MTN App of the Year

Business must be app-ready

Apps are key drivers of the modern digital economy and are crucial to business leaders, writes IAN JANSEN VAN RENSBURG, director of solutions engineering at VMware SSA.

The app-driven economy is most certainly here. Apps are where most people now consume digital experiences and services and are the best vehicle for satisfying customer demands and employee needs at speed. It’s why businesses around the world are defining their objectives based on their ability to develop and deliver new applications quickly.

And rightly so. An agile approach to app development means businesses can continuously reinvent how they connect and communicate with their customers and meet evolving expectations, whether internal or external. It’s a big reason why it’s not only one of the top IT priorities, but also wider business priorities, too. VMware’s Market Insights Report, for example, indicates that 91% of businesses’ primary application initiative is to migrate and modernise legacy apps. The drive is so strong that by 2024, we expect half of all applications to be modernised.

Although most businesses are aware of the app opportunity, many do not have the required in-house knowledge and skills around app modernisation and delivering multi-cloud strategies to meet their business needs. This is why partners have an enormous opportunity; both to help enterprises navigate the transition from legacy to cloud-native apps and from cloud to multi-cloud infrastructure. Those that succeed in both will position themselves as leaders in the app-driven world while engineering their businesses around valuable and growing revenue streams.

Overcoming the cultural disconnect

Partners have an opportunity to position themselves as the secret sauce, the bridge that unlocks a business’s ability to get apps into production securely and at speed and removes the persistent barriers to innovation.

According to Willie Jansen van Rensburg, Group Executive: Cloud, Strategix, “There’s a massive role for the channel to play in helping customers modernise their applications, move applications into the cloud, and assist them in becoming cloud native. But it’s a new way of thinking for the channel, and it requires a different set of skills and individuals with a specific DNA more closely aligned to the development world. The channel needs to connect the dots between technology and DevOps. Developers aren’t just building applications based on carefully scoped metrics – they are building them for the cloud. And if there is no intersection, there will be a massive disconnect between technology, business, and the financial resources being used – because what has been created doesn’t meet the company’s needs.”

The expertise of partners is needed, as app development at an enterprise scale is becoming increasingly fragmented within today’s businesses. DevOps teams are becoming distributed across organisations and, in many cases operating without any communication with central infrastructure teams, which in turn lack the experience to talk, build and manage apps. This leads to a significant cultural disconnect between the two teams and a dearth of centralised and collaborative thinking. As Forrester points out: “Ultimately, the primary challengers are cultural, not technical, in nature.”

Misaligned priorities and a fragmented technology landscape are further deepening these silos too, with enterprises managing cloud-native solutions while still maintaining their traditional infrastructure. All in all, it’s creating competition for time, attention and budgets and causing many well-intentioned alignment strategies to fail. 

Partners can add value here by facilitating this collaboration and breaking down the silos between developer and infrastructure teams through their technical expertise and professional consultancy. Such consultancy is proven to deliver better outcomes for businesses, with a Forrester and VMware study indicating that cross-team alignment empowers businesses to reduce team silos (71%), create more secure applications (70%) and increase agility to adopt new workflows & technologies (66%). And, above all, unlock greater value from their app modernisation initiatives.

Talking technology at a business level

Achieving this unity requires a shift in mindset and language to coalesce around business outcomes, and that’s where partners come into play. Their role is to encourage businesses to focus on the end business goal – which is to make an enterprise app-ready – rather than always thinking technology-first at the outset. Attention must move beyond building apps like infrastructure and an overreliance on developers if organisations are to effect enterprise-level change. Applications can be built anywhere and speak everyone’s language – it’s just a matter of how you approach them. 

But again, Willie Jansen van Rensburg warns that it’s not as easy as dreaming up an application and building it. “When navigating the move from an analogue to a digital world, sometimes you can develop something from scratch for the digital world, and it works perfectly. But, if you have an application or business process that isn’t performing its best in an analogue environment, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that by modernising or digitising it, you will fix the problem. If it’s not working in your analogue processes, make sure you understand why it’s not working, why it’s not serving the business, and then either rebuild it from scratch or rebuild it before moving it into your digital environment. If you don’t, chances are it will become worse – as the processes and business processes that live behind this application won’t be defined or implemented properly.”

Another reason partners are best placed to overcome misconceptions and communication gaps is their depth and breadth of app modernisation expertise, which goes far beyond many in-house skillsets. They’re highly skilled at pulling together dedicated teams to run quick proof of concepts and demonstrate the virtues of apps, and many do so day in, day out. So positioning them as ‘ambassadors’ within organisations, who can advocate for increased and correct adoption across the enterprise to drive business value, for example, is one potentially powerful way to help businesses increase a technology’s profile internally and drive them to become more app-ready.

“In this transition from an analogue to a digital world, the key differentiator for partners is not in the infrastructure or the software being sold but in the advisory, consulting, development, and managed services a partner can offer,” says Willie Jansen van Rensburg. “Those channel players who adapt to a model where they understand where a customer is at in their cloud journey, have the experience, skills, and ability to go through the journey with them, and when the customer lands at a specific point in their journey can help keep the environment running optimally – they will thrive.”

The secret sauce for success

In bringing their technical expertise and ‘bigger picture’ outlook to the table, partners should be aiming to equip customers with the right technology to become app-ready and the right culture to continuously deliver better software to production.

Adding Kubernetes to an organisation’s infrastructure, for instance, shouldn’t be a matter of adding complexity; it should enable businesses to ready their infrastructure for modern apps with consistent, conformant Kubernetes everywhere. Partners’ role in this equation is very much one of enablement; their job is to make it easier for all teams to centrally manage, govern and observe all apps across clouds while ensuring developers are provided with a seamless and secure experience.

Training is certainly part of the discussion, too. Partners have a crucial role in equipping developer and infrastructure teams with the right skills to better align with one another’s goals and ensure the business is well-positioned to avail opportunities for app-based innovation. But their own learning and upskilling also mustn’t be forgotten; for partners to credibly position themselves as experts in the continuous delivery of applications, they must continually broaden their skillsets and horizons with all the relevant capabilities needed to drive value from apps. Mastering the cloud-native principles, for example, is essential to building new revenue models that capitalise on the industry shift to modern apps while equipping customers to respond to this trend.

Learning to lead

Success today hinges on how fast businesses can give their customers and employees what they want – a goal that enterprises worldwide are working towards every day, with apps at the core of their strategy. Partners that seize the initiative, connect the dots and position themselves as the consultants, brokers and deliverers of app modernisation will soon be celebrated for making customers’ app-centric aspirations a reality and driving business growth. 

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