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February 04, 2014
Enterprises Shifting Toward Simpler Consumer Apps
By: Ariel Bernstein

A large corporation that is as agile as its global customers need it to be? There’s an app for that.

In 2012, China Eastern Corp. developed its own app store. The airline wanted to drive mobile app adoption across the company; its rationale was that fast-growing mobile phone use in China would help drive growth for the airline and also improve productivity and efficiency, especially among the 50,000 of its employees who use their mobiles for work. Now, the airline makes good use of mobile apps in areas such as aircraft maintenance, employee feedback services, and mobile office automation. China Eastern has also bought 2,500 iPads for in-cabin services, helping it earn a reputation as an early adopter of the latest mobility technologies.

Why mention this example? Eager for relief from some of their biggest pain points—especially their systems’ lack of agility—business leaders have been pushing for software that is far nimbler than the legacy systems they’ve relied on for decades. They have been pressing IT to give them, in the workplace, the kinds of low-cost, accessible, and often intelligent apps they use every day on their own mobile devices.

Yes, there will always be big, complex enterprise software systems to support large organizations and it will still be necessary for IT developers to keep customizing those systems. But now, as large enterprises push for greater IT agility, there is a sharp shift toward simpler, more modular, and more custom apps.

However, enterprise apps introduce an interesting issue. In the consumer world, applications have the luxury of being relatively self-contained. Shazam, for example, excels at capturing a song heard playing in a café, but the user doesn’t need it to manage her playlist; she has another app for that. In the enterprise world the problems being solved are much more complex. They often involve multiple applications to run intricate business processes that may span multiple time zones, several countries, and thousands of employees.

To attack these big enterprise-level problems, then, something more than a single, nimble app is needed. The way forward is to think in terms of the application’s ability to connect with other applications. In fact, the push is toward libraries or “ecosystems” of applications that can, while still being individually simple and agile, be bolted together to tackle the most challenging problems.

For example Japan’s largest bank, Japan Post Network is using apps on Force.com’s platform to streamline business planning and compete in new markets. The bank created 15 custom apps to provide business process visibility after integrating three existing companies: Postal Savings, Postal Life Insurance, and Postal Service. With 24,000 post offices nationwide, it efficiently serves 14 billion mail packages annually and more than 6 million insurance policies for upwards of 100 million clients while achieving flexibility and a reduced total cost of ownership.

Over the next few years, we expect to see some striking examples of business groups that are much more engaged in the lifecycle of “their” own front-end apps. We anticipate something of a resurgence in custom development as leading companies view it as their best option for pursuing the objectives of a digital business. And we are confident that we will observe more and more CIOs and IT leaders sitting down with their business colleagues to discuss how they can help facilitate the new application development trend

The Business of Applications is one of six new trends covered in this year’s Technology Vision. To read more about building an applications ecosystem, and the other IT trends you need to know about, visit our site here: www.accenture.com/technologyvision

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