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Top enterprise application trends require revamped thinking

Gartner experts revealed the top 10 trends in application architecture they expect to unfold across enterprises within three to five years.

LAS VEGAS -- The top trends in application architecture are set to place a heavy burden on enterprise IT staff.

Some app architects at forward-thinking companies already work with modern platforms and have a data integration strategy. But for the vast majority of IT professionals, Gartner analysts offered a glimpse into the future with a list of the 10 biggest enterprise application trends expected in the next three to five years at the firm's Application Strategies & Solutions Summit 2018 here this week.

To capitalize on these trends, however, organizations will likely need a lot more expertise on site than they currently have. Gartner said that by 2020, there will be nearly 700,000 job openings for data scientists, data engineers and data developers.

Smarter applications

Organizations will need to add intelligence to applications, create apps, deal with complex IT ecosystems and innovate with new technologies in the next few years, according to Gartner.

AI, context awareness and an increase in virtual assistants and bots address how to derive benefit from the multitude of data an enterprise collects. Everyone looks to these technologies to bring insight into their business and to help their staff improve at their jobs, said Dennis Gaughan, a Gartner analyst. AI also improves the speed of data processing and analytics.

"We can identify new patterns or use these insights to make better decisions," he said.

Context-aware applications rely on end-user information to improve the quality of an interaction. Enterprises can drive a better application experience for customers if they invest in context-aware application architectures. However, that shift requires a company to refocus its initial application design across multiple channels to reach end users.

Virtual assistants form a third trend in data intelligence for enterprise applications. These tools, though not new, are set to grow in use and complexity in the near term, particularly as a means to augment the customer service workforce. For example, in healthcare, bots can keep tabs on an individual's health and also check if patients take their medication on a regular basis.

Better data integration

Three more top areas of concern for application architects focus on data integration.

Gartner expects enterprises to grow a digital business technology platform on which they can share and enhance digital processes to derive greater business benefit. Those platforms will determine how organizations define customer engagement, products and services and, in general, how they support the business model, Gaughan said.

Organizations should also ratchet up their focus on API strategy. APIs have become more than just a programming interface. They are a boardroom business discussion.

"APIs are central to how we connect with business partners, to how we integrate between applications [and] how we deliver mobile applications," Gaughan said.

Among these data integration trends, Gartner stressed that application delivery must come in the form of complementary components meshed together to work as an application. When architects compose applications as discrete services rather than a monolithic architecture, it can improve overall application delivery and speed. But modernization toward microservices or an otherwise componentized architecture does require effort.

Modern thinking for modern apps

Four additional enterprise application trends address various innovations.

Gaughan sees IT teams shift from a project view of tasks to a product view. A project is limited and tactical and something that is never quite complete. IT shops should work on products. They must consider how to deliver the next set of features or capabilities and bring business expertise into the process.

"The project model fails. Few organizations go back and see if they [met] their objective," he said.

Continuous modernization, which removes the idea of legacy in favor of a regular real-time delivery, should take center stage over the coming five years, according to Gartner. "We do unnatural things to keep the dogs of apps running without knowing how bad they are," Gaughan said.

The rise of immersive reality requires application architects to provide a platform that brings real-time graphics, audio and other interactive experiences into the real world.

And finally, digital dexterity means a workplace wherein people and programs are adaptable to change. "This [enterprise application trend] is about team-based collaboration -- about social engagement," Gaughan said.

Luke Steiner, a senior manager for enterprise applications in the internal IT staff at Hyland Software Inc. in West Lake, Ohio, said his company has a leg up on these application trends because it can work with a homegrown product. Steiner's team uses Hyland's OnBase process management software and is currently rearchitecting that suite to run in the cloud.

But for many enterprise IT organizations, a significant transformation in application architectures and delivery requires money. "The challenge for a lot of companies is the cost," Steiner said. "SMBs can't afford to spend on some of these platforms. You might spend $40,000 on the platform itself and then another $150,000 on services."

"I'm not sure how a small business gets over that hurdle," he added. "But most of the time, you can justify the cost to the value, and it's finding the right way to do that."

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