The era of the agile ad-hoc business
Firms’ operational business cores are becoming increasingly automated and organizations’ commerce frameworks are becoming increasingly interconnected and networked.
There is a widespread move to apply machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to companies’ market-facing models… and we’re all working faster (and in more places) due to increased access to IT through smartphones, tablets, and so on.
So there’s no major need for discussion then? We can agree that the modern age of post-millennial business moves more quickly.
Consequence of cadence
Perhaps more subtly, we now need to ask what the consequence of this new cadence is. One of the more obvious areas to pinpoint is agility— but this is Agility with a capital ‘A’.
The Agile Manifesto is actually a mantra laid down to describe an approach to software application development that embraces change early and often. Users are increasingly picky with short attention spans, so software needs to constantly deliver new functions and be available quickly— hence the term Agile, to denote its rapid development in an environment that positively welcomes change.
It turns out, what works well in programming circles, works quite well for business.
The notion of knowing that your commercial market is about to experience massive change (or possibly disappear overnight) can give companies a new footing for business agility.
Your product or service works well today, but it could be redundant tomorrow— this is the new reality we all have to face in business.
From Agile to ad-hoc
The new era of continuous change driving the Agile movement (in software… and in business too) is further amplified by the use of increasingly ad-hoc tools. Ad-hoc (from the Latin ‘for this’) functions are also manifesting themselves inside the IT department and outwards in every specific Line of Business (LoB) function.
To paint the picture in simple terms, organizations use databases to store and process data that they want to run Business Intelligence (BI)-related analytics functions upon.
Doing that gives them insight into the way their customer base is behaving and the way the market is moving. But running any set of analytics requires provisioning, preparation and the need to place a specified order with IT (or their cloud data services provider)… and that all takes time, planning and coordination.
Business leaders don’t want to be tied down to those constraints anymore, or at least they want fewer of them. They want to be able to pinpoint an issue and ask a specific business question of their information stack and be able to generate a report for that (or back to Latin, ‘for this’) exact set of transactions or records.
Caveats and careful qualifications
This trend is very real and we can see the IT industry’s major database providers now moving to provide more custom-built choice and the ability to be ad hoc in more aspects of their core platforms.
The resulting concerns that arise from these new abilities to pick and choose IT business functionality more rapidly are principally focused on a) how to manage it and b) how to charge for it.
Managing ad hoc use of business technology for data analytics can be a challenge because these are the types of queries that would (or at least should) be run only once. Of course, they’re not— ad hoc reports and analyses typically get run again and again, which can lead to bloated reporting structures and unnecessary data stockpiles.
When untrained business users start to become so-called ‘citizen data analysts’ through the use of low-code software tools and platforms to create further ad-hoc analyses, the problem is potentially compounded.
Charging for these more ‘turn on, turn off’ ad hoc Agile services is also more complex and to be honest… it’s a subject in its own right. It’s enough perhaps to say that IT pricing is shifting towards what we might call more ‘consumption-based’ models.
The future is more componentized, more composable and more customizable, so ad-hoc Agility will form a key trend in shaping that ability to choose and be more creative.
Ad hoc as the status quo is quid pro quo for future business perhaps— no, that’s too much Latin for anyone.
11 December 2019
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