Ahead of the Gartner Application Architecture, Integration and Development Summit in Sydney next month, Gartner asked research vice president and conference chair Brian Prentice about how businesses are responding to rapid changes in IT driven by digital business and the profoundly different environment it’s creating for application development teams.
1) What are the biggest drivers of application change?
There are two main factors - digital business and the rapid pace of IT change - which largely go hand in hand. The digital world is forcing organisations to evolve and change at a much faster rate than ever before.
If an organisation is moving at a certain pace or level, the IT organisation has to match that rhythm.
Mobile is a huge factor in this, particularly as we continue to see growth in a range of different devices. Wearable technology will only add to this complexity, as well as growth in the Internet of Things.
Organisations will need to figure out how to coordinate all of these different touch points into something meaningful, which has a tremendous impact on application development.
We are also moving into an interesting point in the market where just adding features and functions to applications, whether for employees or customers, isn’t really doing the trick any more.
The market is starting to shift towards a much bigger focus on user experience design.
It is a huge challenge for application development teams, largely because they have designed their operations and expertise on how you can get extra functionality into products, not necessarily how you get people to have an enjoyable experience using it.
2) How do applications strategies need to evolve to give businesses a competitive edge?
To stay ahead, businesses need agile, dynamic, iterative, continuously evolving, ecosystem-based delivery methods.
In the digital economy, businesses will live or die based on how they handle complex application strategies, including packaged applications, analytics, customer applications, cloud-based applications and mobile apps.
All of these application environments need to deliver seamless user results and compelling, consumer-like user experiences.
The key challenge for today’s applications professional is to reinvent applications strategies to align with the new digital reality, while at the same time supporting the innovation businesses will need to remain competitive.
Mobile strategy also needs to change. Addressing the current generation of smartphones and tablets is not enough.
Businesses must prepare for a more complex future with multi-channel and multi-device approaches, all the while supporting cross-platform deployment. At the same time, analytics is rapidly spreading beyond traditional data warehouses.
Analytics strategies must encompass predictive analysis, customer targeting and big data. The final front is the cloud. Now is the time to aggressively address security and privacy concerns.
3) Business demand continues to outpace IT supply, while IT struggles to maintain and modernise legacy applications. Are there new tactics to help?
Old styles of application development simply can’t deliver the results a digital-age business needs. New, innovative and disruptive technologies come up all the time.
Enterprise, application and information architectures must be built in a way to quickly leverage new capabilities and seize new opportunities.
Applications professionals must succeed on two levels. You have traditional infrastructure initiatives, but you also need to put the new capabilities and approaches in place to enable rapid, agile, digital-age innovation – that’s bi-modal IT.
Bi-modal-IT, DevOps and cloud/mobile app development are all necessary ingredients for a modern application development practice.
Tools and methodologies must also evolve, including agile techniques and rapid development tools. It’s not just about delivering business functionality; it’s about user experience. Without a compelling user experience, the game is lost.
Today’s application services depend on architectures that are both stable and flexible, both reliable and agile.
The rise of the Web Scale IT, consumerisation, citizen developers and business units with autonomy and budgets means open architectures are critical – and SOA is not enough.
Web Oriented Architecture (WOA) is now the focal point. The primary WOA model is RESTful Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and an API gateway/management tool. Done right, WOA provides a simple interoperability model that also enables a significant amount of agility and flexibility.
4) As we enter a new era in IT – and business – how do organisations prepare for the digital economy?
The increasing variety and complexity of data and the ubiquity of the Internet of Things are bringing about a new digital imperative.
Every business is now a digital business. Every business unit is an innovation centre. Every project is a digital project. This means a radical shift in priorities and perspective.
The important thing going forward, for example, may not be how you might process sales transactions more efficiently or make other incremental process improvement.
The objective now is figuring out how you will lead your enterprise into a new world where the physical and digital boundaries start to blur, where new opportunities will spawn a new generation of competitors and where traditional industries, industry models and industry leaders will be disrupted.
We are quickly getting to the point where IT isn’t just a part of the business – it is the business.
Application leaders must be ready to step up to that challenge and seize the opportunity to help lead their organisations into the age of digital business.