What Every Business Application Must Do
It’s a new world for business applications – Workday, LinkedIn and Salesforce.com are leading the charge, but there’s more that needs to be done. Before we set out to build our own application we identified a set of requirements – which has grown from an initial list of 5 to 10. Cloud, security and mobile are taken for granted so I don’t have them on this list:
- Delight people with the experience. Business apps must have a simple, useful and beautiful experience such that everyone in a company can use it without training. Individuals in businesses are now accustomed to consumer web sites and iPad apps and they expect the same level of user experience from business applications. The time for delightful business application experiences has arrived.
- Provide contextual smartphone and tablet apps. Not just apps ported to the smart phone and tablet, but designed for the context and usage patterns for these devices. LinkedIn did it, everyone should.
- Deliver instant gratification. The days of waiting for the system to be configured and customized are over. The new expectation is to derive value from the application with a few clicks. The cloud, of course, eliminates a lot of the hassle of installation and maintenance but this is more than that. It’s about the application having enough built-in data and insights to make even the initial experience rewarding and actionable. Future business applications will be delivered with data and insights.
- Integrate Big Data – Public and Private. One way to deliver instant gratification is through the use of public data. Simply consolidating and exposing this data within the application’s context can provide a business with real and immediate advantages. Microsoft is doing this within Excel. While making sense of unstructured public data can be challenging, applications cannot let that get in the way and must get at the insights that lie within. Next, combine public data with private business data and the potential for new and different insights multiplies. Finally, make the data and insights real-time or near real-time and the value increases exponentially.
- Deliver Big Actionable Insights. With Big Data comes the potential of ‘Big Insights’ that one can act on immediately to generate positive results for the business. Insights that not only address problems framed by the business but also insights that reveal connections yet unseen by the business. Built-in, real-time analytics capabilities that lead to such insights are going to be a requirement for business apps. It’s also important to build trust in these insights. To gain and maintain trust, the app has to be built to expose any data upon which insights are based while also providing measures of data quality.
- Embed a social network. Every business app needs a built-in social environment – Chatter or Yammer or something custom built. Such a social network can double as a lightweight collaboration environment. But the real opportunity is the collective intelligence that can be harvested from the many conversations on the network.
- Embed Search & Discovery. It should be much easier to find what you need to in business apps. Search technology should be built into a business app as a way to speed up insight generation and decision making. There’s talk of a category of business applications called Search-based Applications but our belief is that search and discovery technology needs to be built into every business app.
- Enable ‘Flexible’ integration. Big data is broken without integration. Being able to use data that resides in all the business apps around the enterprise can increase the value and number of insights. Business apps need to loosely couple data from lots of different sources.
- Provide Benchmarking. Imagine if you could benchmark yourself against your peers and competition on every business metric. We have started using TINYpulse at our company. And the insight we get from it about our people and culture is fascinating. What’s even more valuable is that we can benchmark ourselves against other companies. That is a super valuable insight and puts things in perspective.
- Price for access, leading to a broader user base. Pricing for business applications needs to get simpler and more transparent. Given that collaboration and the social element will be a part of business apps, pricing models must consider user and usage scale in addition to revenue. Having one accessible price for everyone at a customer and likely a higher price for the power users for power features will be ideal. Maybe with a third price point in the middle. With more users and usage comes greater intelligence and insights for both the buyer and the seller, so this is a virtuous cycle.