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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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6 trends that are upending enterprise application delivery

Enterprise application delivery is evolving day by day and enterprises have discovered that traditional development methods do not address the needs of modern business. Many leaders continue to be in denial about the power of digital trends that are radically transforming the business landscape. But in the world of adapt or perish, enterprises have to make changes and take steps towards transforming their architecture to create provisions for future trends in application delivery.

The new normal

Let’s take a look at six trends that have urged enterprises to take action. Each of these trends is not an independent phenomenon but a group of closely related phenomena that not only influence but also act as a catalyst for the others.

  1. Mobility: In the last few years, not only have the number of mobile devices surpassed PCs, but users now turn to their mobile devices first. Ever since mobile apps entered the enterprise scene, they have ushered in new forms of collaboration, communication, and business efficiencies. The number of devices managed in the enterprise increased 72% from 2014 to 2015 and now, 3+ devices are used daily by an employee for work activities. With the diversity of screens and form factors exploding, enterprise mobility has become the key strategy for every business to empower and manage employee mobility in order to meet security, agility, and productivity demands.
  1. Consumerization: The distinction between expectations for consumer and enterprise applications has rapidly narrowed due to the impact of consumer-originated technologies on enterprises. 90% of enterprises say that the use of a consumer or individual services used for work is pervasive today including Dropbox, Google, Skype, Linked In, Facebook, and other social networking sites. 49% of these sites are used with IT approval, and 41% are not. To achieve the greatest user adoption and long-term success, there is a conscious effort to move away from a purely utilitarian approach to one that strives to deliver an experience for that meets the same standards evident in consumer products.
  1. Containerization: Perhaps the biggest story in the development and DevOps circles over the past couple of years has been the explosion of containers, with Docker driving the path toward developer and enterprise adoption. Docker’s express growth is already revolutionizing continuous delivery. The influence of containers continues to grow and it is beginning to move beyond mere optimization to transformation on the way IT builds and delivers applications. Several enterprises are looking at containers as an alternative to virtualization and cloud computing, at least for the need of long-tail business applications.
  1. API Growth: With the dawn of cloud computing and the proliferation of apps, companies are exchanging data and services at an ever-growing rate. APIs can increase agility by de-coupling and exposing business processes. The past few years, however, have seen such explosive growth that the API space is evolving more rapidly than ever before. In 2015, as many as 40 APIs were being added per week to the Programmable Web directory, and the total number of APIs stood at around 15,000. The key thing to consider here is that these numbers are based on publicly available APIs and do not reflect any private or internal API growth at all, of which some estimate may even outnumber the public total. The future RESTful APIs will not only drive the exchange of data but also influence enterprise architecture.
  1. Data Deluge: The amount of data being generated globally is growing at a rate of 40% per year. Add to that the complexity of an ever-connect world of the Internet of Things. Forecasts indicate that there will be 20.8 billion connected things (IoT) by 2020. As enterprises capture more data from more sources, they are bound to experience greater growth rates for both structured and unstructured data. Since data forms the crux of business applications, enterprises will have to prepare to manage data integration from disparate internal and external systems.
  1. Microservices: Microservices are small, single-purpose applications that collaborate using APIs to deliver services. Even though microservices have been used for a while, the increasing popularity of cloud computing, containerization, and APIs have made microservices more reliable. In many organizations, developers are already employing microservices architecture whether management knows it or not. Early signs indicate this approach to code management and deployment is helping companies become more responsive to shifting customer demands. Microservices is poised to take the scalability and continuous delivery to the next level in the years to come

It is time to face this new dynamic and begin to plan for your organization’s digital transformation. You need a fresh perspective to give you and your team a powerful voice in setting business direction. In the age of the customer, tech
professionals must work with business executives to use technology to drive growth and delight customers. 

I would be glad to understand how your organization is planning to deal with these trends. Also, please add to these trends if you feel that I have missed out on anything.

Organizations across the globe rely on WaveMaker to navigate the new normal use. Our Rapid Application Development or RAD Platform is the most open, extensible, and flexible low-code platform that complements your existing enterprise application delivery. You can get started with a free, 30-day on-premise or online trial.

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How to eliminate silos in a large organization

As an Architect for WaveMaker, I have come across multiple IT environments.  They are getting more and more complex by the day, in spite of all advances with cloud computing and deployment options. IT Environments in large complex organizations are typically dispersed and have multiple silos as shown in the graphic below.

In addition, sub-groups typically have their own processes and technologies. This makes integration across organizations and the centralization of IT applications a big challenge.

This problem gets aggravated with each M&A activity. Acquisitions provide a great opportunity for innovation with the possibility of integrating assets of different organizations. But different technologies, systems, and processes hinder the realization of these opportunities.

Consolidation of IT for these organizations is a good position to be in as shown in the graphic below. But it is not trivial to achieve. More than the technology, managing resources, skills, and practices across organizations become bigger challenges.

Now, what if we can achieve integration of these different systems without actually consolidating IT systems?  What if different existing systems can co-exist while realizing the benefits of consolidation? How would you go about doing it?

Step 1: Ensure all systems are API-enabled

If you want to make your application future-proof, there is no other alternative other than to build APIs. How to make different types of applications API enabled, is a topic for another blog.

Let’s look at the organization now in the graphic below.

So what has changed?

Now, every system is open for communication. There may be different systems using different technologies, but they can all talk to each other with a common simple language. APIs.

As we have all the systems accessible, what next? How do we consolidate the information from here?

Step 2: Consolidate endpoints with API management

You must have looked at API management from the point of view of identity, authentication, rate limiting, throttling, metering, etc. But to make the best use of internal APIs, we need to transform them,  aggregate them, and cache them where needed.

Take an example of an application like Kayak. They aggregate APIs from multiple airlines.

  • APIs have different formats, so it needs to be first transformed to Kayak format.
  • Some APIs may not be available reliably, so it needs to be cached
  • Other airlines may not even have APIs. In which case, Protocol/API wrappers need to be created over them.
  • And these APIs must be aggregated to Kayak APIs. UI and other consumers should not call these APIs separately.

Similar is the requirement of a complex organization. Think of your large organization as vendors across multiple silos. Would you not like to manage all your vendors from a single place?

Current API Management products need to evolve to meet these challenges. API Management technologies, for most of their life, we’re geared to public APIs that you wanted to monetize. They have also been priced by traffic usage. Recently many of these API Management vendors have started focusing on these internal enterprise APIs.

The graphic below shows how an API management platform is consolidated.

After the end of the second step, you are in a state where you have consolidated endpoints. A happy, future-proof state to be in. But this also means they need for applications using these APIs. Not only the IT systems but multiple potential applications waiting to integrate these APIs to speed innovation to a different level.

Step 3: Enable rapid application delivery

With so much information available, you clearly can think of many more applications, than your IT can develop. Coding is time-consuming. The current trend is to go for ready-to-use components than to write them from scratch.

Going a step further, you don’t want to fall into figuring out the integration of these ready-to-use components either (boilerplate code). Developers with minimum technical/UI skills should also be able to deliver applications. But that simply increases the risk of poor quality applications.

This is where a low-code rapid application delivery platform can help you generate consistent beautiful-looking applications. Reusable widgets, styles, and templates are provided by the UI experts and other developers can simply use them with drag-drop features.

In summary, I have shown you a path to consolidate all your silos via APIs, manage them using an API management tool, and finally build innovative apps much more rapidly.

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4 catalysts for a citizen developer revolution

How can IT fuel the grassroots movement for citizen development and pave the way for frictionless enterprise application delivery?

Citizen development efforts are poised to grow rapidly in the next few years, led by the increasing adoption of cloud-based platforms, which simplify access to corporate data. Enterprises across the board are keen to embrace citizen developer tools not only to amass productivity gains but also because business users are tired of waiting for IT to deliver the applications they need at the speed of business. Let us look at how you can create the right conditions and catalysts for a citizen developer revolution at your enterprise.

Who is a citizen developer?

According to Gartner, “a citizen developer is a user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT. In the past, end-user application development has typically been limited to single-user or workgroup solutions built with tools like Microsoft Excel and Access. However, today, end users can build departmental, enterprise and even public applications using shared services, fourth-generation language (4GL)-style development platforms and cloud computing services.”

Preconditions for citizen development

The above definition also contains two preconditions that are necessary for citizen development:

  • IT-sanctioned environment: Creating applications using tools that are not sanctioned by IT is “shadow IT” at best, not citizen development. Citizen development yields the best results when it is done in partnership with the IT department. In fact, enterprises should take a step further and choose a platform that relies on open systems and technologies to avoid vendor lock-in.
  • Low-code development platform: Businesses are frustrated with having to wait for months in the IT queue and then getting something that was not what they asked for. They are looking for platforms that reduce cycle times and improve organizational agility by delivering applications at the pace of business. Enterprises should use low-code tools that use a rapid application development model, which supports visual (drag-and-drop) development and incorporates user feedback iteratively using rapid prototyping.

Catalysts that foster citizen development

Aside from the necessary preconditions, enterprise IT needs to take the leadership role by doing the following to foster a grassroots citizen development movement that benefits both business and IT:

  • Set legacy data free: In most enterprises, decades of delivering enterprise IT apps using proprietary software have locked not only IT dollars but also a substantial amount of enterprise data. In order to democratize application development, the data residing in legacy systems need to be set free. If you are still using legacy systems (and you’re not alone), immediately set in motion a plan to modernize legacy applications built on proprietary software such as Lotus Notes, Oracle Forms, and Microsoft Access.
  • Jumpstart application design: Custom applications built using no/low-code tools tend to stand out for their primordial UI and non-conformant design. Make sure you choose low-code tools that support out-of-the-box themes and templates for dashboards, login, and more. Templates not only reduce the time to design the app but also provide standardization across enterprise apps. It would be even better if IT can create a standard theme that can be readily applied to an application created by business users.
  • Enable last-mile development: To really bridge the business-IT gap, business users should be empowered to deliver even sophisticated applications. But limited coding skills for customization hold them back. Hence, commonly used code for integration, APIs, compliance, or security should be readily available and reusable across applications. For instance, WaveMaker RAD Platform provides Prefabs, reusable micro apps that abstract underlying complexity, so that business users can simply mash up an app using these reusable, independent, and tested micro-apps.
  • Strike the governance balance: While the benefits of citizen development are indisputable, the risks of serious security or compliance problems should not be discounted. Finding the right balance between productivity and control is vital for citizen development to succeed. IT leaders should unite application developers and business users so they can work together to efficiently optimize both the applications and the processes. For instance, IT should closely evaluate and choose a low-code tool that offers highly configurable governance capabilities such as role-based access controls. Ultimately, citizen developers should be able to create secure, compliant applications while offering IT the transparency of maintaining control.