Apps and APIs -- how enterprise software development needs to change

The popularity of mobile apps is changing user expectations of software. How should IT managers respond when considering software development plans?

The popularity of mobile apps is changing user expectations of software in the home and workplace. How should IT managers respond when considering their software development plans?

According to a study by CSC, apps are “changing the future of how enterprises interact with customers”. The Apps rEvolutionreport predicted a shift towards apps for businesses, as individuals are becoming more accustomed to a personalised experience when interacting with applications and companies. 

Dan Hushon, chief technology officer at CSC, said that as people get used to a customised experience, they are beginning to expect applications to provide support specific to them in all aspects of life, including the workplace. 

He said this is “allowing a new apps economy to be built to target specific kinds of people” aiming to provide individuals with the information they need for their lives and jobs.

The CSC report suggested the rise in mobile apps presents a new concept for IT managers to consider - bring your own app (BYOA). For example, there are over 1500 calendar apps in the Apple App Store. Each of those apps will have its own features, which will appeal to different people. Individuals want to choose the app that suits them and their needs best, and they don’t want to have to use a different service at work to the one they use at home.

Businesses are already struggling to cope with bring your own device (BYOD) strategies causing issues with security and standards, and a BYOA strategy may be just as difficult to implement. The CSC report said that to deal with the shift, industries will have to focus in particular on “instrumentation, standards, business processes and innovative products” – exactly the issues that businesses are struggling with when it comes to BYOD.

Guillaume Balas, chief marketing officer of web development firm 3Scale, has an answer. He told delegates at Apps World Europe 2013 how advanced application programming interfaces (APIs) are shaping the web and businesses.

“Software is the lifeblood of new businesses, it’s the way to automate, optimise, streamline processes, transactions - it’s everywhere,” he said.

“And every company, even though it’s not a software company, has to have a software strategy. However, to harness the whole potential of this software, you need to have access to different features and functionalities of the software in order to get the most out of it and be able to connect them to other companies, to other software, to other hardware. So there comes APIs.”

Hushon said the shift to BYOA will be eased with the development of enterprise mobile platforms. Because so many providers of enterprise apps are now developing APIs, the apps on offer are likely to be more easily integrated, with the ability to work on many different devices and interact cross-platform.

Kevin Flowers, CTO for Coca Cola Enterprises, also spoke at Apps World Europe 2013 about the importance of API strategy: “We set an objective of 25 APIs. The reason we did that is not because if you build it they will come, but if you build it you know how to build it. And so we knew if we went ahead and went that full cycle of building APIs, we would know how to do it, we’d be ready for the marketplace.”

Firms are not only changing how apps are made so they can use them in business, but also the way apps are developed for customer interaction. The CSC report highlighted the first signs of the shift to user-centred application use and the increased use of user experience-focused app design. This is due not only to the increased importance of apps catering to people’s needs, but also to individuals creating DIY user-centred apps that may not follow traditional development methods.

Despite the difficulties of implementing a BYOA strategy, the benefit of this move is invaluable, said Hushon. With greater use of APIs, creating user-focused apps appropriate to business, the workforce will be improved.

“It will generate a brand new economic benefit because we will have a set of people who will have more information, and make better and wiser decisions.”

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