CIOs experience a strong pull from the business for new applications, creating a backlog of opportunity.
The demand for new tools, new ways of working, and the latest services to offer customers is causing an application delivery backlog in enterprises. This challenge is a nice problem to have, as it demonstrates the place technology inhabits within an organization, that of being the enabler of new methods. As a result, business technology leaders have had to find new ways of dealing with application backlogs.
"I am much more involved in the conversations with the leadership, and it feels like a partnership," says Debbie Baird, IT leader for Taranata Group, a recruitment services provider of the change that IT has undergone. "You are now central to the business, as everyone discovered last year, and there is much more awareness of how dependent on technology the business is."
"Covid-19 has brought to the fore the reliance on technology teams, whether they are in-house or external," says Mat Mallett, COO with charity Cancer Central. "It is a really positive shift," adds Baird. With technology now better understood by the organization, both business technology leaders report that the application backlog that exists in many enterprises is as a result of the organization demanding more technological ways to carry out its tasks.
"The workforce on the ground have always understood the need for technology, but that is now percolating up to their directors as they begin to understand what technology teams can deliver and what a change they can make to the business," says Mallett of how new methods are being adopted and created a demand on technology teams to deliver new applications.
Both business technology leaders add that the challenge is to define the prioritization of application development and delivery.
"In some organizations, it comes down to which departments will make the most money," Baird says. Mallett agrees: "In commercial organizations, it is always about the profit lines and in a sense, that makes it real easy, as you are all on the same page. In government, it is about how will this serve everyone? It is political, and it is complex, and the number of people that have to be involved in these decisions is phenomenal as there are areas of the decision-making process that I would never have thought about."
No matter the vertical market, the CIO Talks panel agrees that application backlogs are now the result of the business pulling on the IT team for more technology, whereas in the past, it was the technology department pushing new ideas forwards.
This is not to say that life is now really easy for business technology leaders as they sit back and wait for demand; both business leaders reveal there continue to be governance and implementation challenges, whether the application backlog is driven by demand or IT pushing forwards a change.
Baird says an application backlog can lead to shadow IT surfacing, and both tell CIO Talks it is vital to have strong lines of communication into the business as to why the backlog exists - perhaps for data security or governance reasons - or that the business already has a platform in place that can deliver the services their team requires.
"As the custodians of the technology environment, it is not a case of stopping people coming through; it is to stop the wrong people following them through," Mallett says of the analogy he uses to remind business colleagues that the same security and governance protocols of their physical business exist in the technology development and usage.
The COO and experienced CIO adds that an architectural view of the technology estate is highly valuable at these times.
"As business consumption of IT increases, the complexity and demand increases, naturally. But we do need an overarching view of the technology estate," he says. As well as the architectural blueprint, both technology leaders add that regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from the European Union provide CIOs with a strong standard from which to manage application delivery.
"GDPR has aided that partnership with the rest of the business, and it helped people come to terms with why it is important, and they see you and IT as a partner," Baird adds. The threat of fines or loss of business reputation is too high. Mallett adds: "It has made a massive difference as there is now the ability to see the connections between the dots and the integrations required."
The Need for Integration
Integration is where business technology leaders often find that bottlenecks appear and cause friction with the teams demanding new applications. Application development platforms provide CIOs and CTOs with an easier path towards integration.
"In the oil and gas industry, I worked in an organization that had 64 instances of SAP. If I had had these applications then, it would have made my job so much less painful," Mallett says. "The way they are designed means it is easy for users to understand how they work, and they can then see the value," adds Baird.
"From a business perspective, it's a great advantage as there is a faster time to market, and you can deliver or fail at the lowest cost," Mallett says of how the application development tools enable business innovation.
To learn more about how to tackle your backlog and better prioritize app development and delivery, join me in the latest CIO Talks, Banish The Application Backlog, now available on-demand.