Oh I See! Getting CIOs to view their jobs from a different angle

Apr 12 2011   2:20AM GMT

The micro-app nemesis

Arun Gupta Arun Gupta Profile: Arun Gupta

If you have looked for an app on Apple’s App Store, I am sure you have faced a Google search kind of frustration with hundreds of applications purporting to do the same stuff, one better than the other, or many times just a ‘me too’. So some of us end up downloading more than one to try and then decide which one is better; many a time we don’t end up discarding the others. Check around with friends who would have downloaded, say, an ‘Alarm Clock’, and it is quite likely you will find that their app is different. You may be tempted to download that one too, just to try!

The problem of plenty

I met a CIO who was showing his angst on the fact that there were more than a dozen applications within his enterprise for travel approvals. While some were a result of ‘forgotten’ acquisition synergies, the others were created by Shadow IT for departments to address short term need. These sustained themselves even after the corporate version was deployed. And now to top it all, almost all of them had mobile versions for different mobile devices thereby multiplying the number of micro-apps that were floating around.

The resulting collection of travel approval micro-apps exceeded a number that crossed the tipping point for the CIO. There was an uneasy silence on the table as she described the chaos and now the support expectations when some of them failed to work with the clamp down or rationalization of applications. Sympathetic nods followed as new governance processes were discussed and general agreement that the actions taken were fair.

Most of the micro-apps on the App Store are written by enthusiasts and programmers wanting to showcase their prowess. They test the waters with free apps, and then add features and a tiny charge. Some start-up companies too indulged in similar bunch of apps on the store getting a few hits and lots of misses. How did this suddenly become an industry with 10 billion downloads in such a short span? Because you can!

Challenges for the CIO

The simplicity and ability to create such apps is, I guess, one of the reasons that contributed to this explosion. Consumerization of the hand held device has given rise to the opportunity that had to be capitalized upon. The slowdown/ recession encouraged the blurring of the lines between work and life, while everyone wallowed in the need to stay connected 24X7. The pressure is now on the CIO to stay ahead of the game and deploy even more processes that can be accessed on the mobile. Even if you have already formulated a mobility strategy, review it frequently to stay on top of the situation.

But what about the increasing number of micro-apps that are being downloaded, sanctioned or otherwise? No one knows what kind of vulnerabilities they create; what will they lead to in the future? Are they the future support nightmare? Only time will tell; until then, tread cautiously, create the micro-apps required, test the ones you may want to endorse from the store, and pray!

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