When it comes to shifting applications to the cloud the assumption that is often made is that software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications are simply a more efficient mechanism for distributing software. But for many providers of application software that’s only the proverbial "first shoe" to drop. Now that there is a critical mass of applications and data in the cloud, the provider of cloud services can next be expected to disrupt traditional custom application development.
Case in point is Anaplan, a provider of a modeling and planning tools in the cloud that can easily be extended. Rather that providing a class SaaS application, Anaplan CEO Frederic Laluyaux said the company is now inviting customers to create their own applications on top of the Anaplan platform for free as part of deliberate plan to disrupt traditional enterprise application business models.
Historically, a vendor such as Oracle and SAP would create an enterprise application and then spend months creating versions of the same application that is optimized for a particular vertical industry. Not only did these vendors charge handsomely for each iteration of that application, all kinds of revenue was generated during the deployment, integration and customization process.
In contrast, Anaplan got its start by providing a modeling framework in the cloud as an alternative to spreadsheets. Organizations are using Anaplan to not only create analytics applications that are too complex to model in a spreadsheet, they can also collaborate more easily in a way that makes the logic that went into creating a financial plan, for example, more transparent to employees and auditors alike.
Through that process Laluyaux said a new class of "citizen developers" is emerging that are opting to build their own applications rather than engaging the services of professional developers. Of course, it’s just as likely that these “citizen developers” will go out on their own to launch new software businesses based on the applications they modeled on the Anaplan platform.
None of this is lost on vendors such as IBM and SAP to Mendix, all of which have to one degree or another deployed application modeling frameworks in the cloud that are designed to be used primarily by “citizen integrators.”
It remains to be seen just how big an impact these “citizen integrators” are going to have on demand for professional application development services. There is an argument to be made that the definition of what a professional developer is will simply expand to include people with all kinds of specific business process expertise. But what they wind up being called the odds that the premiums IT services firms once commanded to build these applications is going to be maintainable are very small indeed.