In large organizations, IT functions are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The vast majority of budget and resources is dedicated to maintaining legacy hardware and software estates, and to managing the vital, back-office systems that the business runs on. But at the same time, there’s never been more demand from the business for digital applications and services.

The business needs these new apps and services to win, serve and retain customers, but IT has limited resources to deliver them. And with modern digital skills in short supply, new developer talent is hard, and expensive, to come by.

Decision time for IT leaders – maintain or innovate?

So, as a senior IT decision-maker, what should you do? Divert resources away from the critical back-office infrastructure and focus on delivering the new applications the business desperately needs? Or turn down requests for new applications and risk losing customers (and possibly also your developers) to more-agile, digital companies?

The obvious answer is to do neither of these things, but instead, explore a new way of working that supports both kinds of demand.

The relentless pace of technological advancement creates a flow of exciting new experiences and time-saving digital services, but in many established businesses, the opposite is true. Technology, in the form of the legacy systems, has become the enemy of innovation. While digital start-ups race ahead with game-changing new services, central IT teams are saddled with the responsibility for keeping this vital legacy estate running.

Too much pressure on IT

Analysts usually estimate this kind of work takes up 70-90% of IT time and budget. That may not have been such a problem when back-office systems were the be-all and end-all of enterprise IT. But we are now in the ‘Age of the Customer’, where the quality of the digital experience is a key factor in a customer’s decision to stay with your brand or take their business elsewhere.

“Empowered customers are shaping business strategy. Simply put, customers expect consistent and high-value in-person and digital experiences. They don’t care if building these experiences is hard or requires a complex, multifunction approach from across your business. They want immediate value and will go elsewhere if you can’t provide it.” Forrester, Lead the Customer-Obsessed Transformation.

Customer-centric digital innovation has become essential to survival, but very few IT teams have the time, budget or resources to deliver new systems of engagement that will win new customers and wow existing ones.

Low-code

Low-code means low-risk for ITV

ITV is the UK’s largest and oldest commercial television company. Created in 1955, it now broadcasts shows across a network of 15 regional licenses. For ITV, the ability to respond to digital disruption is essential.

Working in partnership with MATS, ITV established a Low-code Innovation Lab, which gave ITV the ability to launch multiple small-scale experiments, facilitated by training, mentoring and access to the MATS Low-code platform.

Ian Cottrell, ITV’s Director of Broadcast Distribution and Services, implemented a large-scale drive for operational excellence. “We felt this would allow us to experiment, to try out some of our improvement ideas. People have a huge choice, so we need to offer great customer experience and world-class quality”.


 

So for IT leaders who desperately want to help the business innovate, but feel shackled by the responsibility of maintaining a complex legacy estate, what’s the solution? Our free eBook, ‘IT in the age of the customer’ explores five potential approaches – four of which hold considerable promise, and one which innovation-oriented CIOs should aim to avoid at all costs.

1. The dual-mode approach to IT delivery

Whether you call it bimodal IT, fast IT, or two-speed IT, this is the idea that the central IT function needs to be able to operate in two different modes;

  1. “Slow and steady” – focused on ensuring the long-term reliability of core systems
  2. “Fast and agile” – focused on rapidly trialling and delivering new, customer-facing systems that enhance the customer experience.

There are many nuances to the concept of Bimodal IT, and many different ways to make it work within the organization. But it does suggest a framework in which IT can deliver more new systems of engagement – faster – without losing focus on the core systems of record that the business relies on.

2. Go ‘DevOps’ across the whole IT function

DevOps takes the principles of Agile development (building prototypes, iterating in short sprints, testing with users and gathering feedback throughout the process) and extends them across the whole technology lifecycle, from development to QA and management of live systems in production.

In a DevOps world, software applications are viewed not as complete, monolithic structures that take months or years to build, but as collections of much smaller, loosely-coupled services that can be worked upon independently and integrated back into the whole, for faster results.

3. Outsource to a new breed of IT partner

Outsourcing can deliver huge advantages in terms of cost savings in both manpower and infrastructure. It can also provide the organization with access to skills that are difficult, expensive or impractical to hire in-house.

Now, we see a new breed of partner is emerging. With business models and ways of working that enable rapid, experimental co-creation of new applications, not just with their clients, but also with their clients’ customers.

4. Empower business users to build their own apps

An interesting concept that has been gaining ground recently is the “citizen developer”. These are business users who would previously have gone to IT with ideas and requirements for new systems, but who now have tools at their disposal to build their own solutions.

The game is changing for people with the drive and understanding of what needs to be done. Low-code application development tools enable people with no formal technical skills to design, prototype, test, build and deliver working software applications that can be used to automate internal or customer-facing processes.

Identify an innovation approach

Most IT leaders will agree that if their organization is to continue to compete and win in the ‘Age of the Customer’, they must increase and accelerate the delivery of new digital applications and services. Not all approaches are suitable for every business, but CIOs should be able to identify an approach or combination of approaches that could work for their organisation and circumstances.

One thing is clear: speeding application delivery not only requires new ways of working, but also new tools. Whether you adopt bimodal IT, go DevOps across the board, work with a new breed of innovation partner, or empower your citizen developers, a Low-code application platform is an essential investment to enable more people to develop more applications, faster.