Enterprise IT

Across the globe, enterprise IT departments face the same challenges as the business landscape changes at unprecedented pace. Globalization, remote first trends and digital transformation initiatives fuel the growing importance of software in the business world. This pulls the once hidden-in-the-basement IT crowd to the top floor, loading it with expectations about prosperity and growth. Applying such expectations on previously developed as auxiliary IT structures results in similar set of symptoms and traps in ineffectiveness.

Disconnected Teams Build Disconnected Software

The traditional enterprise is still not sure if the IT department is a cost or profit center. Often, improvements to software stack on users’ desktops is an ad-hoc activity, driven by persuasive external sales representatives or ambitious newcomers. Rather than governed by a central, long term IT vision, local teams are formed around solving a specific problem by either building or acquiring a solution for a specific problem. Lacking standard practices, siloed IT teams deliver disconnected pieces of software that require the user to integrate manually by copy pasting data around multiple applications. The formal definition of this problem is known as Conway’s Law:

Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure.

The good news? There is a way to improve the user experience without massive re-organizations.

Legacy Applications Stick Around

In the last two decades the technology in fashion is outpacing the business dynamics development, by far. Thus perfectly usable (and loved by the users) applications are being marked as legacy purely because the of the technology they are implemented in is no longer “in fashion” — meaning it is hard to find developers who wish to maintain and extend it further. Vendors play a huge role in that as well, as some promising and highly promoted endeavors are less than gracefully “sun set” much to the surprise of teams who bet on them, quickly “obsoleting” high value apps.

The conventional wisdom around legacy applications is that the company should either pay the high cost of maintenance, or take the plunge and rewrite them to the technology in fashion. However, there’s another, safer and better way to make the best use of legacy applications.

Unproductive Users

The real metric of the Enterprise IT should always be the productivity and the efficiency of their business users. In that context, disconnected software and legacy applications are the problems and the users’ productivity levels are the measurement of impact of those problems. There’s a good case of going scientific and try to collect a whole lot of data to accurately model and measure those. However, simple UX techniques like user shadowing and simple user interviews over a cup of coffee can reveal a lot with little to no upfront investment.

Capturing examples from real users is compelling evidence for making a business case that can support innovation in the space. It also gives concrete, actionable improvement goals to start with.

Rebuilding as a Monolith Is not the Solution

A common pattern in the digital transformation initiatives is to “get it right this time”, and rebuild all the scattered pieces as a single, fully integrated software solution. While beautiful in theory, this approach faces the reality of Conway’s law and the limitation of the resources available in the organization. Even if the monolith initiative succeeds, it is a ticking technology bomb. In several years, the chosen technology is going to be obsolete, and the org has to undertake the next big rewrite.

Desktop Integration Platform as an Alternative

If the problems and their impact are evident, then the IT department should give a serious evaluation to the Desktop Integration Platform pattern. Bringing concepts from ESB to the desktop, the Desktop Integration Platform preserves the relative technology independence of the various software development teams, while applying UI integration patterns that deliver an unified desktop experience to the end users. A Desktop Integration Platform can act as a wrapper for legacy applications, allowing gradual extension and upgrades with add-ons written in modern technologies.

To learn more about the Desktop Application Platform, its advantages over the previously popular approaches like monoliths and dominant applications and how you can build one, get the free whitepaper Enterprise Interoperability Vendor Comparison by NORMAN & SONS.