As organizations begin to adjust to the new normal, they’re looking closely at how they can build more robust and resilient business operations and the supporting technology infrastructure — and how to connect all its pieces together in a simplified and modernized IT estate.

In many companies, “digital island” infrastructure has been the status quo. Business units may have been working with the right technologies but independently of each other, and the benefits of new technology may not have been shared across the organization. The extent of this problem is reflected in the results of the 2020 Enterprise Leadership Survey by DXC Technology and the Leading Edge Forum: 62 percent of 1,186 executives said they lack a common set of tools and platforms across the organization. For 66 percent, their mission-critical systems are so complex that they are wary of changing them, compounding the problem. Three-quarters of respondents agree or strongly agree they have a lot of older systems that need to be modernized.

The outcome of all this: Companies are hard-pressed to access enterprise data across systems; to collaborate and execute quickly, securely and at scale; and to easily develop and test new solutions. One issue that arises from such problems is this: Being unable to connect data relevant to the supply chain from multiple systems and cleanse it at the start hurts an organization’s ability to move it through the supply chain in real time as an online service.

A connected ecosystem built on a solid and modern IT foundation helps a company improve performance, enhance efficiency, and drive out the high costs that come with a redundant IT and application infrastructure. Done well, business groups can lean on each other to support the end-to-end customer journey as trustworthy data fuels new customer insights by driving analytics deeper into the organization, increasing the speed of business. The process must be seamless, enabling businesses to efficiently use structured and unstructured data, wherever it resides, and legacy systems for real-time analytics. This is particularly important as data moves to the edge; there’s no room for latency as the data moves back to the data center for processing and action. Delivering to these requirements paves the way to presenting customers with what they want and need: the right product or service at the right place and the right time.

Turning the organization into a more information-driven business — necessary to build the right customer service approach as well as serve other critical functions (inventory management and operational efficiencies, for instance) — is more attainable when the business looks to leverage data for artificial intelligence-enabled analytics. That’s all about bringing islands together as part of an overarching business strategy — data is collected from multiple sources; ingested, cleaned and mapped to standard concepts; and insights generated and distributed throughout the enterprise.

Improving the customer journey and experience is tops on the list for nearly 60 percent of survey-takers; it’s one of their three top competitive strategies, according to the research.

The potential in the platform

Another interesting finding of the survey: Respondents say that the top external challenge that can disrupt their organizations over the next 5 years is competition from the consumer-giant, digital-first platform businesses — Amazon, Alibaba, Apple, Facebook and Google — which are fully connected, value-creating ecosystems of digital communities and marketplaces. Not surprisingly, this was of the highest concern (75%) to executives in the retail industry, banking and capital markets (70%), automotive (69%) and media/telco (64%). But execs from manufacturing (63%) and the health care and life sciences (62%) businesses had noticeable reservations, too.

But their concern shouldn’t make them blind to how they may be able to replicate digital platform business models in their own right. Indeed, DXC identified data ecosystems as a key 2020 technology trend, noting that several industries have begun pooling their data in ecosystems to achieve business goals. For example, autonomous driving sensor data is being shared across car companies for use in their car models, and financial data is being shared across banks and investment firms to get the best yields for a customer-provided strategy.

No company or its systems can afford to be an island anymore. It’s time to bridge islands by adopting the cloud with security services to connect both digital and core IT, rationalizing applications and modernizing workloads, and leveraging analytics capabilities to harvest data and generate business insights. Along with these technology actions, enterprises must adjust processes so that the business can make decisions faster and based on better data.