Leading companies are achieving significantly more value with the help of what we call Future Systems.

This is according to our largest enterprise survey ever — C-level executives in 8,300 companies across 20 industries.

We looked at the 10% of companies that have advanced the furthest in their evolution to Future Systems, and named them Leaders. The bottom 25% we named Laggards.

In this article I want to pull out one important finding, and that is the role IT architecture plays in the success of the Leaders.

It’s a very striking finding. Laggards are far behind in the adoption of DevOps, automation and continuous integration/ continuous deployment, with a 29% adoption rate compared with 98% of Leaders.

All of these technologies and approaches are designed to help companies eliminate dependencies in their systems and processes, which in turn makes them more agile. Across the world, companies cite lack of architecture flexibility as one of the biggest barriers to innovating at scale.

Because of that perspective, Leaders show the highest levels of penetration across the 13 critical business processes our survey covered. In fact, they target three times more business processes with the technologies they adopt than Laggards. As a result, their systems allow for a seamless flow of product and service innovations from one process to another.

One way Leaders do this is by implementing microservice architectures. Instead of having one huge application, these microservices break it into simple discrete services. These microservices also run in isolation from other processes.

Surprisingly, we found that even digital native companies are faced with the need to update monolithic enterprise architectures.

When one travel industry disruptor first launched its business just over a decade ago, speed to market was paramount, so getting the right long-term, scalable architecture in place wasn’t a priority.

Then the company faced the challenge of scaling its platform to meet the demands of a growing customer base and geographic expansion. As part of a decoupling initiative, it migrated its platform to microservices, which allows the company to rapidly respond to change and add new features as it experiences explosive growth.

Leaders opt for flexible, uniform and scalable architectures capable of responding to market demands, like seamless customer payments. Laggards, on the other hand, find it difficult to move away from rigid IT architectures, which leaves them unable to maximise investments in innovation.

Historically, the components of the IT stack — database, applications, and infrastructure — have been treated as independent entities. These days, rigid divisions are fading. More than 75% of our respondents say that systems are breaking down the boundaries between data, infrastructure and applications, between humans and machines, and even between competing organisations.

For more insights please contact me directly. I would love to hear your thoughts on these ideas. Or download the full report by clicking here.