1. The application economy means IT capabilities have become one of the business’ defining competitive differentiator.
2. Performance insight matters more than ever.
3. Many organizations’ software development processes, supporting technology and employee incentivization or behaviors have not been designed to cope with today’s intense demands.
4. Time-to-market matters more than moderate cost savings.
Search the term “Digital Transformation” on Google.com, and it returns more than 29 million results–and it’s not surprising why. There’s a revolution taking place in the relationship between the customer and the enterprise based on the exponentially increasing promise that technology offers.
How organizations embrace the acceleration of technology adoption, represented most clearly by The Internet of Things (IoT), will define their performance in the application economy. Many businesses recognize this. A 2014 CIO survey by Deloitte revealed that 47% of respondents were piloting, implementing and adopting digital/multi-channel initiatives, just 1% less than those with analytics/big data programs. That’s startling enough–but the fact that digital didn’t feature at all in the 2013 CIO research makes this even more so.
This revolution offers huge potential for the savvy companies who deliver a consistent, holistic customer experience whether it is in-person at a bank branch or retail outlet, over the phone to a call center, or via a mobile app being consumed on the go. Get this right and customers will directly and indirectly share huge insights into their preferences and purchasing habits. Get it wrong and the rate of the customer attrition can be rapid, with little chance to win that disaffected audience back. Digital transformation is a huge topic, but for now, let’s focus on a couple of major challenges.
Time-to-market matters more than moderate cost savings. For many years, IT was seen by many in the business as a cost center, and not a revenue generator. The last 15 years or so have transformed this view, but the rise of the application economy means IT capabilities, and specifically the creation of a world-class software delivery engine has now become one of–if not the–defining competitive differentiator.
Everything is connected–each business partner you add creates another dependency. For example, a loyalty club card member will expect a seamless transition between their own account and the rewards program catalog, which may be outsourced to a third party, as a number of hotel chains do. To the customer, they are one and the same–all your brand. The integrations and security challenges behind the scenes to deliver this unified experience can be significant.
Performance insight matters more than ever. The recent Black Friday coverage highlighted how peak periods of online purchasing remain a challenge. Demand volumes are only one part of the picture–then there’s the platform issue. How do you ensure that Android, iOS and BlackBerry users all have a quality experience, whether they are accessing an app via free Wi-Fi in a coffee shop or via data roaming in the countryside?
What do all of the above have in common? The Software Delivery Lifecycle (SDLC) plays a major part in the successful implementation of all of these topics: the idea to revenue timeline; API integration; and de-risking application performance.
Put simply, many organization’s software development processes, supporting technology and employee incentivization or behaviors have not been designed to cope with today’s intense demands for continuous delivery, zero defect user performance expectations, and the consistency of interactions via one channel (such as a tablet app) with another channel (such as in-store).
Here are a few questions to bear in mind when reviewing your own organization’s SDLC.
- Where do the constraints currently exist? Consider if access to mainframe test environments, test data management or access to third-party systems limit speed of development for example.
- How can application quality be improved despite all the dependencies? Look at how integration testing can be done earlier in the SDLC, and “fail fast and fail often”–as we all know, fixing those defects earlier costs much less than in production.
- Could the release process be automated further? Automated build, configuration management and versioning tools are already being adopted, but how can you avoid excessive scripting, which can still result in human errors.
- How easily can application performance metrics be captured and remedial action taken? So your app is live, but consumption is never exactly as expected–how can you address delays, pre-empt slowdowns due to high usage or address functionality that is performing poorly?
Making a successful Digital Transformation journey involves many components–from reviewing the SDLC, to evaluating the impact of Agile as a development methodology, and establishing how the collaborative aspects of DevOps can improve traditional siloed views on who owns what, and how continuous delivery of quality applications can be achieved. Today’s “Digital Leaders” are balancing all of these variables to create new revenue streams and business models that can take advantage of our increasingly connected world.