For those who came in late, the first iteration of this concept was "VM sprawl" -- the unmanaged proliferation of virtual machines for every new use case. In 2010, I discussed the concept of "VM stall" in an article on CIO.com, defining it as: "The tendency for virtualization deployments to stall once the 'low-hanging fruit' has been converted (typically around 20-30 percent of servers)."
Cloud sprawl and stall are each based on a similar premise -- first came the proliferation of cloud services adopted by business units; then adoption slowed as IT and business units dealt with new issues caused by the initial sprawl and tried to figure out the harder cloud use cases (e.g., hybrid, legacy modernization).
History is repeating itself with mobile apps. If we're starting to see "app sprawl," will "app stall" follow, as it did with virtualization and the cloud?
Mobile app development is indeed hot. While data shows 62% of organizations do not have a company-wide mobility strategy, apps are still in demand in the enterprise:
Marketing wants an app for content marketing to connect with customers and drive leads
Sales wants an app with digital brochures, sales materials, contracts, and CRM integration
Operations wants an app for customer self-service for purchases and after-sales support
Regional departments want an app to show off local flair and connect with local customers
Branch offices want an app that will interface with head office systems on new devices
Manufacturing wants an app to manage inventory and production from the factory floor
The C-suite wants an app for C-level reporting on business performance
A quick review of the various app stores shows how widespread this phenomenon really is. My very first search on the iTunes App Store showed app proliferation for JP Morgan Chase:
Similarly, my search on the Google Play Store for Sears shows it also has a proliferation of official apps:
This is not even considering apps developed independently by third parties. A quick search in the Google Play Store for Bank of America, for example, turns up more than 70 different apps, most not developed by BofA:
There are also different apps for different operating systems and device types, plus all the off-the-shelf consumer and enterprise applications adopted directly by BYOD users.
These apps may be both necessary and good. Even rogue tech adoption is not always a bad thing. However, like virtualization and cloud proliferation before it, app sprawl creates new problems. With apps multiplying uncontrollably, you risk damage to your brand as different apps present too many unauthorized or "rogue" experiences to your customers.
You also risk: inconsistent customer interactions as applications have overlapping functionality; intellectual property dilution as your brands and other IP are essentially hijacked; service desk overload caused by too many apps and not enough support staff; staff dissatisfaction when supposedly "corporate" apps are focused only on a small part of the business; and higher costs to develop, manage, and secure parallel mobile app efforts.
Unfettered access to external apps brings more management demand, security gaps, malware penetration, and confidential data leakage. Third-party app development that goes unchecked could also
Andi Mann is an accomplished digital executive with global expertise as a strategist, technologist, innovator, marketer, and communicator. With over 30 years' experience, he is a sought-after advisor, commentator, and speaker. Andi has coauthored two books. He blogs at Andi ... View Full Bio
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