Covid-19 has drastically accelerated the need for digital transformation. With more people at home depending on essential services in new ways — primarily online and via apps — we’re facing a sense of urgency to optimize IT and business agility. After all, consumers today expect nearly frictionless digital experiences.
That being said, transformation initiatives often feel daunting in scope and cost. Many companies lack the patience — and frankly, the time — to spend months assessing app workloads and years carrying out transformation initiative road maps. Ironically, these initiatives often miss the mark because they do not address the business pain points that cause the need for modernization in the first place.
When we think of transformation, we tend to think of dramatic, monumental shifts. But CIOs and other company leaders desire simple and cost-efficient solutions they can bring to market quickly. Rather than boil the ocean, companies should change their operating models by making incremental improvements to business pain points first — and drastically reduce cost and time to market while doing so. The general idea is akin to Unisys’ Solution Accelerators combined with the Team of Teams modernization operating model, which prioritizes agility and the ability to be flexible in quickly adapting to business priorities.
In most cases, leaders will need to fundamentally change their thought processes around modernization and think in terms of weeks and months instead of years. To begin, perform a rapid discovery assessment to identify and understand your business pain points.
Assessing Business Friction Points
CIOs may assume they know what their pain or friction points are and point the finger at monolithic legacy applications, which have a manual and retiring workforce and contribute to significant operational overhead. Many times, the technology that is the oldest is the first to get replaced. But by rushing to modernize your legacy applications and infrastructure, you miss out on the opportunity to spend your dollars more wisely by going after the things that are actually causing the biggest problems for your business.
Instead, you may identify your main revenue friction point as one small part of your legacy application, such as your back-end customer service portal or payment processing. In this case, you can zoom in and find ways to modernize that specific friction point incrementally, rather than completely overhaul your legacy app.
By accurately identifying your business pain points, whether or not these are legacy apps, you can sharply reduce your cost and time to market. Once you have identified and isolated the pain points, you can gain competitive advantages by using what we at Unisys call “enterprise as a service” (ENaaS) to leverage and integrate (rather than building from scratch) code from cloud-native services, as well as deploy new code without disrupting business.
Employing Enterprise As A Service
When organizations undergo the process of modernization, there can be a tendency to want to reinvent the wheel, such as writing code from scratch. However, businesses can benefit greatly from employing ENaaS — the practice of incorporating existing technologies to meet modernization needs. It focuses on the granular, like creating customized accelerators and blueprints so you can approach discovery and assessment with a strong point of view and framework.
ENaaS examples include leveraging and integrating code from cloud-native services (e.g., AWS, Azure and Google Cloud) and can result in setup cost savings.
Deciding On Boundaries For Microservices
Next, you’ll want to rethink your microservice architecture not just as a domain-driven design concept, but as an extension of the blueprint. You’ll need to ask yourself questions such as: How do we segregate our offering from top to bottom so this individual microservice can run on its own? What boundaries does our product or capability require?
Containerization is an often-overlooked business friction point. If this is the case for your business, you should prioritize modernizing your container design as a cloud-agnostic solution (scaling workloads across multiple clouds), meaning that it is able to be deployed to a public or private cloud as well as an application.
In addition, pay particular attention to container orchestration to control and automate tasks. By doing so, you meet the needs of today and anticipate the environment of tomorrow.
Employing Intelligent Automation (Dev + Security + Operations Culture)
The next question becomes how to engage in intelligent automation, or the practice of continuously assessing and improving on a manageable scale. At Unisys, we refer to this type of adaptive project management approach as LeanBiz, meaning using incremental lean principles to adapt to existing project management at scale.
I suggest focusing on three main factors: continuous integration, deployment and operations/monitoring. Continuous integration refers to the common practice of maintaining, testing and scanning your source code before you release it. Continuous deployment refers to how you deploy to production without incurring an outage. And continuous operations/monitoring, which is rarely discussed but is critically important, is the idea of continuous security compliance.
Adjusting To Low- Or No-Code App Development
Lastly, low-code and no-code application development is a market that is set to explode. To keep pace, companies will need to shift their focus. Instead of hiring individuals with specific (and limited) coding language capabilities, find citizen developers who can help create a business outcome by “dragging and dropping” diverse capabilities.
At the end of the day, modernization and transformation do not have to be mammoth undertakings. By conducting a rapid business assessment to identify your true pain points, using the ENaaS framework to integrate code from cloud-native services and adjusting to low/no-code app development, you can streamline transformation initiatives, reduce business friction and avoid a costly overhaul in the process.