Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Enterprise Apps: The Next Generation

The good and bad: How enterprise apps are changing the role of IT

A new wave of business applications are being introduced to improve overall productivity. But what does that mean for the IT department?

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Image: iStock
The rise of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) coupled with increasing usage of consumer-facing applications are starting to pave the way for a new generation of business applications, according to Agnes Sheehan, director of connectivity and network sales at Telstra.

Speaking to ZDNet, Sheehan said given that employees are also consumers and business partners, their exposure to applications such as WhatsApp or Facebook outside of the workplace is impacting their user expectations of business applications.

"I think about 18 months ago people used to build an application and would move onto the next one. I think there is recognition now it's all about the experience and there's no such thing as set-and-forget," she said.

However, when businesses do introduce new applications into their environment, one challenge that Sheehan highlighted -- which she said many enterprises don't recognise -- is the level of commitment needed to keep these business applications updated and running. It's mainly driven by the fast-paced nature of how often operation systems are updated, she said.

"It's not like desktops where the upgrades happen every 18 months: iOS and Android updates happen daily and weekly, and some of them are major changes, and I think just keeping up with the speed of that as well as managing all the other IT infrastructure is very challenging," said Sheehan.

Kyri Theos, Freelancer.com APAC regional director, agreed, saying the role of IT is being forced to change. The responsibility to coordinate and educate how new applications will work within the enterprise environment, particularly from a security perspective, falls on the IT department, he said.

"There is always the opportunity to create a company account and run all of your services through a single account so it can be monitored and tracked from a security perspective," said Theos.

"But I think it's often good to empower employees to use these creative means of getting work done. By trusting them it often leads to positive outcomes," he added.

"It's similar to the bring-your-own-device trend; the bring-your-own-app trend where employees want to use their own receipt-tracking software or Dropbox. The more richness and diversity that can be brought into an organisation -- as long as it's improving efficiency and creativity, it's a good thing."

According to Sheehan, securing business applications goes hand-in-hand with the security parameters businesses put in place for BYOD.

"We're seeing more organisations building policies around the applications you can have because they also still want to give devices to help employees from a business and productivity [point of view]. But what they also want to do is, if the device is lost they will be able to wipe the devices," she said.

"It's more than just about mobile device management; it's about having a managed service that you can wrap around the devices."

At the same time, Theos said the new wave of enterprise applications are creating a self-serve model within businesses, and in some ways this is helping improve the productivity levels not only for users, but also for the IT department, which would be able to focus on driving efficiency in other parts of the organisation.

"If you think about Survey Monkey, it's very much a self-serve model; Freelancer.com has also adopted a self-serve model, so rather than relying on the tech experts, business people should go out and get their hands dirty, experiment with the technologies that are out there and that are becoming more available and easier to use," he said.

Theos added that the newer applications will also help enterprises address the increasingly problematic skills drought that many Australian businesses are currently facing.

"The largest problem when it comes to Australian businesses is the level of technical skills and technical know-how that exists within the business. We're short of tech talent, and that means a lot of the more advanced software solutions either don't get identified or don't get integrated within the workflow of the more traditional businesses," he said.

"I think many businesses will approach consultants or consulting firms to help identify what their tech needs are from a software perspective, whereas a lot of newer solutions or offerings are being developed with a self-serve model."

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