Preparing Future IT Roadmaps Amid Business and Technology FluxKotak Life's Kirti Patil on Planning and Future-Proofing IT in Uncertain Times
The business landscape is undergoing significant shifts amid a looming downturn in economic activity and geopolitical dynamics.
This presents CIOs with two key challenges when planning their IT roadmap - speeding up the pace of technologies to adapt to the business shifts and future-proofing IT investments against fast technology obsolescence. Any technology decision comes with the risk of redundancy, but, more so, when the business models are as fluid as they are today. As a result, the pressure of doing more with less and maximizing the return on investment has taken on a new meaning.
The wide array of available technologies makes the decision to choose the correct one even more difficult to get right. While speaking at the CIO.inc Cloud Summit, Kirti Patil, joint president - IT & CTO, Kotak Life, shared some broad guidelines for planning a future-proof IT roadmap.
Choose What Fits Current and Future Use Cases
When choosing the right technology, keep in mind its sustainability in the long term. "Look for the technology's fitment beyond just its current use case and cost-effectiveness. What you are buying today should take you through the next one year at least. So, look at its cost in the context of what you are investing in today and what you need to support." Patil says.
It is equally true that planning too far ahead is not always practical. Technological developments are moving so fast that features selected today might lose their relevance and become obsolete within a year. In volatile situations such as these, chances of redundancy are higher. CIOs should reconcile themselves and the management to the uncomfortable truth that not all technologies will last in the long term; they will need to be upgraded or changed.
Build Modular Architecture That Supports Agility
Agility is key when both business and technology needs are changing. CIOs need to bake agility into their architecture to be able to respond to the changing business needs and go to market faster. "The IT architecture is critical and should be built in a modular manner, enabling CIOs to make the changes of today quickly and think about the future as well," Patil says. "You can't start building agility that the business wants tomorrow if you don't have the foundation right. Secondly, companies need to start investing in technologies and models like cloud that can bring agility."
An iterative approach focusing on getting the minimum viable product out as fast as possible will also enhance agility.
Have the Courage to Say No
With the hype surrounding emerging technologies, management and business heads often expect CIOs to implement the current technologies, such as the metaverse, IoT and blockchain. But, if the technology is not relevant to their specific business needs, CIOs should have the courage to say no to avoid future misfires.
"To make the right choice without giving in to the hype as well as peer and management pressure, CIOs should evaluate technologies through the lens of business relevance. If it doesn’t solve the business problem, we, as technologists, should be able to say no to ourselves, our teams and to the business," Patil says.
While being judicious is important, CIOs should also be forward-looking. Not investing in modern technologies may affect the business's ability to attract new talent that is looking to work on the latest technologies. CIOs will need to move out of their comfort zones and experiment with futuristic technologies that haven't yet been fully proven in the enterprise domain, like metaverse, blockchain and super apps.
To strike the right balance, CIOs can minimize the cost of failure with an iterative approach. Fail early and fail small to avoid any possible bigger blows later in the journey. "Start small, try PoC and only if successful, invest further in terms of money, resources, time and efforts. For such workloads, it’s best to evaluate cloud as it allows experimenting quickly without investing in a huge capex in one go when unsure of the outcomes," Patil says.
A lower entry barrier and minimal cost of failure also help in building management's confidence, getting their buy-in and seeking investments for new technologies for which ROI is not yet clear.
Learn to Let Go Fast
As important as failing fast is accepting it. "The biggest challenge comes from the people who build technology. As technologists, it’s not easy to let go of what we build. It’s important to accept when we have failed and more importantly, let go of what doesn’t work," Patil says.
Are You Future-Proofing Tech Investments?
Future-proofing technology investments is vital. This starts at the time of evaluating a new product by analyzing the captive build and support teams as well as the necessary skills for it. If not available internally, how can those skills be acquired? If it requires outsourcing to partners, is there a strong partner ecosystem available to build and support this? Does the vendor have a roadmap and investments for the product's R&D? These are some of the questions that Patil says CIOs should seek answers to. Else, it will be a high-risk proposition.
Have Conviction When Going Against the Flow
When choosing between two technologies or products, there are advantages of going with what most peers in a similar industry are choosing because it's tried and tested, and an ecosystem to manage and support is readily available, Patil says. However, if the CIO still doesn't deem it to be the best fit for the business needs, it's important to do the homework before taking the decision.
Patil suggests that when against the flow, CIOs need to be first convinced of being able to manage and support their choice and then take an iterative approach by investing small to minimize the risk of failure.
Underlining this broad checklist when planning technology for the future is maintaining a judicious balance between investing in technologies that are business-driven and technologies that are experimentation-driven to drive both growth and innovation.