The manufacturing industry is having a hard time right now. Of course, one of the main reasons for the current turmoil is the COVID-19 pandemic: it shook the economy, affected production, and disrupted supply chains. However, today’s pandemic and resulting economic impact is not all that’s affecting the industry.

Author Radiana Pit | Copperberg

While the pandemic hit hard, trade dynamism, digitization, and workforce changes are also disrupting the status quo, causing digital urgency and forcing manufacturing organizations to rethink their strategies and rework their operations faster than ever.

As manufacturers struggle to make the right digital investments, adopt IoT-enabled technology, and create digital revenue streams, manufacturing IT must be prepared to accommodate this profound transformation, accelerate application development, and increase overall agility. 

According to OutSystems’ latest research report, The Speed of Change—App Dev Priorities in an Era of Crisis and Recovery:

  • Organizational agility will be tested as never before over the coming months.
  • Organizations that muster the most agility and ingenuity will grasp new opportunities when others falter.

The message is clear: agility has become the pulse that can keep businesses surviving and thriving in a post-pandemic world. So, how can manufacturers ensure that they unlock the agility they need to become resilient and prosper in the current landscape?

In theory, the answer is simple: increase the speed of application development. While companies that have reached technological maturity can achieve that without too much hassle, those that are not there yet are finding themselves in the midst of a whole new conundrum. 

For them, the mission of unlocking agility and building resilience is challenged by issues such as legacy system integration, lacking APIs, changing requirements, shortage of technical development skills, and mastering new technology and standards.

Luckily, OutSystems’ report also outlines five solutions that can help you overcome each and every one of these challenges.

1. Start with UX design

Putting the user at the center of your app development process is the key to creating seamless experiences—especially when it comes to the integration and usage of new technology, such as augmented reality. 

Smart user experience (UX) design can help you identify pain points and address them in a meaningful and relevant way for your users. So, consider using customer journey mapping and design sprint practices to ensure that your application provides the levels of accessibility and usability that satisfy your users. Doing this will ultimately enable you to optimize and customize the overall customer experience (CX).

2. Build your apps for change

Reality is constantly changing, so you must always be prepared to cope with uncertainty, unclear direction, and shifting demands. The best way to do that is to adopt iterative, agile app dev practices that accommodate quick responses to any changes, adaptive planning, and efficient risk management.

Methodologies such as Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), Agile Unified Process (AUP), or Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM), can help you build an agile app dev model that provides flexibility, favors evolution, and speeds up the delivery process.

3. Add new app dev skills

You can’t increase application development speed without the qualified people on your side. However, talent is scarce and the pressure to deliver apps faster is heavier than ever.

To overcome this challenge, investigate and identify the areas where your team needs help. Whether it’s web-related, mobile backend, or modern stack, you should consider expanding your training budget to help inexperienced developers expand their skill sets. 

Remember that in this new era, your app dev teams must be capable of using multiple development environments, varied programming models, and different testing frameworks.

4. Focus on continuous delivery (CD)

For a culture that’s more responsive to changing business needs, CD is essential. This software engineering approach can help you automate your development process and create valuable results in short cycles. With this solution, you will be able to quickly and safely deliver new features, fix bugs, configure changes, and even improve developer productivity.

So, how can you implement it without assembling an array of DevOps tools and skills?

Intelligent technology is the answer! You can facilitate CD by creating a pipeline with built-in intelligence that uses data analytics and machine learning to monitor and optimize both speed and quality.

5. Transform your legacy

Tools with built-in and DIY connectors can make integration easier with any legacy enterprise system, database, or web service.

With the right connectors, you can transform your legacy into a secure, controlled, and responsive platform that can support new digital demands. These technological breakthroughs will give you the ability to complete modernization projects faster, reduce risks, map and transform graphical legacy data, save resources on developer training, and enhance your flexibility for future changes.

Go from laggard to leader with agility

The OutSystems report shines a light on the need for speed in the manufacturing sector. Now, manufacturing companies are forced not only to keep up with their peers in terms of digital transformation but also to survive the digital urgency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizations that have already invested in technological maturity and innovation will be ok; however, the ones that haven’t had the chance to catch up need to find ways to rapidly adapt to change—for them, it’s critical to act fast.

The five solutions mentioned in this article can help them increase the pace of transformation and address talent scarcity, increased backlogs, outdated technology, and overall disruption. Focusing on user experiences, becoming customer-centric, and equipping developers with the right technology, skills, and processes is a surefire way to accelerate digitization and accommodate shifting demands.

While this sounds like a lot of effort all at once, it’s comforting to remember that unlocking agility will not only get you through this crisis but it will also help you build resilience to cope with future changes and achieve long-term success.

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