Saturday, 23rd January 2021

Business success in the middle of the app explosion

History will show we are in the middle of an application explosion. Ten years ago, there were 52 million apps available globally. Now there are 335 million; and by 2024 it is forecast there will be almost three quarters of a billion. By Jean-Pierre Brulard, SVP & GM, VMware EMEA.

Our digital technology and daily lives have morphed into one digital life. From the moment you wake via the alarm from your smartphone, the fitbit that tracks your morning run, the coffee you order and collect on your way to the office, the instant-message conversation you have with a colleague, or the review you give of performance data from across the department or organisation. All of these scenarios are helped, managed, informed and maximised through applications.

That creates huge opportunities for businesses but also some challenges.

But are businesses truly prepared for this app-driven world? And if not, why not? In an increasingly multi-cloud world in which businesses operate, is this helping or hindering organisations looking to develop, manage and run applications that excite and engage their customers and employees?

The short answer is that everyone needs to be prepared. In this increasingly hyper-connected digital world, businesses are now being defined by how fast they can deliver applications that differentiate their business and enhance the user experience. That means incorporating technologies that create more personalised and immersive experiences, from the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence to virtual and augmented realities, as they come to redefine and dominate customer engagement. It also means giving all users, whether employees or customers, access to the information they need to make informed decisions, in real-time.

This is important when you consider that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Critically for businesses who are in digital transformation mode, Gartner forecasts that 85% of the relationship between a customer and the enterprise will be non-human by 2020. Everyone needs to be onboard, but it is an exciting future we are looking at.

Take what Barclaycard in the U.K. is doing with Grab+Go – a feature that turns customers’ smartphones into wallets. Customers can scan items into the app while they shop and then pay for them through mobile checkout without having to wait in line. Or consider Audi’s VR experience. It allows customers to configure their own car, offering a dynamic and interactive buying experience, by transferring the process from a digital tablet to something much more immersive.

Then there’s La Poste in France, which has transformed the organisation entirely thanks to the app explosion. By equipping postal workers with up to 20 apps on their mobile devices, the company has found a way offer new and innovative services, such as banking, insurance and even checking on elderly relatives, on doorsteps. This provides great customer experience and new revenue streams for the postal service.

Why it’s important

These are all examples of how apps are being used to deliver better experiences. But to do that can be incredibly complex. But it shouldn’t be this way.

This is because the explosion of information crossing multiple clouds to and from an infinite number of devices and sensors has brought complexity, security and scalability issues. Just think, the average enterprise is managing more than eight clouds. Developing and managing apps is more complex than ever before, as companies wrestle with a variety of traditional, cloud-native and Software-as-a-Service apps and services.

This is not going to get any easier. Gartner predicts that for every dollar invested in digital business innovation through to the end of 2020, enterprises will need to spend at least three times that to continuously modernise their legacy app portfolio.

With speed vital, taking five or six months to develop an app is no longer acceptable. Enterprises are reliant on software that can be developed and used as fast as possible, adapting to changing marketplace requirements, and running on infrastructure that can deal with these rapid changes, can scale and can handle new types of workloads.

At the same time, it is all becoming harder to protect. A recent VMware/Forbes study highlighted that 76% of both business leaders and IT security practitioners believe their organisation is working with outdated the security solutions. Businesses are deploying tens, if not hundreds, of different products and approaches to security as they desperately try to apply traditional castle-wall style defences to apps, data and services that are continually moving.

Simplicity lays the foundation for success

To accelerate app development, we need to simplify operations. We think the answer is in software. Creating one, ubiquitous digital foundation that enables businesses to modernise their existing apps and create new ones, and run, manage, connect and intrinsically protect them, across any cloud, at speed. Through consistent infrastructure, consistent operations and intrinsic security, the digital foundation ensures organisations can innovate and deliver these exceptional employee and customer experience, while optimising their IT investment.

Through this layer, businesses can deploy consistent infrastructure, management and operations that has security intrinsically built in. It helps developers develop faster, across any infrastructure, be it the public cloud, private cloud or edge cloud. And it supports the development and operations of cloud and container-based apps. By 2022, Gartner predicts that more than 75% of global organisations will be running containerised applications in production – a significant increase from the 30% that run today.

The benefits for businesses of getting apps into the hands of their intended users faster than ever before are numerous, from growth in customer base, ROI, lead conversion, customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, as well as talent recruitment and retention. Forrester reports that the revenue growth of customer experience leaders is 5.1 times that of laggards.

It worked for the French Postal service, La Poste. By deploying a digital workspace, they could simplify the delivery and management of its apps, and gave employees easy and secure access, regardless of their IT literacy. They have become digitally enabled, delivering a diversified set of services to ensure La Poste remains valuable, commercially viable and relevant to millions of people across France.

Where next

Whether you’re in banking, logistics, automotive, retail or any other sector, the modern app has become the definition of success. Your focus might be on engaging customers; it might be on enabling employees – whatever it is, the apps you deliver will determine the experience your users enjoy.

To get it right, you need to be innovative and have the software-defined digital foundation to allow - and simplify – how developers create, manage and run apps easily, securely and speedily, across any cloud.

Organisations have to be apps focused and be planning accordingly. Failing to do this, and they’ll alienate customers and struggle to retain talent. Deploy it correctly, and they can grow their customer base, enhance their reputation as an attractive place to work, and be truly set up to succeed in the digital era.

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