Welcome to the age of disposability

We live in a world where we don't always think about what we're doing, because we can simply press delete later on, warns Mark Samuels...

The coming together of the cloud, mobile and superfast broadband speeds models means we are entering an age of disposability, where individuals can download discrete apps and then delete the software after its usefulness expires.

Portio Research suggested 82 billion apps were downloaded worldwide in 2013, and by 2017 there will be more than 200 billion downloads per year. Many of these apps will be used for just a short period of time. And just like consumers can download and delete apps from the cloud, so can employees.

Analyst Gartner estimates that, by 2017, 25 per cent of businesses will have an enterprise app store for managing corporate-sanctioned apps on PCs and mobile devices. So, what does disposability mean for the business and how can CIOs best manage the change in procurement patterns?

Apps as a new source of competitive advantage

Enterprise Rent-A-Car European IT director Jeff King suggests disposability and its potential affect on the business represents a fascinating concept. "All CIOs must get better at trying and developing new approaches, and the experimentation provided through highly disposable apps provides another source of innovation," he says.

Taking advantage of disposability, however, is not straightforward. Like other IT experts, King is concerned about how workers would go about choosing and sourcing apps. The traditional role of the IT department is to provide a sense of control. Passing all decision-making to users, in regards to which apps are used and thrown away, might be a step too far for some.

"Many CIOs would struggle with finding the right balance between implementing cheap tools and finding the right solution for the business," says King. "You can't simply go out and give people access to whatever software they want to use. But, equally, you need to give your people more opportunities. We have to make sure the decisions that are made are right for the business."

There are, therefore, many issues for King and his executive peers to consider. However, he also recognises that there is an opportunity cost associated to taking advantage of new applications. A company that is able to find a way to source these developments could gain a significant competitive advantage.

"The tools are being developed so quickly," he says. "Do we, as an IT organisation, have to develop everything internally? Could I give users more freedom to experiment with the tools they find externally? It's a tantalising prospect with many opportunities."

Taking advantage of the age of disposability

When it comes to potential openings, Neil Ward-Dutton, research director and co-founder at MWD Advisors, says the potential for disposability depends on the business context. Certain apps will work best in certain situations. You would not, for example, use disposability on core business platforms, like enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management.

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