This post is about the following organizational shift observed in enterprise IT:
The technology that drives our companies is getting cheaper and better, faster, and the people and processes around those applications are now challenged to adapt to the accelerating speed of implementation.
I’ve been thinking about this seemingly universal mission to build business applications more quickly. That’s what we enable with the Mendix App Platform: extremely fast, adaptable enterprise applications that fit right into, or on top of, any system you have in place. But what happens when technology moves too fast for business? Application delivery has been getting faster, better, and more abstracted since day one. The goal has always been to enable business – at the speed of business. A few years ago this was a challenge. Today, contrary to what most organizations may experience (and from my Mendix-skewed perspective), it’s not.
One Mendix customer that exemplifies this lane-shift in organizational productivity is Rod Willmott, Fast Track Innovation Director at LV= Insurance. In one of our monthly webinars, he explained that for the first time, application delivery was moving at a faster pace than the people and processes responsible for garnering value out of those applications could keep up. In fewer words, IT was moving faster than business. Rod’s role at LV= is to bring innovation to the forefront, market test new products, figure out what technology is going to work best for the company’s needs, and push the already-fast-growing company forward. The shift was received with widespread arms, but it did portray a gab in business-IT alignment.
Measuring the success of an application is no longer only about speed, nor how fast you can get an application to market. Time-to-market is only half the battle. Time to Business Results (TTBR) is the other half. Our new challenge is to get the most out of these applications, and from day 0 of a new project, focus on the success criteria they are to achieve. Innovation, change, adoption, and roll-out management are all functions that usher new products out of the dev room and into mainstream use. But garnering value out of these applications isn’t just a matter of signing up and training new users, it requires a complete view, and a set of success criteria that looks well into the future of the application and aligns with the overall strategy of the company.
In this way, by speeding up the first half (time to market), we now have to elongate our view of the second half (time to business results) of each application delivery project. I’ve mentioned before that enterprise applications are judged by their ROI. A continuous cycle of feedback from stakeholders and application updates from the dev team should, in theory, keep these applications alive (read: generating value). Setting both the expected time and the expected results as early in the project as possible (shortly after identifying the need for an application) will time-box business stakeholders into getting the most out of the application, as quickly as possible.
All things considered, this new era of light-weight, light-speed applications, is giving us a problem that we should be happy to have – and a problem that only the early adopters of productivity suites like app platforms are experiencing so far. The trick to ushering in rapid application delivery technologies is always measuring an application’s success by its TTBR, not just by its time-to-market, fit, cost, adoption or user rates – it’s expected and then delivered output.