Companies continue to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to mobile apps and other enterprise mobility initiatives, found a recent IDG Enterprise study. With 68 percent of CIOs and IT managers saying mobility is critical for success, it is no surprise that 70 percent of respondents plan to spend nearly a fifth of their IT budgets on mobility.
With such a significant portion of IT budgets going toward mobility, companies will want to review emerging best practices, from getting funding for mobile apps to developing user-friendly mobile apps.
Sell Execs on Mobile App Benefits
While executives believe mobility is important, they still want to hear about specific benefits. Create a business case that clearly illustrates the business benefits, advised Robert Lacis, senior director of Customer Success at Apperian, a provider of mobile application management solutions. For example, show how a mobile sales app can help salespeople increase the volume of sales and/or deal sizes.
When discussing mobile app benefits, express them in the language of the executive you are pitching, Lacis suggested, writing in a column for Enterprise Apps Today. Tell the CFO how the mobile app will impact bottom-line income. For the head of HR, clearly describe how the app will save their team time onboarding new employees.
Consider Different Mobile App Development Options
A recent Progress Software study found that 33 percent of respondents preferred a hybrid approach to mobile app development, in which apps are built using Web technologies like HTML5 and then wrapped inside a container that offers access to native device features. Twenty-five percent mentioned native app development on mobile platforms like Android and iOS and 19 percent use Web development languages.
Support is growing for HTML5, several application development experts told Enterprise Apps Today. Developing and supporting native mobile apps across several platforms is costly, said Art Landro, CEO of Sencha, which provides application development tools and services. It's an especially big issue for companies developing apps that will be used by outside contractors, suppliers or other partners, he said. "Unlike your own employees, you really can't tell them which phone or tablet to use."
Progress Software sees a big future for newer technologies like NativeScript, an open source framework that some experts believe offers more flexibility than Apache Cordova, the framework typically used for hybrid development.
Make Sure Infrastructure Can Handle Mobile Apps
Adding lots of new mobile devices and applications to your network can put a strain on bandwidth and degrade the performance of apps, resulting in lowered productivity and unhappy users. Nirmit Glennon, a product consultant at ManageEngine, said IT organizations need to monitor real-time network bandwidth consumption, prioritize network traffic and reconfigure bandwidth if necessary.
Using a mobile device management tool with the ability to monitor and manage different categories of devices from multiple locations will make this easier, Glennon noted in a column written for Enterprise Apps Today.
Design Mobile Apps with Users in Mind
"If apps are not designed well and users do not adopt them, all of the expertise and effort [spent developing them] is wasted," said Progress Software's Troester.
Apperian's Lacis encouraged companies to identify employee pain points and develop mobile apps that can help alleviate them. When he worked at Cisco, for example, the company developed an app that streamlined an approval process for discounting in the sales department that involved multiple people in different geographies, shortening the authorization process from two weeks to two hours.
To increase the odds that an app will be readily adopted, talk to potential users and make sure you understand how they will use a mobile app, he added. For example, if sales reps often work in areas without reliable network connectivity, you may need to design an offline app.
Learn From Peers
As with any enterprise application initiative, you can often get some great ideas from non-competitive peers, Lacis said. He borrowed the idea of building a mobile app on top of a legacy CRM via an API after encountering another company that had done so.
"By developing a user-friendly mobile app, this prompted salespeople to update customer data immediately after calls, meetings and deals. Thanks to the use of the API, this kept the CRM system continuously up to date," he wrote in a column for Enterprise Apps Today.
Do Not Forget the Mobile Web
While various studies show people spend more time in mobile applications than in the browser, most companies should plan on keeping mobile websites a part of their strategies for the foreseeable future. A significant number of consumers still use mobile sites, at least part of the time. And in the enterprise, "Many users aren't interested in installing an app to complete a single task and expect the functionality to be available through the mobile Web," said Eli Aleyner, Cloud Foundry and Mobile, for Pivotal Labs.
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.