When you hear the word “app,” we hope you don’t just think of Angry Birds on your iPhone. True, apps like this compel consumers to buy mobile devices, and they’re an important part of the app economy. But apps are also spreading through enterprise IT.
Within a company, all you have to do is look around for instances where software is applied to a problem to realize where an app could be useful. An app could serve a CRM function internally, a customer portal, or even a machine-to-machine backend. In fact, there are many lessons we’ve learned in the app economy that are relevant to the way IT works, whether you’re addressing employees, partners, or customers.
Here are ten things you can do to bring the app economy to your company.
1. View your enterprise through app glasses You should start looking at how your backend systems might become more modular and “app-like.”
2. Marry rich capability with progressive disclosure Wed the complexities of the real-world enterprise with the single-purpose nature of apps using design techniques like progressive disclosure (the design technique that helps “ramp up” users from simple to more complex actions).
3. Evolve software distribution into “shopping” An app store is a good experience. The IT help desk can be the opposite. The same can go for software provisioning in an enterprise. If you focus on the end-user experience, the rest will follow.
4. Transform corporate bonuses into revenue This is a way to foster entrepreneurship in-house, by linking bonuses to the revenue produced by apps. This might be in the “far-out-there” category, but it’s an important idea to keep an eye on.
5. Blur trust boundaries Don’t erase the lines or “trust boundaries” between the enterprise and the external world (customers and partners), but do make it easier and more porous for information to flow in and out.
6. Cultivate internal, partner, and customer “entrepreneurs” Partners—especially small partners or vendors selling to a bigger company—often are very eager to help push innovation into an enterprise through an API.
7. Budget small, fail fast, iterate quickly Opt for agile development over waterfall development. This enables a smaller, iterative budget and the ability to learn lessons quickly.
8. Elevate Web services into API products for developers This is about taking the old backend of 75 SOAP services trying to talk to each other and creating a product that developers can consume. Mediate between SOAP and REST—try to get the cultures working together.
9. Solve authorization problems at the API boundary The smarter, the more proactive, and the more aggressive an organization is when putting in authentication at the API boundary, the more quickly value will be produced on the other side of it.
10. Connect people to people People make software. The value chain between the app and the API is human. Remember to align with the real world. Once you treat the API as a product—knowing that the developer is the end customer—that’s when you’re off to the races.
We hope this list will at least spur some ideas to usher in this new way of doing computing in the enterprise. For more, please watch the "Bringing the App Economy to Enterprise IT" webcast. As always, we'd love to hear your questions and perspectives on API Craft.