An ever-increasing consumer demand for digital products and services causes company leaders to recognize technology for what it is: a decisive, if not game-changing, element of their business strategies. The existing IT organizational structures of few businesses, however, fully support the prevailing customer demand in this regard. Even fewer companies can begin from scratch and create structures capable of supporting the digital product and service demand that exists today, let alone that which is expected to erupt in the near future.

That demand is why updating an existing software infrastructure is a common high priority. Leaders recognize that to reap the benefits of a novel idea, they must minimize the time that elapses between a product’s conception and the point at which it reaches its market. That requirement imposes a “need for speed” in the acquisition of an infrastructure that supports that goal. Also essential is a technical structure capable of accommodating customer needs in terms of transparency, convenience, personalization, and the provision of a seamless omni-channel experience.

Some companies are more successful than others in developing the software capabilities they need to compete in today’s commercial environment. Taking the following actions will contribute to your success.

Commit to converting to an agile operating model

Converting an existing development model to an agile one supports your company’s efforts to respond to the evolution in customer demand and compete effectively with other digital-savvy businesses. Transforming your operating model requires that your IT department acquire and retain needed talent and improve legacy operations as you assemble a new digital solution. Also needed are new development processes that ensure you introduce online applications, products and services faster than before, and an update of your application’s architecture.

Acquire and retain personnel with the skills needed to support the agile model

The talent you’ll need to support an agile software development model should possess technical skills and business savvy. But 51 percent of respondents to a Bain & Company survey say that a lack of IT talent is a major issue. In turn, 35 percent claim existing staff members must improve their skills before the companies can adequately support customer requirements.

Companies that seek a true alignment of IT and business priorities must seek experts who understand new technologies as well as the next-generation architecture and techniques a company will use to transform legacy systems. These tools include advanced analytics, next-generation mobile development, cloud engineering, DevOps, Agile development, and cybersecurity.

Consider adopting a two-track agile operating model

When implementing an agile development model, some companies experiment with a two-track model. In this case, one CIO oversees both groups, which may share some resources. In most cases, companies elect the two-track model due to the need to support legacy systems and the lack of needed talent.

The two-track model, however, is hardly ideal. It does provide opportunities for innovation but its costs are high in both financial and cultural terms. For these reasons, companies consider the two-track model as a means of transitioning in a few years from the legacy environment to a more agile one.

Implement agile development processes

To meet the needs of next-generation digital systems, a company needs better and faster ways to develop and launch applications. IT departments can achieve faster delivery and lower costs by adopting agile development processes, DevOps and cloud infrastructure. Bain reports that by embracing agile and DevOps, costs may reduce by 30 percent or more in part because doing so reduces development time by 50 percent.

Agile development is somewhat demanding in that business and IT must collaborate to refine requirements and prioritize functionality. In turn, DevOps processes, in combination with Agile, create a tight linkage between development and operations organizations.

Update the applications architecture

A company ensures a smooth transition to an agile operating model in part by a staff’s understanding of the current architecture’s limitations and a plan to update that architecture. Because replacing existing software is challenging and one that requires a substantial, long-term commitment, companies may be hesitant to undertake the task. According to Bain, the time is right to adopt an agile operation model if legacy system maintenance costs are rising; system outages and software errors accompany the unstable performance of legacy systems; implementing new functionality is difficult; and if the architecture renders personnel incapable of performing advanced analytics.

An agile operating model is one element of a company’s efforts to update its software development model that, in turn, may enable the company to meet ever-increasing customer digital demands. While some areas of the organization may require a minor adjustment, others a major one. When the process is done correctly, the company can capture significant value along the way. This process includes adopting an agile development model, which requires acquiring and retaining appropriate personnel; adopting a new organizational model; implementing agile development processes and modernizing the applications architecture.