In 2018, Digitization of business models is moving from an innovative trend to a core competency for every enterprise. Digital is different for every enterprise and presents unique challenges for each in terms of talent, structure, and innovation. The CIO plays a role in all of these.

The pace and maturity of digitization increases and have a growing impact on the business. To take leadership in digital transforming their business, CIOs will need to surpass following technological innovations on a system level. They will need to implement a continuous process that reshapes their business with new technologies, grasping opportunities that emerging technologies offer to their business model and make the company ready for What’s Next. Various digital initiatives, currently scattered across the business need to be combined into one central digital approach. In order to achieve this, digital transformation needs to be embedded in the company’s business model and strategy to co-create What’s Next.

Generation Y (born between 1980 and 2000) may be the first generation that balances work and family, unlike the baby boomers, who sacrificed everything for their work. For generation Y, quality of life is fundamental.

Although they are very individualistic, they share a lot with friends and acquaintances, especially via social media such as Twitter and Facebook. They love technology, high-tech gadgets, smartphones, tablets, and etcetera. And they also quickly adopt them. Speed is the standard, and according to different specialists impatience, therefore, one of the typical characteristics of the Generation Y. Not only what their career terms but also regarding their environment, which should enable them to quickly and continuously develop their skills.

From a user perspective, there is especially the need to introduce anywhere-, anyplace- and anyhow access to applications and functionality via a web browser using web- or native apps. This generation wants to influence or even determine specific design options and functionality choices. They easily ignore the standards of the ‘old’ IT. Recent years, especially the consumer market has matured thanks to the development of the smartphone. Nowadays there is an increasing pressure on enterprise apps, to enable the same functionality in the mobile and the workplace environment.

In the current situation, we see that IT architecture for a number of companies is split between a front end as well as a back end. We foresee that this split will fade out as a result of the evolution of Enterprise platforms.
For existing companies with an IT heritage removing the split cannot be done instantly. Those companies can apply a bimodal IT approach: Bimodal IT is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery, one focused on stability and the other on agility. Mode 1 is traditional and sequential, emphasizing safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and nonlinear, emphasizing agility and speed.

The question remains if it is necessary to shift in IT delivery models. We think that companies first have to focus on the customer facing IT, and facilitate new business models, instead of optimizing or even replacing the back end of IT. IT should be stable and secure, of course, but if it works at a low cost, let it be in Mode 1.

To evolve in digitization, to enable an open economy and serve value chains, to answer the demands of users like Generation Y, it is necessary to speed up IT delivery of Mode 2.
But how to create? As we are living in the “fail fast, succeed faster” economy, a lot of experiments are initiated, Proof of concepts are scheduled, pilots are performed. And the business continues to ask for more and new functionality. There is a need for tools that work flawlessly on any device. And apps should be ready in days, not months. And, they must be able to adapt to ever-changing customer needs. There is an ever-growing number of technologies available, but how to master, with reduced budgets? There is a need to build all kind of business applications for employees, partners, and customers. Nowadays, we see the upcoming of Enterprise cloud platforms to answer those needs.

These platforms often referred to as aPaaS or iPaaS, are different to each other and are therefore not easy to compare. Following the market, we see that traditional IaaS providers evolved to PaaS providers. Amazon is a strong example here. And just the other way around, typical SaaS providers are moving downwards to support their clients in offering flexibility and customization, they are evolving to PaaS as well. Look at Salesforce here. Overseeing some definitions of these platforms shows the different viewpoints of Gartner, Techopedia or TechTarget.

Looking at some vendors of platforms and their descriptions results in another insight:

Outsystems promotes their platform as a low-code, rapid application development, and delivery platform that enables seamless integration of custom code. Combine speed with custom for the best of both worlds. Integrate with all of existing systems and data sources and maintain order with built-in management and analytics.
Mendix promotes their App Platform as a completely integrated application Platform as a Service (aPaaS) offering to design, build, deploy and manage enterprise apps. Both from a public or private cloud as an on-premise solution.
Google promotes their App Engine as a PaaS offering that lets you build and run applications on Google’s infrastructure. App Engine applications are easy to build, easy to maintain, and easy to scale as your traffic and data storage needs change. With App Engine, there are no servers for you to maintain. You simply upload your application and it’s ready to go.
Given the above, it is not surprising that the various analysts also have great difficulty in comparing the diverse PaaS platforms. Sometimes looking from a SaaS perspective or from a platform perspective, sometimes looking from a mobile application development perspective they often score very differently from each other.

In fact, we see this i/aPaaS solutions as a possibility to enhance your customer facing IT to reach your goals.

The pro’s are widely spread: one solution instead of much; lower cost; much faster development; user-friendly; programming even by end-users, supporting your complete value chain, seamless integration with back-end systems. In the cloud: no care for infrastructure. iPaaS help eliminates the most time-consuming and repetitive part of almost any client implementation – integration with other systems. No data redundancy. With the help of the user-friendly interface and much faster development, the Generation Y can be supported in her needs as well. By using an iPaaS platform, you can create immediate competitive advantages for your business by being able to offer your customers quicker integration deployment. This will allow you to focus on delivering true business value and deepening your customer relationships. Not just by doing what you promise, but to manage customer intimacy and loyalty.
But there are con’s as well: one platform solution reduces connectivity with partners that use competing platforms and therefore creates vendor lock-in. There is also an organization effect: As business users are able to develop, or actively support development, there is a need to introduce Scrum or DevOps. And, what many organizations are finding is that for digital transformation to be successful, it must be end-to-end — with customers at one end and systems at the other. Where IT obviously remains responsible for the systems.
To conclude, CIOs can improve customer facing IT by implementing i/aPaaS solutions and by doing so enable new business goals. Of course, the CIO needs to team up with business to reach optimal IT-business alignment, starting with co-creating the digital strategy.

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