Rapid Transformation: The Evolution of the IT and Business Relationship

Rapid Transformation: The Evolution of the IT and Business Relationship

Charlie ThompsonArea Vice President for UK, Ireland, and Middle East at Appian

The need for business agility, spurred by COVID, is causing IT to forge a new role based on its ability to deliver organizational resilience. The CIO and business relationship is transforming because of increasing IT complexity and booming demand from a broader range of stakeholders. The past 18 months brought to light many new challenges for CIOs, from business continuity during the shift to remote working, to launching new digital customer engagement channels to meet evolving demand. What’s more, the rapid digital transformation shift has increased siloes across businesses, while at the same time shining a harsh light on IT system shortcomings.

To prepare for future growth, businesses need the right combination of technologies and collaboration. The Economist Intelligence Unit, supported by Appian, explored the extent to which different divisions of businesses are currently working together, to better understand the route forward. The global survey and a series of in-depth interviews with IT and business decision-makers (BDMs) at major corporations, found that more than four in five respondents globally (83%) and 89.2% in the UK, believe that their organization needs to improve IT infrastructure and applications to be able to weather future shocks. It’s clear there’s considerable work to do. With the dust settling after the initial rush of rapid transformation, now businesses need to focus on recovery and agility, and for this IT teams must stay relevant and provide long term resilience.

The changing role of IT leaders

IT isn’t what it used to be. Most IT leaders understand their role is changing, and that this is deeper than just the tech itself.  IT teams used to have control over their organizations’ digital infrastructure and strategy, but that is slipping. In fact, at more than half the companies surveyed globally (55%), business units already do more than IT to procure or develop new applications.

At the same time, backlogs are growing, and increasingly work is spilling into non-IT development to meet the business demand for new apps. When asked about the average number of months that projects have been on backlog over the past year, 12% of IT decision-makers (ITDMs) across the UK and Europe report delays of more than a year, compared to 10% of their business counterparts.

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BDMs are also more likely than ITDMs to perceive ownership over critical systems to be equally shared by IT and non-IT departments, which shows a clear tension over IT’s role. To help everyone see the bigger picture of collaboration, growth and successful digital transformation, roles and responsibilities need clearer delineation aside from crude IT/non-IT battlelines.

Identifying the gaps

Even as countries start to manage COVID-19 through vaccination programs, we won’t see the end of disruptions any time soon. Threats to business continuity aren’t going away. Whether it’s climate change-related extreme weather events or international trade disputes, there will always be factors that will have big implications for business operations and customer demand patterns.

Respondents to the survey from the UK have clear views on where improvements are most needed to address these eventualities. In particular, there is more work to be done on changing systems and processes quickly (68%).  Integrating information and workflows across the organization and using technology to adapt to changes in customer needs and expectations quickly tie for second place, with both cited 66%. Supporting remote workers comes in third place (65%).

When looking at what tools and technologies need to be implemented to improve workflow, collaboration and efficiency, respondents across the region see artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning as most important to their prospects over the next year, with cloud computing in second place. Automation comes in third on the list, with data science and analytics in fourth place.

The need for AI and RPA for fast solutions

Global business leaders recognize automation technologies as pivotal in improving agility, collaboration and workflow across an organization. Nevertheless, implementing these solutions isn’t always straightforward. In fact, 71% report that relatively few of their applications have AI and/or machine learning capabilities, and 57% report that robotic process automation (RPA) projects often fail. The rate of failure among respondents in the UK was actually worse than the global average (65% versus 57%). And the number of people in the UK who said they had to cancel a digital business project because the intended app couldn’t access the right data, was also higher than average (55% versus a survey average of 54%).

For those looking for a more successful, less chaotic way of rolling out a suite of automated IT solutions, hyperautomation is a valuable approach as it makes use of automation technologies that can coordinate different activities, such as RPA and AI. Hyperautomation can help by combining several technologies with people and data in a single workflow. In essence, it is complete automation at speed.

Hyperautomation also allows for faster application authorship using low code, a visual approach to software development. It reduces the reliance on traditional coding by developers, and abstracts and automates the application development lifecycle. With low-code, teams can collaborate on application projects irrespective of whether they have a technology background or not.

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The rise of low-code

Low-code emerges when technology projects are a communal pursuit. Following the past 18 months, IT is now expected to be faster, produce increased outputs and clear existing backlogs. And they have to do this with a level of quality that surpasses the level of the pre-COVID era. But the dispersion of employees and enterprise data makes this more difficult.

Often, technology planning takes place outside of the IT team. It’s logical that all parties align and come together to work alongside each other to produce solutions that work for the entire business. That’s why the speed and unification delivered by low-code is so urgently needed. A critical aspect of the CIO’s changing mandate is promoting collaboration between digital projects and business goals.

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Charlie Thompson has been Area Vice President for UK, Ireland, and Middle East at Appian for two and a half years, and following strong leadership and outstanding success, Charlie’s Area Vice President responsibilities have recently further expanded to the DACH and Northern Europe regions.