As anyone with a smartphone knows, mobile apps are becoming a big deal in the workplace. Anecdotally, many of us use mobile apps to help us get work done on our mobile devices. Every few months, a survey is released with hard data that supports this idea.
According to a newly-published CDW survey, 48 percent of 374 respondents said their mobile app budgets were bigger in 2014 than in 2013, with 20 percent of them noting that budgets grew more than 10 percent.
Both custom mobile business apps and off-the-shelf apps are popular with companies, the survey found. On average, businesses had approved six off-the-shelf mobile apps for employee use and five custom mobile apps. While off-the-shelf mobile apps were approved for employee use at 77 percent of companies, the survey seemed to indicate that companies are also increasingly willing to devote development resources to creating mobile apps that satisfy specific business needs.
Other surveys also indicate growth in custom mobile business apps. For instance, a Good Technology survey of enterprise mobility activity from 2014's third quarter saw a quarter-over-quarter increase of 107 percent in companies' use of custom mobile business applications and year-over-year growth of 730 percent. According to Good Technology: "This continues a trend of exponential growth in custom app development over the last three years."
For the CDW respondents, the most popular areas for custom mobile apps were communication, mentioned by 36 percent of respondents, sales support (35 percent) and data access (34 percent). Not surprisingly, sales professionals were the most likely to use custom mobile apps (35 percent), followed by business/operations and IT systems (both at 32 percent) and senior management (31 percent).
Mobile App Security and Strategy
A recent Baseline article detailed the use of custom mobile business apps at Atlanta's Emory University, where doctors use them to access educational materials, among other information. The school's chief IT architect noted that creating security and privacy protections was a challenge, one that necessitated using encryption and specialized data storage tools.
The CDW respondents also mentioned data security, with 77 percent mentioning it as a top consideration for designing custom mobile apps.
Security will likely remain a concern for the foreseeable future, given Veracode's finding that a typical large enterprise has some 2,400 unsafe mobile applications in its environment.
In an interview with eSecurity Planet, David Nichols, IT transformation leader for EY Americas, stressed the importance of making security policy more central to enterprise mobility programs. Noting that a good security policy starts with a solid business case and strategy plan for mobile technology, Nichols said many organizations skip this step.
"If you just react to mobile devices and applications without some level of strategy in place, you could end up with misaligned technology, policy and vendors that cannot even help you enforce your policies," Nichols said.
Indeed, only 40 percent of CDW respondents mentioned strategic planning was a part of their mobile app deployment preparation checklist. Only 33 percent said they defined end-user cases for mobile business apps, and only 30 percent assessed their infrastructure to determine how well it could support mobile apps.
Getting Employees to Use Mobile Apps
Writing for Enterprise Apps Today, Himanshu Sareen, CEO of software development firm Icreon Tech, offered five tips for boosting adoption of enterprise applications. Among his tips, which work equally well for on-premise and mobile apps, are providing end-users with "pervasive documentation that answers potential questions and serves as a go-to resource for end-users in need of help."
CDW survey respondents tapped offering technical support to users as their top challenge in deploying custom mobile business apps. It was mentioned by 34 percent of them, followed by integration with current network services (30 percent), supporting a variety of mobile platforms (26 percent), designing the user interface (26 percent) and accurately estimating project costs (23 percent).
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.