The Consumer App Craze and Its Profound Impact on Business Applications

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The Consumer App Craze and Its Profound Impact on Business Applications

/ October 4, 2013

If there was any doubt that we live in an app world, just take a look at Gartner’s recent Mobile App Store Worldwide Forecast.  The analyst firm predicts that annual downloads of mobile apps will increase 59.38% to 102 billion in 2013.  That’s a staggering number.

What’s even more profound than the number is how the rapid proliferation of mobile devices and apps are radically transforming our expectations and how we interact with and use technology.  Before CIOs and IT directors tune this out as just another “consumer” trend, it’s important to note that we are all consumers, and that this new mindset is already permeating the enterprise, forever shaping what business users expect from business apps.

Simplicity and Ease of Use

As Gartner’s research reveals, our smartphones and tablets are loaded with dozens of mobile apps, which we now rely on daily to function.  The vast majority of these apps are simple and intuitive.  They address a specific need or function—whether messaging or task management or calendaring—and they do that one thing extremely well.  Think about it: have you ever read a manual to use an iPhone app?

Mobile apps have proven that software doesn’t have to be unpleasant to use, and that experience is shaping what users expect from business applications.  They now expect beautiful-looking apps that are intuitive and easy to use.  They don’t want to wade through pages of documentation or sit through hours of training.  They expect to log in for the first time and be able to immediately get things done.

Proliferation and Variety

Another interesting observation is that the loads of mobile apps on our devices have been created by nearly as many different developers.  In other words, there’s no one developer with a monopoly on our phones or tablets.  That’s a radical departure from how enterprises have operated in recent decades.

Vendors like SAP and Oracle rose to prominence by attempting to deliver a comprehensive suite for running an entire business.  But thanks to the proliferation of mobile apps and developers, the notion of the single, monolithic system is losing favor in the enterprise. While a lot of those systems will continue to be used for managing core processes behind the scenes, business users today are bringing this app mentality into the enterprise with multiple, lightweight apps that address specific needs—most of which can’t be addressed with packaged applications.

And you know what?  Businesses are finding that this approach delivers quicker results with less risk and lower costs.

Speed and instant gratification

Lastly, whether we like to admit it or not, our devices and apps occupy all corners of our lives.  They’re the first thing we check in the morning, and the last thing we look at before going to bed.  We’re always on, and we’ve grown accustomed to instant gratification.  We can instantly reach our friends through any number of channels or messaging apps.  In less than a second, we can find a plethora of restaurant options within walking distance.  And that new app we want can be downloaded in seconds.

We’ve been trained to expect—even, demand—instant gratification and this too is permeating the enterprise.  Business users are no longer willing to wait months for IT to deliver new applications or respond to enhancement or change requests.  They expect immediately results, and are willing to take matters into their own hands, when necessary.

As the Gartner forecast reveals, the mobile app craze is showing no signs of slowing down.  CIOs and IT directors must carefully consider the ramifications on their enterprise application strategies and end user expectations.  With a focus on speed, simplicity, and ease of use, they can deliver apps that business users love, but that also move the needle for the business.

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