Gazing into the Crystal Ball: Top 10 Trends for 2014 (Part 3)

Trend #3: IT Modernization for Digital Enterprises: Think Big, Think Digital…but Start Small

I am returning from a very exciting Gartner BPM Summit in London. The main theme of the conference was Digital Businesses for the Big Changes that are coming. Businesses need to re-invent themselves. The nexus of digitization technologies are already having a profound effect on businesses: social, mobile, cloud and actionable analytics of big data. The other forces of digitization now include the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart machines. But most importantly, this new era is not solely about a hodge-podge of these increasingly popular “digitization” technologies, but the transformational digitalization (Gartner’s term) of enterprises. The transformation is where the virtual world meets the physical world (e.g. connected systems, humans, and smart machines or devices in ever increasing adaptation for change). New IT digital architectures as well as digitalization roles are emerging to realize the potential of the big changes. The potential for business innovation through digitalization is huge. More importantly, digital enterprises will be able to continuously adapt with intelligent next-best-action in a given situation.

Such an evolution brings me to this third trend for the digital enterprise: Modernization through the digitalization of IT architectures.  As many of the Gartner Summit presenters emphasized, this digitalization trend is disruptive; it encourages innovation. At its core it’s about modernization – and survival.

Business has to change. IT also has to change.

Business has to change. IT also has to change. In many enterprises, the mish-mash of different applications, development languages, platforms, home-grown and point solutions are simply unsustainable. Keeping these systems afloat conflicts with the modern digital business environment, as current systems now demand adaptability and relevance in a continuously adapting digital world. In fact, some enterprises are finding their technology environment is just unwieldy. One of the negative effects is that business disappointment has led to the rise of “Shadow IT” where business units are acquiring applications (often on the cloud) without involving formal IT channels.

Reason needs to prevail, leading to our third key trend for 2014 to rethink the technology landscape, especially for the emergence of robust IT digital architectures. Rationalizing application portfolios, then simplifying with fewer data centers, platforms, and applications improves IT efficiency and aligns business and IT. Modernizing applications with digitalization addresses the very core of the complexity challenge by enabling IT and business to rapidly respond to the need for change in this emerging coalescence (alliance) of the “Virtual” and the “Real.”

The key to rationalization, simplification and modernization is intelligent business process management (iBPM), which empowers enterprises to achieve the full potential of intelligent business operations, in an increasingly digitalized world.  iBPM is the sweet spot for this trend, as it provides an agile application platform that wraps existing legacy solutions with intelligent, responsive digitalized processes. It also provides the ideal platform for Process of Everything - which we will cover in the next Trend. 

Because iBPM uses model-driven development as the way to create and implement new solutions, business can successfully collaborate with IT. In essence, iBPM becomes the “lingua franca” between these organizations and the main enabler of the digital enterprise. Some organizations have taken empowering the business a step further so that the business—as opposed to IT—“owns the change”. In other words, business can change policies, procedures and decision strategies within processes without having to rely on IT to get things done.

With iBPM, digital enterprises can view rationalization, simplification and digital modernization as a journey, with incremental steps towards full deployment of iBPM solutions. Some existing applications may survive as systems of record with iBPM-driven processes on top to shield users from the complexity of working with these older and rigid systems. Others can be retired over time with new iBPM-powered applications providing complete visibility into the business logic, enabling fast and easy change. Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the rationalization, simplification and modernization effort, enterprises do not need to embark on enormous and risky “big bang” projects for the big change (digitalizaton) that is coming. With iBPM, the mantra can—and always should be—“think big, think digital…but start small.”