This is the age of the customer experience. The pandemic has made us all digital natives, and much more discerning of the brands we interact with online. PwC has estimated that one in three of us will leave a brand we love after just one bad experience. To create the kind of experience customers will keep coming back for, organisations must focus on connecting applications and data in seamless, reusable ways. For that approach to flourish, they need closer IT-business alignment. However, while this has improved during the pandemic, security, data silos, and integration barriers continue to slow the pace of innovation at a time when organisations want to speed up.
IT under pressure
The pace of digitization has undoubtedly accelerated over the past 18 months. Organisations are migrating applications to the cloud in their droves, supporting mass remote working, automating business processes to drive efficiency, and much more – all in the pursuit of digital innovation. This work is putting tremendous strain on already stretched IT teams, many of which have been battling absences due to illness, and dealing with the productivity challenges of working from home.
The good news is that IT and business teams are getting better at working together towards a common goal, which will be a major benefit in overcoming these challenges. According to our new IT and Business Alignment Barometer report, almost nine in ten global respondents feel alignment between the two functions has improved over the past 12 months. This is good news, as it has led to improved collaboration, enhanced operational efficiency, and better customer experiences.
Roadblocks to innovation
Automation will be key to delivering many of the benefits IT and business leaders view as priorities over the coming year, helping to drive convenience, speed, and cost reduction. In fact, nearly all organisations have implemented or are in the process of implementing automation initiatives, such as streamlined employee onboarding processes, to improve productivity. They are also seeing automation as a means to create more connected customer experiences and improve operational efficiency.
However, inevitably there are roadblocks to automation - many of which stem from security issues. Almost three quarters (73%) of organisations say integrating disparate systems has increased their concerns around data security and governance. Even more (87%) believe these concerns are slowing the pace of innovation, and feel they're preventing them from empowering non-technical users to integrate data – a key capability for successful digitisation initiatives.
It's not all about security, however: data silos, skills shortages, and a dearth of business process skills are also holding back essential automation projects designed to support critical objectives. It's clear that roadblocks are still pervasive in most organisations, restricting the push for innovation that the business is urgently calling for.
Integration is the future of business success
Business agility was ranked as a key foundation of competitive advantage even before the pandemic, when 68% of organisations said it was "extremely important" to future success. As of 2020, that figure had risen to 78%. The ability to integrate applications and data sources in a flexible, reusable, and cost-effective manner is key to gaining that agility. These capabilities enable organisations to rapidly deliver connected experiences in a flexible way to meet the ever-changing requirements of the market.
Undoubtedly, IT teams have been pushed to their limits to cope with the extra demands placed on them during the pandemic. However, these pressures will long outlast the crisis as digital operations become increasingly important to growth. That makes it more critical than ever that business users are empowered to create connected experiences of their own, to ease the burden on IT by driving innovation through other teams.
Sparking an innovation revolution
Organisations looking to democratise innovation in this way need to identify which approach will work best. An overwhelming majority (89%) of IT and business decision makers agree that reusable building blocks like APIs make the whole process of stitching together disparate systems, apps, and data far easier. Over two-fifths (43%) "strongly" agree. By deploying these APIs as reusable assets, organisations can speed time-to-value, reduce costs, and drive that much-needed business agility.
Further value can be unlocked if no/low code tools are put in the hands of business users to make reusable API connectivity a reality. Some 86% of business and IT leaders we spoke to agree, with two-thirds claiming it will "significantly" improve business outcomes. The key is to find a unified platform that allows IT to centrally apply and enforce policies and best practices that enable anyone – developers or non-developers alike – to drive their own digital innovation in a safe and secure manner.
The post-pandemic era will be defined by innovation, risk-taking, and rapid digital growth. As economies begin to reopen, those who get this right using API-led connectivity to empower business users stand the best chance of success.