Due to the prominence of iOS and Android and their rich app ecosystems, many companies don’t focus appropriately on the apps they plan to develop for their employees, instead assuming that with 1,000,000 apps in the store, chances are the ones they’ll need to empower their employees will be there.
Unfortunately this is not always the case. And should your company’s device strategy get disconnected from its app strategy, it can be tough, not to mention expensive, to unwind some of the decisions you made in rolling out a COPE/CYOD/BYOD program.
More than just Email, Contacts, and Calendar
One of the many challenges corporate IT departments face is understanding the dynamic required for achieving an effective mobile strategy. In the past, mobile simply supported mobile access to corporate email, contacts and calendar—a little Exchange integration here, some security posturing there, all pretty straightforward.
But no more. Today’s mobile strategy involves several intertwined elements, including:
- Mobile device strategy
- Mobile app strategy
- Mobile development strategy
- Mobile support strategy
The key to an effective, cohesive mobile strategy is ensuring these components don’t get out of alignment.
According to a recent Vision Mobile report, “the installed base of post-PC devices is expected to outgrow the number of PCs for the first time in the first half of 2014. For a large number of people the smartphone or tablet is already the go-to computing device, complemented by rich and dynamic app ecosystems.”
And this is where it gets interesting.
This ‘rich and dynamic app ecosystem’ is really what drives an effective mobile strategy. By providing access to key enterprise systems (e.g. CRM, ERP, HRM, content management systems) and productivity solutions (e.g. Evernote, Box, or revamped business processes), apps not only empower mobile workers but also dramatically increase their productivity.
VisionMobile estimates businesses and professional users spent more than $28 billion on apps in 2013 and forecasts that by 2016 the business and productivity market will grow to $58 billion.
But the truth is the app ecosystem isn’t equally allocated across all operating systems. Even consumer apps you would assume were ubiquitous, aren’t. This includes Angry Birds, Instagram, Spotify, even Facebook (well “Facebook” is available on Windows Phone and Blackberry, but it’s published by Microsoft and Blackberry, not Facebook).
And if you can’t even get the most popular apps on the planet onto your specific device, do you think all the apps your business needs will be there? Don’t count on it.
Take a look at Vision Mobile’s chart on business and productivity app revenue, and you’ll start to realize that unless iPhone and iPad are your preferred corporate devices, chances are you might not find the apps you want.
It’s critically important, therefore, to ensure the devices you provide or enable through BYOD programs can run the apps required for each role (e.g. sales, field service, executives).
Consider the case of client X, historically a Blackberry shop with over 100 technical support personnel in the field for on-site organization support, all of whom were procured Blackberry devices as a matter of course. However, the firm also chose to use Remedy’s help desk solution, which provides mobile apps for iOS and Android, but doesn’t support Blackberry. But in order to make those field techs as effective as they can be, they need Remedy’s help desk in their hands. Which means the firm needs to provision all new devices for that team.
And it’s not just a matter of whether 3rd party apps run on iOS, Android or another mobile operating system. If you’re going to provide certain employees with tablets, you should first be sure there is a tablet-optimized version of the app, then evaluate whether the tablet-optimized UI enhances productivity enough to influence your tablet platform choice.
This is of course is just one element—albeit a very important one—in deciding which platforms to support and which devices to enable for various roles. You should also consider the cost of supporting each incremental platform, especially when contemplating the time, effort, and cost of developing custom apps. But that’s a topic for another post.