Companies are coming up with all kinds of new ways to use mobile apps, from customer service to an intranet alternative. So it is no surprise that many businesses use at least a dozen mobile apps. In a report published today, Apperian, a provider of mobile application management software, found that the mean number of apps across its customers is nearly 35 while the median number is 13.
Interestingly, however, Apperian found that the number of mobile apps deployed is not a leading indicator of an organization's success with mobile apps. It is more important to have mobile apps that support business processes aligned with strategic initiatives, according to Apperian, which also found that companies tend to deploy mobile apps meant for specific business functions rather than mobile apps used by entire workforces.
A caveat: Apperian focuses its research on custom mobile apps because it feels companies' willingness to devote time and money to custom development indicates such apps are where companies expect to move the strategic needle.
Still, "off-the-shelf apps," play a definite role in the enterprise, said Mark Lorion, the company's chief marketing officer. "They're often not transformative like custom apps, but they can drive productivity in the workforce and help augment custom apps and build out a company’s portfolio of apps with minimal cost."
Among Apperian's key findings:
- Technology vendors represent 26.3 percent of mobile apps deployed, followed by IT services/consulting firms and public sector organizations, each with about 11 percent of mobile apps deployed. Other verticals that have deployed apps accounting for at least 5 percent of the total mobile app installed base include financial services (8.4 percent), health care (7.4 percent), and communications and manufacturing (each with 6.3 percent).
- The most popular function for mobile apps is sales/marketing, accounting for nearly 18 percent of all custom mobile apps deployed, followed by field services (15.3 percent), HR (14 percent), office productivity (11.8 percent) IT utility (11.5 percent) and content management (10.3 percent). Noting that Apperian did some research into "off-the-shelf" apps, Lorion said those results tended to mirror findings on custom mobile apps. For instance, while productivity apps like Evernote and Dropbox were the most commonly deployed, sales and CRM mobile apps were also popular.
The research also yielded insight into mobile app best practices used by Apperian customers with successful mobility programs. Among the practices suggested by Apperian:
Establish ownership of the mobile program. Apperian advises appointing both a project sponsor, who is responsible for all aspects of a mobile app including functionality, support processes and financials, and a mobile "evangelist" who promotes the use of mobility. If the organization is large enough, it's a good idea to establish a Mobile Center of Excellence, that not only helps develop overall mobile strategy but helps promulgate best practices and support reuse in mobile app development.
Develop mobile apps that matter. Again, mobile apps that support business processes that align with strategic initiatives tend to yield the most bang for the buck, according to Apperian. The company urges use of agile development practices, even if they are not being used for other development efforts.
Mobile apps are narrower in scope than traditional apps and often help to streamline one process that may be part of a larger enterprise application, Lorion said. They also need to be updated more often. With frequent updates of mobile operating systems, developers need to be agile to provide support for updated versions and take advantage of the latest capabilities.
"Therefore, mobility initiatives must be viewed as an iterative project rather than a big bang launch," Lorion said. "Agile development allows dev teams to identify the changing needs of the end user and make necessary updates for a better UX. Like anything that requires a measure of discipline, agile development requires knowledge and training. Even if dev teams don't follow agile methods in their own software development, using agile for mobile projects is a good opportunity to develop these skills in a more contained environment."
Use analytics as part of an iterative process of improvement. Number of active users, number of versions and number of downloads are among helpful metrics. High adoption levels among an intended audience is a much better indicator of success than total number of users, according to Apperian.
Create standardized processes for application testing, security and distribution early in mobile initiatives. This will help drive adoption and make life easier for developers and others involved with mobile apps.
Move Toward Full Enterprise Mobility
Investments in mobile apps will continue to grow, found another survey, this one by Apperian, a provider of business process management software. According to its report, 59 percent of IT decision makers it surveyed in October plan to increase their custom application development budgets in 2016. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said their companies plan to provide access to mobile apps to the entire organization.
This marks a progression toward full enterprise mobility, according to Appian, which defines enterprise mobility as business applications and data that are easily accessible anywhere, regardless of location on desktops or mobile devices.
"Companies are shifting their focus from mobile applications to full enterprise mobility," said Matt Calkins, Appian's president and CEO. "IT professionals understand that a strategic focus on mobile apps will fail to deliver the full digital transformation that must occur within the enterprise."
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.