The State of Modern Applications in the Enterprise 2020
August 06, 2020

While most enterprises are committed to modernizing their application software portfolios, there are still myriad challenges to overcome and improvements to be made, according to the State of Modern Applications in the Enterprise 2020 report, based on a survey conducted by Hanover Research and commissioned by AHEAD.

Top Priorities for Enterprise Application Software

According to the report, application development functions have a full agenda for the next 12 months, with the majority seeking improvements in speed, quality and security to ensure continued competitiveness.

Speed: Only 37% of respondents are very satisfied with how fast they are currently delivering new software or new features. As such, 82% of survey respondents selected wanting to meet the needs of the business faster as a top priority. To speed up application releases, 54% of respondents are investing in automation.

Quality: Delivering better quality software, faster is a top priority for 79% of respondents as only 40% of respondents are fully satisfied with current software quality.

Security: Less than half (42%) are fully satisfied with the security of their application software, and as such, 48% identified DevSecOps - the integration of security early and often in software development - as an active initiative.

Application Software Challenges

The road to modern applications can be arduous as complex legacy infrastructure, inefficient manual processes and organizational silos persist as barriers to progress.

Complex Infrastructure: Inflexible and complex legacy environments (35%) were cited as the top barrier to modern apps for respondents. A quarter of respondents (25%) identified too much custom software and 23% listed infrastructure that can't keep up with the demand for new features, as additional challenges.

Inefficient Processes: When asked which software challenges does your company face, 31% of survey respondents said current IT processes take too much time, followed by test and release processes taking too long (29%). Additionally, the survey found that there is a higher focus on migrating applications to the cloud (59%) than on efforts such as rolling out continuous integration and deployment (43%) and containers and container orchestration (33%).

Silos: Nearly half (43%) of companies report that their infrastructure can't keep up with app development needs, in part because of silos between applications and infrastructure teams. Related, 72% of responding organizations listed running IT with more controls and visibility as a top priority.

Drivers of Success

AHEAD identifies four pillars to a successful modern applications strategy: cloud native applications (built with microservices), cloud native platforms, continuous integration/continuous delivery pipelines and adoption of DevOps culture and practices.

To help enterprises achieve the benefits of modern applications — such as security, quality and speed — the report found six common themes correlated with success, including:

1. Overarching Strategy: 25% of enterprises don't have an overarching strategy for modernizing applications. This number increases to 31% when looking at companies with $5 billion or more in revenue. Investing in a strategy before embarking on any IT project will ensure cross-functional alignment and reduce risks.

2. Executive Sponsorship: When asked which benefits of application modernization your company experienced over the past 12 months, organizations with executive sponsorship report a 15% to 16% increase in improved software quality and faster delivery of new features.

3. Strategic Vendor Partnerships: 39% of enterprises feel that their systems integrators/service providers are not meeting expectations in the area of modern applications. The desire to ditch bad habits, update architecture and minimize technical debt must be coupled with a willingness to explore and adopt new service providers who understand both brownfield (modernization of legacy apps) and greenfield (cloud native development) models.

4. Training: When it comes to modernizing application software and cloud-native development, finding talent with the application software skills needed is a priority for 45% of respondents, yet 23% of survey respondents said they can't find enough talent. As enterprises compete for top talent, enabling/training its existing workforce is critical, as well.

5. DevOps Practices and Tooling: According to the report, the majority of enterprises (77%) have some level of DevOps activities underway. However, the promise of DevOps can be elusive if the right strategy and structure isn't put into place to facilitate application delivery. Additionally, the report found that executive sponsorship drives up DevOps success and satisfaction, with 76% of the most successful DevOps programs having executive sponsorship.

6. Cloud Center of Excellence: Of organizations that say infrastructure satisfied or exceeds the demands of the applications function, 78% have Cloud Centers of Excellence (CCoE) and 84% have an overarching strategy guiding public cloud adoption, often facilitated by the CCoE.

"Today's enterprises are bogged down with complex legacy software, with software developers spending nights and weekends wrestling outdated IT infrastructure," said Tom Pohlmann, EVP of Customer Success at AHEAD. "A move to cloud native apps and platforms, as well as adoption of DevOps practices, present the best opportunity to keep pace with agile, cloud-born competitors."

Methodology: Sponsored by AHEAD, the State of Modern Applications in the Enterprise 2020 report survey was conducted by Hanover Research in April 2020. Feedback was obtained from 308 key IT decision-makers who influence IT spend and decision making in application development and custom enterprise software at US-based companies with more than 1,000 employees.

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