Why user experience virtualisation makes so much sense for enterprise apps

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Enterprise IT and line-of-business managers are simply unable to keep up with user demand for new mobile applications. Beyond email, calendaring, and simple file sharing, enterprise users want and need mobile access to the applications that support mission critical business processes.  Most large enterprises maintain a huge portfolio of B2E (business-to-employee) applications – some having been purchased from software vendors, others developed in-house. 

The vast majority of these applications were built for desktop use, with UIs designed for full size monitors and keyboard and mouse interaction.  Mobilising applications has traditionally meant time-consuming and costly development projects.  The inability to meet users’ application mobility expectations stems from the sheer number of existing applications and the limited budget and resources available for mobile development projects.

Vendors from different technology categories are attacking the enterprise mobile app challenge from a few different directions.  Enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions support security and access control policies while providing infrastructure for distributing applications to authorised users.  Mobile backend-as-a-service (MBaaS) lets developers access common mobile app components through a set of convenient APIs.  Application platforms-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solutions simplify and accelerate application deployments.  Rapid application development platforms accelerate development projects by reducing the amount of front-end coding required and making it easy to connect to back-end data sources and APIs.  

All of these technologies abstract complexity away, letting development project teams focus on a narrower set of technologies to build new cross-platform applications.   A new technology category, called App UI transformation or user experience (UX) virtualisation, takes this abstraction one step further. 

UX virtualisation solutions let business users rapidly transform the user interface of an existing application without touching underlying business logic or back-end data connections.  By insulating the original application from change, there is no risk of corrupting underlying data or violating application business or security rules. 

This approach is highly useful when the goal is to simply mobilise an application that was originally built for desktop interaction.  UX virtualisation can also be used to create “micro-apps” that provide device-optimised UIs for a specific workflow within a full enterprise application suite. 

By letting business users build on top of proven enterprise applications with code-free design tools, UX virtualisation brings a few unique benefits to the world of enterprise applications.

The ultimate in agile

By giving business users (i.e. business analysts, application super-users, etc) the ability to build their own applications, UX virtualisation delivers on the ultimate goal of Agile development.  With no need to communicate requirements to a development organisation, new applications can emerge as they are envisioned.  By radically reducing the development cycle, it is possible to hone applications through highly efficient launch-test-tweak iterations.  The concepts of user-centric design, accelerated release cycles, and iterative development are fundamental to Agile development methodology.

Keep pace with the business

UX virtualisation gives application teams the ability to continuously optimise mobile apps at the same pace business evolves.  The concept of “disposable apps” captures the idea that mobile applications often support business needs at a specific point in time.  As priorities change, processes evolve, and users move on to new projects, applications themselves must also evolve.  While UX virtualisation does not change the underlying application, it delivers an adaptive user experience that can be rapidly changed to support changing business needs.  These changes can be implemented at the same velocity modern business moves.

Optimise application delivery

Many enterprise applications – particularly legacy apps built on desktop client-server infrastructure – have inflexible application delivery infrastructure that constrain application user experience to specific devices or categories of devices. 

UX virtualisation separates the source application infrastructure from the delivery of the user experience (most commonly delivered as cross-platform HTML5 web applications or as a hybrid mobile app).  This separation offers the flexibility to deliver any application, whether legacy or newer, to any device.  Furthermore, it is possible to build adaptive interfaces that offer a device-optimised user experience.

Protect investments in enterprise applications

Even with the newest development technologies, building a new enterprise application represents a significant investment in time, money, and resources.  Development project teams must document business requirements; developers work to make release schedules; releases are debugged, tested, and verified before they are launched. 

Fully deployed enterprise applications contain value in the form of tested business logic, validated data architecture, proven backend infrastructure, and established security and access control architecture.  Even legacy applications with miserable user experiences and highly inflexible application delivery infrastructures represent significant investments.  UX virtualisation leverages this investment – extending proven applications with newly envisioned UIs.

UX virtualisation is not an alternative to rapid application development. Enterprise IT organisations need to invest in new application platforms to support the next generation of their enterprise applications.  UX virtualisation lets enterprises get more from their existing applications – fulfilling user demand for mobile-optimised versions of enterprise apps and empowering the business to adapt applications to changing business needs.

 

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