How to win the Red Queen’s Race

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, he relates this wonderfully imaginative incident known as the Red Queen’s Race:

 “Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

 “A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

 Does it seem that your application group is doing all the running it can do only to keep in the same place? I suspect many groups try all kinds of incentives and magical new technology to run “twice as fast” as “all the running they can do” without measurable success.

Measuring and demonstrating success can be challenging, too. No longer is it effective simply to show the cost of IT as an ever-decreasing percent of revenue. Companies must find a way to demonstrate that IT is both creating business value and improving operational performance.

One way is to take a higher-level view by calculating your application group’s Innovation Quotient. It’s a simple formula: Innovation ÷ Run & Maintain. That is, how much you spend on innovation/R&D, divided by the amount you spend to run and maintain your current portfolio. Most organizations, spending the standard 80 percent on maintenance and 20 percent on innovation, have an IQ of 0.25. Our goal at CSC is to help you dramatically improve that ratio (imagine spending 80 percent on innovation!) and raise your IQ toward 4 — as much as 16 times the previous innovation quotient. Now we’re really getting somewhere!

Measuring success is one thing. Figuring out how to run twice as fast as you possibly can – that’s quite another. The answer is a flexible, service-enabled IT enterprise that drives rapid innovation and digital transformation. Digitally remastering your business applications will require you to execute a combination of renovate, innovate and integrate strategies, and increase adoption of utility (OpEx) and as-a-service (aaS) consumption models.

In a service-enabled enterprise, the agility comes from agile business process management (BPM) and smart integration of applications on an optimized mix of hybrid cloud architectures. It’s smarter, faster and cheaper. No longer is the conversation about “why?” or “what?” but about “how?” to get this done.

The “how?” can best be approached in 4 neat steps:

 1. The Elastic Foundation:

As always, you’ll need to start with a roadmap, a plan and strong governance. Then, to create an elastic foundation, build out a hybrid cloud infrastructure that incorporates your private cloud platforms and future public cloud services.

2. Application aaS Model:

In your target environment, applications are natively omni-channel, distributed automatically and often built on top of other companies’ services. This stage is about application modernization, hybrid cloud adoption, integration and SaaS enablement.

3. Continuous Innovation Framework:

The purpose of the third stage is to rapidly accelerate business agility and the evolution of new business models. Innovation comes through wider open-source adoption, APIs everywhere, DevOps, app malls and social collaboration.

4. Innovation Ecosystem:

With all the pieces in place, you’re in a good position to drive outside-in thinking. The digital economy connects people, places and things to drive disruptive change. We are all now familiar with the emergent players that have disrupted retail, music and transport. Next up will be industries like insurance, banking, manufacturing and energy.

Drinking Alice’s magic potions won’t help you get ahead of your competition in the Red Queen’s Race, but continuing to raise your IQ might just get you out in front.


Mike Williams is general manager of application services at DXC. Mike brings a suite of solutions to the global IT market designed to help clients achieve their performance targets as they face the challenges of digital business. As a former CIO, Mike has great experience in leading business and IT transformations. He has developed a clear strategy and pragmatic approach for clients to put modern application solutions in place to address their business needs and propel them on their digital journeys.

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