Too many apps stop digital transformation? Piffle.

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CIOs say there are too many apps, according to a CapGemini survey. It’s getting in the way of digital transformation they – or the people asking the leading questions say.

What?

There are too few, more like.

I’ll invoke digital pioneer Stewart Brand once again

Software is an extension of the nervous system.

Buyer beware.

If our machines are there to help us think, the last thing you want is everyone thinking in the same way, with the same tools. You just end up scaling flaws and narrow thinking and myopia along with all the efficiencies of scale.

You need standards and interoperability and APIs and all that. But too many apps? That’s just complexity-denial, wishing away diversity for the sake of a neat-looking IT infrastructure.

More people using more apps, that sounds like a company where digital transformation is really taking hold. A plurality of software, not a mechanised monoculture.

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Images credit – Quickmeme / Amadeus

5 comments

  1. Scott Lawson

    I would say the CIOs who say they’ve got too many Apps are just not very good CIOs, but bandwagon jumpers. “60 per cent of senior IT decision makers believe their departments’ most valuable contribution to the company is introducing new technologies”. That’s worrying, it should be introducing efficiencies. Follows on from what I was saying about Big Data. When they think “we need a cloud solution because that’s what everyone is doing”, what’s the problem they’re addressing? Do they even know what “cloud” means? Often not. You get things like this happening http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/mar/03/nhs-england-patient-data-google-servers.

    It’s harder in bigger companies to be agile than smaller companies, especially when it comes to getting rid of apps. Example here “Liberté! Publicis ditches Lotus Notes”. http://digiday.com/agencies/publicis-lotus-notes/. Which means bigger companies have to be even more careful before jumping on bandwagons.

    A valuable CIO will see what the company needs, and find a solution, based on what employees want & need and is available in the market. Are we going to see companies saying they need a “Drone Plan” now that Amazon and Facebook both have one?! ;) http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/04/now-facebook-has-a-drone-plan/

    I’d say it’s not too many apps, but the wrong apps.

  2. amayfield

    What I’m also saying though, is that many of those apps will ones which users, not CIOs will choose.

  3. Scott Lawson

    Agreed, that’s why CIOs should listen to their employees wants and needs. Although they have to balance that up with what’s realistic, as apps will need to be supported, as well as security issues.

  4. Mark Higginson

    Scott is correct. I work at ‘the sharp end’ in a large organisation undertaking ‘digital transformation’. This forms a central part of the strategic plan. However, the complexity introduced by a diversity of both supported and unsupported apps is a contributor to institutional inertia.

    We’re an extreme case. We have a team of people focused specifically on supporting learning technologies and an entire Centre for Learning & Teaching focused on research. Yet anyone can effectively introduce anything they like at any time they think is useful. The issues are that for most people this isn’t their core role and a plethora of apps increases the cognitive burden and reduces efficiency, mitigating the collaborative effects these new tools are often supposed to facilitate.

    Waving your hands about standards and APIs is not the same as understanding how problematic this can be; APIs aren’t open protocols and many systems are as much about locking users in as they are about making things easier, which only compounds the problem. Supporting all of this requires vast resources for apps that perhaps only a few people actually use to their fullest.

    Personally speaking part of the reason I left agencyland was I felt I couldn’t have a full understanding of the human factors that intersect with technology without having worked within a large organisation. Until you have experienced this I think it is easy to be starry-eyed about the supposed benefits of ‘digital transformation’ without understanding that it is a double-edged sword.

  5. Scott Lawson

    I’ve worked across many sectors (as in for companies, not as a client of) including the water industry, electrical generation and transmission, education, tech startups, agencies, and a large global tech leader, across three countries and seen what you mention Mark in all of them. Which is why IT departments (especially larger organisations) generally lock down what users can install, and are strict on what they allow. This is generally for two reasons: support resource, and more importantly, security.

    The biggest security flaw is always people, doesn’t matter how good IT are, users are the top cause of security breaches, usually unintentionally. There are a lot of laws many organisations unintentionally break including data protection, which can be very serious depending on the data. A lot of companies are doing this and not realising it and could end up in serious financial trouble. It can make or break both big and small organisations.

    APIs and standards have been around ever since software has existed, they’re nothing new. The rate of change makes it hard for standards to keep up, so there are now a huge number of “standards”.

    It’s one thing to have lots of applications on your own devices, but when they need to be shared across an organisation of 100s or 1000s of employees, they need to be chosen with care so that it doesn’t place a huge burden on people, both users and support people.

    Technology should make our lives easier, which is why choosing it shouldn’t be a light decision, and should be made by someone who understands how it works, not just the jargon, and not just because they like the app themself personally.

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