user interfaces and experience. That’s short-sighted. These apps didn’t just spring onto mobile devices like Aphrodite rising from the sea and start getting stuff done. They are products of a great front-end plus modern, agile infrastructures and back-ends, just like the French and Croatian teams have powerful young forwards supported by a network of agile defenders.
There are two main types of innovation. The three examples I just gave are the first type: they introduced entirely new usages—rideshare, swipe left and right, connect with friends—for digital technology. The other type improves the value of software, digital services or devices that already exist, such as Spotify (streaming), Medium (blogging), or Apple (smartphones and voice recognition). However, both types of innovation can be limited by a lack of agility in the back-end. This is when the slow (Mode 1) ends up beating the fast (Mode 2) because each is operating in a vacuum.
The digital drawing board is littered with great innovations that never went anywhere. And the most likely cause is that an aging infrastructure couldn’t deliver the support needed, much like one could argue that Messi, Neymar, and Ronaldo weren’t supported by teamwork or aging defenders in the World Cup.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
It’s possible to turn the slow into the fast, or in Gartner parlance, enable Mode 1 not only to operate like Mode 2 but also with Mode 2. Google pushes 50% of all their components to production every two months. Amazon puts a new feature or function into production every second. Spotify releases new features to its application 500 times a year. Even a large, traditional organization like banking giant Crédit Agricole is able to get their core applications into production faster than their competitors.
As these examples illustrate, the agility needed to support innovative digital technology is readily available. All it takes is a move from traditional infrastructure to the cloud and DevOps methodology. Many of the world’s backends are a combination of mainframes, relational databases, transaction monitors and J2EE Application Server. It is possible to modernize these backends by moving many of their components to open systems and the cloud.
Mainframe rehosting in the cloud and infrastructure modernization offer the performance, speed and availability needed to complement the demands of innovative, modern applications. There are no changes to the underlying business logic or user interface and no negative impact on the enterprise, such as downtime. Experts in systems integration and DevOps practices, such as continuous integration, continuous delivery, DevSecOps (security) automation, deliver the change management needed. The result is the IT version of a World Cup finalist: young nimble strikers supported by equally agile defenders and all working together to deliver the much-needed win.
For two decades, TmaxSoft has been helping large companies modernize and increase the agility of their existing core applications so that they are more responsive to modern front ends, including mobile applications, e-commerce and social omnichannels. Our solutions and services reduce TCO, which in turn funds modernization and continuous innovation. And, our system integrators guide the change management needed for the systems and the people involved. To learn more, visit www.tmaxsoft.com.
Tim Wirth is the Managing Director for France, Belgium and Italy at TmaxSoft. In this role, he allocates TmaxSoft resources to develop awareness, educate prospects, win customers and ensure customers’ success. Prior to joining TmaxSoft, Tim was the Regional Director for Europe West for Lithium Technologies Inc. He also served in management roles at EMC Information Intelligence Group, Mobile Tribe, Versant Object Technology Southern Europe and Sybase. Tim has a Master’s degree in Computer Sciences from the Ecole Supérieure d’Informatique and a MBA from New York University, the London School of Economics and HEC Paris.