Beyond Resilience - Why Antifragility is Critical to the Successful Execution of Complex Data Center Migrations

by Sue Dunnell

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering, coined the term antifragility to define things that get better when exposed to stress or volatility. “Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”

Though a new term to me, I realize that there are examples of antifragility all around us: Our bones and muscles get stronger by bearing increasingly larger amounts of weight during resistance training. Our immune systems get stronger when exposed to germs. During COVID, when stores and restaurants were shut down, they bore up under the stress with creative ways to survive, including curbside pickup, two-hour delivery, and heated outdoor beer gardens and winter dining, and set new standards that customers now expect.

The superstar of COVID-driven antifragility? IT organizations. Across the globe, companies have had to quickly change how they operate, deliver services and communicate internally just to stay afloat, and it was all driven by IT.

Pre-COVID, Zoom averaged 10 million end users; today that number is 300 million. The ability to rapidly scale to support Zoom’s needs and the expanding remote workforce of companies around the globe required IT to move beyond the typical problem solving they do every day.

IT had to be both proactive in anticipating demands and rapidly respond to unforeseen challenges and volatility. They put new processes in place so that next time, they could anticipate the problem, or at least react faster and better. The IT teams that were successful were antifragile – they turned chaos, disruption, and unpredictability into a productive force; they thrived by continuously learning and adapting.

As IT environments have become more complex, so too have their projects. No longer are projects limited to a single team and set of tools. Today’s cloud and data center migrations and transformation projects span IT and business teams, requiring deeper domain knowledge, using a broad array of specific purpose-built tools, and needing expertise for making decisions that affect and involve multiple departments.

It requires antifragility. And that requires the same characteristics teams need to successfully execute highly complex transformation and migration projects without risk.

  • Decentralized organizational structures
    Rigid process and departmental silos stifle the ability to raise and rapidly address potential pitfalls or major roadblocks. Encouraging teams to try new things quickly strengthens organizations – and as we saw during COVID it was a necessity. Nobody was prepared to support a fully remote workforce and didn’t know if things would work. But they had to try and get it done – fast.
  • Democratization of data access
    Transparency and ubiquitous access to data ensures everyone on a project has the same information and access to the data they need at the right time. Today, an average of 60% of a company’s workforce will be working remotely at any given time.
    ZOOM CIO advisor Peter Sany said that the “mistrust culture that people only work when they’re supervised is gone; as a society we have proven that home office work can work, and we have become a more trustworthy culture.”
  • Collaboration
    Working across teams leads to better analysis, planning, and ultimately better and faster decision making. Better communication breaks down the stall that is often associated with complex projects, leads to new ideas, and enables manageable conflict. Testing new ideas, and failing fast, is a learning opportunity that, when done by small teams transparently, helps improve organizations.
  • Lessons learned feedback loops
    Migrations may seem like rare events, but in fact, they can set the stage for continuous transformation. Antifragile IT teams build strength when they can capture mistakes, best practices, and new ideas — and in the process, they can become more agile and apply those lessons learned to the next project.

Every day, our practitioners apply lessons learned to our methodology and feed insights to our software development team. The team at TDS has been able to leverage the full power of our platform throughout the ongoing pandemic to collaborate, plan and orchestrate some of the most complex migration projects around the globe, without missing a beat. Because our platform and our methodology are ideal for remote collaboration, improved visibility and transparency, our team even got things done faster, and more efficiently as a result.

Back to resource library