Q&A with Gartner analyst Gene Phifer

Vice President and Distinguished Analyst, Conference Chair

QUESTION 1

What are the top priorities for today’s application leaders?

Modern application leaders must be good at juggling and keeping multiple balls in the air, while dealing with sometimes conflicting and oft-changing business priorities:

 

  • Today’s application leaders are faced with the need to keep legacy apps running, modernizing them where appropriate, while leading delivery of a new set of infrastructure and applications to support digital business. They are tasked with implementing bimodal, balancing stable, reliable Mode 1 and innovative Mode 2 activities.
  • They are asked to be thought leaders in new areas of technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), yet they struggle to keep up with the pace of technology innovation driven by the business. And with consumerization driving expectations of customer and employee experiences, application leaders deal with technologies that change almost on a daily basis.

 

QUESTION 2

The technology lines between IT and the business continue to blur. What skills does a modern application leader need to succeed in this new environment?

Application leaders are no longer limited to managing technology veterans — they also must manage a new generation of developers with very different perspectives. New tools emerge daily, and application leaders must balance the desire to use “bright shiny objects,” many of which are key to innovation, against the need for platform stability and reliability. But today’s application leader must exert leadership in and across the business. The blurring of the technology lines between IT and the business require the application leader to know when to push for ownership of a technology project versus when to lobby for an influencer role. They must be thought leaders, helping business leaders formulate technology strategies that support business strategies, and in some cases, are the business strategies. In situations where business leaders are working in silos, the application leader must influence communication, collaboration and cooperation among business leaders. Communication and influencing skills are now paramount requirements for the application leader, but good leadership is still the biggest requirement.

QUESTION 3

Why are experiences so important to application leaders? Why do application leaders need to be so focused on experiences of all kinds — including customer, employee and the user?

The regulatory landscape is always changing with new regulations and interpretations of existing regulations. Organizations need to develop new capabilities for detailed forensic analyses of cyberattacks and their consequences, and they need to balance real risks with legal and regulatory requirements — compliance does not equal security.

 

Application leaders have been focused on certain types of experiences for years; however, new types of experiences are more important than ever. Customer experience (CX) still rules the roost, and application leaders are very focused on delivering the digital experience aspects of CX. But they should be interested in the full spectrum of customer engagement — not only digital experiences, but also analog experiences. Application leaders must work with business leaders of customer engagement to aim for a unified omnichannel style of customer engagement, one where the multiple channels and devices of engagement are linked holistically. But CX isn’t the only aspect of experience upon which application leaders must focus. Employee experience (EX) has attained a much higher level of importance of late. In fact, leading organizations recognize that without good EX, you won’t achieve great CX. Another aspect of experience that application leaders must embrace is user experience (UX), whether it be user-centered design, usability testing or advanced enterprises utilizing design thinking. Finally, digital experience platforms (DXPs) are an important ingredient for delivering a variety of digital experiences to a variety of audiences.

 

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QUESTION 4

Application methodologies and tools continue to evolve at a rapid pace. What are the latest trends in application architecture, development and integration?

Microservices have become a common model of service-oriented architecture (SOA), and the use of microservices in conjunction with an API framework has become a fairly common model. In application development (AD), smart client-side technologies (e.g., JavaScript frameworks like Angular, React and Meteor) are now common, and are being used in conjunction with headless content management to deliver a new generation of powerful web applications. Mobile AD is moving beyond the traditional models of mobile web, hybrid and native apps, to an era of progressive web apps, which will become a common model within the next year. Event-driven architectures and technologies are gaining in popularity, and with the advent of IoT, will become pervasive. UX is now a forethought, no longer an afterthought, and optimization tools like A/B and multivariate testing, and methodologies like design thinking, are accelerating in adoption.

 

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