This article is the second in a two-part series. Read the first piece here.
In part one, we looked at the first five trends I see for DesignOps collaboration, digital innovation, AppDev and WebDev alignment, machine learning and AI making it into production in 2020. Here’s the remaining five:
Modernization will be considered alongside cloud native
Modernization efforts are often thought of — or managed — separately from new application development efforts, except where new development efforts are a complete replacement. This can be due to how organizations structure their maintenance efforts vs. new efforts, or how they separately budget for development.
As technologists, we all know how hard it is to get funding to address technical debt because that effort typically doesn’t result in new application features. But it’s important that we come up with an approach that balances modernization efforts with net new development efforts that are typically cloud native. To accomplish this, organizations might do the following:
- Organizations that want to continue deriving value from legacy systems can implement an abstraction layer to make legacy capabilities accessible through a common API
- They can shift application workloads to the cloud while keeping data in place using new connectivity constructs that aren’t difficult to implement and don’t require risky firewall and network reconfiguration
- Once the abstraction is in place, organizations can refactor the most critical parts of applications without changing the frontend apps by using a backend redirection to update capabilities
One simple way to ensure that modernization is factored into new AppDev is to think about modernization in the context of integration. Since most new AppDev efforts aren’t standalone, think about what modernization stages need to happen to integrate the new efforts with existing systems.
Organizations will start treating all users like customers
We all know that customer expectations for improvements to user experience are rising, but how does that relate to apps targeted toward employees and partners?
Employees and partners have the same expectations as customers. We’re also seeing new professionals that are not only digital natives, but also digital experts. We’re past the era where only IT experts dictate what apps and technology could be used. With the introduction of cloud and SaaS, people can — and will — bypass IT experts if they aren’t getting what they want, which can lead to another set of issues.
Leading organizations are taking note and are employing different approaches to ensure that employees and partners get consumer-grade experiences, such as:
- Applying DesignOps to internal initiatives as well as usability and constant optimization to the user experience
- Using a marketing mentality similar to managing customer conversions to ensure that employees can successfully complete actions that are supported by digital technology
- Applying personalization to employee and partner experiences based on needs, which helps to better manage a multi-generational workforce as well as cater towards individual preferences that will drive efficiency and productivity
- Designing customer experiences that are horizontally integrated across different digital touchpoints — omnichannel experiences — that are vertically supported or integrated with employee and partner experiences. For example, customer interactions that take place over an integrated web, mobile and chat experience are integrated appropriately into employee and partner systems to analyze and report on the customer activity and help ensure the right level of human support
Data access and APIs will be used to break down tech silos
Applications that don’t support modern API constructs to provide useful capabilities that are not accessible to new application workloads still exist. It used to be time consuming and expensive to code around these limitations. But with the introduction of data integration patterns that establish standard SQL and REST-style interfaces without writing code, this greatly increases the ability to access application capabilities as well as important data sources.
This not only makes legacy data more accessible, but it also makes new data types like JSON and XML accessible to business intelligence (BI) and reporting that are based on SQL access. Not only can organizations breakdown silos between operational and transactional applications, they can also break them down between operational and transactional applications and their BI and reporting efforts.
This becomes interesting when we get to the point where we don’t think of these different application patterns separately. For example, we don’t think of reporting and BI as something that happens after the transactional applications use operations such as periodic reporting. Rather, we think about how reporting and BI is integrated using advanced analytics in real time to guide the transactional application experience.
Whether we are using predictive capabilities and providing guidance within the application or using predictive capabilities to act on behalf of the user so that the user interacts in a fluid and exception-based pattern, the elimination of these silos can have a tremendous business impact.
IoT and mobility will force organizations to rethink the edge
We typically think about edge computing from an IoT perspective, where we have use cases that require processing either on the actual device or on the network edge that’s closer to the device.
I’d argue that we’ve long since thought about architecture with regards to proximity, and that edge computing predates technologies such as IoT and smart sensors. Given the limitations of network speed, we are careful to place application functionality close to the data.
We use intelligent caching on the device or on the network edge to eliminate roundtrips and network chatter. We design and manage data to address the vagaries of data residency required for international business. We also design levels of abstraction, virtualize data and use data pipelines to shield frontend developers and applications from data complexity.
While everyone is racing to the cloud, it’s important to continue to think about the edge; not only in the context of supporting IoT, but in the broader context of supporting distributed computing.
Another interesting factor is 5G. You would think that with network speeds 10x faster than 4G, 5G would negate the need for processing at the edge. But when it comes to the potential life and death consequences relating to data processing delays in the medical field, or the ability to automate automobiles or smart factories, there will be a need for processing at the edge. As a result, it is expected that mini or micro-data centers will be added to nearby cell towers.
While there is no single architecture pattern that makes sense for all use cases, it’s clear that organizations that are focused on faster data processing and reducing latency with 5G will have an advantage when it comes to improving customer and user experiences.
Organizations will align business and technology efforts more effectively
Perhaps it is a reaction to the philosophy of “every company is or should be a software or technology company”, or pressure from the board and executive team to keep up with the pace of technology, there is a vital need to align business and technology efforts in a substantial way.
Businesses and IT can learn from each other in terms of the planning process. As many businesses have implemented some form of periodic planning mechanisms, such as OKRs and Kanban, IT has become more agile in developing short-term plans, and are becoming more adept at taking small increments, adopting minimum viable product or moving towards continuous delivery of capabilities and features.
Leading organizations will determine how to marry these different approaches and drive corporate objectives by creating a structured set of goals for each discipline. They will take a holistic view of how technology can help drive those goals by analyzing how digital technology can be used in every business discipline.
This analysis will bring together key business and technical leaders to determine the potential digital projects that are then prioritized by business impact and success feasibility. This periodic planning will be supported by more agile updates and modifications to the overall corporate goals and high-level activities, based on changes to market and business conditions.
Some organization will identify KPIs that flow up from actual customer and user experience by extending traditional infrastructure and application management to providing a customer or user-centric viewpoint. These KPIs are then measured and used as part of the overall approach to execute company goals.
So, hang on to your hats, folks. 2020 is going to be an interesting year.
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