The 21st century begins now

“No one knows what world awaits us after the pandemic, but social isolation must accelerate digital transformation, consolidate agile methodologies, and leave reflections for a better world.” 

by Bill Coutinho*

It is already possible to say with little margin of error: the pandemic that we currently live in and that drastically alters the way we live, and work will be a historical milestone. I am not a historian, it is true, but I am based on the idea that the 21st century begins, in fact, now. Much of what we expected, as members of the Information Technology industry, about the potential of IT in building the future, is coming to fruition now, right before our eyes.

The question of the moment is, “When it all goes away, will we have a new normal?” The answer is long and complex, but it is certain that the technologies that enable remote work, for example, have gone from optional to mandatory. This is for processes and methods that allow you to perform it. We at CINQ always talk about the importance of digital transformation for the future of business and COVID-19 is showing the importance of this – though not in the way we expected, unfortunately.

Part of this digital transformation that now accelerates is the agile methods for the creation of digital products, whose bases were launched in the Agile Manifesto precisely in 2001, the year of the turn of the century. The document brings new ways of organizing work for the future, including the idea of multidisciplinary and autonomous teams, opposing the old corporate knowledge silos.

Since then, this new way of creating digital products has expanded, increasingly relying on teams whose work is guided by principles of discovery, experimentation, and continuous learning. COVID-19 should accelerate the adoption of this model since the idea of detailed long-term planning is crumbling.

Not that agile methods have been thought to work only in times of crisis. On the contrary, they were thought to adapt to any situation, including the most adverse ones. Currently it is social isolation, but other difficulties will continue to present themselves and we will all have to adapt.

From the very beginning, when Kent Beck introduced the concept of Extreme Programming (XP) and the word agile was not even used, “welcoming change” was a basic value. Things change and resisting change will never be as productive as welcoming change and taking advantage of them as opportunities for value creation. That is what agile movement is all about.

Another important aspect brought by agile is that teams will tend to work with more and more autonomy. This increases the possibility of survival since the working system dilutes possible points of failure and makes organizations less fragile. On the contrary, they start to improve in adverse situations, following the concept of “anti-fragility” by Nassim Taleb.

Returning to the present and the pandemic, we are all in “home office”. The opportunities we have to use technology to increase our creativity and productivity are numerous, and why not? Everything we needed was already at hand, all technologies existed and were accessible. We just hadn’t, for many reasons, chosen to use them massively.

In the new normal that is approaching, we will take advantage of much of the practices we develop during isolation. I already realize partners and customers, even among those previously resilient, that productivity under the new model remains high. This is the key to agile: to look at change through the positive aspect, to learn and adapt.

Of course, the disease that frightens us is terrible and must be fought and taken seriously but embracing the changes that are coming is also part of this struggle.

When I say that the time is to experiment and learn, I refer to what is already happening now with almost all businesses, driven by the unprecedented of the pandemic and forced to reinvent themselves so as not to perish. It is a process that, of course, presents risks and generates pain, but the result is learning.

We can get the best out of this crisis! In every respect, not just in the world of work or in the way we use technology in our lives. The reflections brought by the pandemic may create a better society. It may be too optimistic, but there is plenty of reason to believe it.

Most companies will be able to adapt and draw strength from the crisis. They will learn not only new ways of working but will also strengthen relationships with customers and partners. They are going to adapt, learn, reinvent themselves.

* Bill Coutinho is Innovation Director at the Digital Transformation Business Unit – CINQ/Dextra


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