In the first of this three-post series,The Just-Right Revolution, I made the case that human-centered apps, created and configured without code, will drive the next major shift in technology.
Instead of fighting over hardware or software, the focus will shift to “just right,” where the right data is delivered to the right people, on the right device, at the right time. Today I explore the four drivers of this just-right business app revolution:
1. Cloud commoditization
The cloud has turned hardware into a transactional utility that is increasingly commoditized. Businesses no longer need to buy, configure, and maintain servers. Instead, you can purchase service-level agreements.
The new cloud metrics? Transaction speeds, storage space, and uptime. As costs decline, cloud infrastructure vendors will continue to see competitive pricing pressure that will soon benefit businesses of all sizes.
There is no need to buy and maintain your own hardware utility when you can rent what you need for less. Because you no longer need the expertise to buy and a configure a server to host an application, one of the biggest barriers to mass app creation and delivery has been removed.
2. Database democratization
The cloud and the open-source movements have joined forces to commoditize the database. New database software entrants finally offer a serious challenge to Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and SAP.
Data security and transaction speeds are still paramount, but the age of the expensive, proprietary database is rapidly coming to a close. The democratized database has arrived, making advanced data capabilities available to anyone at very low cost.
Plus, with the vast array of available APIs and web services, in many cases we can leave data where it rests. Why go to the expense of moving data into another database when we can just tap into a data reservoir?
As a result, businesses now care less about database vendor wars and care more about innovative ways to connect and view data anywhere it happens to reside.
3. Business-driven, tech-enabled solutions
The closer you are to the customer, the better. Line-of-business employees know their customers better than any software vendor. More times than not, employees know what’s broken and how to fix it, but have not had the tools or know-how to create a just-in-time solution.
IT departments could certainly help, but business users rarely know how to clearly communicate software requirements to their IT counterparts. As one CIO recently told me, “We sit down with business users, do our best to document requirements, deliver the code to meet those requirements, and then business users say ‘that’s not what we meant’ and we start over again.”
This is such a waste of time and resources.What if the IT department could sit down with business users and visualize solutions immediately, without code? Instead of wasting time documenting requirements, IT could assemble apps right in front of the business users and say, “Is this what you had in mind?”
Even better, business users would have the power to iterate instantly, with the full blessing of the IT department. You can do this today with code-free platforms (like Skuid). In essence, the process of building human-centered apps is being turned upside down, giving those closest to the customers, and even the customers themselves, the power to adapt apps instantly.
4. Customers in control
Much of the past animosity between IT staff and line-of-business users boils down to control. Business leaders want to get the job done fast, increasing productivity.
IT leaders want security, scalability, and consistency across the enterprise. Both are right, of course. But the truth is, neither “side” is in control any longer. Customers are in control.Customers do not really care if you like Mac or PC, Android or iOS, Oracle or Microsoft, Salesforce or Dynamics.
They just want radically personalized products and services that make their life easier, more enjoyable, and less worrisome.We learned this early at Skuid. We have made every effort to put “solving for the customer” at the top of our priority list by applying two guiding principles:
- Don’t solve for self-interest at the expense of the company.
- Don’t solve for company-interest at the expense of the customer.
These principles may be simplistic, but it is amazing how much clarity they can provide when making decisions about technology. Heavy-handed politics and stonewalling won’t solve for the customer.
Shadow IT may give line-of-business users a temporary shot in the arm, but ultimately, shadow IT isn’t going to solve for the customer, as it may put them at risk. In fact, if you don’t solve for the customer, you are putting both the company and yourself at risk.
Solving for the real and felt needs of the customer is everyone’s priority. As IT and business leaders get their heads around the customer-centric imperative, they will turn their focus from fighting with each other, and instead fight for the customer. T
his is why Gartner predicts more than half of R&D investments will be spent on customer experience innovations in the next two years.
Too hard and too soft: The cloud gone wrong
Over the past decade, a plethora of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers have entered the market. Many offer an integrated cloud IaaS/SaaS solution, including an outsourced hardware and software stack.
While this approach initially promised significant simplicity and cost savings, it has slowly evolved into a quagmire. A form of trench warfare has broken out, creating an innovation stalemate. In this new battle for market share, big marketing is the cannon and acquisitions have become the ammunition.
It seems like every cloud vendor (or want-to-be cloud vendor) has been on an acquisition binge. The impact of this trench warfare should not be underestimated.
Instead of “just right” we seem to have reverted to the hardware and software vendor wars of old, leaving scorched earth in its wake. It turns out that the initial promised victory of the cloud, the big win of unlocking our data from server closets controlled by a cadre of elite IT code warriors with far too little time to keep up with our ever-changing needs, has led to a painfully familiar situation.
Our data is now stored by cloud IaaS/SaaS providers whose roadmap is completely beyond our control and whose stack is a mystery to all but a few IT code warriors with far too little time to keep up with our ever-changing needs.
The trench warfare of big marketing and acquisitions means that in some cases, we cannot access data across applications offered by the same vendors without hiring a systems integrator. In the worst cases, we cannot even freely access data across bundled features of the same “integrated cloud solutions.”
In most cases, the user interface is a hodgepodge of legacy code that requires a rocket scientist to launch effectively. While the high-and-mighty vendors continue to pontificate about “hardening the stack,” we wonder if anyone up there is actually listening to actual enterprise users.
Instead of solving our core problems, our core problems seem to have followed us into the cloud. Fragile integrations. Disconnected user experiences. High-cost customizations. The cloud was supposed to solve these problems, not make them worse.
The biggest loser in this war is vendor trustworthiness: it seems nobody believes the marketing department anymore, no matter how loud, how hip they act, or how many lasers, heavy metal riffs, or smoke machines they use.
This could be the topic for another blog series, but for now, I will summarize by saying that marketing should not be about what software or hardware features may (or may not) be available in the distant future. Vendors must stop selling possibilities wrapped in shiny code-laden wrappers.
Like Goldilocks, your customers want to get to “just right” today, without the threat of getting eaten by a pack of well-groomed, hungry, competing bears.In the next and final of three blogs about the just-right revolution, I will explore the seven rules of “just right.”