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Bringing Consumer-like Responsiveness to the Enterprise App World

Appian Contributor
May 31, 2017

Enterprise applications don't exactly have a shining reputation. At their best, they are thought of as lifeless productivity tools that, when well designed, drive efficiency and provide an adequate experience. At their worst, they are thought of as clunky, boring, restrictive solutions. It is time for expectations around enterprise apps to change, and the rise of citizen developers is driving this evolution.

The Enterprise App Problem

There is a growing move toward increased app development and deployment in the enterprise, which represents a good first step toward better enterprise-class applications. A survey from Adobe found that businesses are facing mounting pressure to revisit and revitalize their in-house app development efforts, particularly with a focus on mobile apps. Approximately two-thirds of businesses already have some mobile enterprise apps in place as they lay the groundwork for continued innovation. Furthermore, 66 percent of those polled said they are experiencing year-over-year increases in the number of users leveraging mobile apps.

While these figures are hopeful, a study from CCS Insights pointed out that even though app use is rising in business settings, there is a great deal of frustration surrounding key issues such as app quality and business-IT alignment, CIO magazine reported. Nick McQuire from CCS Insights told the news source that employees are increasingly willing to work around IT departments to get what they need. In fact, 80 percent of those polled by CCS Insight said they haven't asked IT for apps because they don't trust that IT will actually deliver what they need.

"Basically, employees are doing what they need to," McQuire told CIO. "They are sophisticated and they are empowered. And they feel the expectations of customers and their colleagues require them to be more responsive and more mobile in general. They are absolutely blending business and personal usage on a daily basis as a result, because IT is not keeping up and is not attentive to their strategic need to be more mobile."

"Enterprise employees are increasingly going to public app stores to acquire what they need."

The enterprise app ecosystem shows a clear disconnect between traditional IT priorities and capabilities and the needs of today's mobile-focused workforce. This has created a significant chasm between the enterprise apps that many employees have access to and the ones they want. The functionality, performance and availability limitations of traditional enterprise apps can leave users scrambling to find alternative solutions. Organizations that want to keep employees from leveraging consumer apps - and encountering all the security risks they present - must ramp up development to overcome this trend.

The core problem in all of this, however, is that IT teams often face resource and priority limitations that prevent them from consistently delivering the types of apps today's users need. The citizen developer movement is emerging in response to this trend, and low-code app platforms are gaining momentum as the foundation for this progress.

Using app platforms to empower citizen developers

McQuire told CIO that enterprise employees are using apps with a greater frequency, but they are increasingly going to public app stores to acquire those solutions. Application development platforms can help organizations repair the disconnect between IT and business users, making the use of external app stores unnecessary. This is accomplished through:

    • Low-code development tools that allow non-technical users to mix and match batches of pre-written code to create apps

    • Data connectivity within the app platform to ensure information is available across diverse apps and services

    • Built-in dashboards and reporting functions to provide visibility into key performance indicators

    • Overarching management and authorization systems that give IT teams the control and safeguards needed to offer business users the freedom to create apps

When all of these functions come together, app platforms provide a foundation within which organizations can rely on business users to create the apps and services they need to get the job done. While platforms have gained a reputation as being used for simple, single-function types of apps, leading platforms are designed to support fully-featured, sophisticated apps.

Organizations don't have to sacrifice efficiency to meet enterprise security demands.Organizations don't have to sacrifice efficiency to meet enterprise security demands.

Bringing Power and Security to User-Created Apps

Leading enterprise app platforms aren't just for simple lunchroom or parking apps anymore. Cloud platforms have evolved to establish a clear framework for app creation so users are fully free to create powerful solutions that handle important company information. This is done in a few ways, with three key app platform capabilities standing out:

1. Controlling Data Workflows

Ensuring data ends up stored in the right systems and that IT teams gain full visibility into that movement is critical. Freeing non-tech users to create apps can, in the eyes of some IT leaders, make it too difficult to ensure data workflows remain secure. App platforms avoid this negative situation by providing a controlled infrastructure environment in which all data workflows are controlled within the cloud and kept in the secure configuration.

"Advanced analytics tools are becoming integral to modern apps."

2. Internal Compliance

An app platform enables IT teams to establish scripts that dictate what users must do to login to apps and how they establish credentials. This means that organizations can build compliance to internal user authentication policies into the core platform, simplifying governance within the organization.

3. Data Analytics

Advanced analytics tools are becoming integral to modern apps, and cloud platforms that can unify data from diverse sources into easy-to-use apps are invaluable here. App platforms bring core analytics functions - ranging from machine learning to business intelligence dashboards - to bring powerful data-driven processes into user-created apps.

Creating enterprise-class apps with consumer-like responsiveness and interfaces can be a powerful tool for today's businesses. Having non-tech users create these apps allows employees to create personal, unique solutions that meet their specific needs.

App platforms provide the security, control and performance businesses need to free users to create their own apps. This creates a new app climate in the corporate world. Instead of the bland, generic enterprise apps that employees are turning away from, app platforms give citizen developers an opportunity to build solutions with the depth and functionality required to get the job done.