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How Low-code Helps CIOs Accelerate Digital Transformation

CIOs need to embrace low-code as it can help accelerate digital transformation and application development demands

TGI Fridays recently introduced Flanagan, an AI mixologist. It is an app and chatbot that creates personalized drinks based on customer flavor preferences and moods. In another side of the marketplace, Nissan integrated Microsoft Office 365 to bridge silos, unify business units, make them “mobile-enabled”, and to create a “digital workplace”. This is the age of the “future-forward experience”. As many companies and brands are working towards delivering experience, the key enablers are emerging technology and modern software applications.

Technology plays an important role in this age of the experience economy. The workplace is transforming, aiming to become more optimized. The workforce is evolving, where employees are now working beyond boundaries and using technology to collaborate and communicate in productive ways. Customers are becoming more demanding, expecting exceptional experiences. Reflecting these changes, enterprises and businesses are modernizing their processes and systems.

Along with the evolving workplace, workforce, and marketplace, the role of IT leaders and CIOs is also transforming. With the demanding need to adapt to a highly-optimised and hyper-connected world, CIOs are nudged into taking a strategic role. They are now expected to be change agents, responsible not only for managing IT budgets but also to identify revenue streams and create business value.

As digital transformation has become the main agenda, CIOs are using technology strategically and leveraging digital opportunities. The fact that in 2019, 40% of technology spending (more than $2 trillion) is estimated to have been assigned to digital transformation initiatives, adoption of emerging technology has become the biggest objective for enterprises. The app economy plays a crucial in driving digital transformation and business innovation. CIOs have to consider the people, platforms, and processes that will cater to the increasing demand for modern applications.

The increasing demand for enterprise applications has led to the increasing adoption of low-code platforms in the Application Development & Delivery (AD&D) market. Enterprises are working towards leveraging agile practices and incorporating development techniques to create a minimum viable product (MVP).

CIOs and IT leaders have to determine what practices, what type of technology and the skills required to achieve modernization. Here’s how emerging technologies such as low-code platforms help CIOs drive digital transformation ROI.

How CIOs can leverage the potential of low-code platforms to drive digital transformation ROI

● Align goals with people, processes, and platforms — Digital transformation goals need to be aligned with the business strategy and the culture. Senior IT leaders and CIOs need to communicate the goals and ensure that their workforce is tech-savvy to deliver digital transformation objectives. Alignment of strategies with business needs and expectations will provide CIOs with a better opportunity to succeed in implementation.

Emerging technology such as low-code platforms provides IT leaders with the potential to bridge silos, streamline processes and enable teams to collaborate and focus on core innovation. Using rapid application development tools, CIOs have been able to accelerate their revenue-generation and digital transformation initiatives.

● Get equipped with a modern technology stack — Before beginning the journey of digital transformation, CIOs need to identify legacy systems that need to be modernized. Incrementally modernizing traditional systems can allow stakeholders to witness the benefits and ensure wider adoption in the enterprise. By introducing a modern technology stack, enterprises can also involve and engage employees to upskill and learn about new technologies.

What low-code platforms provide is the potential to modernize applications without rebuilding older applications from scratch. The agility and speed to develop enterprise applications make low-code platforms a preferred choice.

● Accelerate time-to-market delivery of applications — The hyper-demands of the marketplace put much pressure on enterprises to deliver more with less. Accelerating time to market of product delivery needs to one of the main objectives of transformation and modernization.

Time being of the essence, IT leaders are widely adopting low-code platforms because they enable developing applications faster. Rapid application development reduces time spent on design and coding while improving developer productivity. By advancing the ‘speed to market’ metrics, CIOs using low-code platforms can achieve a higher return on platform investment.

● Develop custom applications to deliver user experience (UX) — While time is of the essence so is the experience. When introducing new technology and applications, user experience (UX) has become the core objective. IT leaders need to focus on the purpose of developing new applications. The objective must revolve around the needs of the users and how emerging technology can help them improve collaboration, communication, productivity, and performance. Ideally, application development strategies need to revolve around the ethos of users.

With low-code platforms, custom-built applications can be developed based on user preferences with agility and speed. They enable IT leaders to create enterprise apps that are designed to adapt to experiences instead of devices. By improving the usability metrics, emerging technology like low-code platforms has higher adoption rates and better opportunities to deliver business value.

● Choose the right platform and technology — Given the increasing demands of the digital marketplace, modernization and digital transformation initiatives require IT infrastructure to be agile, flexible, scalable and cost-effective. By supporting the development and delivery of custom applications on-time, low-code platforms ensure enterprise agility efficiently and cost-effectively. With many players in the AD&D market, CIOs need to wisely choose the right low-code platform.

Platforms offer ready-made application infrastructure, improve usability with rich user interfaces, enable full-stack development, give access to the best-of-breed technology stack, enable API-driven integration and encourage business user participation. Ideally, the chosen low-code platform should firstly serve a particular business need. It should allow for code reusability, improve agility, ensure faster time to market, and make integration and deployment easier without vendor lock-in.

Now is the time for CIOs to consider digital transformation

Enterprise-wide digital transformation is all-encompassing. It affects all stakeholders and requires revamping processes, upskilling people, integrating modern technology and changing the culture. As change agents, IT modernization and digital transformation can be a challenging feat for CIOs and IT leaders. Emerging technology such as low-code platforms acts as a catalyst to change, providing CIOs with a great opportunity to accelerate modernization and support digital transformation initiatives.

As the hyper demands of the enterprise continues to increase, the technology that delivers innovative solutions needs to be identified. The strategy, approach, and technology that CIOs and IT leaders choose will be the factors that determine the rate of returns on platform investment. The faster the informed decision is made, the sooner the benefits will be evident because the market waits for no one.

Originally published in Information Age by Vijay Pullur, CEO, WaveMaker.

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2020 Predictions: Shifting Dynamics of Evolving Ecosystems

2019 was the year we witnessed business leaders intensify their efforts to embrace digital transformation initiatives and build an adaptive, technical and operational foundation. The challenges were plenty, many of which still need to be addressed.

Companies have had to deal with technical debt and organizational silos, which has increased resource allocation to their core tech stacks. Several digital transformation initiatives fell short on delivering desired returns. Many companies have eagerly adopted new technologies. While all of this was intended to achieve operational efficiency and viability, it has led to dealing with technical challenges.

With 2020 around the corner, the predictions are optimistic and radical. As the challenges continue to be actively addressed, let’s take a look at some of the aspects that will gain momentum in 2020.

CIOs and business leaders will embody transformative rolesbecoming ‘chief enablers.’

These executives will chase tech-driven innovation with grit and break silos of teams to build ecosystems. The focus will revolve around people management, tech-driven innovation and ecosystem-building skills. In 2020, CIOs will be looking to automate their IT tasks and upskill everyone in order to address the increasing pressure to improve efficiency and control costs. This will not translate to layoffs; instead, Forrester Analytics data predicts agile DevOps teams will be created by training teams to manage more complex tasks.

Businesses will leverage the potential of emerging technologies to address challenges.

From decentralized autonomous organizations to immersive workplaces and digital ecosystems, companies will consider emerging technologies to reduce costs and invest in growth. In discussions about the outlook for the global IT market at the Gartner IT Symposium, analysts predicted that in 2020, enterprise software spending will reach $507 billion, a 10.9% growth from 2019.

Companies will adopt an immersive and adaptive IT approach.

Following shape-shifting characteristics of organizations, “fluid IT capability” will be nurtured, where the boundaries between IT and business will fade. Enterprises will embrace agile development practices to ensure better collaboration between business and IT. To achieve agility, businesses will work toward connecting people, applications and devices seamlessly.

With the increasing need to bridge silos, I believe developing enterprise applications with faster release cycles will result in the increasing adoption of low-code platforms. The fact that the low-code development platform market is growing at a rate of 40% and is expected to reach $21.2 billion by 2022 confirms the potential of modernization using emerging technologies.

Initiatives to upskill the workforce will be significant.

I believe this will come to fruition as IT leaders will have to address the challenge of cost control in an economically volatile environment. Cross-domain knowledge workers will be given importance, where employees with higher skills will be paid more and retained. Companies will invest in prepping employees to work together with automation tools and technologies. Employee development and improving the learning agility of teams will become the main priorities.

Companies will design their business applications experience around employees.

As the digital workplace evolves, employees will expect business applications they use and develop to deliver more. This prediction is based on the notion that the “one size fits all” approach offered by some companies will need to change. Low-code platforms will enable application development in alignment with job requirements, and self-service DevOps will democratize the way enterprise applications are deployed and used.

Employee digital dexterity will be the essence of future digital workplaces.

How work gets done will be transformed by employee-facing technologies. Collaborative, cloud-based work management tools will be adopted to create a digital dexterous workforce. Given that the competitive advantage of most companies is derived from how employees use technology, emerging technologies will be adopted widely to make employees and teams more agile, inclusive and engaged.

I foresee 2020 being a year that will witness far-reaching, fast-paced changes. Tech-driven innovation will drive changes in the digital workplace and the ecosystem. Emerging technologies and software platforms will revolutionize how enterprises develop, deliver and manage applications used by their employees and customers. Driven to achieve embedded connectivity, improve business agility and foster innovation, companies will evolve based on the shape-shifting dynamics of the workforce, workspace and marketplace. The best way forward is to plan ahead.

Originally published in Forbes by Vijay Pullur, CEO WaveMaker.

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How IT and App Leaders can be Prepared for Changes in 2020

While 2019 was defined by rapid change, businesses in 2020 will witness a greater change in pace that keeping up will not be an option anymore. Digital will not be a differentiator. Enterprises will need to stay agile and drive value through digital opportunities. They will need to strengthen their IT and business culture and empower their workforce using a ‘digital-first approach. IT and application leaders will need to transform their organizations to leverage the power of emerging technologies more quickly. You will need to choose the right technologies to drive business outcomes according to their needs and goals.

As enterprises are learning fast how to effectively use technology to respond to the competitive digital environment, digital maturity is reaching a tipping point. They are now focusing on how to deliver, scale, and reap their digital ambitions. Organizations are already well underway in preparing for digital transformation. Gartner in its 2020 CIO Agenda eBook reports more than 40% of businesses already at scale and ready for digital initiatives.

2020 will also continue to witness the evolution of the role of IT and application leaders. You would be expected to strategize on utilizing technologies to enable your workforce to ‘do more with less’. To continue to be successful as an application leader in the future, Gartner highlighted that application leaders need to embrace changes to translate digital strategies into business outcomes. You will need to consider changes such as aligning business models and IT operating models, shifting budgets from IT to business units, and revamping digital infrastructure to support the evolving workforce demographics and culture.

As the role of IT leaders is redefined the role of application teams would also need to be redesigned. To remain relevant beyond 2020, you need to prepare your organizations and teams. Application teams would be expected to have a responsive and fast delivery approach. They will need to adopt a business-centric model and effectively use technology to drive business capabilities. To be prepared for 2020 and beyond, Gartner’s Applications 2024 report states that only those application teams that adopt effective ways and tools to connect with business stakeholders can deliver desired business outcomes such as exceptional customer experience and solving customers’ issues.

In 2020, IT teams will be expected to adapt and deliver business capabilities more continuously. They would need to drive the adoption of technologies like low-code platforms, predictive analytics, and DevSecOps. Technology adoption for IT teams would need to be a means to solve business issues and deliver business outcomes.

Through the years leading to 2024, the shift to product-centric delivery and digital platforms will continue and a customer-centric mindset will increasingly be desirable. Enterprises in 2020 would have to move towards adopting a customer-centric business model. As this model matures, customer centricity is seeping internally into the organization with teams having their customers. This also includes platform teams that develop and deliver APIs that are consumed by other teams. Product teams would need to do customer research and gain insights into their customers’ needs (internal and external). They also would need to have a clear understanding of the product vision which is critical when making decisions to deliver solutions.

As agility becomes the name of the game and IT leaders give more importance to digital initiatives a major portion of the IT budget will be allocated to application development. Low-code development will become a major element in achieving enterprise agility and development teams would be expected to deliver more. More than 50% of developers according to Forrester plan to use or use low-code products by mid-2020. By the end of 2020, Gartner predicts that 1 out of 3 business users will use low-code tools to create applications and product-centric teams.

2020 will witness enterprise applications being designed around the employee experience. The impact and influence of business users will increase and you would need to democratize the use of technology for business users. By 2023, Gartner predicts that “40% of professional workers will orchestrate their business application experiences and capabilities”. Application development will be aligned to business requirements and self-service DevOps will democratize how applications are deployed using low-code platforms.

2020 – The Year of Bridging Gaps and Breaking Silos

The epicenter of digital initiatives is transformation and you as IT or application leaders would need to be equipped to ride the wave. 2020 for you will need to be about bridging the gaps and breaking silos. It will need to be about bridging the IT skills gap, the business, and IT gap, and breaking the organizational, application, and infrastructure silos.

By 2024, application stakeholders will become acutely knowledgeable about IT solutions and technology. Their demand for new capabilities will increase and it will be immediate. To meet such hyper demand, you would have to gear up and would need to do it fast. There must be a revamp of mindsets and changes in traditional practices to leverage the potential of application development. Application architecture must be role-centric and based on business capabilities, software development must shift to a product-centric delivery approach, business users must get democratized access to technology and tools, and the IT and business teams must seamlessly collaborate. Here’s to ushering in another decade of intense innovation, collaboration, and transformation.

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How CIOs Can Drive ROI of Digital Transformation with Low-Code

The role of CIOs has evolved. With the emergence of the app economy, they need to adapt to a hyper-connected world, work with the next-gen, digital workforce, and adopt a strategic role.

To support the fact that the role of CIOs is changing,  the 2019 State of the CIO’ report by IDG states,

“67% of IT leaders are spending more time on business strategist activities to help drive innovation and nurture go-to-market plans.

Over the next 3 years, CIOs expect to not only retain but to expand their newly-established business strategist charter.

77% of CIOs are planning to devote time to activities like driving business innovation.”

What’s your level of involvement? How are you planning to drive business innovation? Where would you start your digital transformation journey? Take a look at our previous post which emphasizes that the best place to start would be at the core, which is IT. 

To achieve digital transformation success, enterprise application development is emerging as an integral aspect. Get to know how you can drive digital transformation ROI using enterprise application development and low-code platforms.

Leveraging the Power of Low-Code

How rapid application development platforms help CIOs drive digital transformation ROI

  • Modernize with Transformative Technology – Traditional software and application development falls short of fulfilling the hyper demands of modern enterprise applications. They are linear, time-consuming to develop, have minimum iterations and low customer / user interaction. The essence of your digital transformation strategy needs to primarily revolve around modernizing traditional software.

In modern enterprise application development, ‘transformative technologies’ such as rapid application development platforms drive ROI by providing ready-made application infrastructure, full stack development, improved usability with rich user interfaces, predefined best of breed technology stack, API-driven integration and business user participation.

  • Align Strategically. 1% Vision + 99% Alignment = Performance – Your strategy, digital or otherwise could be visionary, but it is ineffective if its not aligned to the business objectives and user needs. C-Level executives must be tuned into the needs of their business, customers and users to drive experiences that revolve around their expectations.

By adopting low-code platforms and rapid application development, you can align teams and enable them to focus on innovation providing the necessary support to your digital transformation strategy and revenue-generation initiatives.

  • Enhance User Experience (UX) in the Experience Economy – Your business users are your customers and every CIO needs to tune into their pulse. To materialize exceptional UX, you need to understand their line of work, how they function, what they need to improve productivity and how they collaborate and communicate. The framework of your enterprise application development strategy ideally needs to revolve around their ethos.

Low-code platforms provide the agility to create and deliver custom-built applications that revolve around user preferences, with a speed that resonates to demand. CIOs who utilize rapid application development to implement their DX strategy have a better opportunity to create custom enterprise apps that adapt to experiences rather than devices.

  • Realize Real ROI in Line of Business (LOB) Apps – Transformation is an enterprise-endeavor and enterprise app development is a departmental endeavor. Modernization has to seep into every facet of your enterprise as different lines of business have distinct requirements. When devising digital transformation initiatives, CIOs who consider LOB apps mapped to specific requirements have been successful in improving usability and productivity, and inherently boosting ROI.

What rapid application development platforms offer that traditional IT development dosen’t is ‘inward-facing’ agility with intra-departmental APIs. By supporting the development and delivery of custom LOB apps efficiently and on-time, low-code platforms ensure enterprise agility.

  • Be Equipped with The Tools of The Trade – C-Level executives when developing transformation strategies, need to identify the right type of IT infrastructure. Given the evolving demands of the digital workforce, transformation initiatives require IT infrastructure to be flexible, agile and cost-effective.

As traditional software run out of steam, enterprises can transition IT infrastructure to app modernization using low-code development. With rapid app development and agile integration, CIOs can support the digitally-empowered workforce in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

  • Be the Leader of Change or You May be Forced to Follow – To achieve successful digital transformation, CIOs have got to be the leaders of change. The digital workplace thrives on collaboration and to be effective it requires the involvement of the entire enterprise.

To realize ROI on modernization and transformation, CIOs need to ensure a culture of innovation, where creativity and productivity are instilled. They have to be committed, involved and encourage technology enthusiasts to work on emerging technologies.

CIO’s ‘Not-so-Secret’ Approach to Digital Transformation Success

Business transformation is all-encompassing, it affects everyone, involves everyone, and requires strategic alignment between processes, people, technology and culture. There is a ‘not-so-secret’ approach to digital transformation success. It’s the innovation philosophy of design thinking. More than ever before, CIOs are leveraging design thinking (observing and analyzing user behavior to gain insights) when devising IT development strategies. This however, will be covered intensively in another article.

As a tip-off, there are several sides of digital transformation you need to consider:

  • The ‘technology-centricity trap’. Does application of the new technology solve a need?
  • App-fatigue. Does every business unit need a line-of-business (LOB) app?
  • CEO buy-in. Does your digital transformation strategy have the stamp of approval?

Many questions need to be answered, several strategies need to be made, different demands need to be met, now. As they say “take your time but hurry up”, because digital transformation demands velocity!

With transformation comes change

With change comes making choices

With choosing comes responsibility

Make it count!

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Explore the Strategic Role of CIOs in Digital Transformation

Digital transformation (DX). Everyone is talking about it and wants to get on the bandwagon. Take for example Razer’s story. As far as transforming a modern workplace and collaboration goes, it’s considered a phenomenon. By supporting teamwork, rapid communications, and real-time collaboration using intelligent technology solutions, Razer has gained a competitive edge in the multibillion-dollar gaming industry.

You can observe a similar story at Virgin Atlantic, where they aim to develop apps quickly and easily to empower employees with tools and information to help field workers get a better view of customers and deliver better service.

Digital transformation comes in all shapes and sizes. It is all-encompassing and can have different connotations for different stakeholders. How do you interpret it? Does digital transformation for you mean the same for your peers? A CIO may translate it as improving operational efficiency, while it may mean augmenting customer engagement for a CMO.

What does digital transformation actually mean for you and your enterprise?

  • Is it about modernizing legacy systems? Individually, gradually, simultaneously, enterprise–wide?
  • Is it about shifting from traditional software development to full-stack development with an API-driven app approach?
  • Is it about creating bandwidth for continuous innovation and advancing time-to-market?

While every enterprise wants to modernize and transform, not everyone is successful in digital transformation. What it requires is commitment and involvement, enterprise-wide.

According to the CIO’s 2019 State of the CIO Survey, “88% of CIOs say that they are more involved in leading digital transformation initiatives compared to their business counterparts.” In the ‘2018-2019 State of Digital Transformation Report’ by Altimeter, “CIOs are cited as the most typical official owners or sponsors of transformation initiatives.”

Executive Ownership of Digital Transformation 

As business modernization and transformation continues to mature, CIOs are required to have a stronger presence in revenue-generating initiatives and in areas they have not delved before. What’s your level of involvement? Are you skin-deep or knee-deep in digital transformation? When revenue and ROI become the name of the game and as you wade into uncharted waters, where do you begin, what’s your first step?

The Crucial Kick-Off In Your Digital Transformation Journey 

Make the first step count!
In your digital transformation journey, the best starting point would be the core. And the core of digital transformation is IT.

As ‘application organizations’ are constantly evolving to adapt to the hybrid world and the digital workforce, IT is expected to not only modernize technology, but also deliver business value, augment user experience (UX) and achieve core innovation.

Enterprise application development is emerging as an integral requisite to achieving digital transformation success. Rapid Application Development platforms are gaining sway by empowering IT, providing the bandwidth to focus on core innovation, advancing time-to-market strategies, and helping to achieve competitive differentiation.

How can you drive digital transformation ROI using enterprise application development and low-code platforms? Continue reading our next post to find out more.

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Becoming a Platform: What it Takes

In the SaaS world, branching out to a platform business is fairly common. It’s not a surprising move anymore, given the huge benefits of owning the building blocks of other businesses, as we talked about in the first article of this series. Since building a thriving platform ecosystem doesn’t happen overnight, in this follow-on piece we’ll explore the steps for implementation.

In this era of digital platform, there is no limit to the number of customers you can reach out to. McKinsey noted recently that “companies pursuing offensive platform strategies yield a better payoff in both revenue and growth“. Looking at this, one might think the sky’s the limit for digital natives having an army of tech savvy professionals. But this might be generalizing a bit. Incumbents can command a 20 percent share of digitizing markets, compared to only 5 percent for digital natives. But only 3 percent of incumbents have adopted an offensive platform strategy.

Though adoption is low, a growing phenomenon indicates that companies are transitioning from a product-based to platform-based business model. Technology is at the core of this transition. Cell phones, which were once just typical products, have now become platforms offering a plethora of functions beside only making telephone calls. This is bringing subscribers together with application developers.

According to Harvard Business School, a successful platform strategy involves three components –

  • Connection: how easily users can get access to the platform to share and transact
  • Gravity: how well the platform attracts participants, both producers and consumers
  • Flow: how well the platform fosters the exchange and co-creation of value

Example of a product organization supporting multiple products sharing components of the same platform – by Wyatt Jenkins

If you are considering branching out to a platform business model, the following steps may help in your implementation approach –

  • The foundation: It is critical to establish the core services that your platform will provide its users. From an IT perspective, a platform provides a complete environment for developing and deploying applications that can speed time-to-market and generate revenue when reused. As the platform grows, you can add more features or services depending on the needs identified by the platform users themselves. For example, LinkedIn’s initial offering to users was creating a profile page. Then they realized they needed to add more features to encourage active participation and added discussion groups followed by recruitment and advertising functions and finally letting users publish their content – turning the professional network site into a publishing platform. At this stage, IT can start to make build vs buy decision.
  • The model: Adopting a hybrid model is useful when approaching platform-based business, as it can help enterprises create and capture value to attract new users without abandoning the existing ones. Let’s look at this example for better clarity. When computer-game developer Valve came up with its first video game called Half-life, it became a sensation. Soon hackers were developing their own modifications to change the game play, creating barriers for those who wanted to play against each other. When Valve realized that there is a demand for an alternative to Half-Life, they hired those hackers who created the best modified version and turned it into a second game called Counter-Strike. This way Valve turned the threat into a new business opportunity. But as a growing number of versions started creating problems for Valve users, the company created an online software channel in 2003 called Steam to distribute patches. As the number of users increased, Valve transformed Steam into an online platform that allowed developers to distribute their software titles instantly at zero marginal cost — a lucrative proposition for both gamers and game producers. The availability of more games attracted more customers to the platform, including new ones who were now downloading Steam and buying various games. Although Valve continues to sell its own software, today it makes more money by charging a percentage of every sale by other developers. Another example – Qihoo, one of China’s most successful internet firms, started as a security software product that cross-subsidized the development of a new platform with products that they gave away for free, creating more value in the end for the entire platform.
  • The demand: Creating a demand for your product involves attracting a number of users. This can be done in phases like Makerbot, the 3D-printer developer, did. They approached a group of devoted product fans to make desktop 3D printing accessible to all. To expand this group and build a momentum for this product, Makerbot conducted a series of projects, conferences and events. For example, many of the product fans helped build printer for Makerbot when demand started exceeding their production capabilities. The company then turned this enthusiastic group into early adopters of the platform which propelled the growth of Thingiverse – an online platform where makers can post designs and users can download them to print. With the platform in hand, Makerbot then leveraged the efforts of their early adopters to create more features for their platforms. Makerbot’s cultivation of its users as it moved from product to platform was immensely successful.
  • Provide adequate value: To create a demand for your platform, your platform should also create new value for your customers to use it. Valve’s Steam and Lego could both do it. But not SF Express, a leading parcel delivery services in China. In 2014, SF Express launched an ecommerce platform connecting third-party merchants to their customer base. They also opened many physical stores from where shoppers can order products using their tablets. Once ordered, SF Express would deliver the products to the customers who could try it and return back immediately if they wished. But this ‘try and buy’ concept did not attract the users as they were already getting this facility from Chinese retailers for goods purchased online.
  • Internal team: It is important to align your internal team and stakeholders to establish roles and responsibilities to ensure a smooth transition from product to platform. For example, the IT team can develop the base services of the platform and business units can develop applications using these services and infrastructure. Accordingly, funds can be distributed so that each unit can succeed. Apart from having a good internal team, companies can also benefit from including outsiders in the process. A Stanford graduate student opened up the code for Lego’s Mindstorm robots to create a platform, effectively transforming a toy into an educational tool for schools. Lego benefited by hiring an external agent and created new value for their product through a platform.

A mindset change

Shifting from a product mindset to a platform mindset can be downright counterintuitive—indeed, many firms discovered new platform opportunities almost by accident and in spite of their own missteps. But, like many transformational strategic moves, the successful transition from product to platform should happen in stages that demand flexibility. Platforms are at the core of the successful businesses of the future. By adopting platform thinking and new technology, any business can evolve to join the platform economy.

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Branching out to a Platform Model

Building something valuable isn’t a one time process anymore, it is a continuous process and requires you to enable a network of people both inside and outside your company with the right building blocks

What’s common between Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Airbnb, Uber and Apple? Of course, leave aside the success part! They all conduct their business on a scalable online platform that connects producers and consumers. They create value by facilitating exchanges between two or more interdependent groups bringing in tailored products to the market faster and with less investment. By using the platform model, these companies have grown in leaps and bounds to grab greater market share from well-established firms.

The difference between platforms and traditional business models lies in the way they create value. With producers at one end and consumers on the other, the latter model transfers value along a linear pipeline. The platform model creates value by connecting producers, consumers and the platform itself. Platform companies have now become the major drivers of innovation as they are setting the standards for digital transformation. As platforms have become the new normal in how leaders are conducting business, enterprises must make the most out of this opportunity.

 

Enterprises can bring their core value unit to the platform and customers can extend the product by adding features relevant to their business

Go figure!

A 2016 survey by Accenture says, “81% of executives say platform-based business models will be core to their growth strategy within three years“. Let’s look at some figures to find out how much popularity platform business has gathered in the business to consumer (B2C) context. Almost 80% of China’s ecommerce market is controlled by Alibaba. WeChat messaging platform by Tencent, Asia’s most valuable company, has nearly 850 million users and according to some estimates is the largest gaming company in the world. In the early 2010s, BlackBerry Limited (formerly RIM) and Nokia lost huge market share to Apple and Google because they were acting as product companies in a world speedily embracing platforms.

We’re not even fighting with the right weapons, … The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems

This is spurring the investors to put in more money into platform business than in their linear counterparts. The S&P 500 shows platform businesses have an average revenue multiple of 8.9 while for linear businesses, it’s two to four times more revenue on average.

Platform business is also making a lot of noise in the business to business (B2B) world. PingAn, an insurance company in China, is an example of how a traditional corporation transformed its business model. Reframing itself as a technology company, PingAn created a portfolio of platform businesses related to insurance in different verticals – connecting doctors and patients in healthcare; purchasing and selling cars in automotive and even in the entertainment industry. Five years into this transformation, PingAn is now the world’s most valuable insurance company.

Let’s loop in South Africa as well. Naspers, a 100-year-old company printing newspapers, transformed itself into a platform company in five years, built global online classified business OLX and acquired food delivery startup Delivery Hero.

What’s fanning the transformation?

Why are established companies conducting business in traditional ways thinking of disrupting their operations and going bonkers about platforms as a business? These benefits of offering a platform over a product might make for a strong case –

  • Instead of bringing complete products to the market, businesses can be set up around extending the core product. This can reduce the need for capital, manufacturing capabilities and building the product from scratch. Through documented APIs and SDKs, developers can add features to the product using the platform.
  • Though a product might support limited use cases, a platform can be leveraged to support a wider set of use cases, broadening its market space. Vendors can also reuse the platform for their own benefit.
  • Companies marketing products with limited use cases are less likely to keep customers for long. Platforms on the other hand are deeply integrated into the business architecture and are not easily replaceable. This means that customers will think twice before discarding it and instead adapt it to their needs over time.
  • The value of a platform business increases with more number of people using it. The examples that we talked about at the beginning – they all rely on a large number of people using their platform to interact. This increases the value of the platform over time.

A promise of growth

At times, when there is increasing pressure to build and market something new, a product platform strategy can be the perfect solution. This is because a healthy network of producers will allow the platform owner to reach out to more customers and have a flourishing business. This network becomes more valuable when the platform fosters distributed innovation and each player can grow faster than they would on their own.

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Are you a digital-ready enterprise? checklist for CIOs

This article provides the much needed checklist for CIOs, to assess the digital-readiness of their enterprises.

The goal of nearly every enterprise – regardless of industry focus or vertical – is to position its products and services to reach the masses as quickly and efficiently as possible. But to do so in today’s modern business environment, an enterprise must operate as a digital business.

Embodying a modern digital business requires that CIOs make a conscious and strategic effort to ensure they’re providing the newest experiences, offerings, and business models that users are looking for – or risk losing out to the competition. At its core, this objective hinges on enterprise CIOs’ ability to maintain IT infrastructure that can nimbly evolve and scale with the ever-changing digital environment.

Here is a checklist of the top features that define modern digital-ready enterprises to help CIOs quickly assess whether they’re meeting the mark – and form a tangible plan for modernisation if not.

Take a look at team structure

When assessing digital readiness, the first factor a CIO must evaluate is IT team structure. Are various IT environments unified, or do different subgroups have their own processes, technologies, and objectives? If the latter, CIOs will face a larger challenge managing resources, skills, and objectives across the enterprise – which is a threat to innovation, agility, and scalability. IT teams with distinct and isolated islands of technical knowledge will not be able to quickly execute on the projects needed to achieve modern digital-readiness.

Assess the client experience

The client experience is critical to the success of a modern enterprise, and customer demands are more fast-moving than ever before due to factors like mobile technology, automation, and machine learning. As a result, an enterprise’s customer and user experiences must be visually appealing as well as fully responsive so individuals can make contact with the firm quickly and intuitively from any channel, device, or location. Rapid access to this feedback and engagement is a key part of refining technical and operational business processes from the CIO perspective – so it’s important that the digital customer journey includes well-defined touchpoints across multiple channels to facilitate client responsiveness.

Consider cloud capabilities

Being a modern digital enterprise requires having a software infrastructure that is capable of scaling with growing business demands. In many cases, achieving the level of speed and agility needed to remain competitive can be addressed through the adoption of cloud-native software, which is designed to harness the efficiency of cloud computing delivery models. CIOs that have not yet implemented cloud-native technology are forfeiting numerous benefits, including flexible application development, faster-acting IT systems, and reduced operating costs.

Capitalise on continuous delivery models

Cloud functionality and continuous delivery capabilities go hand in hand. Implementing continuous delivery models allows CIOs to create a strong feedback loop between the business and its customers by enabling software updates to be built, tested, and released rapidly at the touch of a button without affecting usage. Enterprises that employ a continuous delivery model to optimise their IT investments will have an edge on overall organizational performance as compared to the ones that that are not able to deliver their value as quickly and reliably to end-users.

Evaluate service ecosystem connectivity

Maintaining a digital-ready IT infrastructure also requires assessing the connectivity of systems used with the enterprise. The typical business leverages a wide range of systems – including internal enterprise systems, external tools the firm has adopted (like a CRM), and hybrid applications that the enterprise is developing. Do these three buckets of systems interact to share data in an integrated manner? A lack of streamlined connectivity can paralyse an enterprise’s ability to respond to changing user demands from an IT infrastructure perspective.

Create a gap-closing game plan

Attaining the above checklist items is all part of maturing as a digital enterprise and investing in the long-term viability of IT infrastructure. However, a final component of a holistic digital-readiness checklist is assessing whether CIOs have a plan in place for closing any gaps in modernized capabilities. If an enterprise isn’t quite hitting the mark, there are many system integrators, low-code platforms, and industry specialists firms can tap into to maintain a modern IT environment capable of agile growth and scale without disrupting the productivity.

Originally published by Vijay Pullur, CEO WaveMaker, in Enterprise-CIO.com

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Software modernization myths likely holding you back

Highlighting four prevalent myths holding developers, and IT leaders back from successful legacy application modernization projects.

As new cloud, AI, and mobile technologies continue to shape the tech landscape, it’s increasingly challenging for developers and IT leaders to maintain up-to-date applications in the face of nonstop innovation. It’s no wonder that many industry professionals are concerned about their ability to effectively and affordably complete an application modernization project, citing obstacles such as a lack of funding, skill, or experience to pull the process off.

However, many of these fears are commonly believed myths that can be overcome with the right approach and a strategic use of third-party resources. In this day and age, tackling legacy application modernization does not have to be costly, complex, or disruptive.

Myth 1: “Refreshing UI counts as modernization”

Revamping an application’s UI is simply not enough to cross modernization off an enterprise’s to-do list. When it comes to anything but the most basic legacy applications, a fresh look is just a starting point. Most enterprise applications are extensive and have complex workflows, meaning that a UI facelift will not necessarily improve the end-user’s experience or address a company’s larger business goals. Projects must target the deeper tech layer of an application in order to result in meaningful modernization.

Myth 2: “Modernizing our application will be too disruptive to our business”

Minimally invasive modernization projects are within reach with the availability of new technologies and Rapid Application Development platforms. For example, wrapping is a process in which developers can apply a layer of API to a legacy system in order to refresh an application’s capabilities without touching the original architecture. Developers can also connect an API directly to the back-end of a legacy application, individually wrapping each system and eliminating the need to integrate local service data. Not all modernization scenarios require a painful platform switch – instead, APIs can be used to integrate new, fresh functionalities into the existing legacy system.

Myth 3: “Our IT team doesn’t have the resources for modernization”

In-depth technical knowledge is not a prerequisite for application modernization – there are many low-code platforms and services that offer templates, widgets, and other “drag and drop” features that can streamline IT teams’ time and resources. In addition to giving developers the tools to quickly and intuitively build and deploy new functionalities, Rapid Application Development platforms simplify the modernization process through automation. Features like automatic data integration, security checks, and cross-platform support can reduce the time developers must spend fixing basic, error-prone, and technical aspects of a project, freeing up their resources to focus on bigger picture business and functionality goals.

Myth 4: “We can’t afford a modernization project right now”

Taking the time to identify the top priorities for a modernization project in advance can keep processes affordable and financially strategic. IT leaders must closely examine their own business objectives as well as their existing application architecture in order to choose a focused path toward modernization that will be impactful, yet versatile enough to be a future-proof investment. For example, many enterprises may find integrating open source software during a modernization project to be a productive investment that pays off in terms of cost efficiency and the long-term flexibility of avoiding vendor lock-in when future updates need to be made.

Moreover, in today’s ever-changing digital environment, enterprises cannot afford to let their applications stagnate – especially considering the fact that 90 percent of consumers would consider taking their business elsewhere rather than work with a company that uses outdated technology. Understanding the common myths surrounding modernization projects will help developers and IT leaders shake off their concerns and identify the resources they need to update legacy applications while balancing risk, cost, flexibility, and speed.

Originally published by Vijay Pullur, CEO WaveMaker, in App Developer Magazine

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Finding Your Application Modernization Balance

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.

Intellyx Take

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.


Originally published by Charles Araujo in Intellyx BrainBlog

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. WaveMaker is an Intellyx client. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this paper.