4 min read

Digital Transformation Isn’t Just About Technology—It’s About Skills, Too

Photo for Guru VenkatachalamGuru Venkatachalam

Choose a trend from recent years and there is a good chance that the pandemic has accelerated it. From online shopping and video streaming, to remote working and learning, COVID-19 triggered what many call the great acceleration.

This is of course true of digital transformation, which underpins many of the trends above. And it’s also true of the long cyclical move away from organizations outsourcing their IT functions.

The speed at which organizations now need to iterate their digital offerings to stay at the top of their game has accelerated well beyond what the traditional outsourced IT model can offer.

When there are opportunities or needs that demand being served in days, or even hours, engaging a vendor at arm’s length to do the work just doesn’t cut it. And as more and more functions are delivered “as-a-Service,” the expectation that services are improved and updated in real time continues to grow rapidly.

We’ve known for a long time that technology is just one part of a successful digital transformation. Having a team with the right skills and capabilities is also instrumental. Increasingly, we’re seeing organizations wanting to build those skills internally to use that tech to its potential.

This means that as organizations continue to digitally transform, they must be looking for partners who do more than implement technological solutions—they are looking for partners who can also deliver the training and knowledge they need.

Need for Speed

The pandemic has supplied countless examples of the power of this approach.

For instance, the need to respond quickly to changing needs has driven the development and continued evolution of the Service NSW app, the main government portal for Australia’s most populous state.

Service NSW app used by oer 75% of the population in Australias most populous state.

The app is used by more than three-quarters of the state’s population. It powers the government’s world-class contact-tracing efforts and gives users a quick and simple way to check in to locations that they visit.

The plaudits the Service NSW team has earned for the frictionless functionality of the app demonstrate the value of having the right skills in house.

In pre-pandemic times, VMware’s Tanzu Labs team worked with the NSW Department of Customer Service to develop the Service NSW app, not for checking in to premises but to operate as digital drivers’ license. By partnering with their product managers, engineers and designers, we developed a system that their team was confident in using.

This meant that when the need for a digital solution for checking in to premises arose, Service NSW were able to quickly and effectively extend the functionality of the existing app.

This capability allows the Service NSW team to rapidly incorporate feedback from users to improve the app experience. Features such as saving the details of dependents, reminding users to check out of a venue, and even offering the latest COVID advice could all be rolled out just days after the need is identified.    

This type of responsiveness and rapid iteration simply isn’t possible with the traditional outsourced IT model.

Building New Skills

While having the right development capabilities in-house can enable organizations to move faster, it can also help them move in entirely new directions.

Hyundai vehicles connected to the cloud: currently 4 million, next year 10 million.

For automotive giant Hyundai Motor Group, the future of cars lies in their connectivity. Already, 4 million Hyundai vehicles are connected to the cloud. By next year, it will be 10 million. Hyundai’s designated ICT company, Hyundai AutoEver, is driving this transformation and investing heavily in internalized capabilities like DevSecOps and microservices as well as the capabilities of its software engineers.

By pairing Hyundai’s engineers with our Tanzu Labs engineers, the team was able to learn about cloud-native technology in a short time and utilize test-driven development practice to deliver high-quality code to market without sacrificing any lead time—all while enhancing the developers’ experience and skillset.

This combination of new platform and application architecture, along with the skills to use them fully, has had transformative effects on Hyundai AutoEver’s application modernization.

We reduced delivery time, which previously took more than 14 days, to less than three days by building up the automated process that enable low-risk development deployment.

Jung Sik Suh, CEO, Hyundai AutoEver

Speaking at SpringOne, Hyundai AutoEver CEO Jung Sik Suh explained: “We reduced delivery time, which previously took more than 14 days, to less than three days by building up the automated process that enable low-risk development deployment.” Overall, he said, Hyundai AutoEver has made its speed to market eight times faster.

Making It Happen

As the speed of innovation ramps up, so does the complexity of the processes needed to bring about that innovation. As a result, ensuring that new skills are embedded in your organization along with new technology is often no small feat.

Hiring suitably experienced developers and engineers is one approach, but with an existing skills shortage being amplified in many nations by restrictions on skilled migration, this path is only getting harder.

Another approach is ensuring your technology partners transfer their relevant knowledge to your internal IT teams. The most powerful way for this to happen is time, proximity, and a commitment to making the knowledge transfer happen.

Until the pandemic, VMware’s approach to making this happen had been to have our developers sit side by side with our client’s IT teams for weeks or months, creating and reviewing code side-by-side.

Pair programming allows the client teams to have deep experience with the implementation of the technology we supply. The depth of knowledge this creates can’t be replicated with training courses or seminars. Neither can the confidence it creates to try new things and create the innovation that so many organizations strive for.

The pandemic, as it has with many things, meant we had to shift from a face-to-face model to a remote style of interaction. But this change also opened up new possibilities for us to share knowledge by removing distance as a barrier to getting developers together.

But for best results, this shouldn’t be a purely IT-based pursuit. Where we have seen the biggest success is where organizations have had the wisdom to bring subject matter experts from the business side into the process.

By now, many businesses are comfortable with their software engineers operating on an Agile methodology. But getting the rest of the business operating that way is a more confronting process. Enabling business processes and operating models to respond as quickly as technology allows is where true transformation is sparked. After all, the best tools in the world aren’t worth much if they’re not being used.