13 Sep 2023

Exception UK: The Three Rules to reframe technology infrastructure through the power of imagination #techUKSmarterState

Guest blog by Andy Moore, Digital Marketing Manager at Exception UK, as part of Building the Smarter State week. #techUKSmarterState

Technology, like art, is a soaring exercise of the human imagination,” so declared US sociologist, Daniel Bell.

How far will your organisation’s imagination take it when reframing old technology infrastructure so it’s fit for the digital age? Where should you start, which legacy technologies should you upgrade and what Digital Strategy should you take to help contribute to the Smarter State?

The first guiding principle is to tame that imagination and don’t let it outstrip your supply lines in experience, expertise and resource when pursuing the path to digital innovation. Instead, start with “what you know” based on informed decisions, as opposed to simply “start now” or “start with the less risky.”

1. Team up when using cloud services to future-proof technologies

If using cloud services to help rejuvenate legacy infrastructures, you’ll inevitably want to maximise their use, but the temptation might be to drive your own cloud adoption strategy. We often hear arguments about vendor lock in or bespoke functionality, but these arguments rarely stack up long term for organisations. Cloud frameworks enable organisations to understand the pros and cons of decisions they make, while systems are built on services, for example AWS. There are architectural best practices under the framework for designing and operating reliable, secure, efficient and cost-effective systems in the cloud.

Look for a broad set of global cloud-based products:

This might include compute and storage to databases, analytics, networking and developer tools. The goal is to build exactly the solution needed, minimising development costs, time and resource, whilst reducing the amount of time the cloud remains idle.

Design accordingly as everything will change:

Embrace a modular approach to Solution and Service Design to minimise the impact of any change such as risk, cost and timescales. This will enable your company to change/iterate its solution(s) at pace, using a Proof of Concept (POC) to validate technology and process requirements. One solution to achieve this is through serverless technology, using services and methodologies to reduce the level of friction in change.

Automate everything:

Use cloud automation to maximise the use of cloud services. This will allow your organisations to utilise, security detection/protection and self-healing to create reliable, scalable and secure solutions to make operations cost-effective. Automation helps ensure enterprises accept change rather than resist it. Deployment, testing, verification and issue rectification are then in an automated pipeline for continuous integration/ delivery, ensuring the effort for change is focused.

Make stakeholders aware:

Ensure stakeholders comprehend why you are updating old technology infrastructure and why. The technology industry is huge, and CIOs and digital leaders have very different views on the best technologies to utilise and how they should be best deployed. These variable perspectives, while valuable in deciding strategies to take, can disrupt delivery.

2. Keep the engine running to ensure successful delivery

What processes help maintain project momentum when reframing technology infrastructures? The process begins with co-ordinating the stakeholders to ensure everyone’s needs and perspectives are understood – but they must be kept informed of dependencies and changing scope throughout the project.

Successful digital adoption and service delivery thrives on a combination of sourcing the best experience and expertise, plus your organisation having a clearer digital vision as possible. But project delivery methodologies must be pragmatic. Any delivery can be thwarted with issues regardless of the methodology used such as Agile, Waterfall, TOGAF, CAF or AWS WAR. It's therefore vital to establish the best combination or variation of these that meets your project needs. Using Agile for daily Project Management in tandem with fixed price, outcome-based procurement can be successful, but the best path forwards must be pragmatic. Remember, “project or scope creep" frequently occurs. Establishing project scope through an effective Discovery, Scoping and Engagement phase is key to minimising any bumps in the road later down the technology improvement journey. Deliver quality to reduce technical debt, not rushed delivery: Regardless of your organisation’s sector, never ignore technology debt, otherwise it will end up with a solution that become less and less viable over time. For Chief Experience Officers (CxOs), it is critical to ensure delivery workload focusses on Technical Debt Assessments when modernising technology infrastructure. Whether this is 5% or 30% of their effort, it must not be de-prioritised behind an ever-increasing demand for new features.

3. Learn from experience to future-proof your services for the digital age

Summing up, did your service delivery match your organisation’s soaring imagination? Or did it fall short of that imagination or run too wild? In pursuing your journey towards a Smarter State, your organisation must ask itself what it could have done better to under its digital capabilities.

A delivery taking several months will inevitably see new solutions, processes and standards emerge but will not be forever in development. Agility is key: And this depends on continually refining an Agile and responsive approach and making the best use of available expertise, methodologies and technologies. Retrospectives or retros of past ways of working can improve future ones. These can be conducted throughout the development life cycle after each Sprint or at end the entire project to find what went well, what didn’t go well and what should start/stop/continue.

Conclusion: the road to the Smarter State starts here

  • Invest in the expertise – whether these are basic skills so organisations can understand what they need from the supplier or deep technical skills to do it themselves
  • Allow digital specialists do the heavy lifting and develop on top of the new infrastructure
  • Create loosely coupled, modular solutions which can absorb change more easily
  • Automate everything to achieve development efficiencies
  • Ensure stakeholders understand the path your organisation will take and why

The key to reframing old technology infrastructures is to start the right way, plan properly, prepare for likely roadblocks and continually learn from experience. Only then can your organisation adopt the art of transforming its digital imagination into reality. Start with proven methodologies that achieve actual results and future-proof infrastructure for the digital age.

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Andy Moore is Digital Marketing Manager at Exception UK. Connect with him on LinkedIn and find out more about Exception UK.

From 11 – 15 September techUK is running our annual Building the Smarter State Week in the run-up to the ninth edition of our flagship public services conference, Building the Smarter State, on Wednesday 27 September. Book your tickets here.