The state of business and IT innovation

The global survey of 1,739 line of business (LoB) employees in organizations with at least 250 employees revealed only 37% of organizations definitely have the skills and technology to keep pace with digital projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer

Research from MuleSoft "The State of Business and IT Innovation" shows the importance of democratizing the access to data across the organization to scale innovation -- highlighting the new challenges and opportunities for businesses as they accelerate digital initiatives. Findings in the report include:

The findings of this report are very much aligned to the 8 digital transformation trends for 2021 research report from Salesforce

"A CIO today has to be a leader, enabling technology-driven change and partnering with the business functional teams to position companies to deliver great products, services, and customer value." -- Jo-ann Olsovsky, EVP and CIO Salesforce


Jo-ann Olsovsky, EVP & CIO Salesforce

Executive summary of "The State of Business and IT Innovation" report: 

  1. Citizen integrators are ready to drive digital innovation. Most line of business (LoB) users are involved in identifying, suggesting, and creating new ways to improve the delivery of digital services. Many believe they need quick and easy access to business data to be effective. Partnership with IT is important as LoBs say they play a collaborative role in driving digital innovation.
    Most (68%) of LoB users believe IT and LoB users should jointly drive digital innovation. 
  2. Organizations need a new operating model to move faster. LoB users are frustrated with the pace of innovation. They believe IT is focused more on "keeping the lights on," and spending less time driving innovation. COVID-19 has increased demand for digital and highlighted significant operational efficiencies and a lack of connectivity and skills.
    Over half (51%) say they are frustrated with the speed at which IT can deliver projects. 
  3. Integration challenges hinder innovation. Along with gaps in skills and technology, data silos hamper digital innovation. While integration is considered a top challenge to innovation, many business users, who tend to expect data and applications to be connected, aren't actively thinking about integration when building digital services.
    More than one-third (37%) point to integration as a top challenge to delivering new digital services, after security (39%). 
  4. Business users need to be empowered to unlock data. Most LoB users are frustrated by how difficult it is to connect different IT systems and data -- hindering business growth and customer experience. They agree that easy-to-use, self-service tools that allow LoBs to unlock data and build customer experiences would be beneficial.
    The majority (80%) agree employees need easy access to data and IT capabilities to deliver projects faster. 

Citizen integrators are ready to drive digital innovation

Over 68% of LoB respondents say they are "very" or "somewhat" involved in identifying, suggesting, or creating new ways to enhance the delivery of digital services inside the organization. Similarly, over half (59%) of LoB respondents say they are "very" or "somewhat" involved in the creation of new ways to enhance how digital services are delivered externally.

Technical skills are critical to business success. The majority (82%) of LoB users argue that technical skills are critical to the future success of their organization. Almost half (49%) strongly agree with this statement, and just 5% disagree. Data is the lifeblood of the modern organization. So, it's no surprise that the vast majority (82%) of LoB users believe employees need quick and easy access to business data to do their jobs effectively.

"According to a recent survey of Fortune 500 CEOs, 63% said that the pandemic crisis would accelerate their digital transformation. Every industry faces immediate change, and every organization needs to deliver faster than ever before. To move fast and thrive in today's hyper-competitive landscape, organizations need to democratize access to data to scale innovation. More than two-thirds of business users agree that they and IT should come together to jointly drive innovation. In addition, an overwhelming majority (80%) agree that if data and IT capabilities were discoverable and available in pre-packaged building blocks, employees could create solutions and deliver digital projects more quickly.

With an increasingly mobile and remote workforce, organizations need to decentralize and design for the broader workforce in mind, where different groups can freely and securely access the data they need with clicks, not code -- while leveraging automation to eliminate repetitive or manual processes like importing spreadsheets to boost their productivity and drive operational efficiency." -- Brent Hayward, CEO, MuleSoft


Brent Hayward, CEO of MuleSoft

IT and LoB must collaborate to drive digital transformation. The vast majority (68%) of LoB users say they think IT and LoB should come together to drive innovation. Far fewer believe IT (15%) or LoB (11%) should carry out the task alone. The key takeaway from the report: "LoB users are becoming increasingly hands-on when it comes to driving digital innovation and growth for their organization. A majority of respondents are involved in identifying, suggesting, or creating new ways to enhance internal (68%) and external (59%) digital service delivery. Therefore, technical skills are rightly seen by most (82%) as critical to business success."

Organizations need a new operating model to move faster

Over half (58%) of LoB respondents either "strongly" or "somewhat" agree that IT leaders are preoccupied with "keeping the lights on," meaning they have less time to spend on driving digital innovation.  It's not just that LoB respondents think IT spends most of its time on day-to-day operational tasks rather than strategic growth projects -- 44% also believe IT is a blocker on digital innovation. Every company is a technology company so viewing IT as a blocker to innovation and growth must be addressed by all CIOs.  

 Over half (51%) of LoB leaders are frustrated with the speed at which IT can deliver digital projects. CIOs must embrace citizen development.  COVID-19 is accelerating the pace of change, and there's no going back. In the next normal, CIOs must find ways to accelerate and scale project delivery and innovation based on collaboration with LoB leaders. Only 37% are fully confident they have the skills and technology to rise to the occasion, leaving over 63% who aren't completely sure if they'll be able to keep pace.


COVID-19 shines a light on operational inefficiencies 

Integration challenges hinder innovation

LoB users are also not completely confident that their organization's technical skills will help drive innovation in the organization. Only 40% of respondents are very confident in this. 

Security and compliance concerns loom large for respondents (39%) on the broader challenges of using IT systems, apps, and data to streamline in-house processes and deliver digital services. Integration, that is connecting systems, data, and apps come in second with 37% naming this their top challenge. Underscoring the skills and technology gaps further, the next two challenges cited were technical skills shortage (31%) and lack of tooling and resources (31%). 


Security and integration top digital innovation challenges

In addition, integration is a perennial challenge, yet it often isn't actively thought about by LoBs, who just expect data and applications to be connected. Data silos can often stall the LoB's ability to create connected experiences.

"During periods of crisis and as companies look ahead toward growth, it's essential to move with speed, precision and efficiency. And actionable data is how we do that. Now more than ever, a business's most critical asset is its data. Organizations can only achieve digital transformation when they are able to bring together data across multiple systems and technologies to draw insights and create truly connected, differentiated experiences. And the amount of data is growing rapidly in scale and in scope. How much data are we talking about? Projections from IDC say data will grow from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 175 ZB by 2025. That's 5 or 6 times growth of an already massive scale.

But all that data naturally lives in silos, and many organizations are struggling to integrate their data to drive meaningful insights and deliver connected experiences. In today's all digital world, more than two-thirds of global consumers would consider changing a service provider due to disconnected experiences. And behind those disconnected experiences are disconnected systems, applications and data. Of the almost 900 different applications used by the average enterprise, only 28% of those applications are integrated, leading 89% of technology leaders to say data silos are a primary obstacle to digital transformation.

To meet customers where they are and deliver the experiences they expect, organizations are looking for faster ways to unlock data wherever it exists -- on-premises, in the cloud or legacy infrastructure. And then, to analyze and act on that data to deliver the mission critical projects of today, and accelerate their digital strategy for the future. 2021 will be the year that data separates organizations from their competitors and customers -- the ability to unlock, analyze and act on data will become foundational to growth." --  Lindsey Irvine, CMO, MuleSoft


Business users need to be empowered to unlock data

As highlighted previously, LoB users are concerned about poor connectivity between systems, apps, and data. In fact, only 29% admit that their organization is very effective at connecting and using data from multiple sources to drive business value.  Over half (54%) of LoB users are either "very" or "somewhat" frustrated by how challenging it can be to stitch together disparate IT systems, applications, and data to drive new business value.  A majority (59%) of the same LoB users also agree that an inability to connect systems, applications and data will negatively impact the customer experience -- a fundamental prerequisite for business success.

Most (60%) respondents admit that failure to overcome challenges associated with connecting IT systems, apps, and data will also hinder automation initiatives. Digital transformation, innovation, and growth are enabled by automation. But automation projects have a high dependency on access to quality and accurate data across the enterprise. An overwhelming majority (80%) agree that if data and IT capabilities were discoverable and available in pre-packaged building blocks, LoB employees could create solutions and deliver digital projects more quickly.

According to the report, connectivity between IT systems, applications, and data lies at the heart of the innovation challenge for organizations and LoB users. Most (54%) are frustrated by the difficulty of achieving seamless connectivity with current approaches and acknowledge that this will crucially impact business growth, customer experience, and automation initiatives.

The report concludes with the following recommendations for business and IT leaders: 

  1. A Customer for Enablement Center can help democratize innovation by bringing IT and business divisions together. 
  2. Compose your operating model around reusable APIs to unlock data from systems used to improve the stakeholder experience. 
  3. Build compliance and security so that you can accelerate the pace of innovation and creation of new products and services.
  4. Focus on business outcomes. There are no IT projects, there are only business projects. 

To learn more about 'The state of business and IT innovation' report, you can visit here

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