Think BYOT Is Radical? Get Ready for BYOA (Build Your Own App)

Ann All

When most people today talk about the consumerization of enterprise IT, they're referring to business users bringing their own smartphones or tablets to work or to business units that deploy software-as-a-service applications with little if any assistance from the IT organization. Those shifts may seem radical now, but they will pale in comparison to a trend Enterprise Strategies founder Andy Jankowski highlights on his blog, sharing insights from Oracle Corporation Global Client Advisor Joe Jorczak.


While core enterprise systems such as ERP and CRM won't go away, they will increasingly be supplemented by more applications built to address specific business needs. The application lifecycle will get shorter, with a far more dynamic development process. OK, but that's not so radical. It's already happening, right?


It's who will do the development, not the process itself, that's the really radical part. Rather than creating application code, IT pros will instead design tools, objects and environments that will enable business users to build their own apps, a shift that Jorczak predicts will "bring new talent and creativity into the IT environment." He writes:

The successful IT professional of 2020 will interact with users more like the Apple Genius Bar consultant does today, advising people on new ways to use the technology, and will look less like the car mechanic taking apart an engine and struggling to explain how all the parts fit together and why it costs so much to fix.

These foundational technologies and tools will be delivered via cloud-based infrastructures, which IT pros will create and maintain. IT will also be responsible for ensuring user-created apps meet security and compliance requirements, Jorczak says.


I wrote about this trend way back in 2008, in a post called "Mashups Put a Software Developer at Every Desk." Since then the term "mashup" seems to have taken a nosedive in popularity, although the idea of empowering users to create their own business applications obviously hasn't.


The sources I cited in that post predicted it would be about a decade before the idea of user-created applications becomes mainstream. Jorczak offers a similar timeframe, noting that "inertia (particularly from traditional IT) will be difficult to overcome."


Still, we're seeing activity that seems to point in this direction. Last February when I interviewed a Salesforce.com executive about a product called the Visual Process Manager that allows users to design business processes with a visual design tool and instantly run them in a cloud environment, I asked him if business users could also use it to build their own applications. His answer:

What's a developer? It's anyone that builds an app. Completely non-technical people are able to build fairly straightforward apps and professional developers can build any apps on our platform. [Visual Process Manager] raises the bar on what you can build as an app in our platform without writing a single line of code.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 18, 2011 10:12 AM David Resnick David Resnick  says:

Thanks for the article.

It's always interesting to consider the consumerization of enterprise, and whether this is an ongoing trend or simply a blip.

One thing to consider is that desired functionality is not necessarily obtained through the development of a brand new App. It can also be the case that desired functionality can emerge through the end user configuring an application to meet their needs.

Things like adjustable UI, field types etc. can bring so much configuration to a platform or application. In short it's vertical integration with the end user finishing the 'last mile'.

May 29, 2011 7:55 PM Shane Shane  says:

It's also important to remember that developers aren't the only ones responsible for building high quality and successful apps. Designing an effective interface is just as important as the technical back-end, and being a good designer is a skill that takes study, time, and practice - just like being a good developer. BYOA services won't magically make everyone a good designer (even if they think they already are).

That may not be as important when a person is designing an app specifically for themselves. But I would question how many different specific jobs and positions are truly unique enough to merit their own app. I would think you'd end up with tons of nearly identical, lower-quality apps (all of which are unaware of each other), where a good design/development team could create a higher quality solution that would work better for everyone.

When I begin using a great new app, I often find that it exposes inefficiencies in my own work process. If I had built the app myself, my own mistakes would have been built right into it. With a professionally developed app, I (hopefully) gain the benefit of the collective experience of those that the app is serving, and those it was built by.


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