The pandemic brought digitization to the forefront at most organizations. Within the past 12-18 months, rising user expectations and new digital demands beckoned most groups to double down on IT to lead innovation. As a result, we’re now seeing unprecedented parity between IT and business units — and what’s more — senior leadership is on board. So, in a post-COVID world, what will be the key factors to sustain this digital acceleration?
Within this rapidly advancing economy, we’re seeing a big uptick in automation applied to application development and ongoing operations. Also, the need to connect various systems and databases highlights integration as a top concern. Across tools that enable these goals, low-code/no-code interfaces continue to unlock a new class of citizen developers. Such abstraction layers could make more advanced abilities, such as event-driven workflows, data science, and AI more readily available for business units to leverage. However, without the proper security and governance, these initiatives fall flat.
A recent Mulesoft report compares the alignment of IT and business on critical IT trends. The study reinforces that IT has taken center stage for accelerating modern business innovation. Below, I’ll highlight the report’s takeaways to extrapolate on current drivers for IT-led business. I also snagged some soundbites from thought leader Matt McLarty, Global Leader API Strategy, Mulesoft. To McLarty, the key is to think in composable terms. Master that, and the net results are enhanced productivity, efficiency, and reusability.
1. IT & Business Alignment
To stay relevant in an accelerating economy, organizations must act fast. 78% of organizations say improving business agility will be extremely important to remain competitive, as opposed to 68% pre-pandemic. Reaching these goals requires better alignment between IT and business. “The past year has brought IT’s role in business to the forefront,” said McLarty.
Fortunately, 87% of IT and business leaders feel the alignment between IT and business groups has improved over the past year. IT and business decision-makers say this union is producing tangible benefits in the form of enhanced collaboration, better operational efficiency, improved customer experiences, and more innovation.
In a remote-only world, digital experiences soared, and business became highly dependent upon IT. As a result, 88% of respondents believe IT has become even more important to drive business outcomes. “In digitally transforming organizations, the line between IT and business becomes more blurry,” said McLarty, “so IT needs to think with a business mentality first, and this is evidence that that’s happening.”
Another top driver is automation; it’s becoming more necessary for all organizations to deliver faster. Automation is especially critical for small to medium businessess that may lack the engineering know-how to iterate swiftly. Increased automation could help avoid burnout among software development teams and empower non-technical folks. “The more business people can be engaged in automation initiatives, the more business value they can generate by automating higher yield business activities,” said McLarty.
Nearly all companies have already applied some form of automation. 93% of companies have implemented or are in the process of implementing automation initiatives to improve connected customer experiences. In the coming year, IT and business leaders report improving operational efficiency to be their top priority. Continued ubiquity of automation will be core to seeing that materialize.
3. Integration & APIs
The average business uses over 120 apps, found an Okta study. In reality, this number could be higher, as employees, now working from home, adopt their own tools. Integration is a well-needed glue to connect the growing number of cloud-based apps, DevOps tools, and data sources.
Furthermore, the need to automate necessitates deep programmable control. Thus, an overwhelming majority believe integration can help their organization reach its business objectives. 91% of organizations believe integration can accelerate the speed and efficiency of the business and IT.
“I’m seeing an explosion of interest in automation, and the numbers in the report support this trend,” said McLarty. “Automation is driving a lot of the need for integration.”
To enable integrations, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have become the defacto method of connection. Most APIs traverse the web over HTTP to expose platforms or connect backend processes. 89% of IT and business decision-makers agree that reusable building blocks like APIs make uniting disparate systems, apps, and data, easier.
In case you missed it, low-code/no-code has been in the headlines a lot recently. This style involves visual-based programming models that help professional programmers automate application development. Some no-code platforms even allow non-tech folks to join in on the fun.
86% of respondents say empowering business users to create connected experiences with low-code/no-code tools would improve business outcomes. “There is an appetite for business people to get hands-on with creating automations and integrations,” said McLarty.
5. Artificial Intelligence
Although not explicitly mentioned in the Mulesoft study, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is undoubtedly a driver for IT-led business in a post-COVID future. Similar to the rise of low-code usage, there is growing interest in making AI more palatable to the business user class. Democratizing access to AI for business units could enable “citizen data scientists” to automate data processing and machine learning, aiding analysts to swiftly respond to trends in data.
6. Security & Governance
In today’s integrated digital landscape, the possibility of leaking an API credential or exposing a development environment is a genuine concern. Thus, 73% of IT and business decision-makers say that integrating previously disparate systems increases their concerns around security and governance.
87% of business leaders and IT leaders are concerned that security and governance are slowing the pace of innovation. This is particularly heightened in sensitive areas, like healthcare and life sciences.
A breach or broken data regulation could inhibit overall progress. Thus, a strong security and governance culture is undoubtedly needed to help mitigate potential vulnerabilities and meet data compliances. Only then can an organization meet the above IT objectives.
Many of these trends intersect to create what some incumbents term the composable enterprise. This is essentially a reimagining of core IT foundations to be composed of reusable, API-first components.
“Composability comes from unbundling the business capabilities in your organization using APIs and other digital connectors, allowing you to build these new experiences, products, and automations more quickly,” says McLarty. “The real magic of composability is that it lets your organization solve pressing challenges today while simultaneously laying a foundation for the future.”
IT Takes Center Stage; Business Directs
IT has taken center stage, but we must not let it roam free in the dark. Technology should always follow the business spotlight. As McLarty explains:
“It’s more important than ever to zero in on what outcomes those initiatives are going to help deliver. How will customer experience improve as a result? How will developer productivity increase? How will customer support resolution times be reduced?”
The new normal has set higher sights for both application development and end-user experiences. Now that we’ve reached this new normal, things won’t be going back to the way they were.
One promising sign is that IT and business alignment appears to be well-sanctioned, without obstruction from higher-ups. “I do find it striking that only 4% needed a push from senior leadership,” said McLarty. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”
“For IT leaders — CIOs, CTOs, CDOs — it is vital that they stay focused on business outcomes, and look at underlying technologies as enablers rather than their endgame.”
Further Reading on IT
Mulesoft’s IT and business alignment barometer report surveyed 2,400 IT and business decision-makers across the globe. For deeper insights, consider checking it out here.