Want to be a digital enterprise? It's time to industrialise your IT
Digitalization has made enterprises more software-driven than ever, but most still build, manage and run applications in a very last-century way. Here's why it's time to industrialise your IT.
Today, every business is a digital business. No industry has escaped the impact of game-changing technologies like mobile and the cloud, and all of them now face the same twofold challenge of keeping pace with their customers' evolving expectations while maintaining or reducing the cost of their IT.
In order to stay competitive, organisations need to get innovative new products and services into their customers' hands as quickly as possible. At the same time, they rely on software to automate manual work, making their business more streamlined and cost-efficient. Being able to build, manage and run the right applications at the right time is therefore critical to success.
Despite this, most enterprises still do this in a very last-century way - the same way cars were manufactured in the 1900s and 1910s, in fact.
Developing applications is still too slow and resource-intensive
Back when the motor industry was in its infancy, cars were mostly assembled one by one. A group of skilled craftsmen would oversee the assembly of a vehicle from start to finish before moving onto the next one, which took time and resulted in an expensive product.
This is pretty much how software development works today. An application can take weeks or even months to deliver and means reinventing the wheel each time, setting up servers and managing vendors on a per-project basis. The process is slow, expensive, involves error-prone manual work and results in innovation happening in a silo.
Back before the digital revolution, it was still good enough for most enterprises. Now, though, they're ready for their Model T moment - the point at which developing applications becomes profoundly faster and more efficient, much like manufacturing cars did when the Ford Motor Company introduced its first assembly line in 1913.
What it means to industrialise IT
So, what does industrialised IT look like? At a basic level, it means adopting an end-to-end solution for application lifecycle management, automating releases and patches, and reusing components rather than creating them from scratch each time.
This will enable organisations to develop and deliver applications at the speed the market requires, and therefore roll out innovative new products and services faster, without running low on resources. For many larger enterprises, which may deploy hundreds or even thousands of applications per year, the service improvements and cost savings will be massive.
Why hasn't this happened yet?
Industrialising IT is a major undertaking, which explains why organisations haven't widely adopted this way of working yet. Perhaps most significantly, there's the burden of legacy - they may need to keep a number of pre-existing on-premise and cloud environments stable, each with different processes, policies and tools. Furthermore, they may use high-quality applications from third parties that render development from scratch unnecessary and counter-productive.
As such, any solution must be possible to integrate with legacy systems, and support a multi-vendor environment in which infrastructure, platforms and applications are supplied by a wide range of partners and developers.
The good news? Thanks to the speed, flexibility and efficiency afforded by the current generation of cloud services, all of this can theoretically be delivered today on an as-a-service basis. So, in the near future, industrialising IT will be more than just a pipe dream - it'll be a very real way for forward-thinking enterprises to leap ahead of the competition.
It'll still mean a big change for most organisations, but one that can be undertaken in small steps rather than all at once. You might choose temporarily to split your IT operating model in two, for example: the stable legacy foundation, plus a second layer for the faster development and maintenance of new software. This way, you can make quick wins while still setting the wheels in motion to industrialise your IT.
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