You want me to build what?

by Brian Katz on September 27, 2012 · 0 comments

I participated in the #mobilebizchat Twitter chat today where we ended up revisiting how to create a great app. We had a bunch of new people who were participating and all of them had some great ideas. A lot of them were focused around the new capabilities of either OSes or Devices. Many wanted to talk about continuous feedback loops when using apps and some wanted to talk about the security surrounding app creation. It took a very long time to focus on creating a great app. The best part of the chat was that it was a wonderful reflection of companies today. Everyone brings their own spin into the meeting and they’re competing on ideas instead of cooperating.

The issue with creating a great app is that almost everyone approaches it from the wrong direction with their own biases. They are looking to create an app that does something, but most of the time they can’t figure out what. Apps have the ability to run off track all the time. What drives apps this way is the silo’d nature of the beast. The developers tend to want to just develop without any input other than the requirements, IT wants a piece in it but only so long as to hand off to the developers. Security isn’t consulted until the app is finished and then it’s usually handed back to the business to give to the users. Why would anyone have a problem developing a great app with a process like this?

Let’s not forget the initial meetings when the business put together the idea for the app that it was going to develop. It may have started out fine; they talked to the users and discovered what the users wanted. They then took this and laid out what they wanted the app to do. At some point they had a list of requirements and were ready to meet with IT or their vendor to get the app built. As they sat in that meeting, something probably occurred to one of the IT people, “you know, if you want, we can add this really great feature…” We’ve all been there in those meetings, when scope creep starts up the only thing that will stop it is the next meeting. It doesn’t take long before the requirements have become bloated. The app gets built, most likely to specifications and then given to the users. They promptly go to the app store and find something better to use.

If you want to make a great app, first you have to define what an app should be for the enterprise. As I tweeted yesterday “The point is that in order to build great apps, you partner with the biz, security & users and you focus on enablement”. I’ve already written posts on how to build an app and avoid building a crapplication. The trick is to focus on enablement. It has to be a partnership between all the relevant areas, users, business, developers, security and IT. If you leave any one of those out you are going to run into an issue at some point. When you build the app you are getting constant feedback from the users who are going to be using the app, you make sure that you are meeting the business needs, security is involved to make sure you protect the data at rest and while in transit, IT is involved to make sure that the app can talk with the data and all of the backend systems and the developers are making you the best app possible.

When you start by working together in this service-oriented design approach as my friend Jeff Sussna likes to refer to it, you start to produce great things. The silos come down and trust rises. You move from building a great app to building a killer ecosystem. As IT is part of the business, so are security, the developers and the users. You all get paid because you make the business profitable.

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