A sneak peek at Appland

Imagine a world where technology exceeds business capability; that's what 'Appland' is all about and its expanding scope is fuelling a new generation of technology savvy business executives.

Appland exists where the availability of technology solutions exceeds your organisations business capability. Technology becomes greater than IT in Appland as commercially accessible technologies create new innovation and advantage opportunities for organisations. The expanding scope of Appland is fueling a new generation of technology savvy business executives who expect more than just IT.

The relationship between IT functionality and business capability sits at the crux of the role of technology in the business.  That relationship was introduced in the prior post “Technology, IT and business in the lands of Apps, Gaps and equilibrium.”  This post concentrates on the assumptions and fundamentals associated with IT living in the land of gaps.

Appland is a ‘new world’.

Appland as a term is a little cute, but it highlights a situation that is increasingly more common – technology supply is greater than business capability.  This is a new world that was rumoured to be coming for a long time.  It is a world where the fundamental assumption that ‘technology is scarce’ no longer applies.

Technology is in accelerating abundance in Appland based on leveraging the public infrastructure and lightweight technologies. The boundaries of Appland are defined by computing, communications, content and context in ways that encompass but are not limited to mobile computing, Software as a Service (SaaS) even the cloud.

Appland is different than its alternative – Gapland illustrated in the picture below:

Gapland describes the situation where IT functionality lags business capability.  Success in Gapland revolves around making IT investments to plug these gaps under that assumption that a gap filled equates to value.  IT has done well over the past 50 years applying Gapland thinking, but that will all change as the size, scale and capabilities found in Appland grow and develop.  

A land where technology functionality exceeds business capability

Technology is the operative term in Appland as organisations seek to amplify their enterprise with solutions that go beyond what we traditionally think of as IT.  Mobile, social, big data, analytics, cloud all represent technologies that upset the fundamental premise that IT is the only game in town.   They also create new avenues for business innovation and digital disruption as the pace; performance and possibilities of technology are moving ahead of business thinking. This shifts the emphasis on the ‘tech’ discussion beyond IT and into a broader realm of technology as shown in the figure below.

 

Appland inverts the relationship between business capability and the availability of technology.  In Gapland, the business assumed that it was ahead of the technology or wanted to use technology to get ahead. IT’s

Living in Appland

Living in Appland involves living in a land of technology savvy competition and strategy.  As Technology become greater than IT, the terms and role of technology changes.  Technology no longer enables strategy or manages operational transactions.  Rather, technology becomes a source of contributing to innovation, a means for creating value and a comprehensive approach for driving digital revenue.  Here are some examples:

  • Citicorp with its enhanced mobile banking channels is looking to set up shop and compete based on technology capability.
  • Medtronic has changed the nature of sale force productivity through enhanced and focused technology capability
  • United Stationers is turning the notion that ‘intermediaries are dead’ on its head.
  • American Express’s Link-Like-Love  program is one of a series of products, services and offerings based on new technologies
  • Starbucks continues to use technology to connect people to each other and the company in ways that create mutual value and revenue

Living in Appland is one where business possibilities are increasingly connecting with technology capabilities to create new sources of value and revenue.  That equation:  possibility plus capability equals value comes from the ability of an organisation to actively collaborate and create within itself and with customers.  

IT’s value changes as the organisation sets up shop in Appland

Perhaps a geographic analogy captures the difference between Appland and Gapland.  Gapland is mountainous and filled with valleys.  Each organisation’s operations, activities and performance are veiled from customers and competitors. Life in the mountain or down in the valley is stable given the absence of forces that would raise up the valley floor and level the mountains.

Appland is flatland, as technology, public infrastructure, creativity and services are doing exactly that.  These and other forces are leveling the playing field, creating a flat environment where large and small companies compete for attention on increasingly equal terms.  Notice the focus on attention, as value creation and realisation remain source of competitive inequality.   But that does not mean that attention does not matter; just witness the activity driven by executive envy in mobile applications.

IT as it was cannot compete in Appland for long as IT assumes filling (service and application) gaps was sufficient to demonstrate its business value and strategic contribution.  That approach will work for a while, as new technologies are seen as ‘gaps’ to be filled.  However the forces creating Appland are driving new requirements for IT success and new opportunities for re-imagining IT.

Cycle Time, Productivity, Throughput, Reuse, Benefits Realisation are all areas where traditional IT approaches are falling short in the face of Appland’s entry requirements.  Organisations that seek to double down on traditional IT practices will find success short lived, complexity exploding and skills drained.

Now you may be thinking that this is a bunch of FUD.  But I will ask you to think of it this way.  Appland is like moving to a new part of the country. Sure a lot of things look familiar.  They language is the same, the money is the same, but somehow the things that used to work back home do not produce the same result.  That is the feeling I am getting from CIOs and Business leaders as they move more into Appland – they realise that this is not Gapland anymore.

Mark McDonald is a group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs

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