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The reality of app development becoming micro

Posted by Ben Dickson on Nov 1, 2016 12:00:00 PM
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app development going micro

Application development, and now mobile app development, has for years come with its own set of difficulties and challenges. Projects growing in size, becoming too costly, and ultimately failing to yield any tangible results, are commonplace. Similar glitches have been found during the implementation of technologies, varying from from Business Process Management (BPM) to Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).

As some experts have recently pointed out, the trend of growth in software-as-a-service is losing speed, and the next generation of apps will lead to new workflows spanning across a large number of existing mobile apps in novel ways.

Apps, flows and services, and the micro wave aspect

Providing simple solutions to complex dilemmas is the focus of a micro trend recently seen in application development and mobile apps. As micro services enjoy the option of easily integrating between multiple systems, micro apps are tasked to make them presentable to users as easy-to-engage-with interfaces.

Micro flows, on the other hand, allow your audience to simply carry out various tasks across a number of systems. This trio of apps, flows, and services, is a new take on linking current systems in a novel and organic way, with the aim of providing immediate solutions.


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The concept of micro systems

The application development “Holy Grail” has long been considered reaching interoperability between various apps and mobile apps. In the 1990s major app designers such as CORBA/IIOP became Service Orientated Architecture (SOA) in the early 2000s. Coordination and enterprise-scale mandates were required for SOA implementations. Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), considered a payload standard, have been engulfed by a number of failures, especially at the authentication level.

Only a small number of companies–GE for example–have implemented SOA. For the most part, enterprises haven’t adopted (or haven’t been able to adopt) a SOA approach.  The continuing trend of acquisitions and divestiture within the corporate world has meant that (even for the most successful companies) SOAS remain an elusive target.

Micro services have become popular in the past few years. Micro services can be defined as very small and self-contained services that are able to perform a single operation on a back-end type system. This includes, for example, the ability to recall a customer order. The JSON/REST/HTTPS paradigm is considered the most common of all interfaces that lead to a micro service. Another straightforward subject is authentication, a matter that’s usually easily dealt with through use of API keys.

Micro services are quite effective assets that are very easy to bring to life, send off for deployment and share with others. Numerous internal and external micro services can be drawn on very easily by using new and existing mobile apps. Pessimists rightly point out that micro services can spread like mushrooms all too easily, while failing in that they’re very hard to discover and share. One must keep in mind, however, that these problems need to be dealt with through enterprise policy and certainly via powerful technology.

A new generation of mobile app development has been heralded, as apps are able to naturally communicate with each other more than ever before. This has made it easier for both companies and software vendors to move forward faster than ever before with brand new lines of products.

The concept of micro apps

After iOS and Android app stores were introduced in 2008, mobile apps have taken up the bulk of the average user’s interface time in comparison to computing. With an overabundance of available apps, making sure that consumers actually install your app and continue to refer to it is a very difficult task to achieve. As a result, it’s common practice to see vendors bring together a whole set of features into their mobile apps to be able to both keep existing users and attract new users, while trying to keep the app as updated with new features as much as possible. Mobile apps, therefore, have become more and more bloated and difficult to navigate.

A recent emergence, then, is the concept of ‘micro apps’ that are comparatively ‘smarter’. Micro app supported platforms vary—from interactive Facebook and Slack bots, to new answer boxes provided by Google, including things such as weather and airline flights. Such micro apps usually have a single purpose and are employed across an array of contexts and interfaces that are pretty straightforward.

Based on HTML, micro apps are dynamic and usually bypass app stores. They are usually embedded into already existing tools of communication, including Facebook Messenger and Slack. In the meantime there has been a reluctance to return to the ‘bots’ natural language. In spite of all this, the actual ability to load interactive micro apps very quickly and directly into messenger mediums, and even be able to search for results, is gaining traction very quickly. Facebook Messenger in particular is evolving into a more feature-packed device, including interactive units and dynamic menus. These tools can assist with anything, including help you to order pizza, or buy a pair of shoes.

Amit Shevat, the developer relations director at Slack, very precisely describes micro apps by saying: “They must do one thing really well.”

The concept of micro flows

Various entities and organizations implement their assets via a top-down business process using Business Process Management (BPM) tools. These usually take a very long time to get launched and are very expensive. BPM tools are able to manage and handle commonly-used workflows that require a combination of machine-to-machine transfers and human interaction.

Companies such as Zapier and IFTT that transfer data from one device to another have taken the first step into the world of micro flows. As popular these services may be, in traction and revenue they have entered into an upper band. New companies, for example Workato, have extended workflows with machine-to-machine capability between SaaS systems. However, their complexity is extremely similar to that of BPM solutions. These include programmer-suited domain specific languages.

Human-to-machine interaction enjoys new micro flow potential. At a time when messenger mediums, such as Skype and Slack, are easily providing interactive HTML that are very rich and allow users to engage with back-end systems, an opportunity exists to reinvent the method taken up by users to communicate with enterprise software.

Users can employ micro flows to bypass unwieldy and complicated legacy systems and carry out single actions. This includes approvals, for example. The difficulty witnessed in interacting with major legacy IT systems that haven’t been upgraded for many years, is one of the main complaints of modern users, especially the younger generation. Much like Generation X workers who scratched their heads and asked each other why so many typewriters were being used, the new millennials are confused by the seemingly unnecessary and complicated systems utilized within nearly all Global 2000 firms.

Now the benefit of micro flows can be taken advantage of by managers and executives, especially considering the high number of approvals needed for systems they find themselves rarely using. Most companies have employed multiple systems for various functions, including expenses. Despite the fact that IT may actually want to employ a long-term plan to merge systems, executives are able to interact quite easily by using a single interface to employ multiple systems.

As micro flows usually need a type of user-interaction system, they are able to employ notification features in messengers and mobile devices. Such easy-to-use and user-friendly micro flows make it very simple for the user to add contributions, resulting in an increasingly macro workflow.

The micro wave future

Micro services, combined with micro flows and micro apps, support each other to propose a new order of apps and their place within the next generation. Hopefully, we have learned  from the past, and we’ll refrain from interfering with ongoing “micro revolution.”

Topics: App promotion

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