Technology evolution is speeding up and changing faster than ever. In the keynote of the Gartner Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference, Thomas Bittman, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner, explained that just as we get comfortable with something, something else pops up.
Therefore, digital transformation is not a one-time thing; it is an ongoing process that does not have a fixed endpoint. According to Bittman, success will depend on an organization’s ability to constantly change.
“If you’re just reacting to these, like changes in the wind, you will be taken, maybe somewhere you don’t want to go,” he said. “But instead, you can take charge, accept that there’s no fixed endpoint or goal and embrace the process of transformation as a way of operating.”
According to Bittman, this idea is known as “Generative Transformation,” which is characterized by continuous transformation, improvement, and adaptation to new technologies.
Generative Transformation includes three key components: generative AI (GenAI), infrastructure platform engineering, and empowering people.
According to Bittman, GenAI is currently at the peak of the hype cycle. According to a study by Gartner, 80% of CIOs plan to adopt GenAI within three years.
Successful adoption can be achieved by following four steps. First, organizations need to determine their ambitions with GenAI. He explained that the possibilities with GenAI range from “the every day to the game changing.” The every day consists of things like productivity gains from automating repetitive tasks, writing scripts, and creating written documentation. The game changing encompasses fundamental changes to processes. “How should the systems and the silos that we’ve all been building for decades, possibly be torn down and rebuilt?”
Second, you need to keep skills at the forefront. Bittman explained that organizations need a culture that fosters innovation and creativity, not just productivity. He also noted that GenAI is about staff augmentation, not replacement.
In order to be successful, staff need to be trained on how to use these GenAI platforms. “Gartner predicts that 90% of you will suffer impacts to your business due to lack of Gen AI skills and testing,” he explained.
Third, guardrails need to be established to ensure that confidential data is protected and that organizations can validate results from GenAI. “Distrust and verify is the rule of thumb,” said Bittman.
And finally, build and execute an intentional plan for how GenAI will be deployed across the organization. This plan should adapt over time based on new discoveries and knowledge as well.
Infrastructure Platform Engineering
Dennis Smith, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner, explained that platform engineering, which is an approach to improve developer experience and productivity, can also be applied to infrastructure. Infrastructure Platform Engineering (IPE) is designed to “bridge the gap between infrastructure teams and those that consume infrastructure,” he explained.
The goal here is to enable autonomy and innovation, reduce frustration, and improve flow. “We’re at an inflection point, where operational excellence alone is not enough,” said Smith. “We must improve velocity and deliver the product features that our business needs.”
According to Smith, the key principles to follow to successfully implement IPE include:
- Deliver platforms as products, providing dedicated resources to maintain that product.
- Start with the thinnest viable platform and evolve it based on validated effectiveness.
- Platforms should be demand driven. “Platform teams need to be highly engaged with customers and prioritize new platforms and enhancements based on their needs,” said Smith.
- Provide easy paved roads for users by providing good documentation and making the platform easy to use.
The third focus for Generative Transformation is empowering employees. “Success isn’t going to be determined by technology alone. Success lies in the hands of those steering this change,” said Autumn Stanish, senior principal analyst at Gartner.
She explained that in order to be successful, organizations need to equip teams with the “confidence, knowledge, and resources to thrive in a future that demands continuous learning.”
She talked through three things that companies can do to empower their employees to adopt a generative mindset.
First, organizations should hire for characteristics, not qualifications. According to a recent Gartner survey, the number one skill companies say they need is critical thinking and analysis. “These soft skills are actually just as — if not more important — than our technical skills, because without the ability to think critically and creatively, your organization will stagnate,” Stanish explained.
According to Stanish, hiring for those characteristics will require pushing against conventional wisdom and looking beyond traditional certifications, degrees, and experiences.
“We often think that we’re hiring for a job or a role. But what we end up getting is a person’s capability set. So we need to replace job descriptions with capability descriptions,” she said.
Next, companies need to amplify employee growth. According to Gartner, two thirds of organizations are struggling to fill skills gaps. Its data also shows that talent acquisition alone isn’t enough to keep up with modern skills requirements.
“You should explore new learning and development models for your employees and provide new career paths, so that change isn’t happening to your people, it’s happening with them,” she said.
And finally, organizations need to cultivate psychological safety. According to Stanish, people can’t thrive if there is a fear of failure. Leadership needs to cultivate a culture where failure is just a part of the process.
According to a Gartner survey, employees with high psychological safety have a 67% higher probability of applying a newly learned skill on the job.
“Therefore, encourage your employees to take risks and explore new roles without the fear of repercussions,” she said. “Managers play a key role in creating this confidence and safety throughout the employee upskilling process, acting as career accelerators, not gatekeepers.”