Sector as a Service #5 – No App Apps
With core applications becoming ‘vanilla’ again, the differentiating edge of IT solutions will come from a next generation of applications that are not really applications anymore. They are quickly created by gluing reusable, catalog-based IT services together. They leverage visual, model-driven platforms that work from business process descriptions to generate code. They use self-service BI, BPM and business rules tools to create solutions in close proximity to the business. They apply mobility and portal platforms to create new interfaces without diving into the software underneath.
Let’s assume you have done all the things that transform your application landscape into a (as we define it in TechnoVision) ‘Sector as a Service’: you have adopted industry best practices (appreciating again the taste of vanilla) and eliminated excess instances, customization and bespoke software; you rationalized and renewed your application portfolio, benefiting from new cloud platforms; you have applied some of the next-generation SaaS solutions close to the edges of your business, possibly even within a two-tier, elastic scenario.
Now, it’s time for the cars and scooters: solutions that are created and deployed in the nearest proximity to the business and have a fast lifecycle. After all, being just as standardized and rationalized as your peers in the sector is a basic necessity, really as a hygiene factor, but it will not provide you with the differentiating qualities to stand out in the market.
For that – of course – your organization needs to establish where it’s different, where it’s special, where it wants to apply technology to be digitally relevant. Then you want to deploy the right processes, activities and solutions as close as possible to where it really matters: the business. And - most important - you want to have the agility to quickly implement and improve your solutions over and over again.
At this point in time, we are already aware that detailed requirements will not bring us where we need to be: too much time needed, too much friction between demand and supply sides, too much disappointment as a result. You probably also don’t want to build all your car and scooter solutions using advanced, but complex programming languages such as C# or Java. They require highly trained software engineers who are not necessarily suitable – or interested, for that matter - to work in the middle of the business, even not when agile approaches such as Scrum are used to bridge the gap between business and IT and get optimized results within a given timeframe.
The future of a certain category of applications may be in not being applications at all, at least not as we know them right now. They could be built with tools and platforms that don’t require classical programming skills. It might be, at least to some extent, that business people use the tools themselves to create their solutions or – quite likely as well – business and IT working closely together, preferably at the same place.
Need some examples?
Platforms such as Mendix provide easy-to-use tools to create visual business models that are turned into attractive, executable applications without ever seeing a single line of code. Salesforce1 provides many different ways to create cloud-based and mobile applications using visual UI builders and ‘point-and-click app logic’ through formulas, workflow rules, approval processes, visual workflows and – if necessary – a simple but powerful programming/scripting language such as Apex. Microsoft’s and SAP’s DUET Enterprise gives easy access to SAP ERP services using the familiar SharePoint interface (and while we are talking about SharePoint, what once was a ‘portal’ tool now has developed into a full-fledged platform on which collaborative applications can quickly be built).
Business process platforms such as those from Be Informed (‘just add rules’), Pega, IBM and Oracle only require you to insert - natural language - business rules to create solutions that once relied on complex programming (much more about this next week in our ‘Process is the New App’ post).
When it comes to business agility, the best app might be no app. Hold that thought.
Part of Capgemini's TechnoVision 2014 update series. See the overview here