Companies that want to catch up in terms of IT must now make the right strategic decisions. The IT trends of 2022 help with this. […]
Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Saudi Aramco: a look at the industry mix of the five world’s most capitalized companies is enough to recognize the central importance of modern technologies at the beginning of the 2020s. And the digital revolution continues. A survey by the World Economic Forum has shown that even after the corona pandemic, companies primarily want to promote the digitization and automation of processes. You know that you can only meet customer requirements in a timely manner if you use state-of-the-art technologies and pick up on IT trends at an early stage. And that only in this way can you open up new growth opportunities and at the same time sustainably increase your efficiency.
But what are the decisive trends? From Bain’s point of view, the current trend is towards unlimited interaction, networked intelligence, self-learning data systems, limitless modularity, self-optimizing DevOps and a zero trust architecture. In some cases, corresponding applications are already in use. In particular, digital attackers are emerging who are driving entire economic sectors such as banks or the energy industry in front of them. They have recognized the extent to which innovative technologies will shape the world in the 2020s.
The customers of tomorrow use an unlimited number of devices and interact with companies via many channels. In the future, apps will only be one access among many. The devices of the future will understand language and gestures as well as their context and react to looks as well as to body signals. Companies must adapt to this and, for example, ensure cross-device access and continuous data exchange with open interfaces. Since numerous different devices are now available to customers, the concept of customer channels (omnichannel) is becoming more complex by dimensions. Only with decentralized processing of data (edge computing) can companies still cope with the flood of information in the future and derive added value from it, especially since the devices of tomorrow will also interact with each other.
The use and exploitation of artificial intelligence (AI) is still mostly the responsibility of small teams of specialists. But in the future, AI will be part of every customer interaction and every process in the company. From now on, artificial intelligence connects all structured and unstructured information in real time and thus enables offers and services that are truly personalized. As a result, digital technologies are finally becoming the heart of almost all business models, which in turn requires a redefinition of the term specialist area. This also raises the question of how IT and operational units will differentiate themselves in the future or how existing transitions will be resolved.
For years, companies have been struggling to generate real added value from the flood of data. Innovative technologies are now helping you to do this. They generate, move, store and use data in real time across different systems and are constantly learning. Previously separate data flows together in a data lake, where new methods provide structure and access, but above all for a meaningful linking of information. With distributed ledgers or blockchain technologies, an alternative form of storing information is also gaining in importance.
The IT of the 2020s knows no borders anymore. Modular components combine to form applications and are infinitely scalable. Various interfaces blur the boundaries between internal and external systems, which makes IT easier for IT users to work. Function-as-a-service models are increasingly becoming part of everyday life. Behind this is a decentralized multi-cloud infrastructure.
Agile working methods and DevOps, i.e. the integration of software development and IT operations, are already common practice in many companies. Now the next wave is coming. In the future, DevOps will only be one component of an overarching XOps landscape for all applications up to control and protection (SecOps). Codes that modify themselves relieve programmers of some of their work. Instead of the usual sprints and iterative progress, there is a continuous optimization process.
There are increasing signs that cyber attacks will reach an even greater scale in the coming years than before. Companies must therefore continue to upgrade. In the end, there is a so-called zero trust architecture, in which every external input is viewed with suspicion. For example, strict authentication processes and a federal identity will make access from the outside more difficult.
Especially in terms of security and DevOps, there has been significant progress in many places recently. But in the eyes of most of those responsible, these are not enough. A global Bain survey of more than 200 IT executives in 2021 showed that just 14 percent consider their company to be a technology leader. 39 Percent at least certify their company as having a modern IT architecture and a modern operating model. By contrast, almost half see deficits. 22 Percent of companies still work with a conventional, rather cumbersome IT architecture, while 25 percent lack basic technical skills.
The flexibility and modularity of modern IT systems make it possible to eliminate such deficits step by step and catch up with the technology leaders. In order for this to succeed, CIOs should quickly set the course. This applies in particular to the following aspects:
1. Ambition: The central question is: Does a company rely on incremental improvements or does it need the much-cited restart on a greenfield site? In practice, the development of new business models with new systems often runs parallel to the further development of IT for the previous business.
2. Operating model: Following the ambition, companies with a separate IT and a modern operating model can make a new start or gradually modernize the existing systems.
3. Migration: A gradual renewal of the existing IT is just as conceivable as the development of a modern IT architecture and a migration on day X.
4. Skilled workers: Companies have the opportunity to further develop and supplement the existing workforce or to expand their know-how in one fell swoop through acquisitions or partnerships with IT service providers.
5. Financing: Basically, companies can finance the modernization of their IT from efficiency gains achieved up to that point or via a separate budget. But given the central importance of IT, the idea of self-financing is quickly dropped. Companies fare better when operational units and IT come to a consensus on the necessary initiatives and provide the necessary financial resources for each of them.
6. Speed of change: A gradual modernization of IT usually takes three to seven years, depending on the initial situation. Those who give priority to transformation can do it within two to three years.
7. Implementation: Either a dedicated transformation team or the existing IT department can drive the conversion forward. The higher the complexity, the more likely it is to bundle competencies in a separate team.
The decision whether to gradually rebuild or at least partially restart depends on a number of factors. These include the competitive position of a company and the pressure to change on the market as well as the financial and human resources. However, remaining on the status quo is forbidden. With the above-mentioned trends, the importance of modern IT for the competitiveness of companies is growing significantly again. With the right technological basis, you will become faster, more efficient and grow faster. For this reason, technology-driven companies are likely to continue to lead the ranking of stock market values with the highest market capitalization this decade.
*Dr. Uwe Schmid is an Expert Associate Partner in the Information Technology Practice Group at Bain & Company in Frankfurt am Main. He has more than 15 years of consulting experience and has also worked in the software industry for eleven years. His core competencies include IT architecture, ERP, strategy, organization and governance as well as agile development and digital.
*Thomas Nachtwey is a partner at Bain & Company in Düsseldorf. He heads the IT practice group in the DACH region and has more than 15 years of professional experience in management consulting. His core competencies include the conception and implementation of future-proof IT architectures as well as the support of comprehensive business and IT transformations.