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The World Economic Forum recently concluded in Davos, Switzerland. As one scans the highlights from across the sessions, whether conversations with industry titans or presentations by government dignitaries, technology was focal.
For the second year in a row, I asked Jacob Jofe, a Vice President at Index Ventures where he focuses on the firm’s enterprise investments, to provide some thoughts on themes he found particularly poignant. He highlights two areas that have now become CEO-level topics of conversation: the rise of open source software, and the importance of observability.
Peter High: Jacob, you mentioned open source software was one of the most talked about topics at the World Economic Forum. Please explain what that was.
Jacob Jofe: At its heart, its all about people. The best developers want to use the best technology, and today, the best technology is open source. So, its adoption has become central to attracting and retaining the best engineering talent. Conversely, denying access to open source has become a serious roadblock to hiring the best talent. One of the reasons for this is, some of today’s most interesting technology is developed at companies with scarce expertise, which is then contributed to the open source domain. Example include the Tensorflow and Kubernetes projects from Google, and the Kafka project which originated at LinkedIn. Developers want to take advantage of this, which I think is a win-win for everyone. It used to be that a technology decision was buy versus build — its now download versus buy versus build.”
High: If consuming open source is more commonly used, how do companies differentiate themselves with their open source strategy?
Jofe: It’s a great question. The most forward looking companies are not only putting in place practices to consume open source, but they are also enabling their employees to contribute software back to the open source community. Not only is the company giving developers what they want, but they’re also deriving business benefits by externalizing development – open source communities vote with their feet on product feature requests, QA, etc.
High: You mentioned observability as well. How do you define it?
Jofe: Observability is more of a practice than any one technology. To me, fundamentally, observability is the behavior of continuously collecting, understanding, and acting on data.
High: How do you put this into practice?
Jofe: The best way to accomplish this is to make observability the bedrock of a company’s technology design choices. If it becomes the basis of your architecture, and everything else plugs into an observability framework, you’re able to truly make data-driven decisions. The end-state that excites me is that once observability becomes deeply embedded, an organization’s decision making will evolve from data-driven, to data-originated, where outputs not only inform decisions, but suggest decisions.
High: Can you give an example of observability in action?
Jofe: There are two examples that make observability tangible for me. The first is with security. A surprisingly difficult question to answer is, does my security technology work? This answer is of course critical to a company’s security posture, because its one thing to have firewalls, IPS, etc, in place, but an entirely different thing to know that its configured appropriately & working continuously. Another example is culture management. Most companies survey their employees once a year — I’d say this is inadequate. What I’d like to see is a world where the ability to observe employee engagement is continuous, and where the outputs of this information inform direct action. Modern tools enable us to answer both of these questions and should be central to a company’s architecture.
High: Any last impressions on Davos that you’d like to share?
Jofe: Its incredible to see how technology has become the focal point of Davos. It’s no longer a fringe conversations for CIOs — it’s now central to every business decision.
Peter High is President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. His latest book is Implementing World Class IT Strategy. He is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs. Peter moderates the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. He speaks at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.
February 5, 2019 at 10:31AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs