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The Future Is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed

We’re in the middle of the golden age of innovation that’s creating absolutely astounding achievements. Within 10 years, Elon will land people on Mars, Germany won’t have any gasoline cars on the road, and you’ll be able to use more of your senses in virtual reality. This blade cuts both ways though. Many of today’s business leaders believe that stagnant companies won’t be able to sustain themselves within the next three years as innovation reshapes the business landscape at a breakneck pace.  

Harley Finkelstein, COO of Shopify, illustrated the recent tectonic shifts succinctly when talking about ecommerce trends: “the year 2030 has been pulled into 2020.” Shifts in technology originally planned for the next 10 years are happening now – and it’s not just when buying online. Mckinsey reports that overall customer interaction trends have been accelerated by three years and that “digital adoption has taken a quantum leap at both the organizational and industry levels.” Companies that implemented innovation-promoting processes and tools are cashing in on their investments, and it’s up to the others to catch up.

As the famed cyberpunk author, William Gibson, said: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”.

Every year, we commission a survey to explore how today’s leading organizations are using modern software architectures and other emerging technologies to enable business innovation. This year’s 2021 Digital Innovation Benchmark examined responses from 400 senior technology decision makers in the United States and Europe, including CIOs, CTOs, VPs of IT, IT directors/architects and software engineers from organizations across a range of industries. 

What we found begs each organization to ask the question: what would our future selves look back and wish we had invested in?

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Distributed Application Architectures: The Engine of an Innovation Rocketship

To use a sports analogy, innovating is all about getting as many “at bats” as possible. To do that, it means iterating quickly and doubling down where you find success. Eighty-seven percent of technology leaders believe microservices-based applications are the future and that companies must support distributed applications in order to score the most home runs. 


Scalable Architectures: The Ability to Execute Business Plans Relies on it

Maybe the most interesting insight of the survey is the discrepancy between executives and architects’ confidence in their ability to execute. Executives believed that their organizations were 34% more prepared to keep pace with innovation through technologies like service mesh than application architects and engineers. Ultimately, architects and developers believe there is more investment needed to capture the opportunities their executives feel are within reach.


Urgent Innovation: Necessary to Keep Up

No pressure, but according to our data, the clock is ticking. We’re living through an inflection point in customer digital expectations. Last year, only 39% of technology leaders surveyed believed that an organization would be out of business in less than three years if they failed to innovate. This year, the amount jumped to 51%. 

There’s the fairly obvious underlying cause to some of these survey results: the global COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for business. In fact, the majority (89%) of technology leaders believe that it’s critical to create new digital experiences to overcome COVID-19 business challenges. The bigger picture here though is that businesses need to be able to weather any storm and keep innovating because those who have already crossed the technology chasm will be poised to take advantage of those opportunities.

Basically, it’s time to get busy innovating or get busy declining. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the pace of technology adoption by 10 years, executives have higher expectations than the business may be prepared to deliver, and the timeliness are compressing to remain viable.


The key to any problem is knowing where you stand, then building a plan. Take our free interactive assessment today to see how you stack up within your industry when it comes to driving business innovation: 

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