In December of 2014 something weird began to happen: we were introduced (or rather, re-introduced since the concept has been around for some time) to embeddable apps and uses.
Zendesk announced their embeddable API as a way to bring specific components from the application (like tickets and channel management) via widget into other applications.
At the same time, Actuate introduced a platform for embeddable analytics, providing a similar approach – you can bring analytics and visualization in real-time into any other app or application via their API and widgets.
There were others, still under development, that are going in the same direction and I cannot disclose – yet.
Mind you, embedded value inserted in other apps or applications is not new. It has been at least 15 years since we started promoting the value of in-app knowledge bases for field service and remote workers (can you imagine an airline technician trying to fix and engine that has to go back to a desktop computer to look at pictures and instructions? used to be that way).
But this is different. This is not about just one function (highly customized and heavily bloated to be honest – that is what we used to have) being created specifically to be used independently. This time we are talking about leveraging the power of the cloud – not just technology.
You likely heard me before talk about the ability of cloud-based platforms (middle layer in a proper three-tier open cloud architecture) to deliver value anywhere. Leveraging the services made available by the platform the SaaS layer (the interface, also the software layer proper) can deliver anything that is entitled to access.
This is what is making apps and applications far more flexible (and way smaller) than ever. If i can just bring the small functionality i need to complete my job into my screen easy and effortless then I (the individual user) can build apps that fit my need for that specific model (not to mention IT can do whatever they want as well). This takes the burden of developing away from IT and away from complex sessions of requirements and so forth and gives the citizen programmer access to more power and flexibility.
It seems that December of 2014 was not that long ago – yet we are starting to see the second generation of embedded technology emerge already. Indeed, the newer vendors (more cloud savvy, more flexible and dynamic, smaller and more nimble) are starting to offer what they call in-app functionality.
Whether its HelpShift (one of the early vendors to offer in-app support for gaming platforms), or SparkCentral (who just released their in-app messaging for customer service last week – and what prompted me to write this) we are seeing far smaller, more powerful, and easier to use in-app functionality that allows any user (still today being used via IT – but the product can easily allow any user to embed the functionality in their own-grown apps) to use what they need where they need.
The next step is to take IT out of the equation (sorry, like you guys – but you have too much going on to deliver apps quickly and effectively… need to let the citizen programmer take over) and where we are seeing Salesforce start down that road with the Lighting set of tools they announced last year at Dreamforce and greatly expanded two weeks ago with the introduction of The Lighting Experience (or whatever marketing deemed it to be – I am sorry, I am not that good at slogans).
There is an immense amount of value in creating small (atomized, applications as I used to call them 10 years ago — simply apps as they are called today) apps that perform very specific functionality. In addition to delivering on the true value of cloud computing (yeah, who needs a browser? we just leverage the internet as a transport network and be done with it!) it also empowers the user to be more mobile, connected, and effective.
I expect to see the next generation of in-app empowered apps and applications begin to hit contact centers in the next few months and better adoption over the next 18-24 months until we reach mainstream adoption sometime in the 2017-2018 timeframe. Although I always say my timeframes are short (and optimistic) and you should always add something to them – i am starting to get the feeling that this time is different… this time, I think i am long.
What do you think?
Planning to use in-app functionality in your apps and applications? Have already something under way? let me know below in the comments… would love to know more about what’s happening.
disclaimer: where to start? let’s see… Salesforce is a client (and, btw, I am presenting the latest and greatest Evolution of Customer Service at Dreamforce next week – come see me!). SparkCentral was a client (inactive now) and likely going to be a client again – yeah, they like me that much. HelpShift was a client and I sit on their board of advisors and I hold equity (should go without saying, but — i am nothing if not honest). Moxie was a client (inactive now, but likely going back to active). Actuate (acquired by OpenText) was a client (inactive right now, but we are working on something soon) and a good friend of mine Allen Bonde is there. Zendesk is not a client per-se, but I have some involvement with them in Latin America via one of the many commercials endeavors I have in Latin America (read it with an accent, sounds much better). There are many more clients (both active and inactive) and I pretty certain that I could’ve used (and missed) others that are doing things around this area. I am not using vendor names as a way of endorsement but as examples. If I missed you, feel free to drop the info in the comments – only time I won’t delete your spammy comment :). Otherwise, as you likely know, I am all about trends and not about endorsing vendors or technologies. I am highlighting a trend and not promoting a vendor. If any of the vendors mentioned here expected or would like preferential treatment because of their mention — ha! yeah, right… reputation above compensation, my friends.