Power to the app in the enterprise


While it’s still early days for enterprise apps in the digital workplace, here’s how you can begin to re-invent your business and connect with your employees through the power of apps.

LittleBlogAuthorGraphic  David Hodgson, December 16, 2014

As each new generation enters the workforce they bring preferences that eventually become dominant. Canadian business executive, consultant, speaker and author of “Grown Up Digital,” Don Tapscott, and other authors, have focused us on the huge changes these generational shifts will bring in the application economy.

We have already witnessed changes driven by behavior patterns such as the ubiquitous use of Google as the means to find solutions to work problems, the use of social media at work and the adoption of social media for internal communications. But while we are all used to apps that we use as consumers, and while the emerging workforce depends on apps in their personal life, we are still in the infancy of enterprise apps for the digital workplace.

In my last blog I talked about the driving role that applications are playing in our current economy and the importance of data as a differentiator. Winners in the application economy will be differentiated by business models that leverage apps and data to connect with their customers in the most effective way for both parties.

But this isn’t happening only for how businesses connect with their customers. Successful companies will also re-invent themselves from the inside out, affecting the way they connect with their employees.

Mobile devices will be the platform for enterprise applications

IT departments have generally been resistant to the entrance of mobile devices into the work force. Of course the resistance is futile, and the current directions of most BYOD policies are counter-productive; you can’t impose centralized control onto an inherently distributed compute capability.

The conflicts and compromises we see are just the teething pains of a new era dawning. We might not see the true potential of the technology to transform until the last of the old guard receive their retirement packages, but the changes are as inevitable as the other mechanistic forces in the universe. More likely the companies that can’t embrace the full potential will be displaced by the more progressive companies that can; we call that evolution!

What we have seen emerge in most companies trying to evolve using new technologies are mainly marketing and sales tools. Often these are nothing more than pro-forma apps that link to content on a company’s intranet. Even when they are native apps they deal with rather trivial problems like meeting or conference agendas. Only the leading edge companies have apps that get to the heart of the business tasks that drive their business.

Two industry leaders driving change

The dawn of transformative, app-based tools took a leap forward recently when IBM and Apple announced a partnership to bring a bunch of “made-for-business” apps as iOS solutions for the workplace. This is a powerful incarnation of IBM’s “MobileFirst” strategy and connects to their cloud and analytics capabilities. The solutions announced cover many areas and industry verticals, but in every case these are application tools for the employees to deliver better service to the customers, not apps for the consumers themselves.

Data is the fuel that powers most practically useful apps. While Apple can bring the device and the experience the workforce will enjoy, the data and the disruptive differentiation is the edge that IBM brings. With the power of cloud-based data collection and analytics, they can deliver intelligent insights that augment and change the way human teams work together. Maybe they will even deliver their powerful Watson-based capabilities this way.

Data and the danger of dystopia

As mobile apps become pervasive as a part of business processes, the use of the apps themselves will provide more data, and empower employers to understand more about their employees as well as their customers. Well understood in science-fiction dystopias, this will be another social change for us to navigate. The difficulty will be the odd mixing of the two worlds, private and work, especially if the devices used in both are common.

What is you work experience with mobile devices and the next generation of business applications? How do you feel about the potential loss of privacy and further blurring of work and home life? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment below or connect with me on Twitter as @dmgh7

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