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Platform-as-a-Service offers companies an opportunity to remove bottlenecks and compete directly with small, app-centric startups.
Here’s a radical idea—close your IT department.
It’s not as crazy as it might seem. As Derek Roos explained to Powered by Battery, it could be essential to competing in a world where app-centric startups like Uber and Nest are able to so easily swoop in and shake up the market.
These sorts of companies have a major advantage in having very little overhead due to their reliance on software. Uber can be successful because they don’t need to actually manage and maintain a fleet of cabs. They simply connect passengers and drivers through their app. This means the majority of their resources can be dedicated to development, and they can remain lean and agile—more able to adapt to a rapidly changing market.
Larger companies don’t always have that luxury. Many industries are in a position where a purely software-based model just doesn’t make sense. Someone has to build the vehicle that Uber drivers are driving, after all, and you can’t build an iPhone app that assembles a car—at least not yet!
Such companies are going to remain focused on their physical products or services, and are likely to relegate any software development to their overworked IT department. But that model introduces slowdowns as IT tries to field requests from all over the organization. These requests may require knowledge that the developers may not actually have due to their separation from the requesting branch. That means more hang-ups as everyone tries to get on the same page.
The solution is to simply take application development out of IT and make software development a part of daily life across your organization. By enabling citizen development within the varied departments, you are removing the bottleneck that IT sometimes becomes. Under this structure, a salesperson with an idea for an app that manages customer data can go ahead make that app themselves. Also, because they have an intimate knowledge of the data they are working with already, app development can happen much more quickly without having to go back-and-forth explaining the situation and requirements of the app.
Not everyone has the knowhow to create their own apps—and we shouldn’t expect them to. The key to enabling an app-centric business model is providing workers with tools that make the job simple and intuitive. The development environment should be based on clear, familiar metaphors like drag-and-drop interfaces or flowchart models. Bonus points if the platform can be accessed from anywhere so it doesn’t matter whether the employee is in the office or not. With a cloud model, he will be able to make his ideas a reality as soon as inspiration strikes.
Luckily tools like this already exist, sold under the moniker “Platform-as-a-Service” (PaaS). As the name implies, PaaS offerings are development platforms distributed to clients as a cloud service. Some PaaS offerings, like Progress® Pacific™, have a focus on rapid application development and are tailor-built with citizen developers in mind. They oftentimes require minimal coding and offer “cloud-native” deployment so developers need not worry about the platform their apps are going to be accessed from.
With PaaS and the right strategy, it is no problem to tighten up even the most sprawling organizations. I’m not actually suggesting shutting down IT—but the role of IT is changing. IT efficiency must be taken into consideration.
As the senior director of product marketing and strategy for the Progress solutions and audience marketing team, Paul Nashawaty keeps his eyes peeled on what enterprises are doing about big data as it relates to digital transformation. Paul is responsible for applying practical business methodologies using technological solutions to drive success in organizations.
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