IT Infrastructure Challenges Echo a Rapidly Changing Digital Landscape

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Against a background of major macroeconomic shocks, political uncertainty, and continuing social change, businesses must adapt fast as they aim to deliver trusted value and exceptional experiences for customers, partners, and employees. In a digital world, the responsibility for driving this evolution lies largely with IT leaders as they seek to provide a technology infrastructure with the flexibility, performance, and reliability required in a fast-paced, volatile environment.

To gauge how IT decision-makers are approaching this challenge and understand the issues they are facing, WSO2 recently surveyed 200 IT decision-makers from the UK and Ireland. We found a sector that needs to overcome some significant short-term challenges, but is also aware of longer-term issues that will persist if they are not addressed. At the same time, as digital transformation continues, some of the key technologies powering it are proving harder to integrate into infrastructure than others.

Legacy IT systems, security risks and skills shortages top immediate issues

The biggest IT challenge affecting decision-makers is ‘legacy infrastructure’. Fifty-five per cent of those surveyed said it is a top challenge right now, although only 39 per cent expect it to be a top challenge in three years’ time. This indicates a degree of confidence that legacy issues can be overcome, either through tools that integrate better with the legacy platforms, or the rollout of alternatives enabling legacy tech to be retired.

Second on the list is ‘managing security risks’, cited by half of the respondents as a current problem, though only 41 per cent expect to see it as an issue in the future. This is not surprising; given the headline-grabbing breaches and third-party risks facing organisations, resilience and protection are priorities.

‘Skills shortages in the IT team’ complete the top three challenges. It is an issue for 48 per cent and is still expected to be a problem in three years’ time according to 39 per cent of respondents. Notably, these three challenges are set to remain top of the list – albeit at a slightly less troublesome level – in three years’ time. They will be a constant thorn in the side for IT leaders as they aim to energise their infrastructure and power digital transformation. Nevertheless, these are not the only barriers.

API integration and management are set to be persistent challenges

Of the ten IT challenges listed, respondents expect all but two to be less of an issue in three years’ time. It is natural that, as strategies improve and technologies mature, they will become less problematic and easier to manage. However, in two key areas, respondents felt there would be little improvement in the short to medium term.

The first is API integration, which ranked fourth on the list of top challenges. It was viewed as a problem now by 39 per cent of respondents and 38 per cent of these professionals expect it to remain an issue in three years’ time. For API management the picture is similar, with 36 per cent of respondents seeing it as an issue both today and in three years.

This is interesting, and concerning, given that APIs are such a fundamental building block for current and future IT infrastructure. The right API strategy – incorporating integration, management, and security – is critical to rapid and successful digital transformation initiatives. It is vital to unlocking the new revenue streams and customer experiences that will keep organisations at the forefront in terms of competitive edge, employee experience, and organisational resilience. The fact that IT decision-makers see sustained challenges in this area indicates that they are not overly comfortable with how best to use and manage APIs for the good of the business. It is an area that should prompt further exploration from both buyers and solution vendors to ensure that businesses stay on the right trajectory and grow more confident in their use of APIs.

Understanding the challenges IT decision-makers face is a good start, but the next key questions are how they plan to solve them and what types of solutions are under consideration.

One foot in the cloud: catering for continuing hybrid preferences

Despite the rapid shift to cloud undertaken by many organisations because of the pandemic, the transition is by no means complete.

Research found that most respondents are looking at a hybrid approach – Only three per cent of our respondents said that they currently seek to deploy IT infrastructure in the cloud wherever possible. The majority seek either fully on-premises deployments (10 per cent) or mostly on-premises, but with some cloud (42 per cent).

However, we will see a markedly changed picture in three years. There will be a five-fold increase in respondents with all-cloud deployments (although this only takes the figure to 15%), and a drop in fully on-premises preferences to 5%. Nevertheless, it seems that organisations are reticent about going all-in on the cloud, and a hybrid environment is likely to persist for some time to come. This might also be a result of the enduring legacy tech challenges faced, and it means that vendors must focus on offering flexibility.

The need for flexibility is underlined when we look at the top factors that buyers are seeking when they specify new IT solutions. Top of the list is integration with existing IT systems, which is the priority for 58 per cent. ROI is next at 49 per cent, and the availability of different deployment options – such as on-premises, cloud, or hybrid – is close behind, at 48 per cent.

For solution providers the message is clear: customers need multiple options to match their cloud trajectory and it is important not to pressure customers to opt for solutions that don’t work well with their level of cloud maturity.

The findings of our survey show that IT decision-makers see challenges changing as the digital landscape evolves. In some areas, they are confident that the situation will improve over time, but in others, notably around technologies that are growing more critical to competitive positionings, such as API management, there is a lack of confidence that will need to be addressed if businesses are to stay secure without compromising on progress.

Our research goes on to explore the issues of APIs in digital transformation and the “identity crisis” many face when it comes to managing identity requirements. Download the full whitepaper: ‘A Road to Success Without Compromise: Managing APIs and Identity Effectively.’