App-ly Yourself: Enterprise App Strategies Needs to Revisit the Drawing Board

The power of comprehensive low-code development platforms to empower non-coding talent, bridge skill gaps, and revolutionise app development, ensuring business agility and long-term success in the ever-evolving enterprise landscape.

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  • Something monumental is happening in enterprise apps — something that had its awakening even before Covid-19 ravaged our planet but accelerated significantly during lockdowns. Employees who have grown accustomed to the convenient, seamless experiences made possible by apps and digital services in their personal lives are now expecting the same IT solutions delivered by their employers.

    The extent of this shift is evident in market research, which shows that the global enterprise application market reached $249.9 billion in the year following the pandemic. But just because we have emerged from the global crisis, we shouldn’t expect the momentum to slow down — there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. Instead, researchers estimate that the enterprise app market will continue to grow, reaching $403.9 billion by 2027 — representing an impressive CAGR of 8.33%.

    This is a moment that can crush or lift an enterprise. The employee has spoken. And it is up to business leaders to capitalise on the sentiment. They must look at what apps they have and understand quickly how they fit in with the business and, more importantly, the market it serves. Some apps are core to the business model. Others streamline workflows from warehousing to HR. But many, if not most, have a role to play. It is time for the committed digital business to build a comprehensive and cohesive ecosystem that serves its long-term goals.  

    What’s app-ening?

    Let’s start by categorising our apps. Tier 1 apps are the core, can’t-live-withouts that keep the enterprise running. As such, resource and financial costs play no role in their consideration. Tier 2 apps are multifunctional but typically make life easier for specific business units, so their downtime leads to inefficiencies but never to a collapse. In Tier 3, we find single-function tools that, say, automate a single workflow and hence slicken an isolated business process. While adding value, they are not in any way critical.

    Now we can frame the problem. Today’s app development approach is to think about the tiers and assign budgets and resources accordingly. Tier 1 apps are the darlings, receiving manpower and funding as required. Tier 2 apps are an uphill struggle, normally emanating from a unit leader’s disappointment with pre-packaged solutions. They have been criticised for diminishing returns in both talent and financing and as a result, they tend to have frustratingly long development cycles. Tier 3, it is even worse. Even though they are easy to build, they are often ignored altogether and either remain as inefficient spreadsheets or mutate into shadow IT.

    As a strategy, this seems unsustainable. Each tier serves a purpose and unleashes little economies that add value by enhancing the customer or employee experience. But the hierarchical attitude to each type of app leads to silos, integration complexities, add-ons, patches, batch scripts, and crossed fingers – a flimsy tower of tissue paper held together with duct tape. This tower cannot stand a breeze, let alone the hurricane of demand for more and more apps from customers, partners, and internal stakeholders.

    App-etite for reconstruction

    To move forward, we don’t necessarily wipe away our tiers, so to speak. We ensure the right apps are assigned to the right people with the right tools for development. Tier 1 apps are still Tier 1 apps. They receive the budget and talent that the tier number implies. Tier 2 calls for development skills but not necessarily the most experienced developers. Indeed, even business analysts with the right coding background can take on these projects and drive them forward more quickly than is happening now. Low-code development platforms (LCDP) can allow them to rapidly prototype, test, and release value-adding apps that bring real agility to business functions. The development process is also agile and allows various non-technical stakeholders to participate. 

    This non-techie access to the development cycle is true to an even greater extent in Tier 3, where apps cover a single workflow and require considerably less use-case analysis. Eligible developers include business analysts, process owners, and other non-technical business users. While citizen developers should always be subject to good governance, the Tier 3 situation described here is a huge leap from today’s spreadsheets and shadow IT. As long as citizen developers’ apps are hosted on a centralised low-code platform overseen by IT, business users can increase their efficiencies almost at will – creating, improving, and maintaining dozens of micro-apps with no security or operational side impact on the organisation. 

    I can already hear the counterargument to this new regimen. Each coding capability level requires a different development tool (no-code, low-code, professional IDEs, etc.). And low-code platforms are notoriously unfitting for business analysts and process owners to develop apps without help. At the same time, no-code systems do not offer the required scalability for enterprise-level use cases. So, aren’t we just replacing one kind of complexity with another? Well, no, not if we deploy a single platform with built-in governance capabilities that allows for different talent levels and is targeted at creating a modern approach to application development. Digital transformation can finally get off the ground when such a system is implemented because you instantly recruit a coding army from non-coding employees who can hit the ground running on Tier 2 and 3 apps. 

    Keeping up app-earances

    We often talk about skills gaps. But you may have noticed that we are also plugging these gaps by leaving behind the chaotic paper-tower approach to app development to adopt a comprehensive platform that caters to non-coding talent. We are weaponising the business-oriented mindset, wrenching forgotten projects from “stalled” status, getting them back on track, and dialling back shadow IT. That is true digital transformation. 


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