Image: VMware

Organizations have benefitted from the use of modern applications to adapt and maintain agility and reliability during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new global survey by VMware.

Specifically, modern applications “that are truly cloud native” are allowing organizations to enable remote workforces (54%), push quick updates in response to a changing landscape (42%), and maintain reliable uptime (41%), said Sumit Dhawan, senior vice president and chief customer experience officer at VMware, during a call to discuss the findings.

The survey, which was conducted in March and April 2020, also reveals improved perceptions of alignment among app developers, IT, and business decision-makers as they collaborate to help their organizations operate amid the pandemic.

SEE: Going cloud native in a time of declining IT budgets (TechRepublic)

The findings are somewhat counterintuitive, Dhawan said, because creating modern apps requires alignment and collaboration among all three groups. “You’d think they would have suffered because people are remote,” he noted. “But we learned they are much better during the pandemic versus pre-pandemic.”

The crisis shifted people’s mindsets and perceptions of their organizations, and they are embracing change and organizational alignment, which are crucial to success, Dhawan said. This has been the case inside VMware as well, he added.

“We used to have teams plan meetings and put things on a whiteboard, which is good, but oftentimes required a lot of planning and some people couldn’t attend,” Dhawan said. “Now, with everyone in a virtual world there’s more frequent virtual collaboration and it’s easier to find time in people’s calendars and it forces them to collaborate more.”

This has “concentrated the energy” and been driving “true innovation,” which is also required for these modern apps, along with speed and agility, he said.

Software development that used to take a year is now being done in weeks or months, thanks to this mindset change, Dhawan said.

The research also revealed that software-minded leaders, modern tools, and agile processes are central to improving digital experiences for customers and employees, he said. “What we learned is you need leadership and processes and technology.”

Organizations would not have been able to cope and be as agile with data 5, 10, or 20 years ago, “and that’s a nice, positive light to shine on the data in that sense,” added Charlie Wood, senior research manager at Vanson Bourne, which conducted the survey for VMware.

When change is forced upon organizations they have really “stepped up to the challenge,” Wood said. “If you asked them six months ago ‘How long would it take you to get there,’ there’s no way they would have been this confident. The old saying of taking lemons and making lemonade [applies]. There’s much good to take from this on what businesses can achieve.”

The survey found that 88% of organizations with software-minded leaders are more successful and that 94% of respondents said it is imperative that people with varied tech skills are heavily involved in digital transformation efforts at any organization.

Further, 81% said the deployment of emerging technologies such as AI or cloud-native apps when done correctly is an important part of digital transformation success, Dhawan said.

“The main thing I’d say is it’s absolutely paramount to have the right platform in place,” said Wood. “Not just people and processes…it’s about being more agile with methodologies and utilizing ‘test and learn.’ All of this coming together is what businesses need to be aiming for and the research tells us they need to be successful.”

Key findings

The main benefits of modern, cloud-native apps during the pandemic include:
o Enabling remote workforces (54%)
o Pushing quick updates in response to changing landscape (42%) and,
o Maintaining reliable uptime (41%).

According to app developers (app devs) and IT decision-makers (ITDMs), modern apps also provide:
o Improved end-user experience (46%)
o Increased app/software performance (43%) and,
o More efficient use of app/software developer time (43%).

Almost all respondents (97%) have seen some success, big or small, from their digital transformation efforts. The top three digital transformation priorities for organizations are:
o Increasing business efficiency (48%)
o Improving the customer experience (42%) and,
o Upgrading existing technology platforms (39%).

Alignment between different departments is a crucial driver of success in the best of times. During this pandemic, its importance increases exponentially. US and UK respondents were more likely to agree that their company was “on the cutting edge and quick to embrace change” during the pandemic (25%) than they were before it (15%).

The study also found a marked improvement in how teams characterized their alignment during the pandemic:
o App dev and IT teams (increased from 64% with good or excellent alignment pre-pandemic to 70% during)
o App dev and business teams (increased from 57% to 67%) and,
o IT and business teams (increased from 55% to 67%).

Additionally, the digital transformation priorities of “reducing costs” and “improving the employee experience” are weighed much more equally during the pandemic (29% and 27%, respectively) than before (37% and 20%, respectively), according to the study.

The VMware “Successful Digital Transformation: Apps At The Ready” report is based on a survey of 5,000 business decision-makers, IT decision-makers, and app developers at mid- to large-sized organizations in 17 countries.