The initial business stabilization action needed at the beginning of the pandemic increased the stress on IT organizations to support remote working capabilities, maintain business operations, deliver projects, and innovate. However, the demand for IT didn’t stop with stabilization. As organizations across regions adjust to the new normal and plan for their employees to return to work, IT priorities have shifted once again.
The struggles that the IT team regularly encounters was illuminated to the entire organization with COVID-19. Business leaders are now trying to find creative and sustainable solutions to not only ensure workplace safety but also serve the IT organization and the enterprise as a whole.
Outside of application development and customer-facing initiatives, IT organizations support operations, infrastructure, networking, access and identity management, security, and emerging technology for business operations. These KTLO (“keeping-the-lights-on”) responsibilities span across many IT teams — some responsibilities are even shared among several teams within an IT organization. The IT organization is necessary to run a successful enterprise and execute its missions, whether for profit or to deliver services to citizens. Some of the immediate challenges include the need to maintain and connect legacy and modern infrastructure, create and monitor access to data, provide a foundation for innovation for development and future growth, and secure the entire enterprise.
Without an enabled and efficient IT organization, a business will suffer greatly. Employees can’t work optimally to deliver and support current projects, products, services, which ultimately stifles innovation as teams are preoccupied with internal concerns. It’s imperative to address these challenges while these problems have leadership attention — now is a time to address them and set the organization up for success. Enterprises can now lean on the lessons from COVID-19 to enhance, deepen, and execute on the business cases that drive revenue and extend agility to all business stakeholders (e.g., products, services, employees, partners, and customers) via modernization and debt reduction.
Closing the IT delivery gap by focusing on modernization
IT organizations run enterprise infrastructure — both legacy and modern. Trying to manage both with today’s processes and tools limit organizational efficiency, placing IT modernization on the backburner and further increasing technical debt. There are typically few people within an organization with the right expertise to maintain and operate these legacy, on-premises systems. These legacy systems need to connect to each other as well as to modern, cloud-based systems. Developers tend to turn to point-to-point solutions. Tightly coupled point-to-point connections are difficult to maintain, as legacy system changes often require custom-code revisions in systems that lack documentation and standardization. Security concerns surface with custom-code integrations and systems that are approaching end-of-life which rarely, if ever, have the affordances for built-in platform level and full life cycle security. To support this custom point-to-point code, IT operations, database, access management, development, and security teams are all necessary to coordinate the changes involved in a single solution.
Technical debt plagues IT organizations. Many organizations accumulate technical debt organically as new technologies proliferated and IT gaps emerged. These organizations work to keep the lights on by supporting the enterprise with every day IT functions but quickly began to lag behind implementing new technologies. In many enterprises, pre-COVID-19 debt remediation and operational excellence work was consistently perceived as “bottom-line” work and not given sufficient support or resources until it achieved “burning platform” status (e.g., end of life, sufficiently impacting revenue, etc). The pandemic has changed this posture as many enterprises are rapidly becoming more efficient and flexible given the fundamental changes in the economy and consumer demand.
While many organizations perceived new and emerging technology as disruptive or nice-to-have, the pandemic has forced organizations to focus resources on delivering current initiatives and pivoting operations to respond to new and emerging market demands. While it may be too soon to tell, the pandemic may be influencing the initial prioritization models for the long-term as business and IT leaders begin to question:
- How much debt and cruft has actually accrued in their systems?
- How close to the edge of failure their organizations are operating at?
- How fragile many of the society and economy assumptions really are?
- How critically important agility and system flexibility are when crises manifest?
With COVID-19 forcing many businesses to revisit their market strategy as well as their current and future offerings, enterprises are in desperate need of a platform to support legacy modernization that will create a future-proof foundation and pay dividends for enterprise growth. Businesses must examine existing resources to identify tools and solutions to retire legacy infrastructure and empower lines of business. New solutions must meet business requirements without levying additional burden on IT teams — and ultimately create enablement and efficiency while reducing the strain of legacy debt carrying costs on overwhelmed organizations.
Modernization isn’t mandatory, but neither is survival
Management expert W. Edwards Deming’s quote “Survival is optional. No one has to change.” has been leveraged by the DevOps community to great effect in seeking change. Modernization evangelists might want to leverage this technique to create the agile enterprises we were all promised. While organizations seek to modernize their infrastructure, automate operations, and implement new technologies, point-to-point solutions might seem like a quick fix but they are often debt upon delivery. Sustainability, flexibility, scalability, and resilience will be the desired effects of these connections — amplifying the day-to-day challenges for IT teams to manage operations, security, and access management. These strains have limited IT organizations’ ability to respond quickly, efficiently, and nimbly during this pandemic where efforts to reduce the IT delivery gap, and not exacerbate it, are critically important in the midst of this pandemic. A solution that reduces the IT delivery gap, accelerates debt remediation and supports modernization efforts will enable IT teams in their COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and benefit the enterprise as it looks to operate in the new normal.
Integration isn’t a new technology but an integration platform that includes a strategic approach to meet technology gaps and improves IT teams backlog of work is a solution that can transform an organization and its business. This platform-based model creates business capability without introducing additional debt to execute today’s mission and business and lays the groundwork for innovation (i.e., it’s future-proof). An API-led approach leverages abstraction and loose coupling to make retiring legacy technology feasible with tremendous cost savings. Within the context of COVID-19, the ability to continue innovating while determining how to reopen will set the business apart now and for the future in two key ways:
- Agility at scale: Efforts to reopen the business amid a global pandemic can create additional stress as teams redefine their operating rhythms and support current and emerging business efforts. It may not be every enterprise, but for the ones who have developed or are developing an API strategy, the use of APIs with an integration platform will give a future-proof foundation that is flexible, scalable, and resilient.
- Security by design: Security remains paramount. The demand to support remote workforce in response to the COVID-19 pandemic increased the potential attack surface of an IT organization exponentially. Reducing the point-to-point connections lessens the opportunity for misconfigurations that could expose data or create leaks. A platform where security is embedded by default, includes custom API-policy definition and management, with full API lifecycle, and is compliant with federal security and health frameworks will alleviate the stresses on your security team.
At our recent MuleSoft CONNECT Digital conference, our founder Ross Mason shared his thoughts about remote workforces. Before COVID-19, approximately three percent of the workforce was remote and this has now grown to 88% — a tremendous increase and load placed on IT organizations. After COVID-19, and the new normal, approximately 30% workforce will be working remotely. Even the growth from 3% to 30% would be a significant increase. The flexibility for an IT organization to scale as needed is important to support legacy infrastructure and modernization whether it is cloud, IoT, or AI, or another innovative initiative.
The resilience of a platform that can not only withstand a sudden need to pivot its operations no matter the challenges an organization faces or goals it sets in the future creates a foundation to be prepared by design innately. This positions an organization to operate proactively and strategically. Many organizations were forced into a reactive role and creating a proactive position for all future unknowns is not only important, but it’s compelling and dare I say pivotal.
For more information on how to strategically reopen your organization, visit Work.com.