How to deliver a breakthrough application

In just a few short years, the notion of breakthrough has gone from marketing hype to business essential. Numerous factors are driving breakthrough to ‘must have’ status. The market drivers are both top down (demanding business requirements) and bottom up (end-user demands).

IT breakthroughs are increasingly required for an organisation just to stay competitive, let alone get ahead. Federal Express unveils logistics transparency to see where your shipment is, anywhere in the world in real-time.

Logistics transparency is a transformational technology that enables reliable just-in-time operations across every industry. Logistics companies that lack this breakthrough are marginalised.

Application success often pivots on user adoption. Yet users exposed to consumer-level breakthroughs cannot understand why enterprise applications pale by comparison. If the users do not embrace it, applications underperform or outright fail.

What makes an application breakthrough?

No one needs to do an ROI calculation on a breakthrough solution – the impact is obvious. No one needs to create programs to drive adoption. Did anyone go through the iPhone adoption program? Do people camp out overnight waiting to be the first to use a new enterprise solution? If it’s a breakthrough, people embrace it and the business impact can be huge.

Breakthroughs come from changed actions. If you want to change outcomes or results, you need to change actions. Breakthrough IT solutions deliver optimisation action-at-a-time.

How do you get a breakthrough in customer service? You optimise service one customer at a time. How do you get breakthroughs in healthcare? You improve both care and health, one patient at a time.

>See also: The rise of no-code enterprise applications

Unmet needs abound. Unmet needs are usually well known but seemingly lack a feasible solution. The need for logistics transparency was obvious but it required tracking each package in real-time across the globe.

Of course, breakthrough, personalised customer service would be great, but it requires sifting through vast amounts of data to deliver just the morsels required to improve service in the moment.

The top five advanced technology capabilities that application breakthroughs require.

1. Mobile solutions

People have always been mobile – the rush to mobile is accelerating with better technologies and economics. Every FedEx truck needed mobile applications to track package movement. You personalise the customer experience by servicing where they are, not by making them stand in line.

2. Strategic interoperability

Breakthrough solutions are usually data intense and commonly need information across IT siloes. Integrating silos is a monumental endeavour. Strategic interoperability provides the breakthrough of quick and easy virtual integration.

3. Big data

The dirty little secret that has become big is that business runs on a fraction of available data. Just the data in digitised documents and email is huge but only minimally used in the transactional systems that run the business.

The breakthrough is to understand unstructured information, such as text, and then harvest value by combining quantitative and qualitative analytics – for example, understanding customer interactions, not just processing transactions.

4. Embedded analytics

Vast quantities of data-intense reports, charts or dashboards are a burden, not a benefit. Delivering just what you need to know – when, where and how you want it – drives a breakthrough.

The breakthrough comes from the context of relevant bites of information, not a smorgasbord of data. The breakthrough comes from online analytics delivered at the point of action, not offline data from some warehouse.

5. Active guidance

When you combine the above four capabilities, you can deliver intelligent ‘action guidance’, such as for optimised customer service or personalised medicine.

>See also: Top 10 data and analytics trends revealed by Gartner

A sophisticated information infrastructure is required to power a breakthrough application. The platform must support high volumes and high performance while providing support for mobile, strategic interoperability, big data, embedded analytics, and action guidance.

Coding such capabilities within an application is impractical – entailing huge costs and risks and taking way too long. Alternatively, using a variety of disparate technologies to support breakthrough applications would be the IT equivalent of every parent’s worst nightmare: “some assembly required”.

Is it a breakthrough?

Few end user organisations would consider building a custom ERP (enterprise resource planning) system today. Similarly, with the demanding requirements for a breakthrough solution, breakthrough solutions will be primarily vendor products. But how can organisations assess whether a vendor product will deliver the promised breakthrough?

Breakthrough applications are all about changing actions. Legacy applications were judged on managing data while breakthrough applications are judged on driving actions.

For example, it’s not enough to mash a lifetime of patient data into patient-centric electronic medical record, but rather the important consideration is drive optimised actions for better outcomes and results.

Further, aggregating all the customer data by itself does not improve service and may even provide a distraction at the point-of-service.

Although the industry is called ‘information technology’, the future is more about action than information. Organisations must stop evaluating systems narrowly at just the information level and instead shift their focus to optimising actions.

Breakthrough applications have become essential in every industry. Every organisation needs breakthroughs to meet the ever more demanding ‘do more for less’ challenges. Breakthroughs come from driving change, usually at the frontlines of the business.

Mobile, strategic interoperability, embedded analytics, big data and action guidance technologies will be every day requirements.

The key to evaluating breakthrough solutions is to focus on the ‘why’ more than ‘how and ‘what’. The why is the raison d'être of the investment – for what problem are we seeking a breakthrough solution?

Evaluating a breakthrough solution means starting with the end in mind to ensure that the solution delivers the breakthrough needed. Otherwise, why even deploy the system?

Sourced from Richard Currier, VP of strategic initiatives, InterSystems

Avatar photo

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...