Every organization, regardless of industry, has a set of applications – financial, human resources and marketing, among others – that are essential to its operation. These applications do their jobs effectively, and they typically include some level of analytics – usually in the form of dashboards, charts, and/or tables. But today, users need and want more analytical capabilities that provide an in-depth understanding of his/her business operations and performance.
So where do these organizations turn?
Prebuilt vs. Custom Applications
Many organizations purchase prebuilt applications specific to their industry. The upside is that organizations realize value quickly. These applications come with the dashboards, reports, analytics, and underlying data model. Add data (often the most difficult step) and viola – information!
The downside occurs when the application is not enough. Your business needs more analytics and the prebuilt applications cannot be extended easily. Or if it can, it requires expensive specialty consulting that can cause upgrade issues going forward. So even with some initial success, these prebuilt applications can lose their luster quickly.
Another option for companies is to purchase an analytics platform enabling them to build their own analytics application from scratch. This choice gives them a customized solution that fits their needs perfectly – and offers the ability to modify or evolve as they see fit.
The downside is that building from scratch can take a lot of time. There are plenty of examples of projects not meeting requirements, delayed, and/or over budget. Even if the project succeeds, it takes much longer to see a return on the investment than if you simply purchased a prebuilt app.
The Composite Application
We have two options for business analytics applications, both with positives and negatives. That begs the question: Isn’t there a better alternative that offers fast time to value while still allowing flexibility for future needs without breaking the bank?
Indeed there is: Composite applications pull from a variety of data sources and present analytics to help solve business problems specific to any industry. These applications have already thought through most of the problems any business will face. At the same time, composite applications let customers customize and/or extend their applications to address future business requirements.
The result is truly the best of both worlds: applications that deliver time to value quickly and provide the extensibility businesses demand. Basically, you are getting the essential technology elements – data connections, an analytical environment, and interactive visualizations – and then you tailor the application to your exact requirements.
A New Kind of App Store
Now, wouldn’t it be great if all businesses had easy access to not only use, but also enhance these composite apps? We think they should, and the answer is a store for business apps.
This may be a new idea in the world of business analytics, but as virtually everyone already knows, it’s the de facto model in the mobile arena. The quintessential example is Apple, which provides developer frameworks anyone can use to write their own software for Apple platforms resulting in scores of ingenious apps created by people with very specific domain expertise.
Think about what an approach like this could accomplish for business applications. Let’s face it, no one company can really build an app for every specific domain. On top of that, these apps are not designed to be finished – they are designed to do some very specific things very well. But over time, people will ask for more.
With an open, unrestricted analytical framework in place, smart people will be able to expand these apps quickly. In effect, we as an industry will be getting more people on the problem.
Changing Our Mindset
We realize this new type of app store represents a pivotal nge in the way businesses currently buy their apps. But changing our mindset can be beneficial to everyone. It will allow us to establish an ecosystem of individuals who can build and enhance apps that we can then all select, purchase, and enhance for our own use.
Ultimately, this business app store approach delivers value far more quickly than buying an out-of-the-box application or building one from scratch.