In our earlier post about Enterprise Mobility Strategy we talked about the best practices for building a flawless strategy for enterprise mobility. Once you have the enterprise mobility strategy in place, the next step is to plan and build enterprise mobility applications and ensure successful app management across the enterprise.
We know that mobile devices and mobile applications are driving the way we do business today. More and more organizations are looking to harness the countless possibilities that result from deploying mobile enterprise applications for internal as well as customer-facing mobile solutions.
According to Gartner research, the number of smartphones is projected to exceed 6.7 billion by 2015 worldwide, creating huge opportunities for consumer-oriented businesses. Also, consumer-facing mobile app development will continue to outpace development of Web apps and application development in general through 2014.
While security is still the biggest concern for mobile enterprise apps, other issues such as development, deployment and maintenance of these apps in business environment continue to haunt the IT managers and decision makers.
Following are some key factors that enterprises should consider in order to build highly resilient mobile enterprise applications and ensure their enterprise-wide acceptance and roll-out.
1. Clarity of business goals and objectives
Before even determining the target platforms for which you will develop the mobile app, or beginning the development itself, have a clear vision of the goals you want to achieve. To be specific, have a concrete business case in your hands that justifies your investment in the mobile enterprise application development initiative.
The goals could be to:
- Enhance your customers’ perception of brand experience
- Increase the business momentum of your workforce and partners
- Attract new customers and generate revenue opportunities
- Enhance your current customers’ experience
- Showcase your organization as a progressive-entity or a thought leader in your niche
The next step is to dig deeper and identify the target internal constituents of your mobile enterprise app, such as employees, security, supply chain, legal, and other departments that will be involved in the development, deployment, promotion and support of the enterprise applications. It’s critical to ensure collaboration among these constituents and consider the individual perspectives of each.
2. Build apps keeping end users in mind
Another important factor to consider before initiating app development is to understand the behavior of mobile users – how they use their mobile devices, what factors affect their usage of mobile devices, and how to optimize user experience based on these findings. The answers to these questions will help organizations steer the app development efforts toward the fulfillment of user expectations, and result in delightful user experiences for app users.
The major change in user behavior is seen in the mobility realm. Desktop users are at a fixed location, with mostly wired internet connection and power backup. However, mobile users have limited power backup, constantly changing network connectivity, limited screen size. Moreover, mobile users have very less attention span as compared to the desktop users.
Keeping the above factors in mind while developing mobile applications will go a long way in ensuring the practicability and acceptance of the app.
3. Selection of mobile development platform
Mobile enterprise app development is challenging and rewarding at the same time. We already know that no single mobile platform – whether it’s iOS, Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone – has clear dominance over the other, so it’s inevitable to develop apps for all these platforms on both smartphones and tablet screens.
Eventually, it becomes highly critical to choose a development methodology that meets your cross-platform goals.
One of the approach currently used by most of the organizations is HTML5-based development, which helps them reduce custom development costs for all the platforms. Though HTML-5 development is definitely a cost-saver, it does not provide the advantage of leveraging the native APIs and device capabilities.
Native apps are built for a specific platform using the platform SDK, tools, and languages that are typically provided by the platform vendor. Native apps are conventionally superior in terms of performance and provide access to important device attributes such as geo-location API, camera, video, audio, etc.
Hybrid apps (Native + HTML5)
Another approach is to go for HTML5 development wherein the application resides in native containers, thus combining the capabilities of both HTML5 and native development, and leveraging the core functionality of all platforms.
Choosing the right app development approach depends upon the business requirements. The key is to choose the right framework that is scalable enough to meet the ever-changing technology and user requirements.
4. Build a policy to manage the app within the enterprise
As mobile applications become omnipresent, organizations need to ensure that their IT departments control what employees can install and remove from their mobile devices. At the same time they need to ensure that they provide standard applications and configurations to help the employees derive maximum benefit from their mobile devices.
Mobile application management (MAM) is all about managing the applications installed on users’ devices. Organizations have been doing this for ages, but on desktop platforms. Now they need to do it for mobile devices.
Mobile application management provides lower degree of control over the device, but a higher level of control over the applications. That’s how it differentiates from mobile device management (MDM) which focuses more on managing the mobile devices.
Following capabilities are required for mobile application management:
- User authentication & authorization
- Over the Air (OTA) application provisioning
- Automated application configuration
- Over the Air application updates, backup and removal
- App delivery, update, and app performance monitoring
- User & group access control
- App version management
- Reporting & tracking
- Event management
- Usage analytics
5. Application security
Application security has become more challenging with the proliferation of mobile devices, mobile applications and cloud-based solutions. Information protection is critical more than ever before, particularly when you are developing mobile applications for highly regulated industries such as finance and healthcare. Right from password enforcement to data encryption and virus protection, organizations need to implement robust application security measures to prevent data loss and data theft.
Define specific rules of usage for each device and user type, and make sure that all users explicitly agree to these rules. These rules/policies typically include:
- Models and makes of devices to be used
- Minimum requirements the devices must meet
- Which networks, applications, data, etc. they should be permitted to access
- Users’ rights for each type of device, application, and data
Implement common security settings such as passwords and remote wipe. MDM tools can be used to implement mobile security best practices such as app whitelist and blacklist reinforcement and removing unauthorized native apps.
Monitor mobile application security by tracking app downloads, installation results and ongoing usage. MAM and MDM helps organizations automate mobile application security best practices, which further help in monitoring app security.
Whether you are a startup or a large enterprise, mobile enterprise applications strategy is the key to stay ahead in the current business environment. In a TEKsystems survey of more than 1,500 IT leaders, Mobility is the No. 1 trend that will have the biggest impact on their organization. Cloud Computing, Consumerization of IT, and Social Media came at No. 2, 3, and 4 respectively.
Also, according to a recent CIO Magazine survey of 261 IT leaders, around 54% respondents plan to boost their spending on mobile applications.
The question is which side you are on. It’s quite evident that no one can escape enterprise mobility, so it all boils down to how soon and how effectively you can make this transformation.