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Managing apps essential in realizing their business value

Apps have taken center stage, but in order to exploit their value, enterprises have to find a way of managing apps that works best for them.

Make no mistake: Today, it really is all about the apps, which means managing apps matters more than ever.

OK, maybe not so fast. IT pros know, of course, it's really all about the data and information that those apps access, manipulate and manage.

But apps have taken center stage in IT strategies for almost a decade now, starting in earnest when the iPhone was opened to developers. The rise in popularity of smartphones, tablets and their corresponding app stores made it pretty clear that end users were looking for simplicity in the completion of routine tasks -- especially with familiar suppliers, like financial institutions, retail stores, social networks and the like. IPhone, Android and other smartphone apps took on a life of their own.

Apps -- really just a term used to describe applications running on devices primarily geared to content consumption and end-user interaction -- provide that simplicity and, very importantly, the ability for the supplier to control the end-user experience, whether iPhone, Android, smartphone apps or others like them.

Apps have thus proliferated across every application area on iOS and Android, the two most popular mobile operating systems. And it’s pretty clear that a lack of apps on the other mobile-centric OSes has in no small measure contributed to their decline into irrelevance.

Developing and managing apps remain a challenge

But develoing and managing apps can also be expensive; code must be written and updated, and this isn't cheap. New OS revisions regularly cause incompatibilities that force app modification and updates. And -- increasingly important with the recent rise in the large number of fraudulent apps -- many end users are suspicious of apps; there's no way to tell what any app is really doing.

Our advice to IT organizations has been to use apps for all customer-facing activities, and browser-based cloud services for all internal options.

Our policy at Farpoint Group is to use only a small number of apps from presumably trusted sources. If a given app is deemed essential, we'll look into its behavior. And if it's not, we won't allow its use at all. Period. It's on the blacklist.

There's an alternative, though, which we believe will become the dominant metaphor going forward. It's, in fact, almost back to the future: applications running in the cloud, with interaction via a browser. Yes, this is the domain of web and cloud services, already the desirable and even preferred implementation strategy in so many areas of IT. And it's easy to see why this approach to managing apps is potentially so valuable.

Run-anywhere a benefit beyond transparency

The most important benefit beyond improved transparency is the write-once, run-anywhere ethic -- assuming a compatible browser. It's important to note that most apps of interest to organizations today are really just front ends to a cloud service anyway, so moving the interaction elements to HTML isn't really that big of a deal. But as an implementation option, the potential for improved time to market, faster implementation of new features and bug fixes, and overall flexibility cannot be denied.

Our advice to IT organizations has been to use apps for all customer-facing activities, and browser-based cloud services for all internal options. While we're not suggesting an immediate change to this approach is imminent -- writing traditional code, after all, is practically cultural among developers -- we believe apps will fade over time, with the slack being picked up by the HTML-centric strategy.

Properly structured, users won't even notice the change, but IT organizations will: Costs will decline, time to solution will improve and end users will be better served. The new approach to managing apps will be a benefit to enterprises.

Next Steps

Comparing mobile operating systems

Managing mobile devices vs. mobile apps

Performing cloud-based application analysis

This was last published in March 2017

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