5 Things to Consider About the Future of Application Management
I wanted to offer a piece on application management that addressed two popular trends: a numbered list and predictions about the future. So here we have it: my five predictions about the future of application management…
- Management tools will change or disappear as the that apps they manage change
- Applications all become mobile (but not necessarily with touch interfaces)
- Users become increasingly advanced, and need increasingly less traditional support
- Provisioning will be user driven, yet the role of IT in the application lifecycle will not change much
- Application management will become increasingly more about application security
1) Management tools will change or disappear as the apps that they manage change
When considering the future of application management, it is less and less hard to picture a world where allapps are provided as a service. Such has huge implications on the current products and technologies focused on today’s license tracking, deployment and migration activities. As a service, your licensing is essentially handled as part of that service. You may very well need a central place to report upon software you get as a service, but tasks such as license enforcement and utilization tracking may be all but eliminated. If you didn’t need to deploy applications or track licenses, it pretty much takes application management out of the game when it comes to operating system migrations, which today is where application management is most critical.
With so much change on the horizon, there are some application management features/functions that seem considerably safer from such change. Among such products are those centered around self-provisioning capabilities like workspace management, service catalogs and other solutions that put increasing control into the hands of end-users. The role of the desktop administrator will become increasingly more about managing permissions to self-service resources. We’ll get into those facets more as we dig into the rest of this list…
2) Applications become mobile (but not necessarily with touch interfaces)
The continuing trend toward self-service features and focus on ease of use has been increasingly easy to see as more and more applications move to a mobile interface. No doubt this will have a major impact on the future of application management. Further highlighted by the introduction of not just a smaller screen on mobile devices, but also a touch application interface as part of Windows, has led to many predictions that all applications will become mobile given time, but I disagree. It’s not that all apps will become mobile apps, but rather that all apps will be delivered and managed as mobile apps are today. Some software will certainly fit well as a touch application that is easy to use, but many others just can’t be simplified to the extent that it makes sense to do so.
Microsoft is leading the way with Office 365; simply log in and activate. There are mobile versions of the applications that make up the suite, but also web-based versions which are advanced enough to be virtually indistinguishable from their desktop counterparts. For one subscription, a customer can activate the mobile versions, log in to access the web versions and access the installer for the desktop versions of the applications for multiple operating systems. This sets Office up as an application more likely to shed its desktop delivery sooner, as the mobile and web versions become increasingly more robust.
An application like Spotify provides yet another example of the same. Sure, it is just a music service, but it too offers a web version, a mobile version and a desktop version all of which you are entitled to use as part of a subscription.
Less of a multi-platform offering, but still a good example of software as a service is Adobe Creative Cloud. A monthly fee gets one access to applications that may have been previously out of their price range and licensing is managed directly with the application account. There are some mobile applications offered, but due to the complexity of many of their products, providing a significant number of comparable features in a touch application just isn’t feasible. A web application could very well be possible as technology advances, but this idea of offering multiple ways to access software that is paid for on a subscription basis is likely to catch on especially for business applications.
During this transition period where we still have many desktop applications that benefit from traditional deployment we see systems management solutions providing specialized support for Office 365. Today this is provided as a specialized capability and is an edge case, but in the future this level of support will become increasingly the standard.
3) Users become increasingly advanced, and need increasingly less traditional support
The needs of the average user to request help printing and setting up software have been steadily dissolving away. The next generation of office workers have a more technical skill set and all the while the tasks themselves are being simplified.
Users want to help themselves. They don’t want to talk on the phone, or even communicate via email, but prefer to text. Not only is the worker of today more familiar with technology than ever before but they are getting more and more familiar with troubleshooting issues themselves. Previously the opinion of only the most technical, almost all users now see calling support negatively as both a hassle and a failure. “I can install software and set up devices at home, I should be able to do the same at work” is the consensus. While I think it will become increasingly common for self-help systems to become a corporate standard, IT will of course continue to exhort users to follow policy through various controls. For example, users can request and install their own software, but only from an approved, tested list of software for which the business is managing licenses.
4) Provisioning will be user driven, yet the role of IT in the application lifecycle will not change much
Continuing the previous aspect of users helping themselves, we have a situation where the major day-to-day task of application management appears to be moving off the task list of IT administrators. OSs are provisioned and a menu, portal or collection of shortcuts enable access to needed applications. If it’s cloud, account access is all you need. If it’s desktop, there may be installation required, but self service will be commonplace. Permitted again by account access, corporate defaults and required settings will become the focus of IT.
But let’s take a step back. Even if applications are to be self-provisioned, IT needs to feed the system that delivers them. I am reminded of a demonstration I saw for a management system a few years back where it was shown how one could now simply assign an application to a user and through the intelligence of the management solution, the right package would automatically be deployed to the right device. If it was a mobile device, the user would get the mobile version, if the user was sitting at a 32-bit or 64-bit computer they would automatically get the right desktop installation. If they were at home, they might be delivered a hosted instance of the application, or if they were on a non-persistent virtual desktop, they might get a virtual application delivery. Wow, that’s going to make things so easy they proclaimed! Meanwhile, all I saw was the potential nightmare behind the scenes of having to create, test and assign up to half a dozen different packages for the same application along with the need to define the logic that dictated which was to be installed under what conditions. Easier for the user is not easier for the administrator and I see this trend continuing going forward. Administrators will continually need to identify and test updates, manage who gets what, and where, and when, and how. A world where things are increasingly easy for users helping themselves has more potential to add complexity on the part of desktop administrators (at least while desktop delivery remains the most prevalent).
5) Application management will become increasingly more about application security
Access management and security are typically the role of the same IT staff that manage desktops. If you consider how hot the industry is on the topic of security, it is easy to see how more related responsibilities and tools may be anticipated. For one thing security is often seen as a critical (and budgeted) need whereas systems management is something that must be getting done somehow. “We can always keep doing whatever we are doing to manage systems” is a mindset that may continue to push budget away from systems management and more toward systems security. To sell those in charge of your budget on systems management increasingly means showing the potential for a fast return on investment along with the notion that resources can be freed up to address other, more pressing business needs.
As we consider the future of application management, if the tools and responsibilities around security are to grow. And Management tools are changing (or going away) as the the apps they manage change. And desktop applications are becoming managed more and more like mobile applications. And users need increasingly less traditional IT support. And a key aspect of application deployment revolves around assigning the right users to their resources via security groups. It is safe to say that security will continue to be an aspect of an IT administrators job that demands more and more attention.
What do you think?