5 Ways to Build Cooler Enterprise Apps
With the build-your-own-application movement beginning to take off, best practices for BYOA are starting to emerge.
By Anthony Petro, K2
Enterprise application developers have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to notoriety and glory for their work. Speaking broadly, they do not enjoy the same "cool" factor that is often associated with commercial applications.
But as the workforce becomes more entrepreneurial than ever, they're also leveraging technologies that allow them to solve business needs quickly and efficiently. This gives them the "cool" factor to meet the needs of their customers, which in the past would never have been possible. By bringing these business applications to the browser and phone and making them easily accessible, end users can consume and turn around their negative "built by IT" stigma.
Another way to increase the cool factor is by empowering enterprise employees to build applications that require little or no coding or development support. Building your own application (BYOA) is taking off, but what is next for the revolution?
Here are five ways business users can build cooler enterprise apps and do it faster and more effectively:
Bring Your Own Data
Gone are the days of porting data between systems to get to the information. Today’s app building platform seamlessly connects to the structured and unstructured data that resides in existing, even legacy, systems. Surfacing this data in a new but familiar way allows the app designer to immediately provide value instead of having to start with the steep learning curve of a new data model.
Jump Start by Appifying
Building your own application shouldn’t include grunt work that allows the app to work – basically the plumbing between the data model, the forms and the workflow. "Appifying" starts with something you know, such as a SharePoint List, a Salesforce Contact or SAP Products, and generates the glue that every application needs. All the methods for working with the data and the forms for users to do something meaningful with the data are auto-generated. On top of that, the workflow can use these generated forms at points where there needs to be some user interaction. Appifying allows designers to accelerate building the application by focusing on the real business value without having to worry about the mundane building blocks.
Make It Customized and Comprehensive
Users love a catered experience. The cool enterprise application is designed to meet specific needs of the form user and fit the culture of how people get work done. Do you need a single form with lots of steps and information that, say, an engineer is used to following? Or do you need to break things up into smaller, discrete steps that someone with less training can use without consulting the manual or their cube mate? It depends on what kind of application you're building and who your user is, and building something cool means that it fits the way people want it to work.
Leverage the Native Experience
Today’s users are experiencing applications on every device, whether it be a PC, tablet, phone or wearable. The BYOA experience allows the designer to cater the experience for every device without needing to build a separate version for every device. The application should adapt to the devices and use their native features. Entering a date on an iPhone should feel the same in your enterprise application as it does in native phone applications. This is different than a drop-down menu on a desktop browser, and the application should take care of that.
Make It Easy to Share and Re-use
Cool apps to need a community to be successful. They need a place where app designers can share and collaborate on common tasks, and the applications themselves must be portable and able to be re-used in multiple environments with little modification. An application designer can build an app by mashing up components from other apps, picking and choosing what works for their application. Sharing the components or final application with the community helps others jump start the BYOA process and accelerates the cool factor through community-sourcing the evolution of what's possible with an enterprise application.
By following these tips employees can leverage technology to make cooler enterprise apps that allow them to solve business needs quickly and efficiently. This practice will continue to strengthen a growing BYOA phenomenon and create a more versatile and mobile workforce.
Anthony Petro is technical product manager for K2, a provider of software that allows people to build and run business process applications, including forms, workflow, data and reports. K2 customers are rapidly transforming their companies with applications that allocate work to the right people, with all the information they need to make great decisions.