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The two elements needed for IT projects in 2022

communication technology
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

Customer expectations have changed as a result of the pandemic. Digitally forward businesses, such as Uber and Netflix, have set a new standard of what customers want from services. As such, it wasn’t a surprise to see that 65 percent of companies in the UK plan to increase investment in technology – often in an attempt to stop their respective businesses from becoming obsolete.

In 2021, and now 2022, a frictionless customer experience is non-negotiable. Every business must provide its customers with a smooth experience or risk losing them as a customer in the future. While that may sound simple on paper, in reality it means that businesses everywhere need access to real-time data and insights. Any business not set up with this sort of access is likely aware of the issue, and is currently in the process of conducting digital transformation, and rebuilding its tech stack from the ground up to accommodate the ability of real-time access to all the data across the business.

In looking to achieve this true access to real-time data and insights often revolves around two elements:

The first element: achieving free-flowing data

Once a business has planned the necessary digital transformation steps, the key is then looking at the movement of data. Objects at rest stay at rest, but objects in motion keep on moving, sparking action and, in turn, reaction. In a world where everything is in motion, if your data stays still your customer experience, goals and business will too. This means businesses need to ensure their data is constantly moving, ensuring every interaction triggers motion across the business, allowing the ability to respond and make decisions in real-time.

Achieving this necessary movement of data means connecting a complex network of both legacy and modern IT systems.  What is interesting is that the word ‘legacy’ is often viewed as a dirty word. A word for infrastructure that is by very definition old and outdated. However, while it has struggled to keep up with modern customer demands, it is still incredibly valuable in managing critical business processes and data. Removing this infrastructure outright in favor of modern cloud-native architecture is often simply too ambitious for most businesses. In fact, almost all rip-and-replace projects suffer because this approach is simply too costly, risky and often a largely unnecessary undertaking. In addition, for heavily regulated businesses, such as banking and insurance, this risk is greater due to the prospect of potential downtime - both planned and unplanned.

So how can businesses modernize and ensure the ebb and flow of data without ripping legacy IT straight out and potentially causing issues? It is true that legacy technology – such as mainframes or other aging architecture – will struggle to meet customer and regulatory demands, as they simply lack the scale and speed required. However, this does not mean you must eradicate it from your tech stack entirely. Now, even in 2021 going into 2022, legacy infrastructure still provides immense value to the business thanks to its data handling and specialized functionality.

Instead, enterprises should utilize what they already have and retain the core elements of existing architecture.  They should look to the route of IT modernization to ensure they can continuously transform the business over a period of time. However, even with the best intentions in the world, it is critical that any IT modernization project has one element to stand the best chance of success… that’s where change management comes in.

The second element: change management

Well, when launching any kind of IT modernization project, it is vital that change management practices are implemented from the very start. By explaining the need for the project to your staff from day one, and listening to feedback about the wider business impact of the decision, the businesses will give themselves a far greater chance of success.

While change management isn’t a new phenomenon, it is still often skipped, forgotten or not given the right amount of attention. Without it, IT projects risk facing serious issues. Namely, rolling out changes to long-standing practices without first educating all employees involved, will typically cause you to hit a wall in terms of uptake.

During the project, the changes taking place and the need for them must be explained to employees and positioned in a way that makes them understand the business reasons for change. The teams need to recognize why the change is happening and what commitment is needed from them to help make the change successful.

Without a thoroughly explained reason for the change, many employees will see it as simply an added frustration or complication that is simply annoying and unnecessary. To avoid this, it is crucial to showcase the results and improvements – or forecast improvements – to employees so they understand and buy-in to the transformation. Both qualitative and quantitative results will serve as a good reminder to employees as to why the project is being rolled out.

The full package

The world is continuing to go digital and customers are now voting with their feet against businesses that don’t meet their expectations. Possessing legacy infrastructure doesn’t – and shouldn’t – hold innovation with the right solutions, but as IT modernization projects are implemented, it is first vital that employees understand why in order to give you the best chance of success.

With your employees bought in, the business can continue to meet the customer’s digital expectations. So with Gartner predicting the majority (80 percent) of new services and products continuing to be built by those outside of the IT team, it is crucial that change management is at the heart of all modernization projects and threaded throughout. Without it, businesses run the risk of employees not realizing the impact data has on the bottom line and customer loyalty.

Lyndon Hedderly, director, customer solutions, Confluent

Lyndon is a Director of Customer Solutions at Confluent. He helps organizations model how Digital and specifically how event-centric thinking can enable new business models and improve company performance.