Mobile App Development Guide

A Source For The Enterprise

Add bookmark

Steven Lerner

mobile app development

[13 min read]

With new resources in IT, mobile app development is one of those areas where businesses are hoping to create a competitive advantage. When developed the right away, mobile applications can be a significant boost to an enterprise undergoing digital transformation.

To explore this topic in greater detail, Enterprise Mobility Exchange created this guide about the past, present, and future of mobile app development in the enterprise. This guide includes quotes from thought leaders, trends, and important questions for developers.

What Is Mobile App Development?

Mobile app development refers to the process of creating applications for mobile devices, including smartphones and personal assistants. In the enterprise, the apps should be designed to serve a critical business need. Some companies might outsource this work, but often there are internal developers dedicated to building enterprise mobile applications.

There are seven key phases of mobile application lifecycle management. The development phase occurs after important components (such as people and processes) are identified, and after the app requirements are specified. Testing and quality control should occur during the app’s development. Following the development phase, enterprises deploy the app, manage the app, secure the app, and — when the time calls for it —retire the app.

History Of Mobile Application Development

The origins of mobile apps can be traced back to 1983 when Steve Jobs predicted a future with a digital distribution system where software can be downloaded on the phone. Over the next few years, mobile devices increased in popularity. By the 2000s, the rise of the smartphone resulted in the emergence of mobile applications for both consumers and employees.

Mobile application development has its roots in traditional software development. However, unlike web applications, mobile apps are designed to benefit from the specific capabilities of a mobile device. With an influx in different devices and operating systems in recent years, developers are cognizant of the differences, and are able to create apps that are unique to each device.

Industry Experts Explain Mobile App Development

To understand more about the current state of developing mobile apps, here are a few quotes from thought leaders in the industry:

“I would say the most critical element of app development in the enterprise is understanding your environment,” said Joe Rago, director of digital innovation at ULTA Beauty. “Understanding where the app or device might be going into, such as if its going into a store or distribution center, [knowing] what the unique scenarios or unique limitations of that environment might be, you definitely need to know about that up front. Otherwise, you might go into a situation where you test it at your office, but if you go into a store, or you go into a distribution center, and those other elements make it [faulty].”

“The most critical part about developing an app for the enterprise is understanding the user’s needs,” said Don Coates, manager of integrated digital development services at Northrop Grumman. “What does that person do in their job, and could this application — this solution — make their job easier and better? So you really have to understand the requirements and the needs of those people, those users.”

“How do you get the IT department to support operations with tools, and have operations workers realize the added value of applying IT’s skills or resources in a different way? That difference comes from knowing the specific job skills or duties,” said Ryan Martin principal analyst with ABI Research. “It’s a matter of communication. There’s a big human element that needs to be embodied in the mobile app development process.”

See Related: 13 Mobile App Development Experts On Twitter

Mobile Application Development Trends

As mobile applications evolve, so is the process for developing them. Here are some of the latest mobile application development trends and considerations in the enterprise:

Real-Time Data Sharing

Enterprises are dealing with more data now than ever before, and employees want their apps have data in real-time. There are many workers in an enterprise that could benefit from real-time data on their mobile devices. Developers should make sure that real-time is compatible with common employee apps, and that push notifications are leveraged to as part of a communications strategy.


In an effort to decentralize data, improve security, and increase transparency, enterprises are leveraging blockchain. On mobile apps, enterprises can harness blockchain technology for payment processing, smart contracts, and to track every step on a supply chain. In the future, developers can leverage blockchain to improve app authentication, and improve the real-time nature of apps.

Cloud Technology

Cloud-based apps are becoming more popular in the enterprise, thanks in part to the fact that more organizations are migrating to the cloud. Enterprises are developing innovative apps on the cloud, which reduces hosting expenses and decreases the time it takes for apps to load. The cloud also increases app security, which is another big issue in the enterprise.

Mobile Application Development Strategies

To understand more about mobile application development, here are of the best practices to follow:

Early Considerations

Before development begins, it is vital to ensure that the mobile app addresses a critical and urgent business need. Apps should not be created just for the sake of having them. Employees are given several enterprise apps, and they don’t need one that fails to address a specific need. The apps should be developed with the intent of helping workers complete their jobs. In addition, the app should be as user-friendly as possible, which means that the business users should be heavily involved during the app testing process before deployment.

Getting a buy-in from the workers is also important before development. This can involve educating workers about the benefits of the app and persuading workers about the importance of it. Once the app is deployed, IT should leverage app analytics (that includes both real-time data and historical insights) to understand usage and to determine app improvements.

See Related: Enterprise App Development: Most Critical Elements

Tracking Performance Metrics

Without keeping track of KPIs, organizations will release apps that fail to help workers, and in some cases, those apps will actually disrupt the workplace. A 2018 study from RingCentral found that nearly 70% of workers waste up to 60 minutes each day just to navigate between apps, which add up to 32 days a year. If an enterprise were to just leverage app analytics and monitor any issues, it can fix flaws and make the apps more user-friendly.

The secret to achieving ROI in mobile application development begins by identifying key performance metrics and tracking them after deployment. When a firm follows the right metrics, it can tell if the app is achieving a reasonable ROI. The metrics often include monetary benefits vs. the cost of the mobile app, usage of the app, adoption of the app, the percentage of users leveraging the mobile app vs. going back to legacy systems to complete the same task.

In a February 2019 survey, Enterprise Mobility Exchange asked respondents to identify the most important metric for measuring ROI in enterprise apps. Here are the results:

Considering The Full Lifecycle Management

Even during the early development stages of an enterprise mobile app, an enterprise should strongly factor in the entire lifecycle. This includes deployment of the app, management of the app, and the retirement of the app. This last phase is often overlooked, but it is so critical. Legacy applications — even ones that are sporadically used — still require costly resources for maintenance and other administrative expenses. These applications could pose a significant compliance and security risk.

After prioritizing which legacy apps should be retired, the enterprise has to decide between completely decommissioning the app, or replacing it with a new app, or consolidating the capabilities of the app with another one. This involves the migration of data from the legacy app into a data repository for storage. The data from the retired app should also be properly cleansed to ensure that any inaccurate or repetitive data is removed. By strategizing for this during the development stages, enterprises will be more prepared later on in the app’s lifecycle.

Questions To Ask Before Initiating Mobile Application Development

1. Is The User’s Privacy Protected?

Employees have legal rights to their own personal data, and businesses have to ensure that their work-related apps do not infringe on those privacy rights. There should be safeguards that prohibit a business from stealing the personal data of employees. Early in the enterprise app development stages, organizations should develop a robust privacy policy, and create end-user license agreements. This includes having a Terms of Service (ToS) agreement that stipulates the employee’s rights in order to use the app. Some organizations are including rules in the ToS that prohibit users from suing.

2. Are Copyright Laws Followed?

Within an app, even one designed only for internal use, the content must be owned by the enterprise, or the content must be copyright-free. Otherwise, the enterprise could find itself in a lawsuit. If there are content contributions from employees, contractors, or third-party companies, it is imperative to leverage written agreements from contributors. An enterprise should strongly consider having limited liability insurance for protection against potential app-related lawsuits. This would be a wise investment, especially with the average defense and settlement costs for business lawsuits being $160,000.

See Related: Enterprise App Development: Legal Considerations

3. Is The App Achieving ROI?

Some enterprises are able to continuously achieve ROI for nearly every mobile app deployment, and others are struggling to break even. In a February 2019 survey by Enterprise Mobility Exchange, 34% of respondents revealed that they achieved a positive ROI for their enterprise mobile apps more than 76% of the time. However, 46% of enterprises are only achieving ROI less than 25% of the time. This epidemic of failing apps is creating a tremendous challenge in the enterprise. Some of the common challenges to look out include internal communication mishaps between departments, failure to identify the business goals, and the lack of collaboration between IT and operations technology (OT).

What Will The Future Of Mobile App Development Look Like?

Developers should be excited about the future of mobile apps in the enterprise. In the future, there will likely be a greater emphasis on enhancing the user experience, incorporating artificial intelligence (AI), and on-demand apps. New technologies with chatbots and the Internet of Things (IoT) will be part of the next way of mobile apps.

In the meantime, developers should get familiar with these potential innovations. To ensure that enterprises are creating mobile apps that result in increased business value, download our exclusive report, “Enterprise Mobile App Development: Achieving ROI.”