Inviting the App Store Into Your Enterprise
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An app store can transform your business by unlocking mobility's potential. Here's what you need to understand about creating an app store for your organization.
Readying Your Enterprise For Mobility
Mobility is often associated with the app revolution and the philosophy of delivering functionality through them via various mobile devices. Among the challenges that must be addressed before your enterprise is prepared for mobility are the need to ready existing, often legacy, backend systems; realigning the enterprise architecture to include mobility; addressing the changed usage patterns of users; exploiting the contextual nature of mobile; and managing user identity and access. Mobility initiatives need to scale these challenges through a series of five steps, which will lead to unlocking the true enterprise potential of mobility.
1. From system-centric data to identifying mashups
If content is king on the Web, it’s mashups that are king on mobile. Like many other technologies, such as Web services and SOA, mashups play a more critical role in mobile app delivery. Today’s apps rarely access a single backend system. They are often aggregations of information from multiple sources, and it is not uncommon for enterprises to aggregate information from internal as well as external sources such as LinkedIn, Google Maps and Yahoo! Finance. The key challenge in this step is to identify the right mashups and to architect the backend to provide them.
2. From mashups to aggregating data into the API management platform
Front-end mobile devices and platforms are often reported to be highly fragmented. While that is true, and there are products trying to address the problem, there has been a significant amount of fragmentation at the back end with different technology stacks, architectures and incompatible systems having been introduced by different functional groups, each of which had a valid reason to choose what was best for them. Managing the multitude of back-end systems was always difficult for IT teams, but unifying them today while protecting these investments has become a key concern. Web services-based API management provides an efficient way of aggregating and delivering mashups to the front end.
3. Combining API management and existing workflows to build mobility middleware
Enterprise processes and workflows have been encoded, encapsulated and delivered using mechanisms such as Business Process Modeling (BPM), Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) and Service-Oriented Architecture. BPM and ESB simplify workflow process modeling and bring them together, but what is needed today is to provide a well-defined interface between that existing back-end and the front-end, and to bring diverse back-end systems onto a single platform. Mobility middleware, which can take a few different forms, can provide the missing link between the back end and front end, and is a critical component of the new enterprise architecture.
4. Using unified middleware to drive value-centric usage
Climbing the first three steps successfully will result in reaching the next step, which is toward true value-creation through mobility. Mobile software is used by users very differently from traditional enterprise systems. In fact, the phrase “enterprise system” conjures up images of entire enterprise functions encapsulated into individual systems such as HRMS, CRM and others. These are all silos. People using mobile apps, on the other hand, have very different expectations. What they are interested in is the value they receive—whether mashedup content, intelligent analytics, contextual information and social benefits—they are less interested in what "management system" they need to visit. Mashups, API management and unified middleware provide usage that breaks down these silos and delivers cross-functionality.
5. Providing value-centric usage to newer user identities
The need for identity and access management for enterprise Web software was served by a suite of technologies like the intranet, firewall, VPN and directory server, among others. Almost all of these were built exclusively with the employee in mind. However, value-centric usage expands the discussion beyond just employees to include other stakeholders such as partners, vendors, resellers and customers. With the advent of social media, consumerization of IT and mobility itself, these stakeholders expect to be included—and can add value—in enterprise workflows. Along with addressing the cross-functional usage as part of the previous step, enterprises need to create "meta-identities" that include these stakeholders in their fabric of identity management.
While climbing the steps above, you will notice a paradigm shift from system-centric data to value-centric usage. What stumps most IT heads driving enterprise mobility inside their organization is this paradigm shift. Not building these five steps with this shift in mind can result in piecemeal mobile implementations or, worst still, a failed one. On the other hand, if these steps are traversed systematically, what awaits the IT leader is an opening up of possibilities that include a productive workforce, engaged partners and satisfied customers.
About the Author
Shivesh Vishwanathan is a mobility principal in the Technology Consulting Group at Persistent Systems. To read his previous CIO Insight article, "How Consumerware Will Transform Mobile Apps," click here.