The Rise of the ''Anywhere Application''
A future in which business applications and data can be accessed anywhere, at any time, on any device is within sight, according to new research from Yankee Group. While the technology for what the research firm terms a true "Anywhere Application" remains a ways off, wireless networks and advanced portable devices are making it increasingly possible, and demand is expected to spike over the next two years.
"The idea is that applications are becoming divorced from the underlying device," says Laura DiDio, a research fellow at Yankee Group and co-author of the report, "Scoring the Anywhere Applications." "It's 'Have apps will travel.' "
CRM and email are furthest along in becoming "device- and location-agnostic," Yankee Group's definition of an Anywhere Application, meaning they can be accessed online via a variety of devices, from laptops to PDAs. The report ranks applications on a scale of "Anywhere," "Somewhere+," "Somewhere," and "Nowhere," with higher scores awarded to those that can be used on multiple devices and operating systems in more places.
"Obviously, the market is in its infancy, but it's not a Buck Rogers, Star Trek
, Star Wars
thing," DiDio says. "It's happening. And it's being driven by need."
While a true Anywhere Application does not yet exist for CRM (or any other product, for that matter), Salesforce.com achieved the highest ranking of the three products surveyed in the report, at "Somewhere+." The report notes that on-demand customizations in Salesforce.com are immediately available remotely and can be deployed on a variety of devices and operating systems, but does not allow for multiple connection methods. Oracle's Siebel was ranked "Somewhere" for its limited ability to adapt to various devices and operating systems, while Microsoft Dynamics CRM was ranked "Nowhere," as it can only be used online through a Web browser and has no offline capability.
"The convergence of applications and the wireless revolution is inexorable," the report states. "Anywhere Applications aren't just a dream. We are beginning to see some successful first steps toward delivering an Anywhere Application." Within 12 to 24 months, according to the report, such applications will be widely seen as "absolutely critical" and not a luxury, because "people will realize they need to be connected all the time and they need in a variety of different way," DiDio says.
DiDio and her co-author interviewed more than 50 executives for the report. They found that about half of those interviewed had a plan in place to pursue Anywhere Applications for their companies, while many of the others were aware of the capabilities and thought they would be useful, but were having trouble convincing top executives. Only about 15 percent of those interviewed had no plans to pursue Anywhere Applications. Fields such as law and medicine, where 24/7 availability is crucial, are leading the way in terms of demand.
The technology for Anywhere Applications is emerging at roughly the same time as increasing demand, but the two trends have a "chicken and egg" relationship, according to DiDio. Technology vendors need to make sure that there is a demand for the products before they put the effort into developing them, and demand increases as the products become more visible. Widespread demand will likely outpace availability, DiDio predicts, although that will in turn drive wider availability. "We are seeing [the technology] emerge. Will it be there all at once? No, but that's OK," she says. "Ideally, going forward 10 years, we'll be able to personalize our applications the same way we personalize the contacts in our phone."
While Anywhere Applications will have significant benefits in allowing businesspeople to work remotely at all times without being tied to a desk for any reason, they will generate significant new security challenges. When sensitive files are accessible only in one place at one time, they only need to be protected in that one place, while universal accessibility will require innovative new ways of keeping information safe. "If applications are anywhere, security has to be everywhere," DiDio says.
A world of constant, universal connectivity may be within sight, but even a booster like DiDio can see that world will not be a utopia. "I sort of miss the old days, because it's very intrusive," she says. "I shudder to think of the day when people will call you from the bathroom."
A new addition to the
CRM editorial fold, Talk, Talk, Talk is an occasional service piece that gathers industry thought leaders' ideas and opinions surrounding a particular topic in group-interview form.
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