I started my career in technology before the Internet as we know it today existed. Even Microsoft Windows was in early development—this wasn't an operating system yet as it needed MS-DOS to work. These were exciting times.
It would be fair to say that technology has evolved since then—WiFi, Internet, smartphones, online shopping, to name a few. That is a lot of change in a relatively short period. I feel privileged to have been part of the technology industry during these times as that has allowed me to absorb the extreme rate of change better than most. I've honestly spent much of my life living at the technological edge.
For most people, especially those in business, the rate of change has been confronting and scary because something might break. Our concern is that the magical formula that allows my company to work may disappear.
If you are not continually moving forward, you are going backwards.
-- Robbie McEwen – three-time Tour de France Green Jersey winner
Acknowledge the Reptile
Our primal human instincts of fight or flight are often triggered when faced with any significant change. The part of the brain that is responsible for this response is our reptile brain. The reptile or lizard brain (brain stem) keeps our hearts beating, keeps us breathing—keeps us alive. Lizards that were not wary enough ended up getting eaten, which is why this part of the brain is hardwired to feel a constant, vigilant anxiety.
And technology is changing faster than most of us can comfortably accommodate. Every day we are fighting our reptilian instincts. In business, we tend to resist change due to the risk of something breaking and the costs associated with change. Our anxiety is that if we make a mistake our business fails.
It would come as no surprise then that migrating business workloads from the safe confines of our data-centres to the systems provided as-a-service in The Cloud is a terrifying proposition. Even today, more than ten years after Amazon launched AWS (Amazon Web Services), there are many businesses reluctant to embrace these services. The reason? FUD.
FUD—Fear Uncertainty Doubt—has been the currency of many groups advocating change, and not just in technology circles. Fear is a powerful emotion that has kept the human race alive, so it is hard to ignore. Yet, it can inhibit our growth. And for business, we seek to remove as many growth inhibitors as possible. Hence my advocacy for leveraging cloud-based services and continuously improving existing services and processes.
If it ain't broke, don't fix.
-- Engineers Adage
I already know all the arguments for not changing, for not migrating to the Cloud;
- it cannot be trusted,
- it is insecure,
- hackers will steal my data,
- it is not reliable.
All of these are true if not managed correctly, but they are just as accurate for the existing systems you use today. In my experience, the current risks most organisations face with non-Cloud platforms is higher than their Cloud equivalents. In reality, most organisations are operating under a false sense of security. The real difference is you know your current systems, with the Cloud they are new and unknown.
The Cloud for the Win!
Before you jump to the conclusion that Cloud services are perfect, remember they still operate on a computer and computers fail and break all the time. The difference is that these are computers managed by someone else; thus, it is their problem to fix.
Despite this, the scale of these services results in significant investments in engineering, support, and quality. These are services designed to support hundreds or thousands of users every day.
Unless technology is a crucial part of your core business, you should be moving away from managing the infrastructure your teams use to deliver value. You focus needs to shift to optimising the activities of your team to be more productive with the tools they have available. Move them above-the-line and work on eliminating all the busy-work. These 1,000 paper-cuts are costing you money. Could you fix it?
Now I get it, technologists like me all seem obsessed with upgrading or replacing systems that seem to be perfectly good, so the resistance to change is strong. The thing is, even the newest technology has flaws that need addressing and is why it is essential to patch, upgrade, and replace these systems. Managing this process yourself can be complicated and expensive, yet ignoring it could cause more harm; hacking, ransomware, or computer viruses.
What does all this mean?
That technology is a continuously evolved business tool that requires effort to implement, manage, and maintain. Learning how to adapt and embrace change without triggering our fight or flight instincts is a crucial ingredient of success in this pursuit. However, there are many risks we need to mitigate along this journey. Having a plan for failure, designing for disasters, and understanding the real objectives will go a long way to ensuring your success.
Fear Uncertainty and Doubt will block more opportunities, and than it will protect you from harm. Make sure you understand the truth behind the FUD.