Business leaders can now sense, decide, and act on companywide needs in a one-stop-shop for management through the development of a digital business technology platform.
Nearly two-third of companies surveyed by Gartner in a forthcoming report accelerated digital business efforts to fuel modernization of existing systems due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Bill Swanton, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner, during a Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Americas session Tuesday.
"We only saw 9% of the companies saying that they cut back or were not executing because of COVID-19. So overall, digital business is thought to be a very important part of how companies are dealing with new issues in the world," Swanton said.
A digital business technology platform combines the needs of stakeholders across the enterprise — customers, partners,operational technology and employees — to provide a central hub for conducting business. Rather than replacing existing IT systems, it unites capabilities across customer engagement, ecosystems, internet of things, information systems, and data analytics platforms.
"Those are all big platforms that were major investments, sometimes made over decades. You're not going to get rid of them, and you're not going to change them to work on some new digital platform," Swanton said.
Instead, a digital business platform is "going to integrate and orchestrate capabilities. You're going to use all the capabilities you already have in these existing systems and you're going to string them together in a new way to create your digital business," said Swanton.
But a digital business platform can't be bought, according to Swanton. It must be built and modified to accommodate individual company needs.
"There's some assembly required … you're basically going to have to think about, 'I got to build this myself,'" Swanton said.
Budgeting and setting goals
Business growth, efficiency and cost optimization, and market expansion targets lead companies to consider taking the plunge to invest in building a digital platform.
Overhauling business management, however, isn't cheap. Large and global enterprises surveyed reported spending several million dollars in their 2020 fiscal year to establish a digital business technology platform, according to the Gartner survey.
For respondents to the survey, the investment largely paid off. Digital teams are meeting or beating the goals set out at the beginning of the process to prove integrating platforms is worth the sticker shock, according to Swanton.
"You need to have set those clear expectations, because you're going to be looking for a multiyear budget here," Swanton said.
Establishing the team
Investing in the organizational structure around the digital business technology platform is key to making the most of what is sometimes a multimillion dollar investment.
Scaling the digital team to build the platform requires board-level investments into the project, new tech skills, and strong product management, according to Swanton. While 45% of respondents built the digital team to report to the CIO, some organizations created federated digital teams or shifted IT to report to a newly created digital business unit, according to the survey.
With an understanding of how the digital business team will fit into the larger organizational structure, companies must also arrange the right team to handle building challenges. Businesses will have to either reskill existing teams or hire entry level employees to upskill, Swanton said.
Building the platform
Once budget, goals and teams are in place, companies can finally begin building the digital platform to support business needs.
Respondents agreed large cloud vendors dominate the initial build because of the ability to scale, the open source nature of the tech, and the option to incrementally invest, according to Swanton.
"It's primarily a platform as a service approach that people are using and a lot of that is because they realized they need to scale what they were doing," Swanton said. "They realized that it's going to be hard if they tried to do something on premise."
Companies seeing the most luck with digital business platforms weren't afraid to invest in advanced architectural approaches and development.
The more new tech acquired, the more success organizations realized, according to Swanton. Common traits of successful platforms included DevOps, API management, IoT, hybrid integration, and streaming data.