Originally published by Charles Araujo in Intellyx BrainBlog
In today’s always-on world in which technology is now a chief driver of competitive value, organizations must strike a new balance and find a way to do it all — especially tackling the modernization efforts that they have put off for far too long.
If you’re an IT leader, you may be avoiding the industry press these days. Every article seems to spell out another grave challenge that you must face.
The threat of the cloud, the threat of not moving to the cloud, the talent gap, the impact of AI, and on and on. There is no shortage of challenges and risks — or of companies lining up to help you solve them.
The greatest challenge facing IT leaders, however, is not new. In fact, it is as old as the industry itself: balancing the deployment of resources and battling the constant pressure to do more with less.
This challenge is perhaps most prominent when IT leaders attempt to address the issue of modernizing their aging legacy application stack. In the first three installments in this four-part series, we examined the rock and the hard spot that it leaders found themselves between as they grappled with the modernization challenge — and how a new low-code enabled third option was presenting itself.
But no amount of technology or new services can solve this problem without IT leaders first addressing the issue of resource balancing.
The Losing Fight for Balance
While the resource balancing challenge has existed from the very beginning, I’d argue that IT leaders have mostly succeeded at striking it.
While maintaining previously deployed systems and the so-called business-as-usual (BAU) state has long consumed most of IT’s resources, the pace of new demand was manageable enough to sustain the balance.
At least, until recently.
In the mad rush to all things digital, organizations have shifted more resources to growth-oriented initiatives to either stave off disruption or seize disruptive opportunities. At the same time, the legacy technology stack continued to age and, paradoxically, became even more essential these new applications relied on them for transaction handling and records management.
All at once, enterprise leaders found that they no longer needed to merely balance between new applications and BAU functions, but must also face the need to modernize their legacy systems to both reduce growing maintenance challenges and to ensure that they could continue to support newly emerging customer-facing functions.
Like a tightrope-walking juggler, IT leaders found themselves fully engaged and unable to even contemplate taking on anything else — particularly of the scale and scope of modernization efforts.
And as a result, the balance that IT organizations had so precariously managed was now lost.
Modernization in the Balance
As we’ve explored throughout this series, IT leaders have been able to sidestep this issue by putting off modernization efforts for another day.
But as we’ve also examined, the need to modernize the IT stack has become an existential threat to IT organizations.
The bill has come due and IT organizations must find a way to create a new balance point between these three competing demands: continue to meet the insatiable demand for new and modern applications, maintain the existing technology infrastructure in a reliable and resilient state, and do these while modernizing legacy applications to ensure that the organization can continue to meet future demand.
To do so, enterprise IT leaders need to take a new approach when balancing their resources.
Traditionally, IT organizations created an operational baseline. This baseline was the BAU function, and it had to be done. New projects, including modernization, were then prioritized based on business priority (but often measured in terms of strict financial Return On Investment, or ROI).
Ironically, using that approach, modernization almost never rose to the top because it lacked the near-term ROI to justify it.
IT leaders must shift the foundation of their resource balancing effort away from financial ROI (although it will always remain a component) and, instead, categorize every existing and potential application on the basis of its ability to contribute to the competitive value of the organization.
The organization should then deploy its precious internal resources to build, maintain, or modernize those applications that support the organization’s competitive posture in the market. IT leaders should then outsource the development, maintenance, and modernization of the remaining stack based on organizational risk.
Perhaps the most significant change between today and the IT resource balancing act of the past is that there is no longer an option to say no.
In the past, when applications were predominately internally facing, it was acceptable to say that the IT organization lacked the resources to meet any given request.
In today’s always-on world in which technology is now a chief driver of competitive value, that’s no longer an option. Organizations must find a way to do it all — especially tackling the modernization efforts that they have put off for far too long.
It is in this context that IT leaders must seek to use every resource at their disposal, but do so in a strategically sound way. The third way of application modernization and partnering with companies such as WaveMaker that we’ve explored in this series is one way that IT leaders can strike this new balance.
The most critical step, however, is merely recognizing that it is a new balance that you must strike. You must accept that you need to do it all and do it in a way that most strategically leverages your internal resources.
Anything less will leave you off-balance — and that’s a terrible state when you’re walking a tightrope.
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