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Business today is in the throes of a digital revolution. It was provoked by the introduction of technologies such as cloud, social and mobile computing, big data analysis and the internet of things (IoT). It is producing fundamental changes in the way companies operate, and the skills their people need.
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New technologies bring new opportunities. The enterprises that take best advantage are those that can quickly change their operation to create new products and services.
They adopt the minimum viable product (MVP) philosophy. Eric Reis, author of The Lean Startup, says: “We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.” The way to do this is to go to market with a minimum viable product and improve it in response to customer feedback.
Enterprises support this approach by using “agile” development methods, based on small increments that each give business value, as opposed to a “waterfall” approach, with a series of large steps that are defined in technical terms and must all be complete for a useful product to emerge.
The enterprise digital platform
Small increments on top of nothing result in...not very much. An enterprise needs a platform that enables it to use digital technologies to create distinctive products with business value, and that supports agile development practices for market advantage.
There are many digital platforms available. Cloud and social media providers have platforms that support the development and operation of services that use their services. Mobile phone and IoT device manufacturers have platforms that support the development and operation of products that use their products. There are open source platforms that support big data analysis products and services, and software development generally.
The challenge for a developer enterprise is to find the right combination of platforms for its products and services, and to make them work together.
An enterprise architect that creates this combination – the enterprise digital platform – is like the architect of a factory whose product range can be adapted by design changes and extended by installation of new machinery: not concerned with the design of the product, or with the choice of new machines, but responsible for making new designs and production methods possible.
Rise of the digital professional
A digital platform does not make an agile enterprise, any more than a vaulting horse makes an Olympic athlete. As well as new equipment, the enterprise needs new skills, developed through recruitment and training. Above all, it needs a new attitude, a change of culture.
Digital professionals are emerging as the key human resource in the agile enterprise. They understand how to use digital technologies and digital platforms to make and shape products and services. They can apply the MVP philosophy of starting small then building big.
Removing the “them versus us” barrier between business and IT is a crucial part of the culture change that is needed. The digital professional is a part of the business, contributing to the success of the enterprise strategy by applying a particular set of skills to product and service development and operation.
People make enterprises agile
Agility is the key to business success in the digital revolution. Enterprises need a new way of operating. They need a digital platform, and people with the skills to use it to build products and services and to shape them in response to market demand.
Digital professionals have these skills, and are part of the new business/IT culture. They are the children of the digital revolution.