Most people involved in enterprise technology are well aware that we live in exponential times, with the rate of change across most technological trends occurring at a rate far quicker than in years past. Almost daily, the industry witnesses data points in the tech media that show us that we are currently at a high watermark for technological innovation.
In this hyper-competitive yet nearly flat operating environment that organizations face today -- where customer choices are almost all equally accessible -- the pressure to keep pace and deliver a wider range of digital capabilities has never been greater.
But how much of this pressure is actually being exerted by IT leaders and from which stakeholders? How are they responding to it?
More importantly from a practitioner standpoint, what emerging tools and techniques are they using to accelerate their IT modernization and digital transformation efforts?
IT leaders in 2017: "Very strong" pressure to move faster
To get a sense of what pressures IT leaders were under and how they were dealing with them, I recently sampled just over 50 of the top practitioners in the space with a focus on what I regarded were leading organizations in their industry -- mostly large enterprise CIOs, as well as a few CTOs, CDOs, and EVPs of IT who I knew were pushing the envelope -- to better understand the IT initiatives they are focusing on to becoming more agile.
By picking cutting-edge leaders at top organizations, the intent was that the data will show what they're facing and how they're dealing with it this year, in a way that gives more typical organizations time to prepare for what they'll likely face next year and beyond.
Unsurprisingly, the data clearly that top IT leaders are feeling much more pressure for their team to move quicker than they ever have in the past. What was startling however was the number of organizations who note they're receiving this message -- with fully 94 percent of executives saying they are feeling significant pressure (either "strong" at 31 percent or "very strong at 64 percent) -- to move quicker than ever to keep up with the pace of technological change.
The pressure itself is apparently coming from all quarters as well, as the responses were evenly balanced between all stakeholders (lines of business, the C-suite, customers, etc.) However, rather significantly, zero respondents said that digital transformation was not a focus for their company this year.
Clearly the winds of digital change are at the backs of the vast majority of these IT leaders.
Sampling enabling technologies for IT agility in 2017
Curious to understand which technologies these IT leaders would be employing to move faster and be more agile in 2017, I provided a list of options, see below. While I provided fixed answers in the survey, where the top responses focusing around using better BI/analytics/data (presumably to create faster and more accurate feedback loops to IT projects) as well as public cloud, and DevOps, the survey also allowed free-form responses.
This highlighted some interesting patterns that give a sense of what top organizations are employing this year to move faster with IT. Many respondents noted that there were several technology tools in particular they relied on to be agile: Apache Spark, Capriza, Okta, MultiChain, and Puppet notably stood out in the free-form response section of the survey. Having these technologies in their agile toolkit is a key enabler for their digital transformation initiatives.
Apache Spark: As companies look to take advantage of big data, one hurdle is the ability to process and analyze today's vast and growing volumes of business data in a timely and effective manner. One effective tool for getting over that hurdle is Apache Spark, a powerful open source tool that enables instantaneous stream analytics.
Spark provides companies with unprecedented agility because of its ability to harness and process vast amounts data to make better decisions faster and more confidently. Data processing that used to take months or weeks can be completed in hours or even in real-time, supplying additional speed and productivity to business operations.
Capriza: The enterprise's shift to mobility has been steady and inexorable, but has been surprisingly slow. One main challenge has been organizations' lack of mobile app development resources and expertise. Capriza is an enterprise mobility company which addresses this by providing a solution that allows anyone from an IT leader to a business user to to quickly and cost-effectively create their own mobile apps on top of existing IT systems.
Rather than spending resource-intensive cycles designing or customizing mobile apps from scratch, the Capriza platform takes existing application's workflows and the associated business logic to quickly create and deploy mobile micro apps, which can accelerate time to value for IT. This type of fast mobile enablement is often crucial for businesses looking for quick wins in their digital transformation efforts.
Okta: Cloud computing software has heightened the need for organizations to adopt a secure way to manage who has access to corporate data or applications. This is especially true as more organizations move to the public cloud, making identity management a key obstacle to moving quickly.
Okta, a provider of identity management and single-sign-on solutions, simplifies this process by maintaining integrations and enabling efficient management of user rights and permissions. IT leaders can manage employee's access to any application or device, dramatically increasing the speed at which the business can move because employees aren't constantly encountering friction as they move from application to application, while IT can move with confidence to deploy more cloud-based IT solutions faster.
MultiChain: As more organizations turn to blockchain technology and shared ledgers, there's a strong need for a tool that provides end-users with choice. MultiChain, a software tool for web asset and legal contracts on blockchain, allows its customers to control whether the chain is private or public, how big the block is, and who can connect to the network.
IT leaders rely on this tool to stay agile as they adopt blockchain technology because they can deploy unlimited blockchains per server for cross-chain applications, providing them with full control of their own open digital ledgers. Blockchain is all about creating trust through transparency over public networks, and MultiChain has begun to emerge as a leading tool to facilitate that, although it's also certainly not the only choice
Puppet: The basic foundation to becoming agile is the ability to move quickly, and that's precisely what IT automation can provide. Puppet is popular open source software that provides IT automation for cloud, security, and DevOps, and is a crucial tool for many IT leaders looking to boost speed and agility. Getting rid of manual software deployments allows the business to move exponentially faster and more reliably.
Achieving digital transformation faster
The most successful IT leaders are implementing technologies which have a quick and direct business impact, and tackling processes one by one instead of attempting to boil the ocean. While most businesses have invested in business intelligence tools to help inform their digital transformation throughout the year, many of the top IT directors are also investing in quick to value technologies such as mobile experience solutions to help drive immediate benefit and show value to the C-suite.
One successful strategy is to decentralize the change within a company and work to make an organization more broadly agile. By empowering more employees within a company to take charge of transformation, not only does it lessen the bottleneck but it also sidesteps the IT resource drain many companies are experiencing.
By combining technology tools that enable agility with a new mindset and approach to IT, companies can not only adapt to rapid change, but flourish.