BEING LIKE WATER

Sitting in his makeshift shed, the man wields his knife around a plastic bottle, forming the perfect water feeder for his allotment. “Waste not, want not” he whispers to himself in the quiet acknowledgement of a lifelong mantra to repurpose, reuse, and recycle.

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In India, they call it “Jugaad”: a flexible and pragmatic way of problem-solving, using limited resources in an innovative way. This frugal innovation approach – which may go by another name in different parts of the world – is now more relevant than ever, for many reasons. We see the world straining, its natural resources no longer able to sustain our current levels of living and consumption. We must be more inventive with what we have, rather than spending too much of our scarce resources on energy-wasting, polluting “build-from-scratch” activities. Jugaad Masters skillfully control their tools and materials. Part of their way of life, their chosen “technology” is always with them, always available, always ready to innovate. These masters have become one with their tools and materials, they are Jugaad. Sounds like something we need in today’s world of digital technology and business as well.

ASPIRATION IS NOT ENOUGH

For the turbulent year of 2021, we recognized the role technology played to deal with the flurry of unpredictable events, challenges, and opportunities. We created the leitmotiv, “Be Like Water” inspired by martial artist movie star, Bruce Lee and his most famous quote:

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend”

BRUCE LEE

This fluent mix of using whatever comes in handy to deal with the situation would become a trademark of Lee. In TechnoVision, we iterated the importance of crafting technology strategies, architectures, and solutions that are shapeless and formless, yet always flowing. It was a plea for agility, adaptivity, responsiveness, creativity, and resilience, all enabled by technology. This year however, aspiring to be like water is no longer enough. It is time to extend the adjective far beyond the realms of the vessel to which it is held. It is time to find our own Jugaad Master – to walk the talk. It is time for actively “Being Like Water.”

In Capgemini’s Digital Mastery research, we see how organizations are building more digital and leadership capabilities – two crucial facets of a thriving Technology Business. They are also addressing culture – another success factor – and promoting the exploration of new, innovative technologies and platforms. Yet, while organizations focus more on upskilling employees than ever before, the increase is much less significant in soft skills areas such as emotional intelligence, adaptability, and collaboration.

If we indeed acknowledge that every Business is a Technology Business (or “Technologyϵ϶Business” as we like to call it), then technology can no longer be kept within the walled garden of centralized IT, or whatever other sub-construct it is delegated to. Technology needs to be internalized, embraced, and utilized throughout the organization, regardless of business unit, activity, or individual role. To aspire is no longer enough. It is vital for organizations to upskill scarce talent, embrace IT and build on the corporate objectives.

OBJECTIVES ARE CHANGING

Sustainability returns to the top of the strategic priority list, after having taken an involuntary backseat during the pandemic. An organization’s success may soon depend on its contribution to decreasing net-carbon emissions. How we operate, collaborate, travel, even function at the most basic of levels, will have an impact on the organizational carbon balance sheet. And all of that is scrutinized wholeheartedly by customers, employees, and shareholders alike. Then, scarcity is rapidly turning out to be a new, determining factor for economic success – or failure. This not only relates to scarcity in terms of natural resources (although we must certainly apply caution here), but also human resources: it is increasingly harder to find qualified, skilled, and motivated talent in almost every branch of business, including technology. Furthermore, the next generation of workers is increasingly critical of what organization to work for, actively seeking compatibility with their own values, such as sustainability, diversity, and inclusion. And finally, the next-level of digital playing field has swiftly emerged over the last two years, triggering a whole new wave of innovation initiatives – whether by cautious challengers sensing unexplored opportunities, or inquisitive incumbents wanting to catch up on a new reality. Capgemini’s Digital Mastery research illustrates how innovation leaders still focus on a superior “customer-first” experience and highly effective operations. Yet, combine that with talent innovation and an “employee-centric” experience, and the reimagined business model could really excel.

STRATOPS: ALWAYS BE CHANGING

While the world returns to some shade of normalcy, we have come to accept the era of Uncertainty2: where uncertainty for tomorrow has become part of our daily lives today. To thrive, businesses must fluently adjust their strategy to the challenges and opportunities they encounter, transforming both business and technology in a continuous, operational flow. Such a “StratOps” enterprise will embody this fluidity, living and breathing – being like water – and using technology to reboot the organization in this dramatically different world, successfully facing whatever challenge or opportunity it comes across, yet with a powerful and directional flow to fulfill its corporate purpose.

TECHNOLOGY IS ENTWINED

Whatever the business and societal challenges and opportunities are, they all have one commonality: they rely on technology to address them as an integral part of the change equation. Most apparent in Intelligent Industry; we see software-driven cars, autonomous factories, and smart products as testament to the raw, transformative power of technology. But this is quickly rippling through sectors and domains too, such as the smart concepts of “Society 5.0” in the Public Sector, taking its inspiration firmly from “Industry 4.0” (technology craves version numbers it seems). Technology and business operations has become so entwined, it is increasingly blurry where one ends and the other begins. And it shows when looking at technology trends in 2022. Whether it pertains to infrastructure, applications, data, process automation, user experience or collaboration, three big Technology Business concepts clearly stand out:

EDGE “Edge computing” emerged from Intelligent Industry and the realm of the Internet of Things (IoT). As we watch Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) fuse, devices are increasingly enchanted with sensors, storage, networking, intelligence, and automation. Innovations appear magically, ever closer to the distributed edge, further away from central IT. But this isn’t just a one trick pony, as we see areas such as “headless” application services morph themselves into diverse, individualized user experiences (maybe one day in the looming “metaverse”), entirely dependent on the needs at the edge of the business. The edge is there for a reason, it pushes past our comfort zones, making us think about what’s beyond. Exciting innovation happens at the edge, where the rubber meets the road – not at central IT or business units – bringing more applicable technologies to the places where it really counts.

MESH Originating in the world of loosely coupled, lightweight networks of autonomous nodes, “mesh” has expanded to the world of applications: a new way of weaving together small, independent application services (“service mesh”) for all sorts of – ad-hoc – purposes. Now, it is rapidly conquering the world of data (“data mesh”), as a radically different, federative way of redistributing the ownership of data products to the business domains that are closest to them. And of course, in the multi-faceted user experience world of the Metaverse, mesh appears here as well, illustrating the variety of ways we can collaborate in online spaces. Not to mention the mesh-like characteristics popping up within distributed technologies such as blockchain. Mesh emphasizes the power of decentralization and federated ownership, rather than monolithic command and control.

AUGMENT AI and intelligent automation manifests powers across the full spectrum of technology. From smart products and services, intelligent applications, and killer algorithms, to “self-driving” business processes, the potential seems limitless. AI can even be applied for spectacular creative purposes, augmenting humans in ways that were previously considered their eternally exclusive forte. While the discussion on how AI will replace humans – versus augment them – may go on for some time, the increasing scarcity of talent in all major business areas, certainly shows AI and intelligent automation as powerful, sustainable fixes. Ultimately, technology enables us to produce better digital solutions with fewer people. And when provided directly to the business – for example through self-service tools – it serves the technology democratization ambitions any Technology Business should be aiming for.

A NEED TO UPCYCLE

Sustainability is finally a business priority. What once might have been just a line item for boardroom consideration is now right at the top of the corporate agenda. Every executive must help their organizations deliver on sustainability targets – and CIOs must play a fundamental role in a shift towards a “circular economy.” By transforming the linear take-make-waste system to a more regenerative process, everyone can benefit, not least the corporate agenda. But we must address how much technology consumes and wastes finite resources. Millions of tons of electronic waste ware generated worldwide every year, yet less than one-fifth of that e-waste is recycled.

Rather than rip and replace, we should recycle and reuse. Jugaad should become a way of life in IT, finding ways to tease more life out of the technology products run in our businesses. We need to think much more creatively about the hardware and software we discard. We must acknowledge that precious resources are finite. As an industry, and as businesses that consume these IT products, we have a responsibility to do better. We must find ways to extend the life, to reuse, or maybe even upcycle the technology we already have. In India, Jugaad is often due to necessity: to innovate to find a solution for a problem. Elsewhere, organizations ignore making such choices: when something breaks, simply replace it. That attitude is now an anathema. The world demands change. But aspiring to change is only the starting point. Customers, and employees know that actions speak louder than words – and they will spot any attempts at uncommitted pretend and “greenwashing.”

QUESTIONS TO ASK

Mastering a Technology Business is not only about understanding trends and their overarching themes. It’s about making it work, to move from articulating aspirations to actually “Being Like Water” in a Technology Business. We recommend asking seven questions at any signature digital juncture – when assessing a strategy, a portfolio, program, project, or architecture, or simply any time a promising innovative idea pops up:

Are business and technology the same? Move from alignment to unity of business and IT, creating a seamless Technology Business strategy and operations. Are systems and processes designed and built for change? Move adaptability from afterthought to prime time. Are systems and processes open by default? Upgrade your technology platform to the ultimate Technology Business platform: a superior, open set of attractive services, acting as a magnet for active collaboration, internally and externally.

Do plans and actions contribute to societal good? Boost the organization’s societal purposes by saying “Yes” to technology that boosts sustainability and say “No” to what is energy-wasting or non-essential. Is trust at the foundation of the organization? Power up the entire trust ecosystem – from the organization’s core to its edges – securing your existing business and pushing forward to its next permutation. Is the data and AI applied human-centered? Ensure a properly measured and monitored balance between three – sometimes conflicting – assets: the corporate Intelligence Quotient, Creativity Quotient, and Emotional Quotient. Are all hands-free perspectives considered? Assume full, hands-free automation as the default for all new Technology Business processes.

EPILOGUE

The man picks up his knife again. For him, Jugaad never ends. Everything has its place in this shed; each element unique, serving a bespoke purpose, doing its job perfectly. But there is always something new to achieve, some fresh creativity to apply. As a Technology Business, we can learn from that attitude: by no longer just talking about the plans, but by walking the talk, living the mantra. By mastering our digital tools seamlessly within the organization, we can use technology to innovate, adapt, and achieve our corporate and societal goals. And by integrating technology with business so fluently that one no longer works without the other, they become essentially one and the same; being – and flowing – like water.

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