Social. Mobile. Analytics. Cloud. Call it dig-em SMAC.

It’s not a sugary cereal. But from morning to night, these applications dominate how people are living their lives. And together, the SMAC applications are proliferating, as social media plays an increasing role how consumers relate to products and services, brands and companies. SMAC is being woven into everything we do.

According to Gartner, fully 82 percent of mobile phones will be smartphones by the end of 2016, and the worldwide business intelligence and analytics market will reach $16.9 billion this year. Forrester has pegged cloud computing as a “hyper-growth” area, with the market for cloud services expected to grow to $191 billion by 2020. Surely these numbers will only continue to grow, as more companies embrace SMAC technologies to modernize their aging applications, thus to more efficiently support their business.

SMAC platforms help organizations build more adaptive ways of working that can evolve with changing regulatory requirements, market dynamics, consumer behaviors, and the actions and innovations of competitors. So how can your organization ensure a successful transition to the SMAC platforms? How to identify investments in technology that align with your business priorities?

Assessing SMAC: A practical framework

One way companies transition to one or more than one of the SMAC platforms is to assess and segment their current technology portfolio.

Most applications are inherently different, but each plays a role in an organization’s operation and growth. Some are purely business applications; others provide technical support. If a business need suggests a change, refinements can occur at the process level or at the capability level. Processes refer to activities with external entities such as customers, vendors, suppliers and partners; capabilities include IT resources, infrastructures, and knowledge.

Customer on-boarding, for example, is a process. Predictive analysis is a capability. Mobile money transfer is a process. An enterprise mobile platform is a capability.

Obviously, processes and capabilities link in different ways, directly or indirectly, to business growth, profit, and effectiveness. So individual applications cannot be judged only on their technical value, in isolation. Assessing technical requirements is a gestalt: a comprehensive review of processes and capabilities that allows an organization to make smart choices about where and how to invest–and when.

To build an adequate focus for each application, it is important to identify the capabilities and processes that the application addresses with respect to the organization’s growth and effectiveness. Broadly, business applications will link more to processes. Supporting applications, such as those related to business intelligence, content management, and infrastructure applications like run-time and development tools, will be associated more with capabilities.

Processes and capabilities: The three types

In Cognizant’s framework for determining how an organization can review and adapt its technology architecture to incorporate SMAC platforms, we identify three different types of processes and capabilities. These are:

  • Common: Common processes and capabilities are fairly easy to recognize, are widely adopted inside the organization, and typically change very slowly. Examples include human resource management and database management, often highly evolved software applications that have evolved through successive and costly iterations. Organizations often prefer to optimize these processes and capabilities rather than find a different way to conduct business.
  • M-walletDifferentiated: When organizations seek to differentiate themselves from competitors, they often develop processes and capabilities unique to their organization. These more differentiated processes and capabilities therefore do undergo change at a moderate pace. For example, a so-called “m-wallet> (that is, a mobile wallet) that a financial services company might develop in order to offer money transfer on a mobile device, can involves change at both the process level (by bypassing formal agents, for example) and the capability level (i.e., mobile apps, etc.).
  • New: New capabilities and processes allow business to quickly test early-stage concepts, potentially through several iterations. These become mainstream if the new concept is worth pursuing. An example is experimenting with money transfers to a consumer through an ATM, which if widely adopted could become a differentiating activity. New processes and capabilities can also be associated with situational applications, such as apps built to promote and manage holiday or occasional sales.

When Cognizant is asked to help an organization assess the direction for the adoption of SMAC platforms and technologies, we map discrete applications to the capabilities and processes that they support. A single application could be associated with all capabilities and processes, or with just one or more.

Based on the nature of the processes and capabilities, the applications or their logical modules are assigned to one of three systems: a system of innovation, a system of differentiation, or a system of record. For instance, CRM can be considered a single application that belongs to a system of record. However, a component of CRM might integrate with social platforms to drive campaigns and generate leads; and in that case, the organization would prefer to classify its social CRM module as a system of differentiation.

Moving forward

Segmenting your application portfolio into common, differentiated, and new, and then into one of these three systems, helps establish the best direction in which to initiate change–against the backdrop of the organization’s business objectives and its capacity to fund programmatic technological evolution. The paramount objective is always to propel the organization along the best path to transformation.

This journey can be a long one. To reap the benefits described during the assessment phase, a transformation program must be driven and governed end-to-end. Not unlike a good breakfast cereal, assessing the opportunities of SMAC in light of an organization’s existing technology architecture can be a healthy start on the path.

Which technologies are you using in your business?

Want to learn more? Read more about our framework for evaluating the business and technical value of applications.

Kamales Mandal

Kamales Mandal

Kamales Mandal has more than 15 years of experience in diverse walks of enterprise architecture (EA), service-oriented architecture (SOA), product strategy definition... Read more