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Apr 09, 2013

Creating a Mobile Workforce with an Enterprise App Store

The brave new world of touch-screen devices and app stores has revolutionized how consumers use their phones, increased innovation in development tools and business models, and created an entire app economy. What’s more, consumers have grown accustomed to doing everything they want, everywhere they want, with an incredibly compelling user experience -- and this can translate into the mobile enterprise by developing enterprise mobile apps, and a dedicated enterprise app store. Developing enterprise mobile apps presents significant challenges, and organizations have been slow to fully embrace mobile solutions. Per a recent survey by Appcelerator, 73% of enterprise leaders surveyed created less than 5 mobile applications, while 39% of companies surveyed have built one or no mobile apps. To bridge this gap, companies need to understand where and how mobile app development fits in with developing traditional enterprise mobile apps. In the traditional desktop environment, software development for enterprises had to consider issues such as security and integration with often extremely complex back-end systems:  a spider web of legacy applications, databases and Web services. These needs do not change when porting to a different platform (web or mobile). In traditional desktop development, and even web, significant functionality is included in every application, whereas mobile apps need to be lighter and leaner and consider the different use case (fingers instead of mouse) and small form factor. Additional considerations that are required when thinking about developing enterprise mobile apps include an overall strategy. No longer can companies get away with creating one-off apps merely to prove that they have jumped on the mobile bandwagon. Any app must be part of a more comprehensive, well-thought out strategy that considers the needs of all divisions and how they collaborate with one another. They must ensure a consistent brand experience across devices and applications and coordinates well with the company’s existing infrastructure. From an IT perspective, the deployment and management of mobile apps is more difficult without a dedicated enterprise app store, particularly if the organization is BYOD-friendly, and traditional training no longer works because of the variety of different devices and use cases for a given application. Furthermore, in contrast to consumer app development, which focuses on user experience and often social aspects, for enterprise mobile apps, efficiency and productivity balanced with a satisfying customer experience are key. If employees don’t enjoy using the app, user adoption and in turn the return on investment metrics will suffer. The days of enterprise applications looking like rough columns of data are over. In addition, often companies don’t have the right user experience experts on staff, so they must look to hire or outsource the development project. Fortunately for enterprises, there are vendors whose sole focus is to help companies make their transition to mobile easier. For example, at Apperian, we enable companies to manage their enterprise mobility efforts from an application and data perspective, taking care of everything from security to deployment to ongoing management. On the development side, companies have many options depending on whether they want to use a code once port everywhere platform or focus on creating native app experiences, while Apperian’s Customer Solutions group can help companies craft and execute an application strategy. With IDC predicting that one-third of enterprise applications will be mobile this year, it could be time for your company to jump on the mobile app bandwagon if it hasn't already.


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