Retrospective: enterprise apps, SaaS, mobile and satire

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright December 28, 2013

I hope readers will forgive a spot of self-indulgence today. This is a brief review (in two parts) of the main themes I've covered in the past seven months since diginomica launched in May. I've also included some favorites from the images provided by our digital content partner Fotolia.

Writing for diginomica has been a refreshing opportunity to explore themes in more depth for a public audience than I've been able to elsewhere. It allows for a more long-form treatment, often spread over several articles, that isn't encouraged on other sites. In that sense, perhaps diginomica can do for online tech media what the likes of House of Cards or Game of Thrones have done for TV drama.

Although this is a retrospective, it also serves as a prequel to many of the themes to be explored in further depth throughout 2014. I hope you'll keep reading throughout the year to come. Meanwhile, I wish you all the best for a successful and happy New Year.

1. Remaking enterprise apps

Human fetus inside the womb
This has been an evolving theme, with the territory first marked out in May in Enterprise apps reborn in the cloud. Featuring an inspiring photo © Mopic –, I mapped out what I saw as the next generation of enterprise application stacks:

The way we talk about computing in the enterprise has been framed by the legacy of the client-server era, when huge strides were made in automating the established processes and core transactions of the enterprise. The cloud era is adding a powerful new set of application capabilities that are centered on evolving processes and outward-facing interactions. That's changing the nature of the application sets that enterprises are dealing with ...

Later in the year, I had an 'ah-ha' moment when I realized that this analysis mapped to Geoffrey Moore's concept of systems of engagement taking over from systems of record, which I explored in the context of vendor strategies for 'two-tier' ERP:

The usual way to visualize these two tiers is in the classic shape of a top-down, hierarchical org chart. The top tier is occupied by the core system at headquarters, while the next tier consists of a series of more nimble, upstart systems at subsidiary businesses.

But there is another, more revealing way to look at the tiers: reverse them. Imagine the lower tier contains the core system, hidden behind the scenes at headquarters, while the upper tier exposes a layer of agile, connected systems to the outside world.

There's a lot more to come on this theme in 2014. Stay tuned.

2. How SaaS works

It was November 1998 when I founded the website, so it's now been a decade-and-a-half that I've specialized in covering SaaS. No surprise therefore that this remains a recurring theme. This month I posted a two-part description of SaaS architectures: True SaaS: any box so long as it's black and Multi-tenant, multi-instance: the SaaS spectrum. Part 3 will follow this week.

Kicked Out
Much of the raw material for this analysis comes from deep-dive interviews with leading SaaS architects. Highlights since May include interviews with Workday's Stan Swete, Sage's Stuart Lynn and Microsoft's Mike Ehrenberg. For a lighter look at SaaS business models, check out Fire your dev team and other SaaS success tips, along with this comic illustration © Malchev –

3. Going mobile

I didn't expect to write about mobile app development as much as I did during 2013. It's a sign of the times, I guess, and another trend set to continue as enterprise adoption of smartphones and tablets soars. I made an unexpected deep dive into some of the constraints on HTML5 apps running on the iPhone in Why mobile apps are staying native. I'm more in my comfort zone discussing the user perspective on mobile apps. Though I still defer to Jon Reed as our award-winning expert on enterprise mobile apps.

4. Managing identity

In a planned mini-series of articles over the summer, I dug into identity management and single sign-on for cloud and mobile apps. For a summary, see Managing the sprawl of SaaS, cloud and mobile.

Interesting insights came from interviews with Okta CEO Todd McKinnon and Ping Identity CEO Andre Durand, who was eloquent on the need for standards and his passion to "eliminate the password altogether" from users' lives. It was also a useful pretext to speak to enterprises with multiple cloud and mobile apps in use. My favorite story was Reed Online's account of its migration to cloud apps and Chromebooks.

5. Satire on Salesforce

funny mime's unexpected alliances, first with Oracle in the summer and then with HP at Dreamforce, provided some shocks to the established worldview of SaaS. These events provided good fodder for some (serious comment dressed up as) satirical fun. Salesforce + Oracle? Good grief! (the 5 stages) (and accompanying picture © photo-nuke – summed up what felt like many people's response to the first surprise.

It took two posts for me to fully work through my initial feelings about the announcement that HP will have its own dedicated instance in the cloud. Salesforce and HP unveil The Vanity Cloud was my first take. HP's CEO Meg Whitman makes a cameo appearance as film villian Biff Tanner in Back to the Future – the Dreamforce sequel. These skits are not to everyone's taste but I hope they brought a smile to a few faces.

In part 2, catch up on cloud, Europe and frictionless enterprise.

Disclosure: Oracle, and Workday are diginomica premium partners. Fotolia provides diginomica a complementary subscription for image files.

Image credits: Embryo © Mopic –; Kicked Out © Malchev –; Shocked mime © photo-nuke –