I feel so grateful to have a career in technology, a career in which change is the constant and it keeps things exciting and relevant. Arguably, the biggest change we are seeing now has less to do with the actual technology, and is more cultural. In all the conversations I’m having with businesses across CEMEA, I’ve noticed that the C-Suite is more engaged than ever. Technology is no longer an IT conversation, because the implications of digitization — of getting it right, but also getting it wrong — have become too profound for others in the leadership team to ignore. Suddenly, ‘technology’ is no longer a catch-all term, where having some sort of ‘IT’ should be good enough. What chief officers of all functions now understand is that the type of technology (and the vendor) makes a huge difference to how fast you can flip your business online, develop new revenue streams, mobilize an entire workforce, and come out of a global crisis in better shape than you went in.
Clearly the evidence was already there before Covid struck, over the last decade whole sectors have been utterly transformed by innovative startups wiedling superior technology and a unique and innovative approach to the way business is done in that sector. Unfortunately, many businesses were still too pedestrian going into the pandemic, with outdated legacy hardware and top-down chains of command suffocating the pace of change. No longer — this had to change. The last 18 months have turbocharged digitization programs, perhaps forever — as an existential issue. CEOs I speak with now will be as comfortable talking about agile working concepts and digital engagement as a DevOps professional; CFOs will regularly refer to the interoperability of their tech stack; CMOs will quiz me about the how impact of containerization could help in getting new products, or service evolutions to market more quickly. Technology is no longer a bolt-on for a business. It is now part of the core to the central strategy from which all other things must be shaped around.
Inevitably then, technology conversations are no longer the stuff of system architecture and technical configurations. It has become much more holistic, with people, processes and culture taking equal billing. In this new paradigm, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the C-Suite is being drawn to open source technology as a means of innovating. Open source means your business is less beholden to any single vendor, and so makes it easier to adopt potentially game changing solutions from anywhere, at any time and know there are people driving the kind of technology innovation needed to stay ahead. This prospect will become more and more important. We are already seeing bespoke software being created at a hyper-sector level that eclipses more generic offerings, and businesses will increasingly invest in their own DevOps capabilities to create applications or extensions to existing systems in-house to support changes in the business models needed to stay competitive.
One of the key changes enabling new applications to support the business to be developed “at the speed of change”, is the concept of “containerization” — this means developing self contained applications or units of functionality that can be deployed into an IT solution like lifting containers onto a ship. The application containers have what they need to operate and they connect to other applications loaded onto the same IT container platform either on premise or in the cloud making a complete solution. Combine this with the freedom and encouragement to develop and deploy at speed to support changed processes you start to see massive acceleration of the innovation in digital services.
Against this backdrop, the timing of OpenShift 4 — the leading open source containerization platform — is one of the most exciting events of my 12 and half years at Red Hat. Containerization is the competitive enabler. The OpenShift platform takes containerization and hardens it, making it deployable on any public or private cloud environment, and with the ability to plug in third-party tools. Automation, repeatable tasks and a single console makes once onerous day-to-day development tasks easier. With it, application and feature development is more cost efficient, new products can be brought to market faster and more regularly, and experienced IT staff can spend more time on more valuable work. You can solve problems you couldn’t before. Every C-Suite function wins, and the bolstered bottom line benefits everyone. Openshift has been developed and enhanced by Red Hat to allow customers to develop and delivery their new digital assets to support their business changes at an unprecedented speed and deployed in any cloud or on premise environment.
That said, I’ve been around technology too long to know that even the best solutions need selling, here again is where I think the open source approach increasingly chimes with how businesses are thinking right now. When the technology investment is more of a joint C-Suite decision, outcomes and business impacts come into much sharper focus. In other words, non-technical people are less likely to care about how ‘it’ works, and more likely to ask “What can it achieve for my department/my business?” This can be at odds with vendors of proprietary technology that sometimes need to shoehorn their solution into a business case. But in a true open source approach, the conversation always begins by defining the business opportunity or problem, and only then choosing from a much broader set of solutions to address it, and with customers also adopting the open approach to sharing aspects of their journey to help others to avoid pitfalls and capture the successful routes on the journey.
I have recently had the privilege of being appointed to lead the CEMEA region for Red Hat, having spent five and half years supporting the innovation journeys of our enterprise customers in Asia Pacific, and nearly seven years before that running a region of Red Hat in Northern Europe. I imagine I’ll experience some very different ways of conducting business that I’ll have to learn about quickly in the new region, however I’m confident that, in the core mission to help businesses use technology to succeed, there are far less geographical nuances. For one thing, businesses compete in a global market, and so what is working well in one place is likely to be adopted elsewhere. As businesses around the world converge on an outcome-led approach to technological investments, where decisions are more cross functional than ever before, open source provides and Red Hat’s approach to helping customers develop the collaborative and agile internal framework that leaders are looking for will continue to accelerate the customers digital journey and I hope we can be partner for a big part of that change in this region.
By Phil Andrews, Vice President and General Manager CEMEA Region at Red Hat