The rise of the smart phone has established a thriving market for mobile applications, helping businesses to increase productivity by more effectively mobilising their workforces and restyling end user experiences in our daily lives. To date however the process has been gradual and iterative, with no quantum leaps. Mobility within the enterprise is today largely about replicating web applications on mobile devices – important but hardly ground-breaking.
This is changing. We stand at the threshold of a mobile apps revolution that has the power to change the way we do business, transforming both the external customer experience of the organisation and the way business units work internally and with partners.
The catalyst for this revolution is clear: Simplicity.
Simplicity in the ‘front-end’
Simplicity is about content, context and convenience. If an app is complex or difficult to use; it will be deleted. If an app does not provide the right content at the right time; it will not be useful and will be deleted.
The ‘front-ends’ of enterprise apps (which include the user interface) are therefore often as intuitive and attractive as the apps people enjoy in their personal lives – from Angry Birds to Instagram.
Businesses absolutely must perfect front-end simplicity and understand the mobile context if they are to gain productivity from their existing workforce as well as attract the younger generation of workers and customers. This younger generation inherently understands mobility and brings with it a freshness that businesses can ill-afford to miss.
It is not surprising therefore, that great strides have already been made to enable front-end simplicity and developers have at their disposal a wide range of tools that make apps straightforward to build.
But front-end simplicity alone is not enough to usher in the enterprise mobile revolution.
While the app itself may be simple to build and to use, without the right content it is useless. Yet when it comes to integrating the app with ‘back-end’ systems to enable this content – regardless of whether the content is for internal apps or customer-facing apps – developers and IT departments often face a complex, costly and time-consuming task.
Adding to this complexity, secure access to the ‘back-end’ systems is vital. But how can organisations strike the right balance between complying with enterprise IT security policies, while also maintaining the simple user experience?
This complexity has acted as a brake on innovation, with integration and security compliance challenges eating up huge amounts of enterprise resources. But what if these challenges did not exist or were minimised? It is here that a true mobile apps revolution can be realised.
Simplification of integration, security and scalability frees time and money for what matters most: innovation. This flourishing innovation will not be restricted to the enterprise alone. Simplified back-end integration will also enable third-party apps developers to focus on delivering value to enterprises and mobile users through innovative front-end capabilities.
Simplified back-end integration is therefore the spark behind this apps revolution and will usher in a new age of apps more powerful than ever.
We are already seeing pioneering companies build apps that are driving new revenue streams, enabling new forms of customer interaction and introducing new ways of working. Some of the more ground-breaking apps can give us some idea of just how transformative this revolution will be. Let’s look at one internally-facing example from a major airline we are partnering with.
The airline has created a new solution for cabin crew that brings data from reservations, loyalty, CRM, operations and crewing systems into the cabin, enabling the electronic capture of passenger and operations data mid-air. This means that the airline can deliver personalised, seamless one-on-one customer service while in-flight.
But how exactly can other businesses look to build such simplicity into their own mobile platforms?
The mobile-centric business
If businesses want revolutionary apps they must adopt a mobile-centric mind-set. This mind-set teaches enterprises to think of mobile from the outset and with an outside-in approach whenever coming up with a solution to a business challenge.
If enterprises adopt a long-term mobile-centric vision they can translate this into crucial brainstorm sessions at the initial product development stage to ensure mobile experiences are integral to all their applications.
Indeed, the app mentioned above is revolutionary because it views the business requirement through a mobile-centric lens. The airline has delivered a transformational approach to customer service, enabled by making mobile the heart of the solution. The in-air app has mobility running through its core.
Once the right mind-set has been created in the business, developers must be able to rely on a platform that makes back-end integration simple.
The first requirement is that enterprise systems are underpinned by a complete and unified integration platform. Leveraging SOA is key to successful enterprise mobility, enabling organisations to easily integrate and connect applications across their IT ecosystems on a single platform, helping them achieve faster time-to-market and increased productivity with a low TCO.
Secondly, the platform must be capable of abstracting apps from the underlying OS. In today’s BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environment, this platform should enable a ‘write-once, run-anywhere’ capability for mobile devices that simplifies the integration of third-party apps into the enterprise. This is critical, as mobility demands often arise from business units other than IT, such as when the marketing department hires an outside agency to build a mobile app for the public app stores.
Clearly, the business wants to innovate at its own pace. IT on the other hand wants a choice of tools and out-the-box features that provides it with control while also enabling it to speed development and integration. This is where the cloud intersects with mobile. Mobile Back-end-as-a-Service can be very important in simplifying and streamlining back-end integration. Mobile services offered through the cloud can simplify mobile application development with a standard approach to dealing with complex server-side programming and integration issues. Developers can therefore dedicate themselves to the innovation that will underpin the mobile apps revolution.
Keeping the enterprise secure
Finally, businesses need to ensure that they have in place the right approach to security. The ‘right approach’ secures the enterprise in a way that encourages users to make the most of their mobile devices and applications. Again it’s all about a compelling user experience.
As mobile users we want convenience. For example, as workers we like businesses that adopt BYOD policies. Enterprises can safely encourage BYOD as they can separate, protect, and wipe corporate applications installing a secure ‘container’ around corporate applications on any mobile device. BYOD management also means users’ personal applications and data can be kept separate from the enterprise information – giving them the confidence they need to embrace the use of their devices for corporate apps; another necessary factor in driving forward the apps revolution within the enterprise.
Join the revolution
Mobile-centric strategies are the future of the enterprise; capable of transformations we are only just becoming aware of. As businesses realise the importance of leveraging mobile platforms that help them simplify enterprise mobility — effectively addressing the challenges around integration, security and scalability while enhancing user convenience, we will see a blossoming of innovation that transforms how businesses work, in the process creating new global leaders.