Global CIO: The Case For Copying Apple's App Store
Manpower's IT team is adopting the App Store model internally, making it part of how technology runs in a global company. Should you?
An app store approach isn't a miracle cure for IT's timeless ailments.
Foremost among the challenges is integration with those legacy apps noted earlier. Having one app that fits every country's legacy system is one of the major challenges Manpower faces. In fact, it's a major strategic decision to focus more on integrating quick-hit, high-impact apps into legacy systems than on getting the company onto a single, common platform. That single operating platform remains a long-term goal, but these high-impact apps are the more urgent priority. Manpower's using a services architecture, where apps publish data in common XML formats and local IT teams adapt those to legacy apps.
If that still sounds like a fair amount of work, far from a simple plug-and-play app store, you're right. That raises another challenge--managing expectations. Edwards wants to make sure his team's zeal for this idea, and the easy analogy of the app store, doesn't drift into hyperbole. "We're excited about it. I just want to make sure we're not overselling it," he says.
But bottom line, Edwards thinks Manpower needs to have this option of more easily bringing on apps to meet a focused need, regardless of the legacy IT. The services architecture, and an apps store-like central repository, is at the heart of IT's ability to meet fast-moving business needs.
"Integration is something that most companies are really afraid of," Edwards says. "… For us, given our footprint, given the amount of legacy and new technology we have, given we want to make a bigger impact faster, integration's something we need to get comfortable with."
Manpower's exact strategy won't fit every company. It has a highly distributed IT organization, with fairly autonomous business operating units. Those markets have a good bit of room to fine tune their systems and offerings to their local markets and competitors. Many companies are moving in the opposite direction, trying to centralize more IT operations and development, or at least concentrate them in select places.
Still, as Apple opens its Mac App Store, and more consumer IT vendors embrace the concept, CIOs would do well to ask if some form of that model is right for their operations.
This interview is for an upcoming article on "Is IT Too Darn Slow?" If you're trying to speed up IT at your company and want to talk about it, please drop me a note.