Why digital engineering answers both customer and IT needs

In the race to the top with technology adoption, the industry has reached an inflection point where businesses are arguably becoming too obsessed with their technology prowess. However, in the rush to innovate, the industry may have missed a step in translating technology investments into true business impact.

In Singapore, the early adoption of technology is the norm. Even in a nation that has built itself on connectivity and innovation, however, deriving true business value from digital transformation is not as simple as it may seem. In a recent discussion at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information, S. Iswaran, said that Singapore first has to develop and apply technology in the right areas to reap its full economic benefits.

CIOs face pressure from upwards, particularly other members of the C-Suite, but they also must take into account the aspirations of their IT teams to do innovative work. As a result, their internal focus is often driving the adoption of digital technologies, or pioneering new digital initiatives, but this does not always enable them to realise business outcomes or impact.

Instead, business technology leaders need to re-focus on understanding their customers and learn to view new technology as an enabler to meeting customer needs in innovative ways — rather than purchasing technology solutions and hoping for a magic fix. Shifting from traditional software engineering to digital engineering is a way to pioneer this approach and can be immensely helpful not only to the end customer, but to IT teams as well.

Valuing applications over administration

Businesses need IT applications that streamline and optimise business value —value that is not in administering servers or maintaining operating systems. Too many internal IT resources are funnelled into these administrative functions. This distracts businesses from their core purpose of innovating products and improving customer experience by prioritising and IT-enabling business capabilities or value streams.

For a CIO, a ‘keeping the lights on’ mentality is necessary but not sufficient. CIOs must consider adopting digital technologies to modernise legacy applications to unlock the value in their application portfolio.

Cloud-native engineering is becoming a popular solution for organisations prioritising the improvement of applications over, say, working to avoid server downtime. Cloud-native engineering abstracts the underlying infrastructure of an organisation to free up IT teams to develop new, better, optimised applications, which deliver real business value.

Digital engineering takes centre stage in the skills shortage

One of the key drivers of digital engineering in demonstrating business value comes from its ability to improve applications. It focuses on resource allocation and team enablement, gleaning data to intelligently provide insights on broader and more effective business movements. This is very different from yesteryear, where IT teams were typically focused on IT implementation and maintenance.

In essence, digital technologies assist in automating server and network administration, enabling digital workforces to speed up transformation initiatives.

Effective resource allocation and team enablement will always be an issue, even in a nation ranked third in Bloomberg’s Innovation Index. Despite Singapore’s various efforts to boost the number of locals with in-demand ICT skills, experts still say the need is outstripping the supply. In order to maintain its position as a leader in digital adoption and innovation, Singapore will have to leverage technology to keep the industry agile.

Consequently, businesses seeking the right expertise to innovate can use digital engineering to do so, in a way that does not sacrifice their IT teams’ time and resources on extraneous tasks. By virtue of harnessing modern digital capabilities to improve organisational efficiency and value, digital engineering allows businesses to deliver applications faster and at scale.

An example of this could be using data and technology to enhance process sequences or transform end-user experiences. It does this through resource allocation, delivery models, and project management, understanding the true functionalities and priorities of different business units to drive innovations and opportunities. The outcome is marketplace advantage and product differentiation, delivered in a manner that eliminates waste.

A core tenet of digital engineering to keep in mind is the fact that, ultimately, no one can predict how the consumer of the future will react to new technologies such as voice biometrics or self-driving cars. Only by applying the ultra-agile framework of digital engineering can organisations be confident that their hard-won IT experts are resourced in the right way and focusing on the right innovations. There is simply no point in hiring skilled technology workers and have them focus on server administration.

Make innovation outcomes, rather than acquisition of new technology for its own sake, the feature of your digital strategy.