This ninth post in our series on Digital Transformation continues to lay out what a truly modern approach to IT “looks like”—this time with regard to the Modern Applications.
Modern Applications are the “stickiness” that:
- Keep your employees productive and engaged;
- Drive efficiency with your partners;
- Provide a world-class buying experience for your customers; and
- Provide the innovative canvas for your products.
Amazon, Facebook and Uber have set the bar for what applications in the future will be. No longer is it acceptable to release any application that does not have the latest user experience, mobility features, collaboration capability and ecommerce power. Employees and customers only want to use the most powerful and productive applications—or they will look elsewhere.
In today’s world, you either have world-class applications and are leading your market or you don’t and you are following. The future started yesterday; are you already late?
Applications no longer include just a keyboard, display and a mouse. The landscape for which applications are being written is constantly evolving, and the digital devices we are connecting to are endless. Home appliances, transportation vehicles, healthcare devices, manufacturing and logistic equipment and many wearables are all driving new definitions for the traditional application. Mixed- reality headgear is enabling users to interact with digital animations and the physical world. Applications are consuming, interpreting and visualizing information collected from sensors that are found in millions of physical items and we have only just begun. Modern Applications are enabling businesses to innovate with the latest technology available while redefining offerings, products and industries.
Current Application Challenges
Anyone that has ever spent any time building, supporting or decommissioning applications will tell you that the easy part is coming up with the ideas for the latest and greatest new application. The truly hard part is architecting it to meet performance and security needs, designing it to deliver maximum business outcomes, rolling it out so user adoption is 100% and supporting it so it always looks fresh and current. Certainly, these are no small tasks.
So, as we drive more new applications into the market in the next 10 years, what are the challenges we need to look out for?
Lack of Integration Across Systems –
We live in a world that is fully integrated. Business applications have long since stopped operating in silos; everything is connected. So, as we develop these new applications, how do we insure that they integrate with not only what is in place today, but also what is available tomorrow. Understanding and creating a roadmap that will support today’s needs and tomorrow’s opportunities is critical for success. Fundamental building blocks based on industry standards and core architectures are a must. The day of home-grown standards and proprietary approaches is over. Not being able to quickly adopt new standards will ultimately cost your coming time and money. While industry standards are not always the cheapest, in the long run, very few companies can afford not to be operating in a standards-based world.
Single Point of Failure
– Ask any online retailer or provider about an outage that led to their platform being slow or down and you will quickly realize that failure is a not an option. As we move into a fully digital, always-on world, nothing can have a single or even a dual point of failure. We need full redundancy in everything we do that is customer facing, supplier integrated or employee driven, if possible. Nothing is 100%, but aligning the business critical and mission critical aspect of your applications will define the investment required to keep it up and running.
Remote and Multi Device Access for Users –
IT organizations have long stopped thinking that their data center is a single facility that delivers all the compute power, bandwidth and access to support their applications. Customers and employees want and need to be able to access applications from where they are, when then want it, and from any device they want. Today’s Modern Applications need to allow users to start a work process (purchase, business process or collaboration) from one device at work, update that process on their mobile device while out for lunch and finalize it at home from a personal device.
Usability and UX Issues –
With approaches for logging on, visualizing data, integrating with wearable devices and sharing information is constantly changing, it is challenging to stay current. Your applications need to have a modern look and feel, while also integrating with the latest devices for both home and office. Waiting too long to update your application will mean you risk users leaving. Jumping on a new approach too early might mean you waste money. Today’s applications need to be architected to easily integrate with new devices and allow the user experience to be changed without rewriting the application.
Application Updates are Difficult and Time Consuming –
Business changes and customer demand are forcing applications to be in a constant state of change. Business owners cannot wait until the next application update window to deliver new functionality to keep pace with competitors and customer needs. Application changes need to be constantly re-prioritized and deadlines need to be managed in days and weeks, not in months or quarters. In the end application development cycles need to be agile—and approached using the Agile framework— as the needs of the customer evolve and the business adapts.
Disparate Sign-On Methods –
It is no longer acceptable to have people maintain lists of passwords or have to log into systems manually. Security requirements, passwords standards and self-service password resets are driving people to implement fully integrated single sign-on solutions. Employee and partners will not accept platforms that are hard to login to and difficult to access. HR and IT can no longer manually onboard and offboard users or reset passwords, automated workflows need to provision accounts, set application security and manage passwords.
Not Built for Scalability and Elasticity –
Applications that don’t meet the performance requirements expected by end users are unacceptable. If an application under performs, end users are quick to abandon the applications, uninstall it and look elsewhere. Applications that cannot instantly access additional resources during peak usage windows and then turn those resources off during off periods will not meet the needs of the business. These same applications cannot afford to have excess infrastructure capacity being underutilized.
No Proactive Security Design
– Applications that don’t have integrated security architectures not only put company data at risk, but can also affect the company’s financial value and sustainability. Over the next five years, security requirements will be constantly changing, as new security threats are identified and solved. Applications are a critical layer to help drive customer relationship but also need to be fully secured so the company is not at risk.
The unavoidable fact is that Digital Transformation is driving change in the way application services are leveraged throughout the business. Businesses that harness Modern Applications can remain relevant through innovation and enable new opportunities for growth. Modern Applications are a differentiator for business and an essential component for Digital Transformation.
Having touched here on several of the key challenges facing organizations as they approach Modern Application needs, the next post in this series will cover key characteristics of effective Modern Apps.