[Forrester Principal Analyst Phil Murphy and I collaborated on this research — and the consulting projects that prompted it.]

Business technology demands that application development and delivery pros help business leaders define IT capabilities to drive business strategies and either create or broker delivery of those capabilities. To respond, app development and delivery pros must adopt new delivery methods, organizational models, roles, and processes. Providing excellent IT project execution and predictable IT utilities is now table stakes. Welcome to the world of BT — where the walls between IT and the business have faded or disappeared almost entirely.

Three case studies illustrate the paths that app delivery organizations will follow as they make the transition from IT order-takers to business technology (BT) leaders. (The company names have been fictionalized.)

  • "Services Inc." struggles to keep the lights on while the business expands globally. The IT group initially thought it needed a new software development life cycle (SDLC) and stronger project management. In fact, it needs much more: a productive relationship with line-of-business leaders, an application platform flexible enough to keep up with demands, and a refocusing of its efforts on the work that would help it globalize and that would truly differentiate it from competitors.

  • "Logistics Inc." struggles with global diversity as it seeks to deliver high-value services. IT was struggling to create new information services key to growth and profitability, reduce the costs of redundant and overlapping application portfolios, and create new lines of revenue. To streamline and create the new services, app delivery leaders must standardize business processes and applications across country divisions that now do things their own way.

  • "Finance Inc." scrambles to fend off new competitors with lower costs and greater flexibility. Business leadership demanded a plan to meet emerging competitors with lower cost structures and more-flexible platforms. The state-of-the-art application it built several years ago is among a handful of elite applications with no unplanned outages in decades. But the system is also slow and difficult to change. App delivery leaders must re-architect, redesign, and redeploy it without curtailing its core system's world-class availability.

Each of these firms had to start with a candid assessment of its capabilities as an IT organization as a baseline and then tackle four initiatives to move down the path to BT:

  • Tame the application portfolio beasts.

  • Build a robust BT platform strategy.

  • Broker the best solutions for the firm.

  • Transform talent, organization, and processes.

Our research recommends approaches for each of these initiatives. Forrester clients, see the full research report.

The app delivery pros in these three cases can't simply sit back and take orders for the next incremental change. In each case, business leaders expect much more — they want consultative guidance on the best uses of technology to achieve strategies for revenue growth, profitability, and market share expansion. The transition is difficult, but it is the best opportunity for real advancement that app delivery pros have had in decades.