There have been some interesting recent announcements. The Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, of the USA announced that they have to change their procurement model to ‘as a service’. They give the recognizable reason that the speed with which software tools and capabilities are changing means they can no longer run a buy and invest strategy since the tools will be obsolete before the end of the write off.
Hidden in that announcement is the fact that in accepting and moving to the ‘as a service’ model the security aspects are also acceptable. But is it that simple? This brings back the topic of app shops, or more often so-called ‘enterprise app shops’, where Gartner announced in a new report that they back the value of enterprise app stores.
Interviewed by ‘Computing’, the COO Shaygan Kheradpir of leading UK bank Barclays described how they will be going to ‘an enterprise app shop’ for the front office staff. In an informative interview, which I recommend reading in full on the Computing Magazine website, he stated – and I quote in full as he makes the key points well:-
"It's for business-focused apps that employees need for their daily activities, but also for internal social networking and collaboration.
Many of the tasks that happen in the front line of the bank are app-oriented. They are specialized tasks like applying for a mortgage or a credit card.
And what are apps? They are deep and narrow. They're not like PC applications which are broad and shallow. You want apps to do one, often complex, task."
Kheradpir said the firm cannot upload the apps to Google's or Apple's existing app stores due to security concerns.
At the risk of being boring, this once again brings up the topic of a ‘front office’ revolution using new technologies in a different manner to the standard role of IT and its attendant monolithic applications based on Client-Server technologies. What we at Capgemini call ‘outside-in’, meaning outside the firewall with a secondary role of connecting to inside the firewall IT. Oracle has been kind enough to feature me presenting this point of view on a webcast on their web site if you want to go understand this in full.
As the expectations of customer service personnel continue to rise with their need to interact with customers, have knowledge of the market place and well-focused questions, their role is rapidly becoming that of a ‘knowledge worker’. And knowledge workers have traditionally been seen as using specialized applications for their complex role.
In this case it’s more about being offered a wide variety of specialized tools that can be selected and downloaded in any working group or department to enable them to optimize their activities quickly and easily. The fast changing, highly competitive front office, whether in a bank or the CIA, or any customer-facing business needs a different model to the back office where its core values are long term stability, and extended procedures. App shops are a front office tool where the activities are decentralized to optimize competitive advantage and the development of apps will become a new high value, high skill, to develop.
Coming to development, this provides the link to the Mozilla Marketplace announcement of the extension to the current somewhat different facility around T Shirts etc to include software. Initially aimed at developers of HTML 5-based apps, it offers an exchange for them to access and use other people’s developments presumably to add value to their own. This seems to suggest a further stage is required for the ability to assemble a process from a string of apps through orchestration.
That brings in the final recent announcement of Amazon Simple Workflow Service for developers. This important new capability draws together the existing deployment / run operation with the ability to assemble / orchestrate a workflow to produce what Amazon calls ‘scalable distributed applications’. Additionally Amazon adds, ‘Amazon SWF manages the execution flow such that the tasks are load balanced across the registered workers, that inter-task dependencies are respected, that concurrency is handled appropriately and that child workflows are executed.’
Put this all together and it’s looking like a very effective revolution: delivering personal effective tools in the form of small easy to produce apps that sit on either internal private or external public clouds to knowledge workers. It literally empowers them to work in their most effective manner, and now we are starting to see the abilities to form simple orchestrations to extend that value. Customization for differentiation was never successful with client-server and ERP, but with services clouds models it is literally a different game. And in today’s market, competitive differentiation is top of the mind hence the huge growth in interest in enterprise app shops.