The world of enterprise IT is in flux. Technology is expanding from its traditional role as a back-office enabler into becoming key to creating a digital user experience with expectations of fundamental business changes. At the same time, of course, enterprise IT is still expected to continue driving significant operational efficiencies.

As the ongoing push for efficiency meets the new reality of “every business becoming a software business,” many organizations are struggling to find innovative approaches to help them cope with five key challenges:

1. Everything everywhere

Mobile is at the center of the new digital experience, becoming the primary way many people interact with companies of all sizes. Successful enterprises are making it a top priority to innovate on a wide variety of platforms. This can be a challenge for IT organizations accustomed to supporting only standard business devices. But the trend toward moving all computing and communications tasks—including creation, not just consumption—to mobile devices is clear. And trends like BYOD and Shadow IT mean that empowered users—internal and external—expect a top-quality digital experiences no matter where they are or what device they’re using.

2. Cloud focus

A decade ago, software-driven capabilities required significant investments in time and money just to get started. Today, a developer or executive with a credit card can experiment with a new service in mere hours. Lower barriers to creating software services and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications, improved security, and the runaway success of some cloud-native companies mean that moving to the cloud is no longer a question of if, but when and how—and maybe also how much. Cloud computing is now relied upon for business critical applications by startups and global corporations alike. For large enterprises, the challenges include understanding which workloads should migrate to the cloud (and whether that should be a public cloud or hybrid cloud), and which should stay on-premises. Efficient cloud-based test/dev processes are increasingly essential to enable innovation.

cloud illustration: enterprise IT innovation

3. Data availability

Data-related projects are now by far the most important for executives, according to research from CapGemini/EMC and Forrester. Forbes notes that the CapGemini/EMC survey shows more than half of the respondents held current IT development processes responsible for slowing down their organization’s ability to perform analytics and gain useful business knowledge. Making the most of big data requires enterprises to measure everything, provide more data visibility across their stakeholder maps, and break down silos for data management to empower people across the business to make more informed decisions.

4. User empowerment

The shift in expectations is empowering both external and internal stakeholders. IT needs to stay ahead of the game by being fast and agile enough to keep up with ever-changing demands, and service-oriented and flexible enough to leverage, not resist, such trends as BYOD, Shadow IT, and bottom-up adoption initiatives. The changes are forcing CIOs to evolve into technology brokers (aka technology sherpas) in an effort to be more nimble and adopt innovation more quickly.

5. Digital transformation

Put all of these trends together and the excuses to ignore changing your customer and industry experience with software become weaker by the day. Expectations have changed. Enterprise users have been conditioned—mostly through their interaction with vastly improved personal technology—to expect a rich, dynamic, and personalized digital experience that enterprises are not always equipped to deal with. And with the rise of cloud computing and SaaS, it is now easier than ever for digital-native upstarts to disrupt established businesses—and enterprise IT—by giving individual users direct access to the experiences they’re looking for. Enterprises must innovate to retain their customers in the face of new competition, and even to keep internal users from being seduced by increasingly attractive Shadow IT options.

digital butterfly: enterprise IT innovation

Enterprise IT may no longer be seen as a major source of innovation, according to Greg Ferro at Ethereal Infrastructure, and it’s easy to see these challenges as obstacles. But that is changing along with the overall technology landscape, as savvy enterprises and IT organizations realize they now have no choice but to use these five issues to drive innovation and build sustainable competitive advantage.


Gears, cloud, and butterfly images courtesy of

Abner Germanow was formerly Senior Director of Partner Marketing & Evangelism at New Relic. View posts by .

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