How to think like a software company and keep users appy
Delivering apps lean and fast is key to a great user experience (UX). But developing apps has not been something the traditional midsize business gets involved with.
Unlike large enterprises, they’re unable to absorb the cost of applying change across people, process and technology. They need to operate in an efficient, agile and compact way when it comes to driving change in general – not just when it comes to app development.
It’s a nice problem to have though in a digital economy where every business is a software business.
Being small and agile is exactly how many of the major digital disruptors started out, so it’s by no means a barrier to entering the brave new world of apps.
Build or buy?
App delivery via the internet using a browser or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is not the disconnected ecosystem of functionality it once was. Indeed, it’s become the norm when it comes to software.
There are myriad options available and, in many scenarios, you’ll find there’ll be a vertical-focused app extremely close functionality-wise to anything you could otherwise develop in-house.
With SaaS you benefit from an OpEx model, frequent updates and might even be able to influence and request new features.
In terms of risk, it’s important to do your due diligence so that you’re investing in a healthy business that will grow with yours. You also need to ensure that your infrastructure and network is up to the task of supporting the apps you run.
Lego for programming
Before considering the opposite approach to SaaS – i.e. developing apps in-house – you should consider the middle road – or one of the middle roads to be more precise :).
You’ll find a lot of SaaS providers offer reusable APIs (application programming interface) nowadays. Your developers can employ these to add, customise or extend the core functionality the software offers.
Larger SaaS providers have built mini-ecosystems of 3rd-party providers with their own extensions, so you can combine features and functionality to get the best of what they have to offer.
It’s almost like using Lego, but for programming!
As a service
If you wish to keep things simple and build apps in-house, and especially if you need a customer-facing app, it’s definitely not a ‘boxed-approach’ anymore. A virtual data centre and network is today more connected than ever to the teams working with business users to develop apps.
Automation and orchestration tools are available that let you provide self-service capabilities to your teams requesting resources. You can spin-up new virtual machines (VMs) or provision new servers in an instant, so you can test and release new app features and respond to demand fast.
You can deliver this form of infrastructure-as-a-Service) using your own resources (i.e. your private cloud), but can just as easily mix and match these with resources and tools from any public cloud – including network and security too.
The hybrid cloud model means you can benefit from an elastic form of scaling to address peaks in usage or development, scaling back down during periods of lower demand. You can also employ global networks to ensure optimum loading times for your apps everywhere, or mitigate risk with a business continuity solution.
If you’re worried about being locked into a specific platform and vendor, there are ways around that too.
It’s all about the UX
An app that’s used daily is like a desktop PC for its users – it’s their natural habitat and should feel intuitive and optimised for any task. But I have come across internal and external apps that were simply awful.
Ugly, outdated, clunky and slow, with no consideration for the UX at all.
The availability of reusable design components and the universe of APIs, technology platforms and tools to develop and extend apps for any device means it has never been easier to develop apps in agile mode.
So, go explore what’s available and remember to start the conversation from the perspective of your end users – whether they’re your employees, or your customers. They’re the ones who bring more value to your business. And they’re the ones who can truly drive change and long-term success.