‘I don’t know if any technology is future-proof,’ Katherine Squire remarked when we posed the question how can you future-proof your infrastructure?But what you can do, she says, ‘is create a culture that is agile, curious and able to respond to changes the market demands. It’s a mindset.’
And she would know. With her background in organisational transformation, Squire made the move to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) 20 months ago, wanting to be part of the exciting wave of innovation taking place within the organisation. As the General Manager of Application Development and DevOps she sees her role as bridging the gap between development and operations: ‘DevOps is all about people, it’s a bit about culture and it’s a bit about automation. But if you don’t get the people bit right then you’re not going to succeed.’
Drawing on her own experience at the ASX, she explained how organisations can ensure that technology implementation projects succeed and how you can transform your culture in the process, making your team ready for anything the future may hold.
Tend your own backyard first
Squire suggests that, when seeking to implement a project, you shouldn’t take on the whole world — just your own backyard. There’s no use peeping over the fence telling your neighbour how to run their operations when your own could be more efficient. If you’re focused on tackling issues in your own department, you can start to get runs on the board. And that’s so crucial in cultivating trust early on.
Squire says it’s vital to:
- empower your team to become better
- establish which small problems you can tackle first
- discern what problem you’re really solving and solve the right problem.
Then, when other departments start to see the positive impact you’re making, they’ll be much more receptive to your ideas and how that could work for their own team.
Understanding what problem you’re solving and solve the right problem
Squire emphasises this point. You have to ensure that any technology investment you make won’t just provide a temporary bandaid, you need to look for the solution to the right problem. ‘Time and time again people say, “we have to automate our testing”, which won’t work if you have a problem with your architecture,’ she says; ‘If you’re fixing it at that level, you’re only offering a bandaid solution — you’re not fixing it at the root cause.’ If you want an investment to have real value and longevity then you need to approach the issue strategically.
When you’ve established the problem, if you try to tackle it all at once, you'll be overwhelmed and set yourself up for failure. One of the more common mistakes Squire sees is that people initially take on too much and under-deliver on a project. She is a big believer in ‘micro-moves’. She advocates making small changes by setting your team and yourself achievable goals. She says, ‘These goals may be linked to a vision, but perhaps [one that is] a significant departure from how they may have done things in the past, so there’s going to be pushback but you have to be persistent. And, even though it might not seem as though you’ve gotten very far, when you look back in a year you’ll be amazed at what you’ve achieved.’
Get the right people and empower them
A key part of ensuring your implementation succeeds is to make sure you’ve surrounded yourself with the right people, be it through acquisition or upskilling. You must then have a strategy on how you can motivate your people and empower them to make decisions, to make a difference to the outcome. If you don’t achieve that, then, Squire warns, you get a lot of ‘box-ticking’.
An integral part of creating a collaborative culture is to make it ok to fail, rather than failure being something your team fears. Squire suggests incorporating failure into the process, so that the lessons you get from failure have their own value. ‘If you want to evolve and innovate you have to try new things, tackle new technologies.’ And, when you do have a win, make sure those who played a part get recognition. ‘If people have done a good job, make sure they get acknowledgement.’
Tackle your legacy systems
Squire says this doesn’t necessarily mean replacing your whole system, but it does mean investigating how it could work better: ‘This could mean replacing [it], but it could also mean taking a monolithic application and breaking it down into smaller applications. It may mean just automating whatever you can automate, if possible. But, too often what we do is say “that application is going to go away with this new product.” So you buy the new product, but you don’t fully decommission the old one and end up with two. So don’t ignore your legacy infrastructures.’
Take time to look back on the wins
Squire is a champion of celebrating a win. Not only does this keep you and those around you motivated, it gives you perspective and makes that overarching goal more achievable. Squire’s proud of the achievements she and her team have made in her time at the ASX. As of February they will have put their first app in the external cloud, be using server-less computers and have automated parts for their internal infrastructure, to name a few. These developments represent a significant shift for the ASX and demonstrate a commitment to being nimble and able to constantly evolve.
If you would like to hear more about how you can future-proof your business, Squire will be a panelist at the Enterprise Mobility conference @ CeBIT 2017. You can secure your spot today.