By: Jeff Morris, VP Product and Solutions at Couchbase
Last year, reacting immediately to the effects of the pandemic became the highest priority for organisations. Forced to adapt almost overnight, businesses had to rapidly adjust their digital transformation plans, whether by accelerating certain projects or scaling back others.
Although the pandemic is a unique event, it’s clear that organisations were unprepared for disruption on this scale. For many, the pandemic exposed their difficulties in getting the right technologies in place to support digital transformation, leaving them ill-equipped to handle the challenges of COVID-19.
This raises the question: how have digital architects – those responsible for ensuring organisations’ digital ambitions become reality – fared during the crisis? And what steps must the C-suite take to ensure that they have the right foundation to deliver digital projects?
Architects are carrying the burden
Our research, which canvassed the opinions of 450 senior IT decision-makers in the US, UK, France and Germany to discover the scale of their digital transformation challenges, found that pressure to keep organisations running smoothly fell heavily on the shoulders of architects. The sudden need to adapt meant that organisations were faced with the prospect of rapidly developing new digital projects to keep up with customer demand – or else risk losing out to their more digitally-savvy competitors.
As a result, architects have been feeling the pinch over the past year. Architects revealed that the pressure to deliver digital transformation projects has more than doubled since the outbreak of COVID-19, with 48 percent reporting being under high or extremely high pressure. Pre-pandemic, this figure was less than a fifth. Without the right technology and deployment methods to support digital initiatives, the weight on architects will only get heavier over the coming months and years.
Building the right foundation
Our research also highlighted a clear divide between organisations that rely on legacy technology and those which have adopted more suitable infrastructure – and that this divide has only been exacerbated further by COVID-19. Misjudged cloud infrastructure and database choices were commonly cited issues that are making it more difficult for IT teams to complete digital transformation projects. Cloud infrastructure was particularly problematic, with 48 percent identifying that it caused issues with their digital transformation last year.
Reliance on legacy technology is an industry-wide problem, with as many as 91 percent of organisations still relying on legacy databases to some extent. Architects unanimously agreed that traditional relational databases have the least potential for delivering digital transformation projects. However, architects are finding it difficult to make the move away from legacy, for instance because they have invested heavily in the relevant skills, or because the databases are systems of record. Yet the rigidity of relational databases is holding back architects’ ability to implement new digital transformation projects. Whilst making this transition may cause initial challenges for architects, new technologies are making it easier and modernization comes with long-term benefits.
Architects are going the extra mile
Despite the obstacles, architects still performed remarkably well last year. According to research from McKinsey and Company, the pandemic has actually accelerated the pace of innovation by several years, with organisations seeing a sudden momentum in delivering digital initiatives.
Architects have already proven their ability to quickly adapt, but they will not be able to move forward until they have the right infrastructure behind them. Our research found that architects believe that the cloud has major potential to revolutionise digital transformation, with over 80 percent noting that moving to cloud deployment models has helped them to meet their digital transformation goals. Providing the seamless digital experiences which customers demand is more than just a ‘nice to have’ after the pandemic, as consumers’ relationships with technology have changed irreversibly. Adopting the right technology to keep delivering great customer experiences is a necessity as architects navigate this new, digital-first world.
Learning from history
Nobody could have predicted the pandemic, but architects can learn from past mistakes. 61 percent noted that past technology decisions had made digital transformation projects more difficult in 2019-2020, and an additional 24 percent only avoided issues with careful preparation. However, they also pinpointed which approaches had been the most helpful to allow them to meet their goals. So what lessons can we learn?
Whilst older technology might have been the right decision at the time, it is important to understand the needs of a new digital transformation project. Architects can make life easier for organisations by choosing technology and deployment options that support innovation. Moving from on-premises databases to the cloud, or opting for technology that doesn’t require investment in new skills are sure-fire ways to improve an organisation’s architecture to reach their true digital transformation potential. Implementing the right technologies must become a priority to ensure that the pressure on architects is eased, whilst still driving digital transformation momentum. The pandemic will pass, the evolutionary pressures on organisations will continue.