Technology Business driven or business driven by technology

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Technology’s role changed

It does not matter what industry your company operates. I’m sure that technology is playing a different role than it did years ago. This impacts job role definition, governance program and how you are making decisions. However, a business driven by technology is not the same as a technology company driven by the business

The Role of technology has changed in so many different ways in the last years. There are daily examples of how our personal and professional lives have changed. It’s very noticeable in the corporate arena, not only the role of technology, but also of technical departments, moving from a supporting function to a business enabler. Technology leaders are not looking after technical requirements, how to manage infrastructure, create APIs or keep the servers up and running. They become pivotal roles in driving business in the digital age, ensuring that strategy corporate decisions are supported by the correct mechanism in order to be efficient and present the desired results, and this role will continue evolving in the coming years.

A big signal (although not directly related) is to check the stock market. The companies with bigger market capitalization are IT companies (pure tech companies). Their services are used all over the board across industries. Even an index like the S&P500 is a good testament of how things change lately, where manufacturing and even pharmaceutical companies are losing positions in this ranking, in favor of the famous big tech. Another interesting fact is the volume of investment done in the 18-24 months are done around AI companies by VC and other funding vehicles. It’s very famous the investment/alliance between AI and Microsoft, or Amazon and Anthropic. In any case, technology specialization aside, technology is everywhere, propelling business (although this doesn’t mean that companies using technology, are tech companies)

Technology as your core business, or your core business propel by technoly

Technology makes a leap in the last decade, and this is shaping the business sphere. At least, it’s allowing business to run new business models. However, not all companies using technology at anger, are technological companies. And they shouldn’t be. Technological companies are companies creating technology, and the rest are companies (operating in different industries), enabled by technology (using technology as a tool to achieve their business goals). With very different goals, skills, capacities and ambition. It’s not good or bad, just different. At least, until very recently applying the word tech, to the definition of any company, seems to provide an extra, more chances for success and creating a compelling action for customers to reach out. Technology is not good or bad, it all depends on the goal.

2023 was the year of the Generative AI (and the beginning of 2024 seems to be not different although news is around optimization of these models). The fight on the big techs is in leading this space, however, we shouldn’t forget that this is one of the tons of available technologies, and that, most likely, the value we are gaining so far comes from another angle. Generative AI (Gen AI) came with the promise to accelerate benefits and has been incorporated into major platforms, providing additional features.. These platforms are already very complex, and are evolving in, in my view, in a very interesting way.

What is different?

To begin, let’s distinguish between different platforms: IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and SaaS (Software as a Service)). Different flavors from the platform economy, that changed the already existing business contract between provider and buyer. The big majority of the companies in the world are medium or small businesses, with limited technical capacities, and diverse digital maturity. Not all these companies can allow himself to run the required advanced technology to compete in the market. The platform economy provides the possibility to have access to the best technology (the same that the big ones are using), with limited resources (limited, I didn’t say nonexistence). Leaving the burden of servers, cable and physical hardware configuration to vendors in the first case, by using platforms like AWS, GCP, Azure. Delegating responsibilities of platform building and maintenance in the second example, and providing access to best-in-class and enterprise-grade business applications in the last example, leveraging experience from the big ones and innovative organizations in your favor. With the boom of machine learning, specialists from the 3 mentioned cloud computing business models are growing, allowing to create, build, run, or fine tune for your models or commercial ones, gaining benefits at enterprise level as well.

And the big difference and disruption is that this is a responsibility sharing model, where the customer is handing over to vendors certain actions, but not all. At the end, data belongs to the customer and this means that all these pieces that help you as a company to make more efficient decision making and accelerate your benefits due process improvement should be on your end. Vendors are not responsible for your success, you are, although they will provide all the available tools, best practices and a big plethora of resources, becoming your business partners.

Considering all the above mentioned reasons, these platforms are becoming more complex. And we can differentiate between the front end (what you see and manage) and the backend (everything that happens, but you don’t know, and/or even care). In order to be able to provide companies with flexibility, scalability, and best-in-class and enterprise-grade technical capabilities, these platforms are designed around a multiple of use cases.

I have the privilege to work in different industries, and it’s true that all of them have their specificities and nuances. One of the commonalities I found is that specialists in each of them claimed to be different, very complex and special. Are they? Of course, the activities of a bank, a health provider, a university or a hotel are very different. And this is why for certain use cases, to run the business in some of the stated examples, the need of a vertical solution is very important.

Our big competitive advantage

The big differentiation is not building the software and/or the technology for your own, as you have a very special case. It might be, for certain edge examples (new molecules discovery for drug formulation, high performance risk model for fraud detection, …). Even in these cases, there are certain commercial components that can be used. However, when we talk about enterprise commercial management, for a certain industry, factors in the specificities of our industry will cover a, less say 80-90% of the needs (is your customer creation, commercial cycle and forecasting so different from your competitors?)

As indicated at the beginning of the text, technical leaders are orchestrators of automated processes. This leads us to two topics:

  • The need to understand very well the business
  • Creating your own platforms will not give you a competitive advantage. Understand how to optimize your tech stack, in the best way for your company.

All the (well designed, and enterprise grade) business platforms, provide a unique customer experience. On the one hand, the flexibility and scalability allow you to ensure your business process fits without customization (specially for the verticalized solutions). And on the other hand, it’s not needed to have (in-depth) technical experience for its configuration, due the new no-code features (configuration by drag and drop components in a user interface). However, the more easy to use a platform, the more complex the back end. All these business platforms are designed having in mind lots of scenarios are combinations of cases. Allowing users to configure them with drag and drop features, that will be updated with frequent releases (in the majority of the SaaS providers), meaning a high composable architecture, design with microservices connected with an open API architecture. In summary, a complex, solid, robust and scalable platform backend designed to cover all the potential scenarios.

Modern platforms in full swing

So far we unpack several important concepts. Platforms provide a high competitive advantage for companies, providing advanced technical capabilities (at a lower total cost of ownership), ensuring specialized best practices and automated process deployment for specific sectors/verticals, in a friendly user interface (that separate the high complex backend). If we add the initial thought around the change on the role on technical leaders, we can destile, that another big change is that they will bring bigger benefits to their organizations by understanding in-depth their business, deploy faster new solutions (already proved in the sector), adjust them to the specifics of their organization, and more importantly being able to provide with the correct processes and data for faster decision making (ensuring the business model is updated, and pivot if needed). Focusing on writing thousands of lines of codes, spin up servers and other tasks (used to be done by IT teams), are not going to make them take the lead in the competition.

I did mention the role of AI in the platforms. Obviously, as we can see in the news, all the platforms (big and small) are incorporating AI features as part of their offering. It’s known that this is the buzzword nowadays, and in some cases is a matter of marketing and positioning. However, adding machine learning models, in different capacities, will provide an extra boost to business, like the copilots. Smart digital assistant, with advanced natural processing language capabilities, that help platform users in a variety of generative or predictive tasks.This will be another big change in how we will interact with platform, how we’ll work with providers and what we’ll expect from the technology

Therefore, modern platforms are essential for businesses, enabling them to run operations with industry best practices. They abstract complex backend technology through a user interface that enhances the customer experience, incorporating features from drag-and-drop functionalities to specialist copilots

In my opinion, platforms should be prepared for interoperability, as many of them already are. These systems do not live in isolation, as they are part of a bigger ecosystem, where data flows. Being able to ingest data seamlessly in their automations, process it, and display results, is, at highlevel what we expect as users. But only those systems that stand up with excellent performance (large data volume, not bugs,..) will succeed.

There is a fine balance, and therefore a clear collaboration between product, onboarding, implementation and success teams will make the difference. Technology providers operating in a Saas space should understand the importance of the innovation (frequency releases with new capabilities and features), the highest adoption from their users and fast support. In order to make it happen, understanding the business of your customer, their goals and ambitions is key. So, the customer-provider relationship turns into partnerships.

Jaime Jimenez
Dynamic and Results-Driven Leader | Empowering Organisational Growth and Digital Innovation. Experienced leader with a proven track record of driving organisational growth and scaling up digital initiatives with a keen eye for designing and implementing new business capabilities powered by cutting-edge technology. I specialise in bridging the gap between business and IT domains, maximising business impact and revenue while ensuring sustainable growth. Opinions are my own.

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