A viral phenomenon called the “10-Year Challenge” flooded social media streams at the start of this year. Some called it an excuse to post selfies, others speculated it was a sneaky effort to train a facial recognition engine. For me, as a long-time technologist working in the IT industry, the Challenge made me reflect on how much our digital experiences have evolved in the past ten years—specifically how enterprises’ expectations of technology and IT goals have shifted.
Things have changed dramatically since 2009, not only from a political and people perspective, but from a technical one, too. Let’s flashback to a decade ago:
- 2009 was arguably the first year the smartphone went beyond being merely a “phone” to digital device focused on mobile apps.
- Apple launched its iconic “There’s An App For That” campaign.
- The first major Android smartphone, the HTC Hero, made its debut.
- An APM disruptor arrived: AppDynamics launched version 1.0 of its application monitoring with an industry-first approach with business transaction monitoring.
Over the past ten years, the app-driven economy has transformed our lives. Whether we’re getting around town via rideshare services, using a lodging app to find the perfect vacation rental, or accessing a mobile payment service to split a dinner check with friends, we rely on our apps in ways we never dreamed of a decade ago.
It’s Not Steve Jobs’ App Anymore
In 2009, mobile applications offered basic functionality. They were Cliffs Notes versions of their websites—minus the real meaningful stuff. The average airline app, for example, allowed you to check your miles or the status of a flight, but not buy or change a ticket. A banking app didn’t provide any meaningful financial transactional support—you still had to go to the bank for that.
This has changed dramatically, of course, with the app now being the primary means of customer interaction in many instances. Everything else—phone support, brick-and-mortar facilities, and so on— is often secondary. Indeed, the app has become the business model. Applications today connect nearly every function of a business, no matter if it’s a local cupcake store or a massive multi-national brand. Across the entire customer experience—from product search to shopping cart to order-tracking to customer support—the app now forms an intricate, well-integrated orchestration of digital journeys that leverage a wide range of technologies, including mainframes, multicloud, microservices, machine learning and interactive voice. The app of circa 2009 is now a relic of the past.
But apps are evolving fast, undergoing rapid change that seamlessly integrates digital experiences. How do we define this app evolution? If you’re using a voice assistant to access a business service, are you still using a mobile app? Perhaps, but not in the traditional sense. Sensor-driven experiences, including voice, are merging with other mature technologies, everything from business productivity tools to the way you control the thermostat in your living room.
It’s increasingly difficult to tell what is an app and what isn’t. You’re often unaware of their presence. Want to pay for something with your smartwatch? There are several apps shepherding this seemingly simple yet complex, multi-layered transaction, where the average user is unaware of its involvement (assuming, of course, everything works seamlessly).
So How Do We Ensure Flawless Digital Experiences?
A digital purchase often seems ridiculously easy: click or tap and you’re done. But this elegant and intuitive front end initiates a complex journey through labyrinthian backend application architectures.
This backend is both distributed and highly complex, blending new and traditional technologies to provide a simple customer experience. Each component in this journey must perform optimally to deliver a great experience. Slow servers, unresponsive sensors, and spotty connectivity can lead to user abandonment, and network outages can cost millions of dollars in a few seconds. Enterprises need tools that enable them to see how this business journey impacts customer behavior.
Given our reliance on apps—as well as a move toward a more immersive user experience—it’s no surprise that today’s businesses are seeking better ways to tame the complexity in managing their evolving ecosystems. A recent survey of more than 6,000 global IT professionals by AppDynamics found that nearly half of enterprises surveyed are releasing new code or features at least monthly, but their current monitoring solutions provide only a siloed view of the quality and impact of each new release. This rapid evolution requires a new, advanced toolkit, and companies need a cognition engine that unifies artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to gain new levels of insight.
A Forward-Looking Challenge
Where will apps be five years from now? We can only speculate, but I’m very excited to see how things will change. The consumer-facing mobile app will no doubt share the spotlight with newer innovations:
- Front-end interactions will go beyond apps, utilising technologies such as VR to make the user experience more elegant and intuitive. VR is in its infancy, but major retailers such as Walmart and Macy’sare already testing VR shopping experiences.
- Augmented Reality: AR has major potential. Google Maps, for instance, now allows some users to test an AR prototype that displays large arrows and directions on the screen to guide pedestrians to their destination. AR also shows promise in try-before-you-buy shopping scenarios. At CES 2019, Perfect Corp. demoed an AR plug-in for browsers and kiosks that allows users to see how they might look with new makeup and hair colors.
- Voice technology will provide a more natural interaction with digital devices. A recent AppDynamics survey found that 84% of millennials rely on voice assistants to simplify their lives, such as keeping track of their daily schedules.
- The “native app” may cease to exist. Progressive web apps that offer capabilities of native apps—including an immersive user experience—may offer a better way to combat app overload. Pundits have been forecasting the end of the app boom for some time now, due in part to consumer fatigue with downloading and installing new apps for dozens of services, retailers and products.
Enterprises will need advanced tools and new technologies such as AIOpsto monitor business journeys and ensure that their applications, architectures and infrastructures are ready for rapid transformation. I am so glad “there’s an app for that!”