SVP and Global Head of Digital Engineering, Cognizant. Specializing in digital engineering and agile transformation.
Businesses obsess about speed.
They move fast in an effort to become more agile. They work via “sprints” and stress the importance of “pivoting quickly.”
However, rather than focusing on speed, businesses would be better served to embrace velocity.
Speed Vs. Velocity
It’s easy to confuse speed with velocity. Speed refers to how fast an object moves, regardless of direction. But velocity pertains to how fast an object moves in a specific direction. Velocity is speed put to purpose.
When it comes to digital engineering, speed is assumed. But velocity—that combined skill of producing results fast, course correcting effortlessly and maintaining a purposeful, strategic vision—that’s a little harder to execute.
A strong rationale for velocity in business is that global technology is primed for another paradigm shift. artificial intelligence. Augmented reality. Machine learning. Blockchain. Web3.0. Cryptocurrency. These next-generation technologies have arrived, representing an enterprise innovation tidal wave and are an enormous opportunity for companies to shift their culture, attract new talent and revamp their processes.
But in order to accomplish this, companies must first change their mindset.
The Winning Mindset
Frontrunners in today’s global economy increasingly see digital innovation not as a separate line item or an add-on, but ace their business—a central driver, with a seat at the highest strategic tables.
These companies tend to share a singular vision across product strategy, experience design and research. They embrace velocity across partnerships, teams, technologies and products, ensuring clarity of vision on a global scale.
By adopting this mindset, teams and talent will ultimately buy-in. According to Harvard Business Review, employees in a “growth mindset” company are 47% more likely to say that their colleagues are trustworthy, 34% more likely to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to the company, and 49% more likely to say that the company fosters innovation.
For organizations that want to embrace velocity, the fundamental perspective shift occurs across four key areas:
• Product development;
• Team empowerment;
• Talent attraction, engagement and retention;
• Adaptation to trends that fuel business strategy.
In short, velocity requires a new operating model, one that broadens the talent ecosystem within and outside your company to germinate innovation. It’s a complex navigation of internal and external resources that must work together to build and grow both talent and assets.
According to Business Insider, companies increasingly take a global view when trying to achieve software development talent goals. This is largely due to the fact that the software development industry reported just 0.6% unemployment rates as recently as August 2022. During the same month, on the tech-recruiting platform Laskie, 75% of companies hiring engineers in the US were also looking for engineers in Latin America; a 55% increase from 2021, and a massive leap from pre-pandemic levels.
The future of tech is a globally distributed workforce, which puts innovation ever more dependent upon a clear operating model, and a culture that forms from playing in a more complex, interconnected network of talent.
A Transformative Culture Starts With People
Today, innovation is not driven by specializing in a single operation to collectively make more units, but instead by human beings teaming up to share knowledge, reimagine possibilities and build new experiences that focus on value.
The challenge behind this isn’t “how do we set up our factory to produce the most units.” Instead, it involves how do we bridge boundaries to align on outcomes, including how we attract, promote, motivate, and retain the brightest in an ever-widening arms race for top talent.
Gone are the days of executives in one (expensive, developed) nation, supported by production teams in another (less expensive, less developed) country. Today’s digital workforce is globally distributed and regionally focused by specialization.
We’ve organized our teams as flexible, regional hubs around the world. This enables a 24/7 work stream, with continuity enabled by distributed global teams who communicate clearly and often, all while sharing goals. This helps us increase velocity and operate more tactically and continuously, with top-down and bottom-up culture for all.
Access to global talent, organized around complex specialization marks a departure from the factory delivery model that responds to requests transactionally, to instead build the right things, in the right ways, with the right people at the right time and place.
Six Steps To A High-Velocity Transformation
Having spent the better part of my professional career helping clients leverage software to navigate the tectonic shifts in their business, I recognize the rumble that’s currently underfoot. There are six specific lessons that organizations need to consider if they’re to stay ahead of the next big tech revolution:
1. Embrace digital innovation with a clear sense of purpose, as if your company’s life depends on it.
2. Attract and retain the very best software leaders you can employ, and treat them well because they will continue to be in high demand around the globe.
3. Pick partners that can not only build products for you but also bring relentless passion to define and refine your vision.
4. Empower internal and external teams to build tools that breathe new digital life into your DNA.
5. Modernize ossified structures so that cost centers transform into value centers.
6. And last but most important, think big.
These steps represent a path to creating attractive, high-velocity digital engineering environments; future-proofed against shifting tides, and fertile for perpetual innovation.
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