By Nick Pike, VP UK and Ireland, OutSystems
If any more evidence were needed that a fire has been lit under digital transformation, then the prediction that the enterprise mobility market will to explode to $500bn by 2020 is it. Fuelling this blaze is customer and employee demand for a seamless mobile digital experience in all aspects of their home and working lives. For businesses, it's a case of adapt or be left in the dust, as they face challenges from disruptive industry entrants and innovators. IDC predicts that, by 2020, half of the Global 2000 enterprises will see the lion's share of their businesses depending on their ability to create digitally-enhanced products, services and experiences. The deadline is short and the opportunities are huge, so why are some corporate organisations stuck at the starting gate?
Reason 1: The fear factor
Digital transformation means just what it says: fundamentally changing the way enterprises do business from top to bottom. That's a daunting prospect for many executive teams in large corporations, despite the promised rewards. While workers at the coalface of the business may be crying out for streamlined mobile business processes and apps that will make them more efficient, the drive for large scale strategic change has to come from the top. Human and financial resources need to be allocated and the whole business lined up in support of the process so that digital transformation is viewed as a strategic investment in the future competitiveness of the company, rather than an expense.
Fear can also arise from concerns that already overstretched IT departments will struggle to cope with the new demands of application development and rollout. In fact, Gartner fed this particular fear in 2015, when predicting that by the end of 2017 the demand for enterprise-grade mobile apps would have grown at least five times faster than the ability of internal IT departments to deliver them. However, in the two years since that prediction was made, the rise in rapid application development platforms has reduced the burden on IT departments and shortened the time to launch. So, this particular fear can now be faced with a degree of confidence.
Reason 2: User resistance
Large companies with employees that are used to a slower pace of life can find it hard to adapt to the speed of digital transformation. They can struggle to align vital employee education programmes with the rollout timeframe that can be achieved. It's no good having a fantastically efficient new system if users are still hankering after the legacy technology – warts and all – and struggling to embrace their new environment. Therefore, user education is a critical part of the transformation process.
OutSystems customer Aravind Kumar encountered this challenge when migrating his consulting company from a collection of 50 IBM Lotus Notes applications to a suite of new applications that were developed using the OutSystems low-code platform. He told us: "Getting people to shift their thinking was one of the greatest hurdles we had to overcome. In fact, even as we were building new applications, people were saying we should try to recreate them just as they were in Lotus Notes!"
Fortunately Aravind was able to bring his users with him on a journey to discover the efficiency and accessibility of the new applications his team had developed. The key point is that, to be successful in digital transformation, businesses need to invest in the human factor as well as in the technological expertise in order to realise the full benefits and mitigate resistance.
Reason 3: Letting the past dictate the future
Every large enterprise has a past. Unlocking information and freeing business processes from legacy IT systems can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to digital transformation. However, it is important to recognise that, as I've said before, legacy systems exist because they work – they just don't have the agility that the digital world requires. Establishing when legacy systems should be retired and when they should be incorporated into mobile business processes is a key challenge and evidence suggests that enterprises are mixing it up. A recent report by VDC research found that 53% of large organisations (organisations with >1000 employees) said that the most common development projects they worked on involved building net-new applications from the ground up; however 43% stated that they were modernising legacy applications.
The elegant solution is to find a way to leverage the legacy systems of the past without letting them crush the ambition and potential of the future. An advantage of the OutSystems low-code platform is its ability to integrate with legacy systems, even if they are unique to the customer, meaning that prior investment is not wasted.
As IDC neatly put it "Digital transformation starts with mobility. Organisations with untethered business processes and ubiquitously accessible IT resources will be better positioned to compete and thrive in the digital economy." This is why organisations need to address the challenges of fear, user resistance and integrating legacy systems to get out of the starting gate onto the competitive racetrack of digital transformation.