Gene Phifer

Gartner Distinguished VP Analyst and Conference Chair    

Application leaders face challenges from all sides. New technologies are evolving at astonishing speed. The business sees opportunity and wants to leap forward with speed and agility. Meanwhile, much of what happens day to day depends on tools and systems put in place years ago that struggle to keep up. 

At Gartner Application Strategies and Solutions Summit 2019, we explored how you can initiate change and evolve your application organization to be an effective support system to business units engaged in innovation projects.

Below are answers to some of the most pressing questions about how applications are driving business success, and how leading technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are creating compelling customer and employee experiences.

I field plenty of questions about emerging technologies, how they could impact the business and how to prepare, especially when it comes to AI, immersive technologies such as VR and AR and new methodologies such as quantum computing and digital twins. It’s imperative for application leaders to understand where these technologies are headed and how they can be used to advance the business and improve customer and employee experiences.

The pace of technology change is so incredibly fast, if you look away for a minute, the world’s different. In terms of emerging technologies, quantum computing, digital twins, AI, VR and perhaps to a lesser extent blockchain are all evolving very quickly and have great potential to disrupt as well as improve and transform the business. Packaged solutions are enabling AI and ML to really accelerate and become a bigger part of our lives, including as part of larger suites of CRM, ERP and supply chain applications.

We’ve also seen rapid progress in areas such as low code/no code application development environments, progressive web apps, and multi-experience development platforms, as well as underpinning integration technologies like APIs and microservices, such that API-centric models are now the industry standard. There are also emerging development models becoming more widespread, for example leaning into the gig economy to source new skills.

Today’s economy is driven by experiences: user, customer, employee and digital. The ability to deliver effective and compelling experiences is a mission-critical priority for the business. This means application teams have to find ways to improve employee and customer experiences with new technologies and improved UX design.

On the customer-facing end of things, we have to continue to move toward omnichannel customer experience capabilities and sophisticated personalization. Application leaders need to develop more powerful platforms for managing customer interactions, better ways to access and use customer data and more advanced analytics. You need to create environments where customers can transition smoothly between channels, devices, modalities and locations.

Employees also want environments where they can access the tools and information they need anytime, anyplace, via any device. Workplace tools need to be as easy and convenient as consumer apps. Technologies like conversational AI and virtual personal assistants have the potential to transform the workplace.

The best IT organizations empower digital product teams in the business by helping them with technology, helping them understand how AD and integration work and helping them with design and experience technologies. These groups act as advisors and guides helping those business units that are driving business transformation. IT and the parts of the business that are driving transformation need to be tightly coupled. IT has the best perspective on business process and data, and they have the inherent knowledge of technology they can bring to bear as the product teams are working to deliver a new set of digital products and services. The application leaders who want to continue to be part of innovation need to step into this role and demonstrate the value of their expertise.

Architects should be focused on building and improving the flexible architectures necessary to support the tools for agile and rapid development, including DevOps, SOA, APIs and microservices. They also need to be planning for the expansion of AI and ML, analytics and IoT initiatives as they push deeper into the business. Other ongoing priorities include optimizing their cloud and mobile strategies and renovating and modernizing legacy infrastructure and applications.

Overall, it’s about finding ways to make an impact through digital transformation that helps the business achieve its goals. We are stepping into a new era of constant transformation, where constant change is the norm, not the exception. We have to be reinventing ourselves every day, looking for the next new digital opportunity every day. You have to take innovation to a day-to-day activity. Transformation is ongoing.

Join us at Gartner Application Strategies & Solutions Summit this December as we explore the latest approaches to optimize existing applications and infrastructure as well as leading-edge technologies driving business transformation.