Wednesday, 12th May 2021
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Digital architects under pressure

Past technology decisions including legacy databases and poor cloud infrastructure to blame.

The pressure on digital architects has more than doubled since the outbreak of COVID-19, research from Couchbase, the creator of the enterprise-class, multicloud to edge NoSQL database, shows. According to the survey of 450 digital architects across the USA, UK, France, and Germany, 48 percent are currently under high or extremely high pressure to deliver digital projects, compared to just 19 percent pre-pandemic. Yet, despite this pressure, architects are still delivering results, with nearly half (48 percent) delivering digital projects uninterrupted by the pandemic.

Other findings include:

  • 86 percent of architects say COVID-19 has made it harder to get the right technology in place for digital transformation, while 38 percent say it has disrupted their plans to deliver digital projects.
  • 61 percent said that past technology decisions had made completing digital transformation projects more difficult – in particular, cloud infrastructure (48 percent) and database (43 percent) decisions.
  • Only 13 percent of organizations are still in the planning phase of digital projects, compared to 22 percent in 2019 - indicating that, despite the challenges of the pandemic, nearly all organizations are committed to digital projects that are underway.

“The sudden acceleration of initiatives to transform businesses to adapt to the new digital reality imposed by COVID has put the Architects under both limelight and tremendous pressure,” said Ravi Mayuram, SVP of Engineering and CTO at Couchbase. “Transformation starts with modernizing data infrastructure and then fixing the application stack above it, which isn’t for the faint of heart. Last year was a once-in-a-generation event, and the Architects are thriving in meeting the demands placed on them.”


The research highlights the problem of over-relying on legacy databases. Despite most organizations believing relational databases do not have major potential to revolutionize digital transformation, 91 percent still rely on them – 31 percent heavily. Though this finding is lower than in 2019, organizations still face challenges with legacy databases. 61 percent of organizations that still rely on legacy databases say they make it harder to implement new digital projects.

With regards to legacy databases, the survey also found:

  • 64 percent are locked into using them because they have invested heavily in the relevant skills, while the same percentage say legacy databases hold their systems of record.
  • At least 60 percent of organizations have either reduced their use of legacy databases over the past 12 months, or plan to over the next 12.
  • 49 percent say moving from legacy to NoSQL databases has been significantly helpful or even indispensable in meeting their goals.
  • COVID-19 has pulled organizations almost equally in opposite directions: 34 percent say it has accelerated their move away from legacy databases, while for 33 percent, it has put these plans on hold.

Architects were also clear on where they believe the future lies. Respondents said that the cloud (identified by 68 percent) and Big Data (59 percent) have the most potential to revolutionize digital transformation – perhaps because both enable organizations to adapt to an increasingly online and decentralized world. Respondents were also clear which approaches had been of significant help or indispensable in meeting their goals. These included: moving from on-premises databases to the cloud (identified by 65 percent); the flexibility to quickly change goals when needed (63 percent); and adopting technology that didn’t require investing in new skills (60 percent).

“COVID-19 has highlighted the pitfalls of an outdated and inadequate data foundation,” continued Ravi Mayuram. “But it’s not all doom and gloom. Many organizations are moving away from legacy databases towards more modern NoSQL offerings and are seeing accelerated innovation as a result. Though many organizations have been in this journey, COVID has been the tipping point for this acceleration as well as the increasing adoption of modern databases. By continuing to study what has worked during and after the pandemic, we can build a blueprint that will help increase digital transformation success.”.”

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