At present, IT is still perceived as a tool at the service of the company. But software has begun to “eat the world” and business and IT must now merge to become indivisible.
Since its inception, companies have sought to seize IT to optimize their operations and improve their revenue (refined market competitive position, reduction of time to market, etc.) or their profitability (elimination of manual steps through automation, etc.). IT now accounts for a significant portion of a company’s expenses, estimated at between 1% and 7% depending on the company’s size and industry.
But as IT grows in importance, it largely remains a separate “entity” within companies. Although IT actively participates in the success of the company and can be its best strategic ally, it retains an executive role at the behest of management. When new issues and opportunities arise that require review of the processes, the company expresses its wishes to the IT entrusted to the project. The cycles are relatively long, with delivery deadlines between 9 and 24 months in the best case scenario.
If the solution proposed by IT is satisfactory, the company’s management acquires it. But the confrontation with reality is sometimes painful: Are the working hypotheses still confirmed 2 years later? Do they always apply on market terms?
It is common for a barely implemented solution to be overwhelmed by requests for new features for the second version: and it is not as long as the first is so effective that it is necessary to expand its scope, no, it is rather because as the stands, it misses its target. IT then begins a new cycle in the hope that the next delivery will be completely satisfactory. We know, as always, months later.
The current relationship between business and IT can be successful for long-term projects where internal and external conditions are unlikely to change for a long time. But this interaction does not correspond to, no longer corresponds to the world we live in.
The world we live in: software “eats” the world
Over the last 15 years, software has taken over all aspects of our lives, both private and professional. We no longer see software as a way to improve our operations and our practices. Software has become the means we work with. It is the vector of our interaction with our customers and our suppliers, the one with which we produce quality, innovative and original articles and services, the means we use to market them, etc. Everything that companies do is driven, at least partly, by software. And this trend will intensify.
Take the example of cars. Only a few years ago, apart from the obvious characteristics of size, shape and color, the buyer was mainly interested in the engine, safety features and fuel consumption of the vehicle model. Now consumers are also worried about how their smartphone will be integrated into the car for entertainment and communication; What about the navigation system …
- Do they need to update the old-fashioned way, or will they receive them automatically in real time?
- What is the electronic security system on board?
- Does the car brake by itself?
- Will it correct the lane if the motorist is distracted?
And that does not count the current investments in the development of self-driving cars that will drive themselves, and of which the first models were to be marketed in the coming years.
In 10 years, when you want to buy an autonomous car, would you prefer the one with the best software (and therefore the best driving characteristics and safety guarantees) or the one with the best engine?
For my part, I already know the answer to this question.
To fully understand what competitive advantages manufacturers can gain from this, let’s take the example of Tesla. Shortly after the launch of the Model S electric sedan, motorists saw their cars destroyed by fire after a battery fire: the cars drove on the highway over metal debris, which had perforated the chassis and caused a fire in the lithium battery. Tesla responded quickly and organized a campaign to remotely update (“over the air”, probably via telephone networks) the software for all vehicles in circulation, without visiting the garage, to limit the possibility of lowering the flat bottom of the vehicle on the highway to prevent , that such accidents happen again. The cost difference between updating the software automatically and recalling all affected vehicles is simply huge.
If this development can seem trivial, its consequences are by no means insignificant! Accepting that our lives are driven by software in every way has consequences. Considering IT as a “tool” available to the company is like considering the brain as a “tool” available to the human body. But this is not the case, the two are inextricably linked and in symbiosis one does not go without the other.
The same goes for IT.
As the role of the software becomes predominant in the company, the company and IT must merge and become indivisible, just as the body and the brain are complementary organs that work together and not one in each other’s service. Business is IT and IT is business. This is the very spirit behind “continuous rollout”: organizing business and IT so that they resonate.
Over the next ten years, companies in all industries must relearn what it means to be a computer-controlled, software-driven society, and think about the organizational, political, and technical implications of this development.
Only companies negotiating this transition will survive. Those who still separate business and IT today are simply unfit to face the challenges that threaten and they will not survive this transition.