Adopting a Custom Mindset

Lessons Learned from Digital Native Businesses: Jonah Group


Many companies work to achieve credibility and expertise through niche specialization. But others, like the Jonah Group, who design and build software applications for companies keen to evolve in the digital era, are moving in another direction.

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“In our work with everyone from airlines to manufacturing firms, our people receive the broadest possible exposure and experience,” said Jonah Group VP, Allan Wong. “They get to understand an exceptionally broad range of things, down to something as unique as how you do logistics sequencing for a garment factory.”

While this broad exposure does not make the Jonah Group less relevant or impactful in any one specific industry or sector, it does compel them to treat each client as unique.

Clearer Skies via Cloud

Being a digital native business (DNB) in which flexibility and curiosity is embedded into the very culture has helped the Jonah Group excel at a time when technological complexity abounds.

DNBs like the Jonah Group apply their own “born in the cloud” heritage, and innate flexibility of mind and experience, to understanding and developing applications in the cloud. They know that cloud is a unique environment with a unique kind of architecture that calls for — and provides — unique ways of looking at things.
“In terms of scalability, growth and maintenance, cloud makes things much easier,” said Wong. “Once you move away from applications or even multi-tier architectures, you get into microservices. You can have a whole slew of people working with a lot of things independently. There’s no downtime, and you can update each service individually.”

Some of the Jonah Group’s customers have multiple vendors who need to work on different parts of their platforms. In a legacy environment, this could be a huge challenge. But cloud architectures allow even multiple vendors to work on different parts of their platform at any given time.

“Sometimes (our clients) have their own development team working side-by-side with
their vendors,” said Wong.

“Having things in the cloud is easier, not just because it’s the cloud but because all the infrastructure and tools developed for cloud deployment makes the division of labor so much easier.”

Evolving Approaches

Legacy companies know their approach and mindset must change if they are to compete with DNB disruptors encroaching on their space.
But there are few models of how they can evolve their approach in real time. DNBs, however, offer that roadmap.

For example, for the Jonah Group, DevOps is more than a development method — it’s a way to break down silos in an organization, and it yields great results. But the consultancy pushes the concept of DevOps even further.

“Today, with continuous improvements and deployment, DevOps really has to step up,” said Wong, “and you must incorporate everything that’s in your pipeline. It’s automatic. You can certify every version of your software, no matter how many times you deploy it. Things are so complex now that you cannot say, ‘Hey, I have a special team, they want to sample this code every five weeks.’ Things like that have to change.”

Jonah Group is expanding the scope of DevOps to break down silos beyond just quality assurance and security, to include other siloed business units like audit. Instead of auditing at the end of the process, continuous improvements and deployment create an opportunity for them to come in earlier. This is proven to help developers avoid making unnecessary mistakes and wasting time.

“This weird mindset around security and auditing and so forth is changing,” said Wong. “It should all be embedded inside your pipelines, no matter how many times you build something, or how many times you deploy.”

Further, DevOps, and in particular quality assurance, “should be automated to a large degree, because you can’t really rely on human beings for that. This is the change in mindset. Not everybody has evolved to that yet, but we’ll get there eventually.”

Custom Mindset

Wong also questions another common assumption: that embracing the cloud means software companies no longer need to build custom software. While he doesn’t assume that every application should be custom-built, he thinks companies should consider their alternatives carefully.

For Wong, the key is how well an application gets the outcomes needed, and how it can evolve and advance a company’s competitive advantage. “Once [customers] have invested the money, it’s not one-and-done. You’re not buying a hammer from Home Depot and that’s the end; having a custom mindset means you think about evolution. You think about keeping any edge you may have on competitors. Evolvin

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada