Mobile // Mobile Applications
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2/27/2014
09:06 AM
Adriaan van Wyk
Adriaan van Wyk
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Business Apps Are Becoming Disposable

The ease with which software applications can be created and connected to corporate systems has changed the nature of business software development.

The growing ease of application development has empowered users, enabling them to create software that once required significant time and expense. More users are turning to cloud-based platforms to become developers, building their own business apps to support a growing range of business processes. Often, these apps are considered "disposable," meaning they're built for a specific process need and then tossed out, never to be used again. 

What might seem like a waste of money is the byproduct of added efficiency in the workplace.  So-called "disposable apps" are showing up across industries and at companies of all shapes and sizes. Even large-scale Fortune 100 companies like Kimberly-Clark, Wells Fargo, and Shell have embraced the agility and hyper focus of disposable apps. These global companies can maintain the responsiveness and workflow efficiency of startups by building and running faster business applications -- even for core and mission-critical processes -- with minimal need for IT support or oversight.

We recently had a manufacturing client that wanted to involve its customers in reviewing the features of a new product it was launching. Instead of sending emails and asking for feedback -- a typical but often inefficient effort -- the company developed an app where customers could take pictures of the product with their phone to point out problems and provide feedback on features and product functionality. In just 10 days, they had about 1,000 people take part and were able to gain new insights into product features that needed changing. By making the changes deemed necessary by their customers, they ended up delivering a better, more useful product. At that point, the app was no longer needed and shelved. But after only 10 days it had done the job and its brief lifespan was more than justified by the speed and ease with which it was built.

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Disposable apps are possible thanks to evolving technology innovation within platforms that make it easy to assemble, deploy, and run apps with drag-and-drop, code-free tools. These apps can use data from anything service-enabled, including line-of-business systems or web-based APIs, and can present that data on a variety of devices.

Our workforce no longer has the patience to wait for lengthy IT implementations or high-priced development projects. People have problems they want solved and they'll find a way to solve them -- fast. 

I saw a great example of this during the massive Chicago labor strike back in 2012. After a disagreement between union workers and the collective bargaining unit resulted in the halt of nearly all construction projects in the city, union folks created a way for laborers to get back to work under a new project contract. In just four hours, they created an app that allowed contractors and workers to sign a new contract, scan that contract, and send it up for corporate approval and have names published to the union membership website in just 15 minutes (a requirement to work on transportation projects in Illinois). With more than 800 people signing up a day in the first couple of days alone, this was cutting significant revenue from the other side of the fence and they were eager to settle the strike. 

Four days later, they reached a compromise and the strike ended, but not before the union was able to show the value of putting dynamic software into the hands of everyday people solving major business problems. Without having to think through a lengthy IT process or expensive implementation, the organizers were able to evaluate the problem and come up with an app that was easy to build and use for the brief time they needed it. 

What happened with our manufacturing customer and with the union in Chicago is a phenomenon I'm seeing more and more. There's an increased willingness to experiment on new, often temporary, uses for software around forms, workflow, reports, and data management. When these customers become agile enough to build their own apps in this way, they begin to envision new uses for these technologies that might have gone unconsidered or deemed too cost-prohibitive to carry out for temporary or "disposable" activities.

The term "disposable apps" doesn't necessarily mean that you have to throw out the application after a one-time use, but the point is that you could. The ease and economy of use is such that you could decide to throw out the application after you're done with it.

Technology continues to widen the scope of what a company can build on its own for all sorts of business processes, and what we're seeing now with disposable apps demonstrates what becomes possible when the ability to create software moves beyond the IT group to the edges of the organization. 

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Adriaan van Wyk is the CEO of K2, a leading enterprise organization that creates and helps run business applications, including forms, workflow, data, and reports. Adriaan and his co-founders have grown K2 from a small South African startup to a global company with software ... View Full Bio

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k2dave
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k2dave,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/2/2014 | 10:10:58 AM
Re: Data security consideration?
Lorna, you make a good point. In fact, thats the basis for these disposable apps. Leveraging K2, not only are these apps disposable (as described by Adriaan), but they are also made up of re-usable components and data is not held within the app. These reusable components describe the data, the user interface and where relevant the workflow/s reslated to the app. This means that if the app is "disposed of", the artifacts that made up the app can be re-used in many other applications. We think this is very important for IT innovation, productivty and time to market, no to mention redically reducing the cost of applicaton lifecycle management
k2dave
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k2dave,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/2/2014 | 10:10:19 AM
Re: Data security consideration?
Lorna, you make a good point. In fact, thats the basis for these disposable apps. Leveraging K2, not only are these apps disposable (as described by Adriaan), but they are also made up of re-usable components and data is not held within the app. These reusable components describe the data, the user interface and where relevant the workflow/s reslated to the app. This means that if the app is "disposed of", the artifacts that made up the app can be re-used in many other applications. We think this is very important for IT innovation, productivty and time to market, no to mention redically reducing the cost of applicaton lifecycle management
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
2/28/2014 | 10:14:06 AM
Re: Data security consideration?
This is a challenge to IT leaders -- do we have too much overhead in our development to do disposable apps? The approvals, the time allocations, the security checklists. You present the potential, but I wonder what internal processes people see get in the way and prevent this kind of disposable use scenario.
AdriaanV366
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AdriaanV366,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/27/2014 | 3:54:06 PM
Re: Data security consideration?
Lorna

 

That's a great question. K2 (www.k2.com) has been working with many fortune 500 companies, including banks and insurance organizations. Information protection and lifecycle management is top of mind for us.

The K2 platform includes a patented technology called SmartObjects, which is essentially the mechanism we use to provide read/write access to information in your on premises line of business systems such as SAP, SharePoint or cloud based solutions such as salesforce.com. New information that doesn't exist can be created in SQL server or Oracle databases with no code or technical database skills required.

When you build disposable apps, K2 SmartObjects takes care of retrieving and saving the information without ever copying or removing it from its source. K2 SmartObjects has been proven to scale to meet the demand of some of the biggest companies in the world.

This is very very important for us. We believe that those source systems, which K2 SmartObjects retrieve the information from, know how to protect their data, who can access it and who can update it. We honor that, and using technologies such as oAuth or claims, we ensure that those rules are enforced and the data is protected by those systems.

When you later decide not to use an application, you can destroy the forms, workflows and K2 SmartObject definitions, but your information in those LOB systems continue to live on untouched.

If you did decide to create new data sources in K2, you have the option to remove them when you remove the application.

Lastly, I want to point out that we have a powerful workflow platform in K2 that can assist with request and approval processes before you deploy or destroy applications.

Lifecycle management, data security, versioning and exception handling are all concepts that are native to K2, and are used by large organizations for mission critical solutions daily.

I hope this short explanation helps to answer your questions.

Regards,

Adriaan
AdriaanV366
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AdriaanV366,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/27/2014 | 3:07:42 PM
Re: Tools used?
The points you make are spot on. The concept of building once off apps or solutions is not new. The tool involved here is called K2 blackpearl (www.k2.com).

K2 makes it possible for you to quickly build forms and workflow based apps that can access your existing line of business systems. Exmaples include on premisses systems and data such as SAP, SharePoint or cloud based systems such as salesforce.com, without writing code in a secure, fast and transactional way.

K2 is a platform that lets you build these apps faster than ever before with the peace of mind that they can scale to become mission criticla or once off solutions.

We have a lot of customers using K2 for core business solutions. At the same time we have customers, such as Kimberly Clark, that have built and deployed 400 of these apps/solutions on the K2 platform in a very short period of time. In Kimberly Clarkc's case, they integrate with SAP and SharePoint and empowered a whole new group of people in the organization to become involved in solving their day to day apps and solution needs.

Of course there are implications which one need to consider. K2 will not be the hammer for every nail, but it has been very effective at helping organizations build new solutions around existing systems at very succesful rates.

You can reach me at adriaan@k2.com if there are more specific questions.

Regards,

Adriaan
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 3:03:26 PM
How to build a disposable app
I think K2 specializes in enabling businesses to build simple applications using the tools and applications they probably already have on premises. In forms building, K2 supplies the company with a form building framework that can draw data from different sources, such as Microsoft SharePoint, Dynamics CRM, and SQL Server; also Oracle, SAP, Salesforce.com data repositories. The customer can do a lot with that, as in the examples cited. Knowledgeable business users, with a little help from IT, could accomplish many of the basics that they want. And of course those same components area available the next time around. Very interesting approach,
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
2/27/2014 | 1:12:29 PM
Tools used?
I guess that makes sense if you already own (or rent in case of cloud) the tools and licenses to make that happen. I assume these people aren't creating this stuff with Notepad and javascript/HTML. Or are you saying they are using people like you, who already own these tools and licenses, and then you deploy an application which can be used without licensing impact?

I guess it comes down to what they paid someone like you to write this app which could have been done with email. I'm struggling with concept these customers were too busy to respond by email but had time to download app to phone from store (or run in browser without download), take the picture and make comments. What is the difference? Why couldn't they take picture on phone and then use their work email pushed to phone to send picture as attachment, making comments in email?

Did this temporary app allow them to annotate on the picture or something?

As a developer, the idea of one time apps is not new. I've written many programs to help my users change a data condition instead of them manually changing thousands of records. I guess your twist is doing that outside your internal systems?
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 10:25:51 AM
Data security consideration?
When disposing of an app, is there any need to get a review by the security team to make sure there's not proprietary data involved?

And, what about possible code reuse? Would it make sense for larger companies to build repositories? I mean, that app to photograph a product could be reused, with tweaks, for the next revamp. Sure, making it new may take a small amount of time, but why not be as efficient as possible.
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