Waking up with a song in your head

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Schuberg Philis
Jun 4, 2021, 7:54:00 AM · 5 min lezen
06 AR20 Walking Up With A Song In Your Head

At Schuberg Philis, we have by now established quite a reputation with our work on so-called mission-critical activities in environments that are essential to our customers’ business. In a nutshell: the systems we are responsible for have to work, always. We are at our best in an environment where failure gets you at least an angry phone call from management, possibly a harmful article on the front page of the Financial Times, and probably costs that run into the millions of euros.

Over the course of the years, we have specialized in creating solutions that can withstand that kind of pressure, that are stable. Solutions which ensure that the crucial processes are failproof, secure, compliant, and auditable. To put it more simply: we make sure that our customers can sleep at night.

More than a good night’s sleep

It’s already quite something that we would stake our careers on that. Make no mistake, making sure that everything runs smoothly is incredibly important and not half as easy as many people think. And we are proud that we do this so well. But our ambition reaches much further, as do our customers’ aspirations. After all, a company’s mission is never “getting through today without making mistakes,” but always: going for future success.

So while it’s nice to sleep well at night, the fun only really begins if you also get to wake up with a song in your head. If, so to speak, you spend the day singing and whistling with joy because you know that you’re capable of acting swiftly in a world that is changing (and changing faster) every day; that you can spend your time and resources on the question: what’s next? What else could I be doing? Where will we go in the future, and what exactly is that future?

That’s what peace of mind will do for you. Peace creates room. Room to make the step from doing things better to doing better things. Room to stop spending your time eliminating obstacles or cracking open silos, and instead invest your time in creating new things, innovating your business, building something new.

A faster horse

We play a crucial part in providing that much-needed room; but we can also be of great value in helping to capitalizing on it. After all, companies that encounter challenges in shaping their future may be experts in their own fields, but not always in the field of IT. And nowadays almost every problem is also an IT problem.

To adequately tackle such challenges and come up with new ideas, you first have to know what lies within the realm of possibility. Or, as Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said: a faster horse.” It’s a typical example of a solution that you only arrive at if you don’t know what’s already possible.

Failure is not an option

We invest a lot in such know-how and then add our ability to execute into the mix. That’s another skill that goes beyond the technical aspects. We’ve developed a way of working that makes sure that “going live,” after two years of painstaking preparations, doesn’t end up resulting in a tremendous snafu. (Have you been there? We hope not.)

Following the principle of “if you want to eat an elephant, take small bites,” we rely a lot on prototyping. That lets us accelerate our learning, gives us much-needed room for experimentation, and allows us to take significant steps sooner. We know customers who almost sounded disappointed as they confided in us that going live with Schuberg Philis just wasn’t an exciting moment anymore.

We don’t do all of this alone, of course. “Having room” also means: being able to work together with different experts and disciplines. Listening to each other. Asking questions. Collaborating. Uncovering glitches. And then taking an empty sheet of paper and thinking: what if…?

The value of not knowing

What we like best of all, by the way, is a question we don’t have the answer to. That may sound counterintuitive. After all, why would we prefer not to know something, when we’re the club that has made a high art out of guaranteeing the availability of all data, all the answers, all knowledge?

The answer: because that is just today’s knowledge. And it therefore remains to be seen whether it will be useful in the future. That’s why for us, once we’ve made sure everyone can sleep soundly, The sound of silence is the best song to wake up with in our heads. It is the sound of tranquility in your mind, which lets you look at things you don’t know yet. Time to examine questions we cannot answer with what we already know. And that, in turn, means following your curiosity, which is where innovation and progress begin.

So, how do you make the most of ignorance? Not by thinking only from technology; and also not by mainly looking for answers from a business perspective. Both points of view will have to agree to meet each other halfway. The real challenge of having a song in your head is using the room it provides to work in a multidisciplinary way, and to take the opportunity to really listen to each other. If you create the optimum setting and everyone’s on board, you can get IT and business to transform their internal tug of war into true collaboration. Don’t forget: the real challenges are not within, but outside.

Mediator in optimization

We aim to play a major part in this process, almost like a mediator. When it comes to our engineering skills, we’ve been called IT’s heart surgeons. But in this case, you could call us a matchmaker. We can facilitate the creation of a safe space in which everyone—whether you’re a business lead or an IT nerd—is allowed not to know things. A space that is not threatening but supportive, even though both parties may seem to be at odds much of the time.

Thinking in terms of conflict simply isn’t productive. And it just isn’t possible to arrive at an optimal solution along just one of the two paths: either IT or the business. The future is a song that must be played in concert, like a well-tuned orchestra.

Setting the right pace

We can imagine that by now you’re thinking, “Peace, space, looking at things you know nothing about, building bridges, an orchestra… that’s all fine and dandy and you’ve probably hit the nail on the head—but we don’t have time for this, do we? Everything is moving fast, faster, fastest. One way or another, we’ll have to keep up with the rest or we’ll miss out.”

Respectfully, we beg to differ. Are things really moving that fast? And is there no other option than going full steam ahead? Of course, we also realize that companies seem to be operating in a continuous storm of innovation, change and disruption. For example, we recently read that there are, apparently, billions of startups. This also includes eager teenagers in their bedrooms, hoping to jump-start a career as an influencer, but still—you cannot escape the feeling that the world is always on your heels, and that if you don’t watch out you’ll end up being overrun on every side.

Even so, we still think that, in order to stay ahead, you don’t necessarily always have to surf the cutting edge. Just look at the Dutch fintech landscape. There are many hundreds of little companies there, small players aiming to make a big difference—but in reality, all of these startups together make up less than 1% of the market. So if you look at them individually, it may seem like a big, tumultuous wave, but in practice their effect and impact are limited.

Innovation at scale

By contrast, the innovation going on at the big corporate entities—our primary area of operations—is indeed something to behold. Compared to a few years ago, many of them are now working in a completely different way. The real challenge, then, is not to keep up with all those startups; instead, in light of the complexity of IT at such large-scale companies and institutions, the problem lies in finding the room to create true innovation. And that is exactly the kind of challenge we have been talking about here.

As far as we’re concerned, beyond IT also means “beyond today’s hype”. (Maybe it’s time for us to come out of our shell and start saying what we think about things; after all, there aren’t that many others who really know this stuff.) We don’t want to get all philosophical, but no matter how fast-paced and complex things seem to be—and no matter what has already occurred or may yet happen—in the end, what matters is now. Today. Am I doing the best I can today? And that same question will be as relevant today 100 days from now and today 10 years into the future.

In order to be who you have to be today, and not spend your time thinking about yesterday or tomorrow, you need to be confident that you can make whatever adjustments are needed. And that, in essence, is what we bring to the table: safeguarding adaptability. Which requires the kind of approached we’ve outlined above.

Final chord

Which brings us to the end of this story. This is the long and short of it: to let our customers wake up with a song in their head, we first help them sleep at night.

We do that by enabling control of daily operations and having everything run as it should. And then, once they’ve woken up, we make sure that day after day, they can make any necessary adjustments, based on the best insights. We generate those insights by working together—with IT, the business and the experts from Schuberg Philis—to think beyond IT.

And we hope, of course (apologies, but we couldn’t resist) that all of this will be music to your ears.