Responsive Business-led Solutions Based on a Partnership Model Can Help Drive Success
Fast-paced technology changes are prompting businesses to raise their expectations of what they need from their IT systems. Developers, distributors and other agencies that build applications in siloes are now less effective as IT modernization focuses more deeply on different customers’ distinct needs.
Businesses, their stakeholders and customers no longer want IT products that compel them to resort to generic solutions. They want systems aligned with their unique needs—tech that doesn’t keep them at arm’s length and, instead, is empathetic and responsive. Failure to recognize these simple human needs risks undermining trust.
This message has been underlined in the past few months. While the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred industry to accelerate IT modernization projects, it has left many remote workers isolated from human interactions in their daily lives.
Now, as businesses transform their IT systems, they are increasingly finding that the ideal digital experience must also be a more human experience. The agencies that embark on IT modernization programs must put the customer above all other considerations and ensure that such projects are business-led, as only each business itself knows exactly what it wants to achieve from its digital transition.
Customers’ Needs Come First
IT modernization projects can be costly, time-consuming and disruptive. Businesses considering such upgrades need to perform careful due diligence to ensure that any investment in new technology is justified. The next step is to analyze exactly what is needed from the project carefully.
Consumers’ expectations are changing rapidly as technology seamlessly weaves with their lives through smartphones, tablets and wearable tech. And as businesses contemplate the likely cost and disruption associated with a transformational IT project, they are increasingly looking to independent agencies that can help deliver a similarly seamless experience by:
Enabling businesses through partnerships. Forging the right kind of relationship is key to this process, as clients must be encouraged to say exactly what they need and what operational efficiencies they aim to achieve from their IT modernization project.
Identifying a necessarily rigorous business case for any IT modernization project. While the costs of modernization are high, can businesses continue to justify the expenses associated with maintaining legacy systems, many of which require skills that are vanishing (such as knowledge of old computer languages), or expensive to replace?
Improving the daily working lives of clients and their staff and customers. This top priority entails providing the particular services required of the modernization project—a bespoke approach rather than a straight-off-the-shelf, fits all suite of products.
Solutions Must Be Business-Led
Emphasizing a partnership model, rather than a transactional customer-client relationship, ensures businesses know that their leadership is essential to the project’s success. All stakeholders must be involved at the earliest opportunity to avoid any ambiguity in communicating the project’s aims.
At this point, change management principles can be introduced to help executives provide a comprehensive message to all internal stakeholders about the need for IT modernization, the risks involved, what training will be needed and how such a shift will very quickly begin to improve the daily lives of all staff. Forming close-knit “learning pods” can be useful to empower such communication.
What Are the Aims of IT Modernization?
Increased speed and agility
The fundamental aim of all IT modernization projects is the maximization of operational efficiencies. Whether that means helping make daily operations run more smoothly, or performing more sophisticated tasks, such as the creation and analysis of large data sets—things that could take hours, even days, of processing time on legacy IT systems—the goal is greater speed and efficiency to help businesses become more agile. This ensures a better user experience that is frictionless at all touchpoints.
Simplifying the IT architecture
Many legacy IT systems require specialists and expensive talent to maintain. They are inflexible and slow in a business environment that increasingly needs rapid and adaptive responses. Just as space-sapping, in-house IT server maintenance gave way to outsourced data warehouses, the next generation of IT modernization is migrating to the cloud, where IT assets can be further rationalized.
In this evolving context, simplification may at first appear more complex. But with skilled and trusted guidance, this process needn’t be overwhelming. Even leading-edge, disruptive innovations involving such advances as artificial intelligence (AI), computer learning and low coding—all made possible through the processing power of the cloud—can be simply demonstrated on a smaller scale prior to full implementation of the entire IT modernization project.
Automation of mundane processes
Talented staff can be freed from many elementary processes, leaving more time for important analysis and decision-making. It is imperative, however, to partner with an agency with a strong development operations team that will continue to improve the quality of the software released to the working environment so that further manual processes can be eliminated as needed, as the business strives for greater agility.
Buying an off-the-shelf software solution may be the cheaper option in the short term, but there are key considerations to keep in mind. Will it save your business money in the longer term? Will it perform all the tasks you set out to accomplish when you embarked on your IT modernization project? Simply replacing legacy software with a new product that is only capable of doing the same things more quickly is a compromise solution.
The build model allows for a more customized approach—appreciating that your business practices are not generic. Flexibility and scalability can be built to your own specific needs. And the project needn’t be implemented all at once. A phased approach may be more suitable, upgrading department by department, causing less disruption and helping to stagger the costs.
It’s important to analyze the total cost of ownership of the IT modernization project over a horizon of between five and 10 years. Such calculations should include the costs of regular software upgrades, maintenance, licensing and consulting. These expenses should be weighed against projected savings in terms of time, efficiency and work-hours recovered from the automation of laborious tasks. In addition, when any improvements in business practices identified by advances in data management are taken into account, it becomes even more likely that the standardized product might not be the appropriate solution for your business’s needs.
And although the up-front costs of the build model may be higher, it’s a solution that is likely to have a longer life span and bring greater savings through being able to automate more processes over time, as additional needs emerge.
When weighing the options, introduce a comprehensive framework to evaluate all candidates. This framework must include such criteria as functional fitness, user experience, alignment with enterprise architecture and IT strategy, and the ability to integrate with other components in the organization, including compliance with security controls. Together with suitable market research and due diligence, this framework will facilitate an unbiased evaluation of the available products using criteria that are relevant to your business.
Conclusions—Choosing the Right Partner
Upgrading mission-critical software is a once-in-a-generation decision considered by CEOs, CTOs, CIOs and other C-suite executives, so making the right choice is of paramount importance. Even if no favoritism is intended, bias can creep into such decisions. Therefore, it makes sense, to consult with an independent, trusted advisor, bringing in high-quality thought leadership.
Such partnerships can help businesses plan the perfect IT modernization strategy by advising on the technological tools needed for this journey, understanding what additional skills may be necessary, and recognizing and developing the talent that already exists within the organization.
Businesses needn’t take this journey alone, but they must take the lead, communicate precisely what they want to achieve from their IT modernization and settle for nothing less. Deploying change management principles, they must communicate to staff how the project will work, what levels of training will be needed and how any short-term disruption will be mitigated by a multitude of benefits that will, ultimately, enhance their lives and working experience.