Delivering in the digital economy: Why IT must cross the app-delivery chasm

We are in the midst of a digital transformation. Businesses have a more urgent need for new applications that help differentiate themselves, streamline operations, and effectively engage connected customers.

Such sentiments continue to grow in awareness, and were recently reflected in a global survey of nearly 500 IT and business professionals, commissioned by Mendix.

But more importantly, the research revealed a growing app-delivery chasm facing enterprise IT as an alarming 71% of IT teams said they weren’t equipped to handle growing demand from the business for custom applications.

>See also: The four mobile application development stumbling blocks to avoid

The outcome is growing backlogs and lacklustre project performance, with nearly three-quarters of respondents failing to consistently deliver on-time, meet business requirements and generate quantifiable business value.

Demand for custom applications

The survey found that business demand for custom applications is surging as organisations look to build new apps that help them stand out from the competition, capitalise on new business opportunities, and deliver more engaging customer experiences. 

In light of these needs, it should not be surprising that customer-facing apps and mobile apps are in high demand, cited by 69% and 75% of respondents respectively. 

What’s interesting is that 68% of organisations with a mobile development agenda are prioritising multi-device, multi-channel apps over standalone mobile or tablet apps. 

This reflects a growing recognition that mobile must be integrated with other channels and back-end processes to deliver a unified experience for both customers and employees.

But sheer demand for systems of engagement is just the start. In addition to needing more apps, businesses are expecting shorter turnarounds, requesting more changes more often, and looking to increase their overall involvement in app delivery projects.

This heightened sense of urgency reflects the growing market and competitive pressures many organisations face, which are driving the need to innovate at a much quicker pace. 

Struggling to keep pace

How are IT teams responding to these growing business demands? Unfortunately, not well.

With resources as tight as ever — and most earmarked towards “keeping the lights on” —  output is stagnant. IT teams aren’t delivering any more applications than they were a year ago, which means growing demand is translating to growing backlogs. 

Overall, 82% of respondents reported having a backlog, while 89% of those were unable to reduce their backlog year over year.

On top of that, IT teams aren’t doing particularly well delivering on the projects they do pursue. On average, nearly three-quarters of companies are failing to consistently meet key project success criteria, including delivering on time, meeting business requirements and generating quantifiable business value.

With the pace of change accelerating, time to market is particularly crucial to staying ahead of the competition. Yet, 68% of respondents said it takes quarters or years to deliver new apps, while 76% need months or more just to process basic change requests. 

What are the factors contributing to this lacklustre project performance? For starters, an overwhelming majority of IT respondents cited unnecessary infrastructure concerns as a distraction from application development. And these distractions came in the form of three main complaints.

The most common issues include a lack of availability of required development tools, an inability to create and share working prototypes for end-user feedback, and a lack of integrated deployment environments, cited by three-quarters of respondents. 

The lack of proper development environments means that IT teams must prioritise system needs over business needs and ultimately spend less time focused on solving the business problems at hand. 

In addition, 78% of companies lack sufficient tools for enabling business-level developers to build apps and more directly participate in the app delivery process. This means that traditional programmers continue to bear the brunt of the development work, which is another important reason for the disparity between demand and delivery. 

Crossing the app-delivery chasm

It’s clear that business demand for customer-facing and mobile apps is significantly outpacing IT’s ability to deliver. And this app-delivery chasm will only become more pronounced unless something changes. 

>See also: The emergence of the app-based network

The business is under greater pressure than ever before, and IT has an opportunity to take charge and be the heroes behind innovation. 

However, innovation is not easy. It requires speed and agility, and the willingness to “fail fast” through a test-and-learn approach. 

Customers are demanding more, markets are changing rapidly and there are more competitors fighting for market share. Without the right development approach, IT cannot effectively deliver in the new digital economy. 

To survive and thrive, it is crucial that IT teams cross this chasm. Delivering game-changing applications will set a team apart, but also save a company from being disrupted by the Uber of that industry.


Sourced from Gottfried Sehringer, Mendix

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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