How to Stay Ahead of the Curve

You want to stay ahead of competitors, right? From an IT perspective, the goal should be to use technology and software to support business initiatives, react to opportunities and generate more revenue—and stay at least a step ahead of your competitors.

Staying ahead of the curve means moving as fast as possible and spending the bulk of your time identifying creative technological solutions to business problems, not manually pushing updates to the cloud or configuring permissions.

Here are three key strategies for staying ahead of the competition.

Adjust Company Culture

We could talk about development tools all day, but for most companies the most important shift isn’t about the tools the development team uses—it’s all about company culture. Moving at the speed modern business requires means changing the way your team works together—and that often involves changing company-wide culture and policies.

The agile method is the most common way to change cultures and increase the speed of development. It’s based on organizing projects into small, multidisciplinary teams, led by one project owner. Crucially, each team should have the ability to fully complete its project—ie to successfully deploy it—independently, without having to use a centralized deployment process or deal with an outside Ops team to procure compute resources.

Focus on Process Development

Actual code is a depreciating asset, but the processes you develop to efficiently spin up new projects and deliver improved functionality to your users can be used repeatedly and are the foundation on which you’ll speed up your development and deployment process.

Developing processes involves both technology and company culture/procedures. You need to have a clear internal process for approving new initiatives, a standard testing protocol and an agreed-upon way to pull the trigger on deploying to production. You also need to have the technology in place to make development and deployment as safe and easy as possible. Which brings us to…

Automate, Automate, Automate

There are some things that automation tools cannot do—identifying how your software could better meet customer needs or respond to a business opportunity is something that requires human intervention. But whether you’re configuring permissions in Kubernetes or managing a red/black deployment, you’re better off using automation tools. Not only does this allow the development team to spend more time on high-value projects, automation usually does a better job of ensuring a safe, repeatable deployment—even the most talented human beings can’t be trusted to manage a deployment in exactly the same way every time.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, the first step is to ensure your company’s culture is compatible with the quick development and deployment timelines expected at cutting-edge companies—and change if necessary. Next, instead of focusing exclusively on building new deliverables, you should also prioritize putting the procedural and technological processes in place to make it as fast as possible for updates and new software to go from idea to production. Lastly, automate as many steps in the application lifecycle as possible, both to increase speed and to create a more reliable, more secure development and deployment process.