5 IT Strategies for App Creation and Delivery
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Published June 2014
Read how Microsoft IT is embracing the Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud, and other megatrends to create a platform that streamlines the creation and delivery of applications that enhance user experiences; promote anytime, anywhere productivity; and reflect a more agile approach to delivery.
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Reimagining enterprise experiences
CIOs and IT leadership teams are actively assessing the technology megatrends including Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud, to determine what they mean for the future of their organizations. It has also become clear that the consumerization of IT has evolved beyond workers bringing their own consumer devices into the enterprise—they are also bringing in expectations. Employees expect to use apps that provide an intuitive, modern experience, and which are accessible from multiple devices. They have witnessed megatrends in action in consumer apps, and expect no less from their work tools.
How can large enterprises meet this demand? There are indeed challenges. Embracing new trends with agility can be particularly hard given the complex legacy ecosystems that most enterprises maintain. Business data and capabilities are often trapped within application and organizational silos, which makes holistic modernization and reusability especially challenging. Furthermore, efforts to innovate and adopt the current megatrends can result in developing too many new apps—in essence, creating clutter that makes life harder for users.
The IT organization within Microsoft is committed to using today’s megatrends to reimagine the app experience for enterprise users. The 180,000 users of IT services at Microsoft expect great experiences that rival the polish found in consumer services, built with the agility they see through frequent updates to their favorite consumer apps. They are savvy technology users that know the possibilities.
“Our model is that of a consumer start-up that happens to be in Microsoft. We are nimble. We win when our apps go viral. We are high on judgment and low on process. And we experiment. Our aim is to be grassroots at scale, and to deliver new ideas with simple sophistication. This is not just about new technology, this is in fact a cultural revolution.”
Leader, Modern IT Innovation Group
5 approaches to delivering a modern user experience
The following is a set of key strategies from Pankaj Arora, Leader of the Modern IT Innovation Group, with teams in Redmond, Washington and Hyderabad, India. Pankaj’s vision and charter is to create innovative, consumer-worthy, enterprise-grade experiences that make users love their devices—and to deliver these experiences with unprecedented agility. His strategies include:
- Build experiences users love. The customer is not just the business function, it is also the user, so build experiences they love. To be truly modern requires thinking about developing digital assistants instead of tools, and utilizing contextual awareness and personalization. Also, focus on design at all levels, from engaging user interfaces on the outside to scalable cloud services on the inside.
- Focus on user-centric scenarios. Companies frequently have many similar apps (such as for approval workflows) because they develop tools in a siloed, org-centric framework. It’s time to stop letting org charts define the apps and to start pivoting off users. Build intelligent apps that address common user needs across business groups, and you will streamline your business processes and improve the user experience.
- Develop reusable services. Build reusable services, not app features. In contrast to building app-specific features that are locked within a particular context, reusable services transcend apps and foster a deep shared services model. Such an approach creates an agility snowball effect, generating efficiencies that can be directed toward innovation and other high-value activities. There is also significant value in bringing existing services together in new ways, and easier reusability equates to more feasible innovative mash-ups.
- Optimize delivery approaches. There are numerous advantages to using an iterative agile approach instead of traditional waterfall software development processes. With agile development, products are delivered early and frequently. Often the best approach is to optimize first for speed and scope to test ideas, and then iterate to include enhancements and new ideas. Take a customer-focused and design-driven approach, using storyboards and screens instead of lengthy requirements documents. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.
- Utilize the latest megatrends. Megatrends are a means to an end. Utilize the cloud to build highly-scalable, reusable services, and benefit from its reduced operational overhead. Leverage social, analytics, and concepts such as location awareness to build intelligent digital assistant-style apps. Utilize the limited form factor of phones to deliver simplicity in the user experience—simplicity that can set the tone and design patterns for other devices like tablets. These megatrends, while state-of-the-art, aren’t about complexity; they are about enabling “simple sophistication,” the marriage of intelligence and simplicity. And that is the future of software.
Reimagination of the enterprise requires more than a technology shift; it requires a cultural shift as well. The ultimate testament to a CIO’s success in today’s modern era is not just delivering business value, but building apps that make people love their devices so much that they never want to put them down! True innovation sits at the intersection of liberal arts and computer science—where creativity counts. By utilizing the aforementioned strategies, enterprises can take a page out of the consumer startup playbook and build user-centric apps using reusable services, agile delivery, and the latest trends—all to make users love adopting the latest enterprise experiences.
For more information on our approach, including three Microsoft IT examples that together highlight the agility snowball effect in action, watch the video listed below (start at 8:50 to jump to the device and app examples, 11:10 to jump to the demos, or enjoy the entire video):
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