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The software-defined business

Are we fast approaching an era of software-defined business processes where specialist tools help deliver the agility that modern business requires? Some analysts believe so. Here's how CIOs must respond.
Marc Andreessen declared in 2011 that software was eating the world. This trend has seen firms such as Amazon and Netflix redefine how businesses interact with customers and is now spreading across all sectors of business and into the internal infrastructure of enterprise IT.

Businesses like Airbnb and Uber use software apps - whether running on laptops or mobiles - to create direct relationships with users. Rather than relying on traditional intermediaries for renting flats or hailing taxis, these digital upstarts engage directly with consumers and create huge disruption in terms of customer service.

Meanwhile, CIOs at traditional firms must wake up to the power of digital transformation. Researcher IDC suggests blue-chip businesses will be trounced unless they understand the combined role of cloud, mobile, and big data- yet this is no small task as these technologies are in an almost continual state of flux.

Any firm that rests on its laurels is likely to find its market share erodedby fleet-of-foot entrepreneurs. To succeed in the modern, digitally enabled world, businesses must be flexible and have an agile IT platform that is capable of supporting rapid change.

CIOs will play a crucial role. There are two keys to their success: first, they must understand how digital technology can be used to serve customers in new and surprising ways; and second, they must create an agile, enterprise IT platform to support these innovative ideas. For the latter, the answer is once again provided by software.

IT leaders need specialist software tools to change how the technology department engages with its end users and how, in turn, those customers use hardware resources. This trend is described by analyst Gartner as 'software-defined everything', where CIOs use agile programming to deliver the flexibility required by digital business.

According to Gartner, computing must move away from static to dynamic models. As the business identifies new project demands, IT teams must concentrate on developing models and code to dynamically assemble and configure all the various hardware elements - such as networks, servers and storage - as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

These automatically provisioned resources will be the building blocks for a new, way of doing business where software is at the centre of all communications and interactions. The successful firm of the future must embrace this new model - or risk putting their business at peril.

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