Continuous business runs on continuous software
We live in a 24×7 world, 365 days a year. Okay, no surprise there, we know that the big cities never sleep and that the wheels of industry have now been greased to operate at every hour of the day around the planet.
But what that gives us, as a global collective set of businesspeople, is a new state of being.
This is the age and era of continuous business.
A definition of continuous business
A continuous business organization isn’t one that keeps the lights on all day and all night and works to any definition of ‘follow-the-sun’ support to cover the waking hours that circle the planet. Well, it is that, but it’s also more.
A continuous business organization is one that presents a software-centric backbone and interface to customers, partners, employees, and any other stakeholder through connected applications, through the web, through the cloud and through whatever other data membrane it chooses to build.
As firms start to become continuous business operations, they start to integrate their front office functions (from sales to support to admin and everything in between) much more closely (and, if they do it right, natively) with their back-office functions (such as database repository and core software application stack) to create a new and altogether more intelligent operation.
No magic ‘ON’ button
Except it’s not that easy, you can’t just flick all the switches to ‘ON’ and declare yourself a continuous business.
Every level of the continuous business needs to be supported by continuous software application development excellence— and the measure of excellence will be defined by how well your core apps are not only developed, but also by how well they are supported by continuous testing, continuous integration, and continuous deployment technologies.
So we know that the journey to continuous business is hard work.
It is made potentially harder by the fact that the business world has embraced new degrees of both team and individual autonomy in recent years. When we start to create silos of data, then we immediately start to talk about disparate disconnected pools of information that hamper an organization’s ability to operate at full intelligence.
Orchestration & automation
The answer, for many applications and data sources, will lie in orchestration & automation platforms.
Orchestration platforms and tools allow companies to audit, assess and then more intelligently manage the set of IT resources that they wish to operate. In these environments, continuous integration doesn’t happen without continuous testing… because that’s how operations have been orchestrated from the start.
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Automation platform technologies work alongside (sometimes inside of, sometimes on top of) orchestration platforms and tools to provide functions such as model-based testing.
All the dependencies and constraints that any single piece of software in your business needs can be mapped out in the orchestration too, and then the datasets that provide the lifeblood for those pieces of software can be sent to the right place at the right time using automation.
Once an organization starts to bring on these layers of intelligence into its operations, it has the chance to build what industry analysts love to call a ‘smarter data fabric’. This fabric is a woven yarn that is interconnected enough for the system itself to start learning what types of data or access to Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) different apps will need in any given user behavior scenario.
The smart data fabric is then capable of feedback to our model-driven operations and a virtuous circle is formed where one aspect of the technology stack starts to more intuitively inform other ‘territories’ as to its health and wealth.
All this orchestration, automation, and general interconnectedness is important… because the reason we looked into these cogs and gears was to see whether or not our business model could withstand an always-on approach to continuous business.
We know that digitization is not confined to any single part of the business; the ‘platform play’ (as opposed to ‘just apps’ and buying some software) is a fundamental strategic choice for organizations now attempting to bring new cloud-based systems online. The continuous factor is a major part of this platform play because it’s now an always-on world.
Occasional business is dead, long live continuous business.