Once you know how to self author apps you will soon find that one is not enough. How do you create a Digital Platform for your enterprise?
The app craze
Businesses are building custom apps for lots of reasons. Step through the latest articles on app engineering and you’ll find the three main areas are these:
#1. Customer Service Apps
Customers want to serve themselves. That means processes need to extend beyond the remit of a company website. Binding together front and back-office systems requires the development of new apps that can be deployed on mobile, desktop and web form factors. They must also be able to interact with the incumbent systems and harvest data from across and beyond the enterprise.
#2. HyperAutomation Apps
Most businesses today still rely on hard-copy documents and humans to some extent to fill in gaps between automated processes. Broken process steps and simple things like signatures are common culprits for offline process steps. Hyperautomation is about leveraging the latest crop of digital technologies—including blockchain, AI, big data, cloud computing, robotics and RPA, chatbots, the Internet of Things (and sensor networks), etc.—to automate processes at scale.
#3. Data Analysis and Decisioning Apps
The democratisation of artificial intelligence technology has led to a dramatic growth in the use of computers in decisioning that would previously have been left for humans to do. Practically all of the startups finding investment in Silicon Valley these days have an ‘AI’ aspect to their business models. Data analysis and decisioning form a major part of the digital transformations businesses are today considering to gain a competitive advantage on their rivals.
Why you will want more than one app
Justify the development of a new app in any one of the above categories, and you will find the opportunities for apps don’t stop there.
Most businesses today, even will all of the great SaaS tools and business apps at their disposal, are underpinning a large proportion of their critical business processes with spreadsheet systems and self-authored apps that rest on the desktop and are largely invisible to IT.
Back in the day, that wasn’t really an issue—and everyone did it—but in an era where data security and privacy is everything, and customers want the transparency of operations to serve themselves 24/7, well, spreadsheets quite frankly don’t cut the mustard.
This all means, every company I know has a shopping list of new apps they want to build to serve customers better, automate further and faster to cut costs, and to improve data use and value, through richer data analytics and decisioning.
You’re looking for an app platform, not an app dev tool
The enterprise IT today is flooded with new ways to develop business applications using Low-Code or No-Code tooling that reduces or removes the need for coding and scripting when authoring apps. These tools are designed to help a non-technical (or less IT competent) user to build custom apps for themselves.
Which all sounds great, but in the real world of digital businesses today, appdev requirements extend beyond the expectation that only one app will be the outcome of that investment. Businesses need enterprise grade platforms that support not just the design, but the roll-out and ongoing operational maintenance of custom apps.
That means app platforms need to serve multiple masters:
The App designers
Every good app designer knows that the best results come from an engaged stakeholder group able to articulate how an app should work. The design process today needs to allow business people and app stakeholders to get hands-on in the app development. This means removing the code from design screens, because normal human-beings that chose not to take Computing as their primary choice in college, don’t fair well when code is presented on a screen. It’s an instant put-off.
For this reason, No-Code appdev platforms are taking off in popularity. Not only do they produce faster results, but generally the quality of apps they produce is as better fit to business needs.
The IT Admins and Architects
At some point, no-matter who authors an app, it needs to be handed over to the IT guys for it to be properly maintained and managed. In the world of computing today, data security and privacy are foremost in the minds of leaders responsible for business continuity and keeping the lights on. This means self-authored apps must co-exist with systems of record (like ERP and financial systems) as part of a joined up enterprise digital platform. It also means, IT admins and architects need their own robust and easy to administer toolsets to manage the roll-out and governance of apps developed by the business.
Building and adapting apps should be part of your continuous change agenda
In Germany, most companies have what we’d describe as an ‘Organization Department.’ This is a team of people committed to the continuous improvement of organizational designs, behaviors, systems, processes, compliance, workforce incentivization, and data governance.
If you want to really maximize the potential of your data and the operational effectiveness of your business, applications development should not be seen as a one-time-only ad hoc event, but an integral part of continuous organizational improvement. That means building your tech tools into the improvement team of your organization, how so ever that manifests itself.
What features characterise the differences between an app design tool and an enterprise-grade application platform? Read our next article where we summarise 10 of the bigger differences that you will undoubtedly spot in the leading platforms.
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