The Third “R” of Mobile Enterprise Apps
Ojas Rege | January 04, 2013
Over the last year, best practices for mobile enterprise apps have started to emerge across MobileIron customers. This is the third part of a series of posts describing lessons learned around the three “R”s of Mobile Enterprise Apps: expeRience, aRchitecture, and Role.
Role of IT
I’ve never been a big fan of the “[enter technology or function of choice] is DEAD!” proclamations. They grab people’s attention but are overly simplistic and not that useful if you are actually trying to build a strategy.
Mobile apps, however, are catalyzing a fundamental change in the role of IT. And each IT organization’s mindset and approach will determine whether, as a function, it continues to have relevance in the Mobile First era.
The key question: Can IT provide value to the enterprise app developer?
The answer is “yes” but it takes both a new mindset and a new skill set. Progressive IT organizations are acting with real urgency around this because they know if they can’t answer this question credibly and provide strong support for an apps program, the business will simply go around them and the end result will be a mish-mash of mobile apps across the company, many of which will not be supportable or secure. But saying “no” or “slow down” to the app developer is not an option because the business NEEDS to go mobile, and user demand is enormous.
The mobile enterprise app developer is now a key customer of IT services. The developer will assess whether IT is providing the services he or she needs to build great apps. Below are some services developers need that a Mobile IT organization could provide as part of a strong developer-focused value proposition:
- API accessibility and support: Apps need data. Mobile IT can make sure the right system APIs are available in a well-formed and secure manner for app developers to easily tie to enterprise services. Easy data access lets the developer build better apps quicker.
- Developer sourcing: Because Mobile IT will touch the most apps projects and be exposed to the most contract or third-party developers, it will be in a strong position to help the business with developer sourcing. Finding great mobile developers is tough and IT can provide credible quality control and even negotiating leverage.
- Plug n Play security: Giving the developer a 100 page guide on how to implement mobile app security standards is a recipe for failure. Mobile IT must provide guidelines and tools that make security easy for the developer and invisible for the user. For example, on iOS, the app developer must be educated to use Apple’s Data Protection to provide additional security. It takes very little development time to implement but many contract developers will not even know it is available. Another example: there should be a plug n play method for the app developer to add authentication, configuration, encryption, or mobile DLP protections to the app with minimal development work and no impact on the user experience. Mobile IT may also have to re-assess its current approach to risk because applying command-and-control models will not work moving forward.
- UX best practices and support: User experience (UX) is the litmus test for mobile app adoption. A high-value mobile app with a poor user experience will ALWAYS have poor adoption. Mobile IT must provide guidelines and support to the enterprise app developer for building great experiences, because many developers will not have these skills. This is arguably the toughest item on this list for Mobile IT to pull off, because it’s a skill set that IT itself has not traditionally had.
- Consumer-grade discovery experience: Once a developer writes an app, how do they get it to the user? The answer is through a private enterprise app store managed by the organization. Mobile IT manages that service. The developer gets easy distribution; the user gets easy discovery; and IT gets visibility into which apps are being deployed.
- Tools to drive and measure adoption: No one wants to build a wonderful app that no one uses. Mobile IT can help promote apps and measure adoption so the developer and the business know what’s working and what’s not.
This is a lot to do on Day One. But while the recipe will undoubtedly vary by company, IT must provide a credible value proposition to the enterprise app developer in order to have a seat at the “mobile strategy table” moving forward and create ongoing business value.