Kathy Gibson is at Dell Technologies Forum in Sandton – Companies need to differentiate their digital experience through software development.

“When it comes to experiences, understand you can’t buy them off the shelf: you have to create them with software,” says Greg McDonald, sales engineering director at Dell EMC.

Innovation is vital to drive revenue with new products and business models, he adds. “We have great skills in this country: and we need to create an innovation cycle.”

The ecosystem around the application development world enables scale and reach through ecosystems and partnerships.

“Think about APIs and how you can make it easy for applications to talk to one another,” McDonald says.

The final element in making this a reality is operations that improve the efficiency of doing business.

He cites the example of the US Air Force, which uses software to automate business processes to save time and money.

McDonald says Dell Technologies empowers customers with people, processes and technology to master the software competencies they need to realise their digital future.
He say there are three pillars to application transformation: innovation, operations and risk management.

When it comes to innovation, McDonald says it’s important to realise that most organisations today are highly bureaucratic. “Most businesses average less than one release update per quarter.

“Very few do around one per day. But companies like NetFlix release up to 3 000 updates daily.”

McDonald believes that, unless organisations change their approach to software, they will find it hard to ramp up innovation.

Forrester tells us that Fortune 5000 companies don’t have the right operational models to do this.

Some organisations that are not born in the cloud are starting to release software as quickly as the digital natives.

For instance, Boeing can now create a minimum viable product (MVP) in three to five months – compared to one to five years not so long ago.

HBSC went from releases every 15 months to every 14 days; and Scotia Bank pushes out 3 000 software deploys monthly.

Companies that want to speed up their software development can look to Pivotal Labs, McDonald says.

Pivotal can work with companies in their offices, and also help them to immerse themselves in modern development practices that centre on creating MVP.

Once they’ve learnt new approaches, companies can take back and scale what they’ve learned to change the whole organisation.

Dell also provides developer-ready infrastructure for all application needs. Developers can increase productivity through self-service, McDonald points out.

The self-service offerings from Dell include infrastructure, infrastructure as a service, containers as a service, platform as a service, function as a service, and applications.

“When you bring these all together, that is what Pivotal Cloud Foundry is about,” McDonald says.

Most applications are still burdened with a huge number of legacy applications, McDonald points out.

Dell’s Baomi helps them to integrate existing apps and data three to five times faster than legacy middleware.

The next level of software innovation is streamlining application operations.

Currently, about 71% of companies’ budgets go to keeping the lights on – running business as usual.

“However, customers tell us they have a significant number of applications in their landing space,” McDonald points out.

The first step is to rationalise applications and scale down to only those that are needed.

Technical debt in the form of old code that’s hard to support, legacy skill sets, complexity and operational burdens all add to the challenges that organisations have to deal with.

Operational paradigm shifts have been experienced by companies like T-Mobile, which has reduced operation costs by two-thirds; while Gap can now get a new feature into production in five minutes rather than weeks.

To modernise their existing application portfolio, organisations need to look at traditional applications and decide whether to replace, modernise, migrate, retain or retire them.

Research indicates that 5% to 10% of the application portfolio will be on SaaS in the next three years; 15% to 20% on CaaS, PaaS or FaaS; 25% to 35% on IaaS; 20% to 25% on modern infrastructure; and 10% to 30% will be on legacy systems.

Risk management is the final step in the application modernisation journey.

Companies need to minimise application risk – but they are finding that traditional approaches to application risk don’t work.

Vulnerabilities in applications have grown by 88%, while there are more than 30 vulnerabilities in top Docker images – and it takes an average 197 days to identify a data breach.

“When it comes to security inside your organisation, it is believed that you have to think about a speed or safety mindset – one of them has to go. And this is often why innovation stops in organisations.”

There are companies that are rethinking risk to achieve both speed and safety, McDonald says.

They are able to secure, protect, archive and recover apps in a structured manner, wherever they are run.

“Dell believes it is the digital leader. Digital leaders can handle one thing other companies can’t – anything,” McDonald point out.

The company advocates a three-step message to achieve application transformation. These are:

* Assess – access and optimise your existing application portfolio, free up budget and innovation.

* Modernise – adopt modern practices for design, delivery and product management.

* Go cloud native – adopt cloud-native application architecture and applications.