Technology at the Speed of Flight, Agility as an X-factor

Technology at the Speed of Flight, Agility as an X-factor

Greg Johnson, CTO, OneSky Flight LLC
Greg Johnson, CTO, OneSky Flight LLC

Greg Johnson, CTO, OneSky Flight LLC

The pace of change being driven by increasingly fast technical innovation is a challenge for society and an even greater challenge as a technology leader. Product lifecycles are shorter and customers’ expectations are higher than ever before.

As the CTO/CIO of fractional private jet company Flexjet and its sister companies Flight Options, Sentient Jet, and Skyjet, I am always looking at deploying the latest technology, but I am even more focused on system architecture that is flexible and a culture that embraces change as a constant. Supporting the rapidly evolving technology needs of our businesses requires a fanatical focus on agility.

Flexible Architecture

Historically (we have been in business over 20 years), we have accomplished our redundancy and resiliency goals by managing multiple data centers in different geographies connected through private data circuits. As the rate at which our core data increases, and the potential to collect and manage new data sources expands almost daily, it becomes difficult if not impossible to scale physical infrastructure to meet that need. It was recently reported that 80 percent of the data stored in the world today, was created in the last two years. You can’t plan for that type of growth in an annual budget cycle.

  With trust established, accomplishing great things requires setting big goals 

Beyond that, the resiliency of a properly architected cloud solution would be impractical to try to build internally. Our business is essentially a large private airline. I’ve watched as Delta and British Airways suffered massive operational impacts due to power issues at core data centers. A robust cloud + on premise hybrid strategy insulates us from any single point of failure to a degree that was never possible before, and it does so at a lower cost than our legacy systems.   

In just the past few years, I have watched as the cloud has evolved from something to watch, to a core component of any solid enterprise technology strategy. Today, ignoring the benefits of third-party cloud based infrastructure is akin to running a generator to provide electricity instead of pulling power off the grid.  

We recently developed a hybrid cloud solution for one of our private jet companies in partnership with a large, experienced technology solutions provider with specific cloud expertise. Over the course of a 120-day project, alternative third-party offerings for two core facets (network and replication) evolved to the point where we shifted-gears mid-project and employed different technologies than what we had originally scoped.  

A few years ago, I never would have changed technology mid-project within an initiative that only had a four-month timeline. Now, I get comfort in seeing my team readily adapt to new technology on the fly.  

Agile Culture  

When I talk about an agile culture I’m not specifically referencing the project management methodology although we do subscribe to it. Our agile culture is about challenging the business itself with new capabilities enabled by our deep understanding of what we do as a company and close relationships with business leaders. The new role of IT is that of change agent. Technical vision is more important than ever. The businesses that win are those that lean-in the hardest on technology, so our role as technology leaders is to see the future and bring that future to pass by educating, communicating and evangelizing our technology vision. Earning the trust of senior leadership is absolutely critical to success because the changes we put forward will have a material impact on company performance and at the same time, they may not be easy for other members of the leadership team to fully understand.  

With trust established, accomplishing great things requires setting big goals. We rarely achieve more than what we set our minds to. There isn’t anything more powerful in any organization than a big goal that serves as a focal point to rally around. Make it something that your organization is going to be the best in the world at. In my organization, we’re building the best technology platform our industry has ever seen. We are hard-wired to strive to be the best. We are competitive by nature. Tap into that and you can accomplish almost anything.

With a big goal, it then becomes all about having an engaged and effective team. One of the magic things that happens with great goals is that the people who embrace them get energized and excited and those who don’t embrace them, start to stick out like a sore thumb. Most of the time, people who are not engaged, see those folks that are excited and want to have that energy, but for any number of reasons, they can’t get there in your organization. These folks usually leave fairly quickly with a clearer idea of what they want in their next position. Occasionally someone will stick it out to see if they can get by without leaning in like everyone else. This will cause friction within the team and it is critically important as a leader that you deal with that head-on or the power and energy you built with the goal will fade fast. It only takes one person to “pop the balloon” and ruin the party.

My team is building an extremely flexible and scalable platform, one that will be the best in our industry. we are doing it with an incredible team of smart, empowered people who are energized, excited, and challenged in the best possible way. At the end of the day, we’re singularly focused on agility so that the businesses we support have the benefit of the very best technology delivered at the speed of flight.

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