I recently read a blog by my colleague, Cliff Evans, titled “The benefits & challenges of an “out-side-in” model for IT Design & Delivery” and as Cliff delved deeper into the layers of the IT architecture and the changes I thought about the changes in the opposite direction and what that would mean for firstly the user and secondly the business trying to transform to address business challenges.

So, just in case you didn’t read the previous blog, an outside-in approach typically considers change and layers of systems from the customer’s perspective down into the operations i.e. customer experience layer, then interaction and process layer (by channel) to the applications layer, data and finally infrastructure. It’s fair to say that this approach is more typical in area of the Chief Digital Officer but we are now seeing very clear benefits of adopting a more “customer” focussed approach to business transformation across other CXO areas particularly HR and Supply Chain. This reflects a move away from a 100% focus on a process centricity to a more balanced user and process centric view of business transformation.

Why is this happening? Well there are a number of reasons:

·         New technologies – As is often the way in the IT industry new technologies are driving new opportunities for transformation. In-memory databases e.g. HANA or new cloud applications e.g. Oracle Cloud, allow the creation of new business models at lower TCO. Software vendors take it as a opportunity to refresh their existing portfolio of applications and generate interest an opportunity in their existing clients;

·         New expectations – It’s a cliché but the “consumerisation of IT” has meant that user expectation of systems that are used in the office has increased with more usability and accessibility expected even on the oldest legacy applications; and

·         nth generation transformation – Transformation is a frequently used word, I fall into the trap myself, so there is some cynicism because the IT market and business have been transforming for many years. But markets do not standstill and new challenges appear. Business must continue to change whatever it’s called.

These, plus other, factors mean that in order to drive business change it is no longer sufficient to focus on process efficiency and commonality across the organisation because often this leads to a trade off of a worst user experience for the greater good of the organisation.

It is now possible to exploit the latest technologies across the different layers to achieve the “plug and play” flexibility and at the same time exploit the “best practice” components that applications like SAP, Oracle and NetSuite provide. The challenge now becomes to ensure a more rigorous approach to measuring success in benefits and outcomes rather than time to deploy or incremental MVP versions.

Whilst the potential benefits of an outside-in approach are clear to a business, in that the focus is now on what the user i.e. customer, supplier, employee, CXO, etc is expecting from the solution, the challenge is now clear – to create a closed-loop benefits management approach for a new, more agile enterprise grade business application landscape.

If this can be achieved then a whole new landscape of transformational opportunity awaits.