Enterprise apps are a complex subject. Many companies have found they’re necessary – but also insurmountable. Usually, it’s up to the people in lower-upper management or upper-middle management to realize the need for an app, come up with a solution framework, and champion the idea to the C-suite (CEO, CIO, etc.). No small task.
When getting executives to make the final step from considering advanced mobile solutions to implementing them, how do you get past the over-hyped jargon (Enterprise mobility! App development! Mobile workforce!) and address the core issues? Here we’ve laid out the common questions that slow down mobile progress.
How Secure Can Enterprise Mobile Apps Really Be?
CIOs are naturally concerned about keeping corporate data secure, while IT managers want to keep control over IT use. Security is one of the reasons mobile enterprise solutions exist! Mobile native apps are actually much more secure than mobile web applications. Mobile web applications have to pipe data through the browser, which is a security concern. On top of that, IT doesn’t necessarily know what plug-ins, extensions and other apps are running and interfering with the application. Mobile native apps make security simpler, and allow much more exclusive control.
Plus, by keeping corporate information on a secure application, company data is safe even if an employee’s device gets stolen. Other stops can be put in place to make sure employees with brand new devices have to prove their identity before accessing the app network. Some security also needs to come from the client end, like having IT make sure all documents shared via app are secured at the file level – this helps keep the files secure even if the device is breached while an employee is logged into the app.
Answer: More secure than mobile versions of web apps, and more secure than storing data on individual computers and mobile devices.
For an added safety layer, particularly for large enterprises, there are also enterprise-owned and controlled app stores, but that’s another blog.
What’s the Long-term Time Investment?
A lot of C-levels are going to have concerns about the time, complexity, update availability and support availability that go with enterprise apps. How much will it disrupt current workflow once implemented? How much back and forth and wasted time will there be during development, testing and design review? These are especially important question because there’s a bit of a shortage of developers who are truly qualified to build a scalable, multi-platform, many-user enterprise application. So, finding the right development team is critical to answering questions about effective use of time for development. For most enterprise-level apps, expect the timeline to start at six months.
Aside from the initial time investment, what’s the app’s “shelf life,” so to speak? Will it sync with mobile devices of the future, will performance and speed remain good even as networks grow and change, will it become outdated too soon? These are important questions to bring to prospective developers to ensure the correct technologies are chosen. If they can’t give you detailed and satisfactory answers, look elsewhere. Of course, a good development team will be available long after app launch to implement updates to go along with major iOS, Android and other software updates.
Answer: You’re looking at six months upfront. Beyond that, the time the app will require and its “shelf life” are more dependent on the developer you choose than anything else.
How Does It Affect Network Infrastructure?
A successful enterprise mobility app must be built on a reliable network infrastructure. When it comes to network speed and performance, note that the integrity of data networks is in the hands of the enterprise, not the developer. Those in the C-suite should examine their infrastructure to see if it really meets current and future real-time mobility expectations.
However, there are things developers can do to somewhat mitigate network issues. These include: Anticipating subpar connectivity (especially for field workers) and finding ways to still meet the clients’ needs, providing as much offline functionality as possible or implementing background synchronization to step in when connectivity is bad, and overall integration with the client’s backend system.
If you’re not sure how or if to improve your network, any development team worth their salt will be able to have this discussion with you to help you know what to expect and figure out what route to take.
Answer: This one’s dependent on what kind of infrastructure you already have in place.
What’s the Actual ROI of Enterprise Mobile Apps?
Yes, enterprise apps can be expensive and sometimes are best when paired with additional IT resources on the client end. One way to overcome some of the expense is by standardizing the process on both ends: enterprises need a consistent process and consistent provider for mobility needs, and development teams should be working from a tried and true standardized model to keep development time down. Debut apps should be built with supplemental apps in mind, so that if additional apps are eventually added, nobody’s starting from scratch.
Return on investment (ROI) can be hard to realize when your enterprise has had to invest in beefing up the network infrastructure before getting started on the application development process. (Companies who started preparing for advanced mobility a few years ago are in the best position – companies who are playing catch-up are going to be waiting a bit longer for their ROI.)
ROI from mobility is based on the overall mobile business model, not on individual applications or devices. This is an important factor in your decision-making process. One or two apps aren’t going to change your business unless your business is actually equipped to make the most of them and handle their growth.
Answer: It’s hard to give a general answer for this one, but the bottom line is that your business model needs to be designed for mobility in order to see the greatest returns on enterprise mobile applications.
Who Controls the Technology?
Most enterprises, rightfully, want to retain as much control as possible over mobile implementations. Plenty of mobile development companies come in and try to sell an enterprise on end-to-end solutions where the development company provides and/or manages all mobile platforms. What most enterprises actually want is to select and use their own preferred tools and resources, and for the development team to build something that is compatible with those tools and resources. This makes sense! Provided they have the IT resources to manage the mobile applications, enterprises should be the ones who control the surrounding architecture.
Answer: You do.
You’ve Probably Taken the First Step
Most Fortune 5000 companies have already implemented BYOD (bring your own device) policies in the workplace, and we’re guessing yours has too. If so, that’s good news because it means you don’t have to worry about equipping an entire workforce with costly devices, and you’re not interrupting your employees’ workflow by asking them to learn some new piece of technology.
Forrester reported last year that when an employee leaves their desk, they will use their laptop less than 20 percent of the time – even while still inside the office. What this means is that employees are not only equipped for mobile apps, but are demonstrating that they prefer them. Nobody likes sitting at their desk longer than necessary just to wait for a memo, or lugging around a laptop when they could be accomplishing the same thing on a mobile device. Mobile is the default device of choice. Use it to your advantage.
Still Have Questions?
Every company is different, and we probably can’t address each one’s questions in a single blog post. We’re happy to talk about enterprise app challenges and solutions in way more depth.