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Thriving application economy fueling EMEA digital transformation boom

A thriving application economy is fueling unprecedented digital transformation across EMEA, according to new research from F5 Networks.

Now in its sixth year, the State of Application Services (SOAS) report reveals that 91% of surveyed EMEA organisations now have specific digital transformation execution plans in progress. This compares to 84% in the USA and 82% in the Asia Pacific, China and Japan (APCJ) region.

“Digital transformation is a profound opportunity to change business as usual,” said Lori MacVittie, Principal Technical Evangelist, Office of the CTO at F5 Networks.

“Crucially, it is driving the growth of application portfolios and changing the way in which they are developed, delivered, integrated and ultimately even consumed. That also means changes in the way they are secured, scaled and operated.”

The main reason EMEA organisations embrace digital transformation is to increase the velocity of new product or service introductions (61% of respondents). This is followed by being able to better respond and adapt to new buyers’ behaviours (40%) and emerging competitors (33%).

Currently, IT optimisation (64%) and business process optimisation (55%) are the top desired digital transformation benefits. The results are consistent with previous years’ research and show how IT firms continue to re-evaluate structures, processes and workflows to drive the next phase of their journey. Other prominent digital transformation aspirations include enhancing employee productivity (47%) and competitive advantage (45%), as well as breaking into new markets (43%).

The next phases of digital transformation

According to the SOAS report, organisations are starting to tap into the second phase of digital transformation, which is a marked by an increase in applications and an expansion of automation.

“Ultimately, applications are the engines that power the global economy,” explained MacVittie.

“All businesses – irrespective of industry – are becoming application-centric with the goal of moving faster, boosting efficiency and delivering the enhanced customer – and employee – experiences the market demands.”

Against this backdrop, the SOAS report found that 66% of surveyed EMEA organisations said they depend on applications to run their business – the highest of any region worldwide. Nearly one in three (32%) believe that apps provide a strategic competitive advantage. The report’s findings go on to show how digital transformation has shaken up application-based decision making in the past year.

57% claim it is influencing automation and orchestration wherever possible, whereas 51% are inspired to explore new application architectures such as containerisation and microservices. 38% said that digital transformation is changing the way they develop applications, and 33% stated that it prompted the migration of more apps to the public cloud. Furthermore, 31% are refactoring legacy applications for modern environments and 26% are moving towards adopting open source technology wherever possible.

“As digital business activities mature, organisations are looking to combine digital services from previously unconnected industries or segments – forming new ecosystems to create value,” MacVittie explained.

Application Programming Interface (API) call volumes are soaring as a result, with 29% of EMEA organisations now reporting more than one million API calls per month.
To optimise digital transformation ambitions, the SOAS report advises to first focus on the application services required to secure, scale, and digitise IT and business processes. Automation and orchestration are critical at this point.

During the second phase, it is crucial to instrument application services to emit telemetry for unified visibility and control over policy enforcement. Then, in the third phase, telemetry from application services can be studied by cloud analytics tools to provide actionable operational and business insights (i.e. predicting capacity, preventing loss and delivering differentiated customer experiences).

“We’re starting to see EMEA organisations moving beyond the first phase of digital transformation —business process automation — and scaling their digital footprint with cloud, automation and containers,” added MacVittie.

“New ecosystems are being created and API call volumes are skyrocketing. Moving forward, those able harness and react to application and API data will be rewarded with significant business value.”

The report reflects input from nearly 2,600 respondents globally (525 in EMEA) across a range of industries, company sizes, and roles. Participants were asked about the challenges and opportunities presented by the ongoing process of digital transformation. Their responses provide a unique view of the trends shaping the application landscape—and how organizations around the world are transforming to meet the ever-changing demands of the digital economy.