Business Transformation Executive Perspectives

Software Eats Everything: 3 Dimensions to a Successful Digital Business

The digital business is a journey, not a destination.

In 2011, Marc Andreessen famously wrote “Software is eating the world” in reference to the wild success of online businesses. At the time, what seemed to be the most ink-on-paper industry out there — books — was even booming online. More than a decade later, we see every business, from automotive to education to household appliances, use software in some way.

Software eats everything.

Phares Kariuki, former CEO of Node Africa (and current CEO of Pure Infrastructure Limited) simply states, “Every industry has a higher and higher application of technology. And the problem is that if you do not have the skillset, if you’re not natively and you’re not understanding how best you can apply these skills to accelerate your business, you will inevitably be caught flat-footed.” CIOs everywhere must invest in software and their digital business initiatives, or customers and competitors will leave them behind. Here’s how CIOs and IT teams must approach software strategically.

Evaluate your current environment

Before CIOs sign any contract for a new technology stack, they must make sure that their environment can support it. If it can’t, it’s imperative to make the necessary investments to ensure that their architecture works for the present, but more importantly, will grow with the organization for the future. Every environment must be agile and scalable to meet the demands of the future.

Agility allows companies to pivot as quickly as customers, the market, and their industry evolve. The future is impossible to predict (just think back to the events of 2020), so leaders and technology must be flexible. When leaders attempt to plan out every possible scenario, any wrench in the plan could cause chaos. Instead, it’s best to be confident in an arsenal of technology tools that’ll adapt to the situation at hand.

Consider customer needs and habits

When the environment has the all-clear, next, consider the customer: their needs, consuming habits and the final CX. Kariuki sums it up, “Think about what your customer needs, not what technology stack you want to roll out. It’s what you’re building and how your customer consumes it.”

CIOs everywhere agree that CX is a top priority. According to VMware-commissioned Forrester research, 67% of IT leaders canceled projects that didn’t have an immediate impact on their business or CX. Customers interacted with companies more closely than ever and in new ways throughout 2020. Online experiences were more important when in-person interactions weren’t possible.

Whatever a company invests in, they must organize the technology, for their customers’, employees’, and the corporate wallet’s sake. Left unchecked, legacy apps rack up OPEX and slow, inflexible app experiences will frustrate customers and employees and could even drive them away.

“Learn how to walk, learn how to run, then run a marathon”

While CIOs may feel like they need to make up for lost time when adopting new technology, they must first ensure they have mastered the basics before moving on. Kariuki says, “Just first make sure that your environment actually does what it’s supposed to and make the right investments. And don’t sort of try and jump from zero to a thousand, like take small steps, learn how to crawl, learn how to walk, learn to how to run, then run a marathon.”

The digital business is a journey, not a destination. As a company advances technologically, so does the rest of the world and its competition. The key to constantly innovating is scalability. Containers, efficient app deployment, agile data centers, cloud and edge technology, and a sound cloud strategy are key to scaling effectively and quickly. Additionally, automation takes on tedious tasks, which frees staff to innovate and challenge the status quo.

Every company is a software company

Software eats everything, so every industry is a software company. It behooves every company to invest in technology and to strategize correctly in order to successfully transform digitally.

Leaders must be strategic about the technology they invest in. Kariuki notes, “Technology is a tool. If you don’t realize that technology is a tool, you’ll get caught up chasing your tail.” Hear more from Phares Kariuki, former CEO of Node Africa and his worldwide view of software.

For more executive insights, listen to the CIO Exchange podcastBridging Your Application Gaps with Joe Beda, VMware Principal Engineer and James Watters, VMware CTO, Modern Application Platforms.