The New Rules for Enterprise Apps

To be successful today, enterprise software must be more user-friendly, get updated more often, and offer users outside your company more transparency than ever before.

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Fulfilling those expectations isn't easy, he adds. "The complexity of providing that information is huge. We literally have to integrate our external user applications into many more data sources than we did before," says Rende.

Lest you think this trend is confined to the high-tech world, Adamopoulos reports seeing a shift across all industries. "Customers want control of the process. They don't want to be limited in what they're able to do, and some companies are opening up the kimono and saying, 'We'll make our apps as useful to you as they are internally to us.' " The reason, he says, is that companies that give customers maximum access gain advantage over more reticent competitors.

Admittedly, the thought of letting nonemployees delve deep into networks and databases will likely give the average IT executive a bad case of heartburn. Won't that create unacceptable security risks? And even regulatory violations in some cases?

Obviously, it makes no sense to give outsiders access that puts data and network security at unacceptable risk, Adamopoulos says. But at the same time, security and regulatory concerns should not become the reason for a blanket "no" to all outsider data access. "If you don't have what I call 'legacy thinking,' you start asking what it does make sense to make available to outsiders," he says. "Maybe HIPAA doesn't allow access to this part of the data, but what parts can you share?"

Besides, as Dusoe notes, even restricting all data to employees only is no guarantee of safety. "You could still have a disgruntled employee sitting at home taking screenshots."

For Dominion Enterprises, which collects vast amount of data on behalf of customers, the Apple model suggests a useful solution, Fuller says. That is, supply an API in a controlled environment, allowing customers to build the functionality they need. "Our customers are becoming more and more demanding about having visibility into their data," he says. "We're looking at creating APIs so that not only can we build against them, but our customers can build against them too. If they want to do something with their data other than our prepackaged application, we'll give them that API. In the past, our customers didn't know what an API was -- our industries are not particularly cutting-edge. But now customers are beginning to request and expect them."

Rule No. 3: Update It Often

There was a time when updates, upgrades or any sort of changes to the software used at work were met with a general groan. But that time is well behind us. These days, employees expect, and even want, frequent updates to the applications they use.

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