Everyone and his neighbor is convinced – including me – that future of enterprise software is in apps. However that does not mean the world will change tomorrow to a happy place. Here are half a dozen things that rush to my mind, in no particular order. It is a Sunday morning, and I only had one coffee so far and I have the flu. So take this with a pound of salt.
1. Apps will have really short lifecycles as we go forward.
So we need a foundational architecture that allows people to create apps with bare minimum effort and cost. “Create” does not mean just dev and test – the whole app life cycle management including security, device management etc needs an industrial strength foundation that is easy to use and is affordable.
In short-medium term – we might have 1 to 2 year useful life. But as time progresses, this might become use and throw. And that might mean users can create their own apps, instead of a developer creating for them.
2. Backward compatibility is a must in enterprise world
Consumer side has one big advantage. Facebook can add and remove as they please – ok, not exactly, but easier than say SAP or ORCL. Enterprise side does not have that luxury. So again, a paradigm needs to evolve that balances this reality against the ease of upgrades etc.
3. No one vendor can develop enough apps
So a huge ecosystem is needed. This means, on top of an architecture that makes it easy for developers – we also need a licensing paradigm that goes with it. This is not easy for companies new to this game. My favorite poet in Malayalam, Kumaran Ashan famously sang “change the rules, or they will change you” . He was referring to the social injustices prevalent at the time though.
4. HTML5 might not be the answer to world hunger
Apps are not all about mobility probably, but mobility is probably the leading horse in this race. This whole HTML5 vs native debate will probably end in hybrid scenarios, more than any one side winning by a margin. Device makers don’t have a lot to gain from HTML5, and consequently native functionality will keep improving at a steady pace. And of course apps will follow the trend – since it is more or less a binary world in mobility. Either app gets used or it won’t – not a lot of middle ground.
5. Horses for Courses – Not all parts of Enterprise are app friendly, and not all users like apps
Whatever is the future architecture and licensing model – we should not fool ourselves in thinking that everything needs to be an app. Some processes are best left alone – along the lines of “everything must be expressed in as simple a manner as possible, but no simpler”, and not all users need or like apps. Users should be allowed to choose whatever makes them more productive.
6 Why buy/build when you can beg/borrow/steal ?
A lot of functionality that enterprises need are also needed for you and me as consumers – things like file sharing, collaboration and so on. What enterprise needs is added layers of security, scale etc. It might be easier to let the consumer side take a lead on these, rather than re-invent and duplicate all of this. Who knows, one day consumer side can get something back in return too. Or as standards evolve – there might be a possibility to put a layer around consumer apps that make it enterprise grade.