Mention multi-tasking and you open yourself up to a standard range of jokes about the gender divide, and effective ways of working. Recent research suggests that multi-tasking is actually impossible: nobody can do several things at once effectively. But a hybrid approach — if you like, multi-tasking for organisations — can often turn out to be highly effective. It may even, in some circumstances, be the only practical solution to an intractable organisational problem.
The rise of hybrid approaches
Gartner’s bimodal approach has been getting a lot of attention recently. Essentially, bimodal describes the practice of managing two “separate but coherent” styles of work at the same time. The first focuses on predictability, and supports exploitation of existing capabilities, as well as maintaining legacy systems. The second is about innovation and exploration, focusing on experimentation and finding new solutions to problems.
The two are both essential to digital transformation. It is, however, often a challenge to manage them together, because they require very different skills and mindsets. A willingness and wish to innovate is not often associated with calm maintenance of existing capabilities. Many organisations, therefore, use a hybrid approach by separating them through use of innovation labs or similar options. This separation avoids any potential organisational problems, and enables recruitment of people with the right skills for each type of work.
This is not the only example of hybrid approaches providing a practical and sensible solution to a long-term problem. Car-makers have found that pure electric engines are harder to sell than a hybrid that offers the convenience of not needing to charge up halfway through a journey. Likewise, analytics providers are finding that pure open source can be a challenge, and that a hybrid solution is often optimal. SAS, for example, provides several hybrid analytics solutions for various stages of the analytics lifecycle, from data preparation through discovery to deployment, using APIs (application program interfaces, that specify how software components interact).
Driving co-operation and joint working
All these hybrid solutions essentially offer practicality. They are compromises that support good stakeholder management, and improve customer and user satisfaction. Like the rise in DevOps, or perhaps AnalyticsOps, they require close co-operation between different areas of the business, and between stakeholders. The use of the DevOps philosophy hinges on applying rapid user feedback to development work, creating a virtuous circle of improvements. These provide what stakeholders want, increasing satisfaction and willingness to engage in future development work.
It’s easy, as a developer, to get sucked into the belief that your work needs to be ‘perfect’. But perfect can be the enemy of ‘perfectly good’. Sometimes a rough solution is better than no solution at all, especially if developers are willing to work on it further in response to feedback.
It’s this practicality and improvement in stakeholder management that have, in my opinion, driven the rise in APIs. These are used routinely to allow software programs to talk to each other. It’s an API, for example, that allows Uber users to summon an Uber car without leaving Google Maps. The SAS Viya platform includes APIs for Python, Java, Lua and others. This means that users of SAS Viya can develop their own apps using those APIs.
It will immediately be clear that this is a hugely valuable capability: SAS customers can easily access these options, and work more quickly and effectively. At the same time, SAS developers have done the hard work to link together the hybrid SAS/open source system for their users. Like so many stakeholder management problems, and, indeed, hybrid systems, it’s all about convenience and practicality.
It seems likely that use of hybrid solutions will increase. APIs have huge advantages, opening up vendor solutions to a bigger market via programmers using different languages. Using standardised APIs makes it easier to integrate different solutions across a vendor’s products, or even link together products from more than one vendor.
Improving stakeholder management
Finally, it’s clear APIs offer huge stakeholder management advantages. Their use adds value for everyone in the value chain. Consider the Uber/Google example: both Google and Uber win by linking their products together. The joint product is far more desirable to customers, because of its convenience, which makes them more likely to return time after time. APIs in hybrid solutions like SAS Viya also speed up time to market. It’s hard to see how hybrid solutions will not continue to grow and grow.
Read more about APIs and advanced analytics.