Mandatory Skills to Sustain Application Delivery in 2021

Application leaders should focus on resiliency and sustainability to evolve the organization to meet business needs.

If 2020 taught the world nothing else, organizations learned the vital importance of adapting to disruption. When COVID-19 halted supply chains and countries around the world phased in and out of various lockdown procedures, organizations needed to quickly shift gears to survive.

To meet the challenges of today’s world, organizations must improve the resilience and sustainability of their application platforms and architectures to continuously evolve to meet business needs.

Application leaders should focus on optimizing and refining application delivery to make it repeatable, effective and efficient

Optimizing application delivery has always been about continual evolution, but to implement digital transformations, modernize existing applications and innovate, skills in distributed architecture, integration patterns and cloud platform technologies are critical.

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“Sustainable application delivery requires architecture and platforms with effective governance, architectural dexterity and relevant skills,” says Brad Dayley, VP Analyst, Gartner.

In the coming year, application leaders should focus on optimizing and refining application delivery to make it repeatable, effective and efficient. The key is implementing continuous learning, with a focus on:

  • Strong agile architecture: Does your organization have the skills to enable delivery of components of the application (such as individual apps, APIs and services) at independent cadences and using optimal technologies?
  • DevOps: Can your application technical professionals implement an operation and effective tool chain that supports continuous integration and continuous delivery?
  • Cloud-native skills: Is your team able to design, architect, integrate and operate applications that are ready to deploy and operate in a cloud environment?

With a foundation in these areas, application technical professionals can make realistic and pragmatic assessments of new architecture and integration technologies, platforms and patterns as they emerge.

But much more is needed to ensure your organization is sufficiently flexible and adaptable to meet new challenges in the future.

Adapt and modernize application architecture

Changing user needs, customer expectations, business models, processes and application delivery requirements are intrinsic challenges of running a business. Yet the COVID-19 pandemic significantly accelerated the need for change.

Application architects and delivery teams with the appropriate skills and technologies in place have been able to step up, adapt and support their organizations to meet those significant challenges and weather the storm.

Conversely, lack of skills has inhibited application delivery professionals from making needed transitions to meet business needs, accelerate delivery cadence, optimize costs and scale applications to meet accelerated requirements.

Prioritize skills

With skills in place for agile architecture, DevOps and cloud-native, organizations should then prioritize skills based on real business and application needs. To determine the additional skills needed based on the real impact to your business, ask these questions:

  • Is this a skill that has already been identified by my organization as critical?
  • Is this a skill in which we are currently deficient on my team or within my organization?
  • How will I apply this skill in my current role?
  • Will this skill enable me to expand my current role in the products I am working on?
  • Is this skill required for future modernization/innovation efforts that have been approved and are underway in my organization?
  • Look for strong and clear “yes” answers to these questions. Avoid skills for which there is uncertainty.

Gain experience and knowledge

Successfully learning skills means balancing knowledge and experience. Gaining too much knowledge is dangerous because you know how to do things without the experience to understand when and why to do them. At the same time, trying to learn a skill solely through experience is painful.

Depending on the skill and individual learning style, many learning activities are available, such as tutorials, online courses, bootcamps, conferences, proofs of concept (POCs), book clubs and lunch-and-learns. Look for those opportunities within your organization and utilize them. When they don’t exist, take the initiative and start one when appropriate. However, always prioritize those activities that provide practical experience and enable you to gain both knowledge and experience. Some examples include:

  • Communities of practice
  • POCs/prototypes
  • Paired (programming, design, architecture)
  • Team rotation/sharing

These types of activities tend to provide multiple benefits to application architecture and integration professionals. They enable you to focus on real-world problems; they integrate into your normal workflow so you don’t need to set aside learning time; and the outcomes are often used in production applications.

Culture of continuous learning

The most successful organizations encourage and support a culture of continuous learning and allow technical professionals the time and opportunities to learn new skills. A culture of continuous learning is one where multiple activities are available for individuals to increase their skills.

Application architecture and integration professionals contribute to this culture by participating in available activities and taking the initiative to create, start or encourage activities. To overcome any barriers to justifying the time and effort to learn new skills, define valuable and measurable outcomes from your learning activities.

Dedicate time to develop soft skills (e.g., time management and listening) as well as technical skills.

Recommend Gartner client* reading: 2021 Planning Guide for Application Platforms, Architecture and Integration by Brad Dayley.

*Note: Some documents may not be available to all Gartner clients.

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