By Vijay Pullur,
Recently, I was in conversation with a business associate who is an IT leader of an insurance company. Our conversation revolved around how digital transformation is revolutionizing the insurance industry faster than other sectors. He spoke about how the expectations include technology in every sense, from self-service dashboards, faster claims processing, simpler and smarter purchasing experiences, and insurance as a service. As our discussion veered from digital transformation to the new wave of modernization, he made an interesting statement. All he wished in the coming year was to automate systems without disruption, reduce labor-intensive processes, minimize IT dependency and reduce application maintenance and support costs.
It seemed to be a reasonable wish, considering that in this IT-powered world, digital transformation and modernization seem to have taken center stage. Ours is a world where speed is critical and enterprises are under pressure to deliver faster and build rapidly and with greater efficiency.
As the hypercompetitive landscape becomes more hectic, enterprises are aiming to operate faster and smarter, placing "digital-first" strategies in the limelight. A recent example of companies investing in modernization and digital transformation is the Google’s acquisition of Appsheet, a no-code mobile app development platform. With the aim to revamp the approach to application development, Google acquired this platform to empower development teams to develop, deploy and deliver applications seamlessly.
The fact that 40% of technology spending (that’s more than $2 trillion) was on digital transformation in 2019 illustrates the importance of having a "digital-first" strategy.
In 2020, CIOs and IT leaders are focusing on modernization to achieve operational excellence, agility, mobility and scalability. The central plot in most digital transformation stories is the modernization of legacy systems, and as it becomes a mainstream priority, the protagonist in this story is emerging technology. In this plot, the role of software application development must be considered seriously, more than just serving as props. The first step that will usher in successful transformation is understanding how technology has evolved and how it can be adopted.
Over the decades, software application development has witnessed an interesting journey. Growing in complexity over time, it has evolved from using spreadsheets and simple scripts to custom software development by IT teams and rapid application development (RAD) or low-code development by business users. The pace of developing software applications has accelerated. The tech infrastructure has also moved on from on-premises to cloud environments, and from software as a service (SaaS) to application platform as a service (aPaaS) to infrastructure as a service (IaaS) solutions.
Along with the evolution of technology, the roles of stakeholders such as application leaders, IT teams and business users are also changing. While there is an increasing overlap between roles, the gap between business and IT teams does not seem to have reduced. Here is where technology plays an important role in bridging the gap between silos and upskilling existing teams to reduce the skills gap.
In modernization initiatives, technology is being widely adopted to accelerate application development. APaas solutions and centralized application development platforms help to harness the potential emerging technologies. With low-code development, you can develop, deploy and integrate applications with other services seamlessly. Rapid application development platforms bring more control to IT teams, to deliver and innovate more with less. Giving more power to IT and professional developers instead of citizen developers also addresses the issue of shadow IT.
While modernization and digital transformation initiatives are implemented at a breathtaking pace, not all stories have spelled success. Owing to many challenges, the success of projects has been tepid, and hesitation has been high. Modernization of legacy systems have witnessed several friction points such as concerns about security, stress on IT teams, alignment of business and IT, and the absence of a strong modernization strategy.
Another challenge the industry is currently facing is the shortage of technical talent. As the dependency on specialist roles continues to increase, enterprises are looking toward technology as a solution. For instance, rapid application development platforms are considered a viable solution because they reduce the dependency on technical resources, empower existing teams to upskill and enable development teams to achieve more with a self-service approach to application development.
These challenges aside, one of the questions most IT leaders are asking is “How do we ensure business continuity and transition with least disruption in business operations?” Disruption seems to be one of the major challenges and is addressed by rapid application development platforms that offer the power to develop applications quickly and ensure seamless integration with existing systems.
As IT leaders vacillate about decisions to modernize systems, mulling over necessary change is only going to make it more difficult to transform. Taking a strategic approach to modernization is of the essence, and the main factor that can make or break your efforts is how well you manage the entire application and software development life cycle.
The competitive landscape requires you to raise the stakes. It requires you to do things better and with greater speed. It requires you to try different approaches to address challenges.
The year 2020 and beyond will witness rapid change, technologically and culturally. What enterprises need to understand is that digital transformation should be considered an ongoing state of change rather than as a one-time project, and the approach has to evolve constantly. Rapid application development is gaining speed because it provides a platform-driven approach to app modernization and it focuses on bridging gaps and breaking silos. It helps to align business and IT teams, bridge the IT skills gap and break the application, infrastructure, and organizational silos. If we are to usher in the coming decade, we need to transform to keep up with the digitally dexterous, hypercompetitive and IT-powered world.
Originally published in Forbes