Elevating enterprise modernization - the compelling case
- Okay, so I promised today we would talk about the hard things, welcome everyone. But before we do get that, we've got an hour, 55 minutes now, just to get through a bunch of things and some housekeeping at the start. So welcome, thank you very much for joining us on a Thursday. We love these things, it's the middle of winter and a good chance I love having the people who are on today. I've learned something from every single one of them in the last six months, so I guarantee you will walk away with some gem today.
So The Hard Things, today's topic, there are two hard things in technology, we all know them. Number one is naming things, number two, is business cases. And that's what we want to talk about today. Is how do you explain the amazing work that gets done? Number three is an out by one era of course, that old joke.
So, let me introduce the panel 'cause they're sitting here very patiently listening to me, rabbit on. So, super excited to have, Tomas Varsavsky with us. Been a colleague of mine for a long time. I first met Tomas as a young man at Lonely Planet, when he was a Thoughtworker, actually at the time, one of the bright young things, helping us unravel a real ball of wool. Now Chief Product and Technology Officer at catch.com.au and but before had spent time as the Chief Technology Officer at the ARI Group, one of Australia's fairly successful companies really, particularly if you judge it by market share and share price.
He's got lots of lessons today. I'm curious as to why he's a Product and Technology Officer if that's part of the answer to the question today. Meaghan Waters, joins us as she reminded us earlier from the free country of New South Wales.
Product and Experience Design Principal at ThoughtWorks. A professional, I've heard her speak many times. She has such great stories and a great sense of humour, but a very serious side too, in terms of the getting the application of her trade, which she'll explain to us later in design and design thinking, working much better for the humans who use our technology. So, it brings a really interesting angle to this question today, about how to modernise enterprises and tell the story.
Peter, an active participant Peter, I'm not even sure we've met since I started working in the COVID period over a year ago. We've maybe had one beer together in that time, which is criminal because you are a great teacher, a hands-on technologist, executive and consultant in your past and present, and you solve the hard problems. But goodness me, you do spend a lot of time in Zoom, I know these days. And as a Principal Technologist, that's Zoom and Miro, are now your core technology platforms. I however, I'm just an modest social scientist, works at Thoughtworks, I've been there for two of the most enjoyable years of my life, that's for sure, and I love doing things like this.
So, today we're going to talk about a paper, that was published back in May, and it's got that fabulous. I mean, it got past the Harvard Business review levels of publishing. So that means it's a good paper.
Now you can read it, it's quite long and quite detailed. And it's full of incredible useful things for people today who are attempting to transform their organisations with technology, but it needs to be read and communicated far beyond the technologists. And that that's really the cause for today.
It talks about resilience. What is the business case for resilience? Why do we need resilience? I mean, we've built all the things. Surely, we've implemented all the technology, it's all free from here. And then I'd like the panel today to think about technology resilience, organisational resilience, and personal resilience and their experiences of those.
Meaghan, I'm going to start just a quick intro from you. I'd like, tell me the hardest thing you ever had to explain that was technical, to a non-technical audience, that had some stakes around it as a decision. And I get the pleasure of being the first person to say, you're on mute, Meaghan. - I tried to tell someone they were on mute earlier today when I was on mute myself. - And for those attending that is in Thoughtworks currency, that is one beer to Nigel. - To Nigel.
The most difficult thing. Well, it's all difficult for me because I'm not a developer, I don't come from a development background so, my skill is more helping technologists to explain it because I'm not afraid to ask really stupid questions so that then they can get down to the nitty-gritty of why it's important and what it is that they're telling. So, I'm looking to either Peter or Tom, to go what's the hardest thing they've had to do. - Yeah well, Tom's next you're on my screen. So, Tom do you and I have had some adventures in time and you managed to persuade the RIA Group board to do something as crazy as go single cloud after a multi cloud, very expensive decade.
Is that the hardest thing you've ever had to explain to a board of directors? - It was up the heat probably. It used to be explaining data science. It used to be explaining what it is and what it can do. Now I find it's the opposite.
It's explaining that AI is not magic and there are limits and it can't do everything you think it can do. So, I feel like that's flipped on its head a bit. - Yeah, that's fantastic. And look, I'm curious, I'm going to ask the question upfront, why the switch? You've gone from a giant global marketplace for property, almost a monopoly.
I'll get into trouble from the CFO for saying that in Australia and gone to a relatively small, to be honest, in comparison marketplace, in a market where you're fighting amazon.com throughout the year, what caused you to do the switch? - Lots of reasons. But you know, actually part of the reason is the opportunity to enact some of this stuff we're going to talk about today. So if you look at the state of where it catches at, it's basically at the foothills of a big modernization journey. And as a technologist and as a product person, the opportunity to have a huge impact through that journeys was super to refuse. - Fantastic.
Peter Barnes welcome. If I didn't describe your background adequately, please correct it, but I'm super interested in what's the toughest thing you've ever explained? Was it some immensely complex architecture or. - No, it's not that far off Tom's actually. So it's a little while back now, but explaining convolution neural nets to a group of energy utilities executives who had grown up in their organisations from being out in the field, looking up at power poles, they were very good with poles and wires, weren't necessarily technologists.
And coming up with an analogy and not setting an unrealistic expectation to Tom's point about what is possible with tech learning in that environment was something, it was somewhat of a challenge. - Yeah excellent examples. Now we also have Sarah Tarawalla with us who is my technical mediator assistant, and we'll, she's got a button called the bullshit button which she'll press if she feels any of our panels are faking it, not telling the real thing. So, let's look to the paper and back to you, Tom, because I think one of the things that you looked at was the difference between different organisation states.
So defensive versus an offence growth strategy, a motivator for change is the whole, does the argument for investing in technology and modernization differ between those two context? - I mean, I would say the organisational context makes a huge difference on how you approach technology. As technologists, I always tell my team we going to exist. And also I should exist to be part of a business strategy or purpose, a reason to be. So my answer to that question would be, the technology strategy needs to match the business strategy.
And if the technology strategy, if the business strategies are offensive, then I think it makes sense to match that up with a very offensive technology strategy as well. And then I think, and vice versa as well. And I guess the challenge comes when there's a mismatch between those two things.
If you've got offensive business strategy, verses defensive technology strategy, then there's a mismatch in leadership or a mismatching in your approach or something's not quite right because those two things are not going to achieve that overall outcome from business. - Now the worst case scenario I've faced in a defensive situation, and it's not always your choice either as the context comes to you, in some cases is the need to cut costs. And or I think there's a special metal for anyone who can argue, you need to spend money to save money. Meaghan, have you run into any organisations who've started their journey from a cost cutting perspective.
Have you had to endure that pain? And Meaghan, that's two beers now, two beers now. - You got to understand I live under a flight path. And so I just kind of get a bit panicky when the planes are going super low, because I don't want to make anyone, I don't want to trigger anyone about the fact that they can't get on a plane. So I'm being caring of our audience here. Look, cost-cutting all the time.
And what's kind of interesting is that we see a mismatch in cost-cutting and revenue generation in different parts of the organisation. And I think that that's one of the challenges where it's like, no we need to cost-cut in the tech, but we need to spend money so in product or something like that to build new new products, to get out there into market and like generate revenue and all of this sort of thing. And it's like, hang on a moment, you got something really going squarely here because how do you think you're actually digging those products to market? And how do you think you're going to end up with that speed still in there? So it happens all the time and I think it is one of those pieces of to what Tom was saying as well. It's like neat to look at what is the overall business strategy and reinforce that and get people to focus back onto that business strategy, as opposed to almost that localised optimization, which you see so much of. - It's a good point to flip back to Tom on actually, Tom, so a cloud strategy and Amazon web services strategy.
Is that a cost-cutting strategy, is it a technical flexible strategy, is it a growth strategy? I mean, it's played out over 10 years now. What's your experience. - Yeah, that's a really good example 'cause I think depending on the leadership in the organisation, you may see it as any one of those three things.
So, there's been plenty of cloud migrations where we've gone from data centres to the cloud and we get to the end of that journey. And actually our overall infrastructure costs has gone up. - Okay the horrible moment, that's probably number one reality moment for a lot of business people. 'Cause they've read in "Time magazine" that the cloud cuts costs. - Yeah, so one way to look at that would be, a CFO might start here, which is, my God, what's happened? The cost is increased the the thing it's aiming at.
The most sophisticated answer is actually the different things. And the things are going to do on the cloud today, you couldn't do with your old CapEx infrastructure in the past. So what are those things and what does it measure, how do you measure the value that I provide? And if those things are not valuable disorganisation in the CFO's questions is why? Because if those things are valuable, then you know what's the dollar value you place on things like agility, flexibility, develop as being empowered, scalability, all the kind of benefits that you get out of the cloud beyond just the dollars and cents. - Okay so question hard one for you, Peter. So speed to market innovation. There's not a board of directors who don't love that idea, is the cloud, sure far away? Is investing in getting off your own data, there's still plenty of people with their own data centres, those kind of things.
Is it part of the journey, is it irrelevant? Is it tangential or how does the cloud fit into an innovation journey? - It's one of the things, Nigel. It doesn't solve your problems in isolation. If you're coming from your own data centres and doing a lift and shift into cloud, moving from your own computers to somebody else's and not much else changes. If you combine that with some transformation of your organisation and your ways of working and you start decomposing your tech estate and applying different methodologies to how you develop and evolve those technology assets. It's a part because it enables that without those big CapEx steps that you experienced in your own data centres, when you had to go out and buy the hardware. - It was the delays that used to kill me provisioning.
there was a whole, it was like a theatre of provisioning and procurement would get involved and six months later boxes would turn up and we'd seen the young, Tom with a carload of boxes down to the data centre to instal them. There's business value in that isn't there? - Absolutely, and sometimes that's not something that is appreciated until you got it. It's very hard to explain the value of being able to release daily to an organisation that's only ever done it every three months. That the mindset and the understanding of the value of that takes some time to develop. - On the flip side as well, you've got, companies don't exist in isolation either they're competitors. So if your competitors has got capabilities that you don't have to release daily or will be more secure or be more agile, then over the long-term, that's going to be an issue.
- So you both mentioned data and I think there's not a business executive or board that don't get excited about machine learning, artificial intelligence, as I've been taught by Peter to say it. The case for that is it special because of the huge quantities of data and storage costs and the tooling that's available from people like Google and Amazon web services? Is it an easy slam dunk to sell cloud innovation, modernization, if you've got a data agenda? Tom, you've done it. - Well, I think it's a tricky one.
I feel like the toiling and the infrastructure and the technologies have been quite commoditized. So, there's quite well proven path to those techniques and doing that kind of work. But I think the critical question is like, what's the question I want to answer? If the organisation doesn't really have a clear view on what the question is that they want to ask of that technology stack or that capability, then that's alarm bells because, well that could be a red flag for a huge investment in capability if doesn't deliver any value. - I feel like you've wandered into Meagan's territory now and the psychology of good questions. - No, 'cause I was going to say 'cause in fact, I'm dealing with this at the moment.
Where like the technical structure to enable the data is there, but it's like the organisation hasn't taken advantage of that and I see that in a lot of kind of when people only concentrate on that enterprise modernization is a technical piece where it's like, yeah, that's great, but it's not taking it through to how are you actually delivering value. And I think data is super key in that because, it's like so much data gets collected that almost you kind of now answer questions because you have so much data that no one's really thought about. Like how are we actually using that to get value into the hands of customers. And, to define what value is, to define what our customers are, to define, all of that sort of stuff.
So yeah, absolutely. The cloud makes it more possible, it makes it faster, it makes it cheaper potentially, but not if you're not using it, then it's just like. What's on my theory that, if you have all the books on the subject, it's the same as if you read that.
So it's like if you collect all the data, it's exactly the same as if you're actually using it. You're a data legal organisation. Now you're a data collector organisation kind of thing. - Peter, you're the front line of this. what's the state of Australian business at the moment. I mean, there must been a thousands of business cases written in the last year and all the monies ended up with Amazon web services.
As are we on top of the wave now? - I don't know that we are. I think the realisation of business value from the data is lagging a little. And I think we'll see a groundswell if you like coming through as that business value starts being translated at a higher rate. To Meaghan's point, the capability around data collection and data science and data engineering that that's really building in.
Like, Tom said some of the foundational services are being commoditized, but the integration of that back into product and the technology work that needs to be done to build data-driven product when you're coming from a legacy tech estate, is something that I think hasn't been done in many industries yet. For digital natives, it's come naturally. It's been there from the start for a lot of enterprises.
It wasn't built in, it wasn't in the DNA. The investment has gone into building a data platform and the analytics capability, but it hasn't gone into integrating into the product yet. And once that happens, there'll be a greater appreciation of the value which will lead to build in as well, I think. - So an organization's got $100 million had a fantastic year, $100 million surplus money to invest in this coming year. How does technology compete against the sizzle of a marketing executive, who's what let's do a gigantic television campaign and spend it all by Thursday. Your events people, your customer facing people, your office and real estate people who go no, it's 100 millions should go into a fit out of a new building so we can attract lots of amazing new dot com software developers.
New product research. How does modernising the stack, the plumbing, compete against the sizzle of those things for the next 100 million? Meaghan you're up first. Persuade me to spend 100 million in your space. - I think he needs to establish those partnerships with those other people, because it's like, how are you actually going to deliver on the promises? It's like, essentially you can sell almost anything once.
How do you continue to sell it, and how do you live up to that brand promise? You're going out with this fabulous campaign and it's like, okay cool, can you actually deliver on it? If you've got truth in it? What's going to do it? So I think it's like you go and establish those partnerships and you kind of drive through with that rather than just going. 'Cause no one, honest to God, no one gets very excited by like, I'm going to, I don't know, something wacky and technical. I'm going to move to the cloud, it's like, great no, who cares? So yeah, that would be my- - I believe the referee for today, Sarah has actually dinged you on that one. Yes people do get excited about moving to the cloud. - I often end up talking to some slightly different people. So, you know.
- Yes, it's very hard to get an executive excited about it. - All the - I think it would be nice to compete in the same dimensions that all the other functions compete. So whether it's marketing or any of the other examples, like it's certainly mentioned in business, is it going to make a profit? Is it going to reduce risk? Is it going to make us more productive? Like what's the impact on the bottom line going to be. So I think we should show our why from that competition.
I think that's healthy if we should drive technology leaders to be able to explain having modernization or any other initiative actually moves the business forward. And if we can't answer those questions, then it's going to be hard to get that next one. - So actually a follow up for you and Peter have a think about this one in advance.
I've worked at exec level, you've been an exec for a long time, Tom. Who does this well? Who does a great job of arguing for money within an organisation? I've seen a finance with a drop, an absolute, so easy case to replace their finance systems, which is basically yes, well we need 100 million to put in Salesforce or NetSuite or otherwise, because otherwise we will all die. That's a pretty good business case. Who've you seen like merger and acquisition teams, who's done the best business case you've seen to get 100 million to the level of money, Tom, probably yourself. - I'm not sure if I've got a great examples, but I can say that technology is that usually terrible at it.
And often it's because we're not naturally a salespeople and there's an element of this which is data, which is the pragmatics of the dollars and the benefits and so on. And there's an element which is influencing and being able to tell stories and being able to get the ear of decision makers, CFOs CEOs, and so on. So, I think within all the technologies, I think to be able to do that, the need to practise those skills, and then you do have the audience as well. So that comes to, how the organisation is set up and the role of technology within the organisation. I think having CEOs or leaders that really understand technology makes it a lot easier. So I'm very fortunate at the moment I've got a CEO, who's an ex Amazon executive.
He knows very well the value of technologies. I'm not having to sell very much He just wants more of it faster. But if that's not your situation, then I think you need to take your leadership team and your CEO on a journey. - Peter, have you seen another kind of a non-technical party and organisations kind of frustratingly beat you to the 100 million? Who have you observed in your career does a great job of a business case for modernization that perhaps is not involving cloud or desktops or tech or SAS or otherwise. - I'll go back a long time when working in defence here.
And anyone in uniform, want to think that floated flew or went bang and Meaghan make a very good case for that. We wanted to enable all of those things with technology, but it was pretty hard to get them to buy computers. That wasn't what they're interested in. - So a lot of the HBR article talks about that and, Tom I think your vocal on this, is about aligning that tech with some kind of business value.
Is that easy to do? - I don't think it's easy, but I don't think we shy away from it either. 'Cause I think if we can't do it, then we probably don't deserve the investment. So I think it's worth persevering. And I think particularly for technologies, we find it hard deal with non-binary kind of challenges and sometimes making a case for any investment or benefit, is not a hard science it's a bit of an art. But don't be afraid to put some numbers behind that back of yourself in terms of the benefits. That's what everybody else does.
So that's our products get out that's other functions, champion their investments. So don't shy away from backing yourself with a number and it's all in the storytelling. - Absolutely, I agree 100% with that, Tom. I think we want to get it right.
Technologists are often perfectionist we want to get the right number, but sometimes close enough is good enough in those sort of arguments, as long as it's a defensible number and it's about right, it's good enough for a good business case and it helps to buy hearts and minds. We were nearly always try to influence with a credibility argument. We'd go and look for the data to support our position, but it's really taking the hearts along as well. we have to appeal to our colleagues, executive colleagues with the vision of what can be achieved for the business and more broadly and not relying so much, I think on that logical argument that we're most comfortable with. - I was just going to say, I did like your point, Tom, around like storytelling, 'cause it's that interesting place. 'Cause it's sort of come more from that product next day, background and storytelling is a big part but we do.
But it almost is a natural kind of allergic reaction for most technologists. I've learned to modify that language into it's a narrative. You're taking people through a narrative to get there.
'Cause it's like stories no, we can't tell stories. This is not fiction this is reality people. That's like, yeah. But you'll lose out to your colleagues exactly the same. - I'll tell you what I enjoy and I shouldn't be promoting something that we didn't write, but 'cause we do have a reminder to the audience, a fantastic paper for you to read regardless, but Josh Darnell's work on, "Black Swan Farming."
What I like about his work about prioritisation of investment intake and justify, it gives a really simple to use framework, which is based around a quite a complicated thing called, cost of delay. But it starts to walk into the space that accountants understand and he argues, and he and his co-author argue in that paper for there's only four categories. So it's not quite binary, but four things you should be looking for, increasing revenue, protecting revenue, reducing costs, or avoiding costs. And I think that's a pretty good structure.
The key question though, Meaghan is like, let's get down to syntax. You got the chance to sit in front of some key influencers who are allocating budget. Is it PowerPoint, is it Word, is it, how do you start constructing your narrative and presenting that narrative? What's your experience? - I will use whatever tool I think will resonate with that audience. If it's interpretive dance, I'm happy to put on a two-two.
But seriously, I just had a great view into a client though I'm currently working with, and it was that beautiful thing of okay, bring together that narrative that gives that speaks to the business vision, that speaks to the technology improvement, that gets something that they want into market at that point. And constructing that strategy, which is effectively is what a narrative is that, well, the other way around. It's the strategy and the narrative. And it's that way of telling that story through. And I often do revert back to PowerPoint because it's the easiest way of telling a story in your headlines. Someone should be able to flip through those headlines and go, yeah, okay, that's the story.
But I think part of it is that you actually need to be convinced of it yourself, that this really is the right thing. Even you cannot, if you're not convinced of it and you don't really believe it at a gut level, you are never going to make anyone else believe it either. And you kind of got to judge the way that you put it across, based on your audience. Because of course, some audiences respond to being very clear cut and very data driven, and others are very much into the emotional drive of it. So variant to it, but whichever way it runs, you have to believe it.
And it has to speak to that business value, both the short term and the longer term, and like how it's going to do it and who else has engaged in it. And it should never be a surprise to the people who are you're about to sell to either. - Peter, what's the most powerful A4 page you've ever presented to get some money invested in something technical, particularly what's your best business case you've been involved in? - So fine question. It wasn't an A4 page and I don't think I've used many A4 pages.
I've had a lot of pictures. I think they are all don't. So you tell a story, and pictures tells a story of a thousand words, it's true. That it's often much easier to illustrate that path and show the connection between what's often a really complex set of components in their tech estate and the outcomes and the bits that have to happen in the middle.
Like Meaghan, I do occasionally resort to slides. I am also willing to do interpretive dance, but nobody wants to see me do that. - Yeah, I think my favourite one, I remember, and I'm older than all of you. So it's decades ago in New Zealand, when I worked for a little company called National Mutual, and they had a CEO who was deeply passionate about customers and I knew that.
And they were broke. Honestly, had business been, they'd come out of a terrible few years, being purchased by a French company out of bankruptcy for just not quite having enough money in the bank. And there was a chance to improve customer service. We needed to start at the bottom with a full telephone system rebuilt. They had an ancient thing that was no good for anything. My business case was to go into the executive team, sit down, take the phone, we used to have phones in those days in the middle of the things, none of this fancy technology.
Take the phone and ring our one 300 number. Six minutes later, I had a sign off of a million dollars to completely renovate the communications framework of that company. It was so dreadful. And interestingly, that CEO is now the CEO of the National Australia Bank, and he still carries that same passion. So if you're out there now people, you want to impress Ross McEwen do a demo.
That's definitely it. Okay so, I want to talk a little bit about the awkward relationship that sometimes exists between executives who are at the table. Now, Tom, you've talked a lot about you can't go alone. There are no technology business cases. There are always has a thing.
How do you build relationships with those other people? There's a lot of money invested in renovating MarTech hot. How do you bridge the gap between your teams? - Yeah I think obviously building relationships with your teams is really important at any level. And there's to Meaghan's point, the style that you operate in or the style you employ is to be authentic to who you are, but it also needs to be adapted to who you're trying to build that relationship with.
So it's technologies, we're often like problem solvers. So that's often a good angle. How can I help you? What are the challenges you've got? I don't understand your business. How can technology feeds that become the trusted consultant? The trusted advisor. That approach has worked for me.
Works with my style and works with the kind of peers that I've had in my career, but I'm sure there are other styles and other like these from the panel also. - Peter, you had to pull together multidisciplinary groups too. I mean the whole world of data on its own is engineers, scientists, marketers.
All they really wanted was just to segment customers. Have you seen some great examples of that building a coalition? - Yeah, I guess my go to, is try and make the problem that you're solving to the people who are involved. So if you can find common ground something that folks are keen to address because it's meaningful to them in some way.
And you might have to frame it slightly different for each one of them, just so that it fits with their own thinking. That has a really powerful effect in bonding people toward a common set of goals and a vision. Maybe if you're talking to us and chief risk officer about your ability to uncover and remediate risk as part of your modernization, that's great, that's the day job. If you can make that relevant and say, if we don't do this we're in a previous life, worked a lot with utilities who ran the risk of starting big bush fires if things went wrong on hot days. If you talk about the human impact of those sorts of events, it stops being a risk and sitting in the risk register and become something that they really do feel a strong personal commitment to solve.
So that's I guess that's- - It's using things like the kind of the, yeah, that's good answer. The flood of security, cybersecurity, risk. Do you think it's making easier to invest in technologies or because it's actually a pretty complex thing to explain, is it just muddying the waters? - It's data, data and more data. And it's inundating people at the moment. I think there's a real risk with security as an example of that flood just overwhelming people.
And being able to translate that back into the impact on the business, the impact on your customers and on society, if you're in a business where that's going to be a consequence. Is something that makes it far more human and something that really gets buy in. So if you can highlight the business impact of addressing those things, but connect it to some sort of human outcome or environmental outcomes, if that's what is motivating for people, then for me, that's worked well.
- I'd probably caution against, I think for security specifically, there's a lot of investment going there. So it's easy money in some ways, but I'd probably caution against using fear as a way to kind of drive investment, to drive support from your peers. I think that trick can get old.
And so I'll probably start with value and what is it going to do for the business? And for some people that value is reducing risk, but for most of the exec that's not what they're worried about day to day. - So, Meaghan, you and I have been around a little bit, I'm not insulting you by saying that, we've experienced in technology and we've lived the age revolution, which of course ThoughtWorks has had a big part in lighting that fire over time. So agile has always been a problem when it came to business cases. And I mean, I used to teach me that one and the '90s life was so simple, the business cases or big design up front, we all thought we knew 100% what the problem was, we just needed to do enough business analysis and deliver the solution. So this noncommittal test and learn emergent architecture world of agile, how do we handle that when we actually the answers that are it's complicated, we don't know, we'll learn as we go, that's a whole new skill required.
- And those kinds of phrases, I mean, it may be the actual truth, but it's not helpful to the people who are hearing it because they can't. So first off, what you've got to understand is how people are funded and where their budgets are coming from and how that addresses. Because that's one of the major challenges is that normally the money is not emergent. And so, but the cost of doing business can be, so it's like, okay, that's another one. But on the other side of it. Actually what people want is they want a certain level of knowledge and they want enough information to feel that they can trust you.
And so it's a lot easier when you're well embedded into an organisation I think to make those cases, than when you're new to an organisation. Because you start to carry your own personal trust or the organ or the pace of the organisation that you're working with carries that trust because people are acknowledged that you can deliver. That you can actually enact on that.
So we're willing to do it. If you don't have that trust, then what I would suggest is one of the ways that dude is to work out that plan and to work out that kind of roadmap and make explicit like the decision points and the funding up until they, so, we can do it until this point. You should get this, we can then make a call for the wrong. The entire envelope is likely to look at about this much, and we will have those regular milestones in there. But I think there's a bigger conversation that needs to happen.
And there's some nice conversations happening around it in the world of agile. Melissa Perry and Jeff Patton are getting stuck into it at the moment. Where it's like, there has been an agile has been this the predominant method of looking at that software delivery for a long time.
But I think when we're talking about technology companies, and I think, Tom, is be interesting from your perspective and when you merging product and technology, because agile and the agile manifesto is written around the service of software delivery, like it's a custom service as opposed to product is something different. And so agile is not going to carry you through, into a truly product focused organisation. It's almost going to keep you as a separate technology organisation within the business. So I suppose it's, what do you want? Where you want to be? And it's, instead of say check agile out, because it is great at doing that piece of it. It's just and.
And you can see various companies are morphing and changing as they deal with that. But the often in a little bit of a tangent, but, Tom pay you are not along there. - Yeah, I think what I would say is, I think agile is not an excuse not to have a plan, agile doesn't say you can't have a plan and any kind of a goal, and you can have a target. Like there's nothing in the manifesto about that. As far as I recall, it's been a long time since I've read it it might, but I don't think it does. So I think it comes to going with a position what's the plan? And that plan might be, some goals, some opportunities to make decisions, or whether we're going to go left or right.
Some checkpoints and sort of provide the transparency and the leavers that your stakeholder or your exec, or whoever's providing you the funding component. And then they'll have the confidence to invest the dollars if they feel like they're in control. So I probably just approach it that way. I think there are some areas where, I was thinking about one way dollars some of the things we do a one way dollars where it's constant busy, you walk through it, you can't walk back. So if the projects you're working on the initiative is a one way dollar, then a little bit more upfront design and rigour is warranted. And for example, we're building the fulfilment centre in Sydney.
I think there was impressive about that last month. That's a one way dollar. We're going to spend millions and millions of dollars to buy a lot of machines.
That's not agile that's we want to be pretty sure. So the approach we take to that one is different to the approach we take to ask for money on a marketing platform to do personalization. And that's fair enough.
- Peter, have you noticed a generational change as we've become more agile has it impacted the conversation around business value? - Yeah, absolutely. So I mentioned, I started out my career working with defence in Australia, and you don't get much more waterfall than they were at the time. You're making $30 billion investments and you knew something around, there's a fight around that. That's the life of type on something like that was 50 plus years.
So that were very long-term investments, very expensive. That you're do a whole lot of work on that front. Where we are these days is so far removed from that. But I think the opportunity that we have is to deliver incremental value with a lot of these things as well.
That's different, you're building it fulfilment centre, but from a software modernization perspective. Being able to decompose unpicking legacy estate and deliver incremental value also gives a lot of confidence because you can show that it's working. And if it's not, you have those checkpoints, you have the the transparency where, you can be open with that and change direction as required. I think that for me is one of the real changes in behaviour from the buyer side within an organisation. So if you think of the businesses as buying a technology service inside the organisations, that'd become far more of a partner, they want to see the progress, they want that transparency. And they want to be part of the decision-making process.
That that for me is really positive. - Okay well, this is the point of the show where we asked the audience if they've got any questions, they may not know that I can see all their names and may in fact call them out at some stage if it were left to us. So I invite Sarah, who is a great cross examiner of the witnesses. If she has a question just to unmute and pop ups, Sarah, that would be very welcome. Let's have a look. Questions, anyone? No, not coming in.
What about, we didn't cover metrics I know, today very much partly because dashboards and those kind of things can be a tiny bit boring, but are they an important element of proving your case once you've got your 100 million or otherwise, or are they something we should desperately just try to kind of put it aside because it's a little more complicated than just numbers? Tom, you've made promises in business cases, I've seen with some big numbers on them, how did you track them? What's your key metric that you think represents business value? - Well, first of all, metrics are super important. So if you're putting up a business case with no numbers in it, I'm pretty sure that's something I get up. That's a recipe for failure, but story at the storyline won't do it. The story is a good way to introduce it, but you need some hard facts behind it.
I think that the metric really differs after work. I'm not sure there's a single metric for modernization, and it really depends on the challenge you've got and the business you've got. One of the key metrics we used that RIA for modernization/tech investment was asset health. So we had a metric for all of our systems. we had a thousand systems, each systems rated the writings have been Amber, Green and some dimensions.
And then that was a very useful data set to be able to show to non-technology people. The state of the technology that we're operating and for a product manager, it was very powerful to say that the product they've trying to build is on a shaky foundation and therefore wanting some investment. So I found that to be very useful way to translate technology kind of technology site, to kind of business users. - And I imagine your current job it's quite easy to convince the chief product officer that take metrics, impact product. What a natural alliance that is. I think that's a great job tie up.
Peter, favourite metric for proving value what's ever. And tell us one that actually turned up. - Yeah, it's not my favourite, but one of the things I learned along the way was I'll go back to talking about risk actually. If you're doing a modernization and a cloud migration, as an example, you can think you understand your legacy estate, but you probably don't. And that will make that transformation potentially a little bit more complex and risky, expensive, all the things that we don't like to hear. And the rate of discovery, if you like finding those things that you didn't know were there, it's not something that jumps to mind as being a positive metric, but it's actually a really good leading indicator of where you're going to land.
If you're uncovering that complexity. And you're trying to do the things but failing, because you found a bunch of stuff you didn't know existed. It tells you something about how fast you're getting through the unknown morass that sits inside some of the legacy environments. So it's one that I didn't think of early on and came across along the way. And it's been a really good way of not just, I guess, communicating what's going on within a modernization programme, but also motivating the people involved because it can be a little challenging.
If you're running into those challenges that you didn't expect as a delivery team and getting beaten up because you're running late, or you're running over budget. Being able to show that you're doing something which is positive, you're finding all these bits of dirty laundry that are hidden somewhere down in the closet, is really powerful, it's a good motivator. - Great, questions just come in from Jeevan, which I think is for you, Meaghan, because I empathise with it massively. I'm helping some friends with a startup at the moment and had to write the business case for them to not spend $50 a day on software development, but $1,500 a day with an Australian, a reputable software builder. And so that question is when you're in that small, I mean, there's four people in the startup.
When you're in that smaller situation, maybe a scale-up, how does a technologist do a good job of explaining to the colleagues when there's maybe a very small tech team? It's not like, Tom's giant army of software developers that catch, it's just a small part of a business. How do you get your seat at the table and tell a tech story? - When it is just a small team, I think that is purely around. You need to build rapport and empathy and to show that you actually have their best interests at heart. In that way, and learning to talk in their language and being open to, You know how you ask what's the most difficult tech thing you have to explain at the start? So it's kind of circling back to that.
And I think it is that ability to improve and to know like there are good practises and people on technologists in particular, it's like, yeah no, you have to do it this way. And you have to actually be able to answer to why? Like all the time, like why? Why? Why? And that final why has to actually be related back to their goals and their needs and that ability to be flexible in your thinking as well, I think. Like as a technologist, you need to be flexible to go, okay, this might not be best practise, but at the moment, what they actually need is to target a speed and the need to this needs to work. This can quite frankly, you can hire two grad students to do wizard of Oz in the background really is a cheaper way than building it until you know it's going to work. So I think it's that flexibility and that ability to really understand why you do the things that you do.
- Your mind my favourite answer comes from a book, not surprising because I'm a book nerd, but Bob Moesta's, "Demand-Side Sales 101," who he invented jobs to be done as a method there's a little known fact for you. Well, I thought I was thought it was scraping Christensen in 2003, but now he's borrowed it from Bob. He has great methods, which amount to your trade, Meaghan, with human centred design and thinking about what the struggle of consumers is and how technology plays into that. And sometimes doesn't.
Once if you get to the core struggle and technology's a part of it, it's kind of a slam dunk. But it does, let's raise the stakes a little bit in terms of a tough question from Carl Kennedy, long-term versus short-term. Now I've been in plenty of situations where the CEO wanted a short-term result, and I was thinking like three to five years. Tom, some wise advice, you got a long-term investment for modernization.
It's going to take three years to do, and people want to see a bottom line impact in the next six months, any advice. - Yeah, I think so it's a two things. First of all, the long-term investment, but the finishing is strategic. So I'll be coupling something like that to where what's the overall strategy for the business. What can we not do if we don't do this? Like, that's the kind of story that you're selling. I think part of the question was about maintaining the focus.
Okay, if you've sold the three years investment, you've done the first year, how do you keep going and not lose focus? I'm not sure I've got a great answer other than I've got lots of battle scars. I think that's good. - I'm going to throw it to a guest star that in that case, I do know she has had some considerable experience in helping people trade off short and long-term, Sarah, what's your answer to that tough question.
- I was actually just going to give a shout out to Meaghan. I'm going to handle this one actually, because Meaghan's written a nice little article, "A Two-Parter" that she describes shortest path to value and how we can continue to incrementally deliver our customers value as we slice up small little bits, and instead of going for big bang, like flight, go dark and come back three years later with a modernised system, how we can incrementally target it. So, Meaghan, just give us a little bit of highlight on your shortest path to value.
- Yeah let's get a link to that paper as well. - Well it's really it is around it. It's that tying of your tech strategy and your product strategy together and going okay, what are the opportunities that we have within the product strategy and what are the needs that we have within the tech strategy and can we match them up? Is there a way, and this is where you look at different different approaches to cutting information, whether you're running a kind of a competitive business, competitive sort of business for a little bit, and then gradually transfer over, or whether you take slices of audience or whether you take kind of a part of a process, but find those breaks. Find those breaks in the product or the way that you're looking at addressing needs, and then look at what you need to do technically, and then put your heads together and go, okay, how do we trade off between the two of them and get to what we need? So for instance, could you build up, if you're looking at a new tech stack, you'd likely, build up the pace of it that will allow you to launch a new little product into a new market or something like that. And you go, okay, does it work, does it not? Can we move more and more in gradually sort of move everything onto the new, that's one approach and one approach that I've seen us tackle recently.
So that's I think the way that you try and avoid that it's not binary, short and long. It's actually, you've got a long-term goal, but you've got short-term drops to, again, build up that credibility that you can do it. - Excellent wisdom. And Sarah's put the two links to the paper in the chat Pet, we're getting close to the end, any wisdom to offer on that subject? - Anyone who knows me will have heard me say many times, and I can't claim it as my own.
I think it came from Elon Musk. That progress is the sum of all vectors. Anyone who's done that is Elon Musk. And you can use that at a team level if everybody's pulling in different directions, I all cancellation together. But I think it's true also at a macro level, when you're looking at longer term goals.
It's okay to veer off the direct path a bit so long as you're understanding what the cost of getting back on that path is going to be. And that there are pragmatic decisions that get made every day. That he may need to divert a little to pick up, my son plays video games.
He goes over there and picks up the gold coin or whatever it is in the game, but he doesn't lose sight of that end goal because he knows how far he's got to come back. And I think that's a really powerful metric. If you understand how far off the path you are and what the additional cost is. So yeah, get the vectors. - Hey look, we're getting near the end.
Let's have a fun question to end with, what's the worst lie or inadvertent error in a story to invest in enterprise modernization that you've heard. I'll go first. And mine's actually related to Duncan's question. And the lie was, if we spend the next two years, replacing this platform, product development will be much quicker. So let's see how I do against my competitors on the panel here today. What's the worst claim ever made in a business case that was just probably a bit far reaching for an enterprise modernization business case? just requires configuration only no software.
- I think mine was along the lines of I'm going to use in particular licence, but along the lines of if we just rewrite all our software and from language to language B, we'll all go a lot faster. - Tom, that's not the functional programming. The religious debate is it, we shall not touch that.
That's the winner so far for having the most charged community. We should mention, Peter. - Mine it's just a variation on yours, Nigel.
It wasn't faster, it was going to be cheaper. - Yeah the cloud is going to be cheaper. That's a clear silver medal.
Meaghan, can you rush to the front of the Olympics of bullshit- - I don't know that I can beat the, just rewrite it in one language to another, but my favourite probably always is like, we can just buy this meeting and just plug it in and that will instantly go faster and be smoother. That's probably- - And there it is folks. That is the perfect summary of today's talk about enterprise modernization.
You can buy anything you like, it's all online. Download from the internet, do give us some feedback about today. Thanks so much for coming. It's a dark evening on a dark day in Victoria here.
And there's a link in your chat for some feedback, that'd be lovely email or come out to you with a video. And I just want to thank, Tom, particularly who I know has an incredibly big and busy job as CPTO @catch.com that are you a huge year ahead of him, and Peter and Meaghan.
Meaghan, this won't be the last time we have you on the panel, but might be some exciting variations on the theme and future. And, Peter, thanks for your wisdom today, Sarah, thanks for keeping them in line, the room for making sure all the technology worked and Grace, for doing the great marketing. Give Grace a break and click on that survey so we can find out what your thought.
And everyone take care and have a very safe weekend. Thank you very much for coming.