As far back as early 2008, industry analysts were talking about autonomous enterprise IT users, suggesting employees of companies might, for example, purchase their own productivity applications. Although it seemed a little like heresy then, it is practically ho-hum today. Business users not only purchase apps for their individual use, they guide corporate application strategy -- especially for mobile apps.
Apple probably did as much as any company to promote the idea, launching its iPhone 3G and its App Store in the July of 2008. All of the iterations of the iPhone and later the iPad enjoyed widespread enterprise adoption. Companies began creating their own custom software applications tailored for those devices and other mobile gear.
A recent survey from AppCentral, a provider of mobile application management software, found 68 percent of companies have at least one custom mobile app in use. Nearly half of the respondents said they enjoy access to five custom mobile applications and 23 percent have access to more than six.
Mobile App Funding: Business Leads
Perhaps most strikingly, 36 percent of respondents said individual business units are the primary source of funding for mobile projects. At 31 percent of companies, marketing departments and executive leaders funded mobile projects. IT departments funded mobile projects in only 29 percent of companies.
"More and more we’re seeing individual business units within the organization, rather than IT departments, lead the way in terms of mobile application development and deployment," said John Dasher, AppCentral's VP of Products and Marketing.
This finding echoes a similar MGI Research survey which found 44 percent of mobile app projects received funding from business units while IT organizations funded 28 percent of projects. In addition, 11 percent of mobile app projects got funding directly from the executive suite.
Yet there were differences in the two surveys, as well. According to MGI Research, nearly 55 percent of respondents said their companies are developing customer service apps. Yet just 13 percent of respondents to the AppCentral survey said their companies had mobile apps for customer service.
Fifty-five percent of respondents to the MGI Research survey named increased customer engagement as a top business driver for mobile apps. The other areas mentioned most frequently were increasing brand value (45 percent) and improved customer service (44 percent).
In contrast, while respondents to the AppCentral survey cited customer engagement as a business driver for mobile apps, they seemed more focused on internal efficiency improvements than the MGI Research respondents, also mentioning increasing employee productivity and generating revenue as drivers.
The AppCentral survey also found a growing acceptance for enterprise app stores, with 19 percent of respondents saying their company utilized a private enterprise app store. Given the lack of enterprise-friendly security and procurement options in public app stores, it's no surprise that companies are expressing interest in dedicated enterprise app stores