Enterprise 2.0: Web Apps and the Patchwork Quilt Problem

1Executive Summary

Over the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of web apps available in the enterprise market, covering all sorts of tasks: project management, collaboration, to-do lists, accounting, CRM, social networking, file sharing and more. The list continues to grow, as more applications that used to exist on the desktop move onto the web. We review several new apps every day over on WebWorkerDaily, and even then we only cover a fraction of those that launch each week.

I think part of the reason behind this is that the barriers to entry to producing web apps are very low: It doesn’t cost very much to build one. It’s easy to think look at Basecamp and think, “I could build a better version of that.” Therefore, we end up with a lot of “me too” apps that are ultimately unsuccessful but add to this already overflowing market. Adding to this problem is the fact that most web apps are built by engineers, who tend to look at fixing problems one at a time. The end result is that most of these web app designers aren’t thinking holistically; they aren’t thinking about what businesses might actually need.

That can make it difficult for users to figure out which apps to adopt. With so many choices it can be hard to narrow down the field — especially because many of the web apps that are being launched currently tend to address just a single problem or task. For many businesses who do opt for using web apps, it means creating a “technology patchwork quilt“: a hodgepodge of applications to fulfill their varied requirements.

This is not ideal, because it means that businesses need to train staff members in various different solutions and encourage adoption of numerous apps. It also means that, should their requirements change even slightly, businesses may have to switch between applications — and moving data between web apps is not an easy task. Another big problem with the technology patchwork quilt is that it means that business data often resides in silos — each app is a separate entity, unconnected to the others. It’s easy to see why many companies end up with tried and trusted, but costly, “enterprise” solutions from the likes of Microsoft.

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