I’ve been in the software industry for a while now. It never amazes me though how quickly a new technology, or style of apps, can sweep through our lives. Almost overnight things are never the same again.
Over the past few years, this pace of change only seems to have increased. It wasn’t that long ago that we wouldn’t have dreamed of a touch screen phone, and tablet computers the size of a book. Stop and think for a minute that user experience changes like Facebook timeline are only about a year old. I couldn’t imagine using Facebook without timeline now. Can you?
At Dreamforce a few months ago, we announced Salesforce Identity and Force.com Canvas. These services are already changing how our customers approach app development and IT strategies. The focus has returned to building for business success, not legacy success.
What do I mean by building for business success, not legacy success? The strategy is threefold:
1. Stop building spaghetti apps
Years ago, we used to talk about spaghetti integration - point to point integrations between systems that were impossible to maintain, and only grew worse over time. The same has happened with apps. Users are forced to jump between apps, and I.T. spends an incredible amount of time building new apps that combine logic from one app, to send data to another app, then replicate the functionality of another app in an attempt to hide this complexity from the end user. The result is innovative new apps - the kind needed to grow the business - are shelved due to a focus on the success of legacy apps.
Don’t get me wrong, I.T. wants nothing more than support business growth and become the department of ‘yes’, but years of existing system development must be considered carefully as part of any project. What I.T. has been missing is a solution that gives them the ability to strategically transform these apps to be part of the new world without embarking on 6,12,18 month rationalization projects.
And how do you stop building spaghetti apps? By transforming ghost town apps.2. Transform ghost town apps into thriving apps
Years of building spaghetti apps has resulted in a different type of app archetype - the ghost town app. Ghost town apps are those apps within your organization that are critical to some part of your business process, often running on ancient legacy systems, but just as often, running in more modern web apps built in the past five years, that no-one logs into.
Even with integrations to push data into other systems, these ghost town apps can include business logic or processes that must be maintained. They provide a critical service to the business, and simply can’t be replaced without dedicated time and investment. On the rare occasion a user does need to log directly into the system, they often give up in frustration over having to remember yet another password and turn to ungoverned processes like spreadsheets, or adhoc databases.
It is a tough time in the world’s economy though. Successful organizations are those that strategically transform their current investments with an eye for the future. Force.com Canvas and Salesforce Identity allows customers to transform these ghost town apps into key parts of their business process without relegating valuable systems, and often years of investment, into an integral and thriving part of your company’s future growth.3. Innovate in the grey space
By eliminating the overhead and complexity with spaghetti apps, and transforming ghost town apps, we are now able to focus on innovating in the former grey space where apps connected using decades old ETL strategies. This new app-level collaboration made possible with Salesforce Identity and Force.com Canvas offer a wealth of opportunity to create entirely new processes simply not possible before, all by innovating in the grey space.
Think of how Facebook added the ability to tag friends and brands vs. simply trying make a better photo-editing tool, and all of a sudden you have the opportunity to build apps that work entirely different than anything before. This is what innovating in the grey space can do for your business!
In summary, next time you are ideating on what apps to build, or business processes to improve, why not sketch out a venn diagram similar to the one above and add in a few of your existing apps, mark them with either an ‘S’ for spaghetti, or ‘G’ for ghost town, and then add ideas into the Innovation space on what possibilities you see if you focused on app collaboration.