Organisations spend big money on their apps – and that investment continues to grow. IDC forecasts annual global revenue for enterprise applications will reach US$483 billion by 2027 with a five-year compound annual growth rate of almost 10%.

But are organisations getting value from that investment?

It’s a critically important question for Darren Keall in his work as Datacom’s Associate Director of Application Assurance working with organisations across New Zealand and Australia. Darren’s team partners with customers to ensure their apps are not just ‘keeping the lights on’ but are also driving organisational performance.

“Our job is to help our customers succeed – to get better and improve,” he says. “We want to help customers get value out of their apps, while making sure their apps are safe, stable and secure.”

The application as a product

Traditionally, application management has focused on ensuring an app has a solid operating foundation.

“Users must be able to use it safely, it must be stable – it can't be flaky and have things go wrong – and it must be secure. It can't be vulnerable to external or internal threats; it needs to be there when you need it.”

While this remains crucial, Darren says application assurance explores possibilities beyond this foundation.

A diagram depicting the product management lifecycle.

“Safe, stable and secure are the basic requirements, but that’s not success. We talk a lot about the application as a product: how could you tune it to get better value? What are users struggling with? It’s thinking about your apps from a business-use perspective rather than simply a technical perspective.”

“Our customers’ businesses are always changing – whether due to compliance or regulation, or just preparing for the future – and you don't want to build a new app every time you want to do something new. Our job is to help them evolve their applications for the future, to make use of the investment they already have.”

No regrets: getting value from your app investment

Darren has seen big changes in the more than two decades he’s worked in tech. He initially considered a career in finance, but ultimately switched to studying computer science at Victoria University of Wellington and began his career as a developer.

“But then I found myself drawn more naturally into projects and the business side of technology. That fitted my personality and the things I like to do – working with people and helping shape teams – but I also found there are plenty of other clever people around who were as good, if not much better, at the tech stuff than I perhaps was.”

He joined Datacom more than 12 years ago, consciously targeting it as a place to work. “There are lots of places to do tech, lots of places with clever people, but Datacom prioritises its people and customers with a ‘people first, process second’ kind of view. I thought it was a place where I could make a big difference.”

His current role is his sixth within the company, which he says has offered him other development opportunities. Undertaking a year-long programme in 2016 via Macquarie Graduate School of Management, for example, offered the chance to shift out of the day-to-day and elevate his thinking on strategy and business change.

Darren says the fast pace of business change means application assurance is now more important than ever. Customers are embracing the cloud and SaaS products, for example, and generating massive amounts of data, creating their own complex technology ecosystems, requiring a careful and cohesive approach to managing their application portfolios.

“It's an area of great value if you use it right,” he says. “We can do those things that make you safe, stable, secure, but we actually want to help you with the other stuff you want to do, and how you can achieve that with your portfolio, so it’s not a regret spend, it's an investment.”

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