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The dirty secrets of Speed

Digital Transformation is a buzzword these days. It is so for good reasons. Many businesses today face fierce pressures from competitors leveraging web scale technologies and digital business models. Many others must also adapt to younger customer bases that are particularly sensitive to engagements via digital means. In this context, Digital is no longer an instrumental item to the business, but a defining one.

Technology has always had the ability to speed things up. We have been hearing this forever and, precisely because of this, we all tend to normalize our perception about speed and minimize how relevant it can be. Just think for a second how many technology advances have been piling up since Computing was born as a discipline: this accumulation results in the business speed that we perceive today.

But progress is not linear. Through history, different waves of change have brought explosive new developments in relatively short periods of time. We may all remember the impact of some of them: the dawn of Personal Computing, The Internet, Mobile Computing, The Cloud and, now, the Internet of Everything. Therefore, speed is the result of something even more important: non-linear acceleration.

In the past, we have been able to address speed and acceleration without breaking the essentials of our tools and practices. However, we have reached a point in which simple evolutions are not enough and more radical approaches are being played. This level of speed and acceleration calls for doing things differently. We must now use different tools, change our practices, rationalize both assets and teams, optimize communication and collaboration and even change our culture!

All of this might look bright and shiny. And, if you are like me, you couldn’t be more excited with such a perspective! It’s all opportunity!

But let’s put now this vision about speed in the Digital Transformation context. In this accelerated world, we are desperate to complete this transformation quickly. And here is the thing: at speed and at scale risks can be deadly, and there are plenty of them. Particularly, there is one that has to do with this notion that claims that we can be “quicker” and “cheaper” by “doing less stuff”. Unfortunately, when this idea is taken too far the consequences can be catastrophic.

Yes, we must identify what really matters and think seriously about what to do with the rest. However, crossing the line of doing less Quality Assurance, less Testing, less Security or less Automation (to name just a few), means setting up a recipe for disaster. Actually, “at speed” and “at scale”, you may need more of them.

In other words, rationalization is one piece of the puzzle. Certainly a necessary one. But when thinking about speed the key is, more than anything else, do and think things differently.

This post was first published on Ascent
Picture: “Tunnel (cropped)” by “Thunderchild7”. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Published in Software Engineering Vision


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