- The average company has a backlog of planned IT projects going back between three months and one year, according to research published Tuesday. The report, conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of Appian, surveyed 1,002 business and IT decision-makers in nine countries.
- There are many drivers behind the backlog, but at least part of the problem has to do with finding the right data, the report found. Six in ten leaders canceled a digital project due to an inability to access the necessary data.
- "There's immense pressure to change right now in businesses around the world," said Appian founder and CEO Matthew Calkins. "The pandemic, the changing circumstances, the new regulations, the new employee and customer expectations ... No wonder we've got so much need to change our systems that it's more than IT can keep up with."
IT backlogs trap companies in a harmful cycle — failing to keep up with market demands and competition, while technologists spend time managing technical debt.
The existing backlog is, in part, a side effect of IT's role during a time of crisis. Companies relied heavily on technology to survive, at the expense of budgets and continuous change for IT departments.
"While this increased reliance on IT to deliver often has a positive impact on the view of IT within the greater organization, the state of affairs for most operations currently consists of a backlog of stories, spikes and tasks, with dramatic year-over-year (or, quarter-over-quarter) growth rates, that seems to be continually increasing in size," said George Burns, senior consultant of cloud operations at SPR, in an email.
Non-IT workers shoulder part of the IT burden, according to the report. More than half of leaders say business units already do more than IT to procure or develop new applications.
But the shift to non-IT work aimed at the backlog could mean compromising the quality of applications, said Calkins.
One strategy businesses can use to solve the IT backlog is take an Agile approach, iterating toward execution on deferred projects.
"Agile teaches us that small victories and quick failures, which are the direct result of correctly defined requirements and acceptance criteria, will lead to the compounded results necessary to get ahead," said Burns.