Mobile App Platform to take your Business to the Next Level of Mobile Success

Contributor: Robbie Westacott
Posted: 12/02/2013
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Enterprise mobility is evolving rapidly with many businesses moving to third and fourth generation apps. But how can organisations ensure that apps are sophisticated enough to engage the customer while being seamlessly integrated with back-end systems?

Enterprise Mobility Exchange interviewed Cathal McGloin, CEO at Feedhenry to gain insight on how organisations can implement a mobile application platform to drive their mobile strategy and overcome challenges that may impede this journey.

Enterprise Mobility Exchange (EME): What are the main changes in enterprise mobility you have witnessed in the last 12 months?

Cathal McGloin: The biggest change we're seeing is enterprise mobility is moving to the mass market. It began over two years ago with people experimenting and building their first app. Now many companies understand that this is not just a smaller form factor for a browser, but rather it's a brand new channel to engage with customers, employees and partners.

We're also seeing an increased volume of apps in businesses as they release their second, third, fourth; basically finding new ways to engage with their partners, employees and customers. We're also seeing increased sophistication of these apps and deeper integration with back-end systems.

Typically, the first app may have been about the company, but now we're getting into more transactional apps, apps that deal with actual information and how to interact with the ICT systems. We're also seeing the mass adoption of Bring Your Own Device and Mobile Device Management software being used to manage and secure those devices.

The first thing larger companies want to do is secure the device and that's really where a lot of the activity has been recently. Now that this is well underway, organisations are starting to really roll out apps and think more about app enablement in a strategic way.

EME: As organisations mature and move from a more opportunistic approach to a more strategic and mobile-driven approach, why then do you see the need for a mobile application platform?

C McGloin: We see a number of what we call "tipping points" that are going on in the market. The first one is to do with managing complexity. As organisations begin to grapple with many different operating systems and device platforms - iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, etc. - and possibly even various versions of these device platforms, they are realising the headache of managing this on an app by app basis.

Additionally, you have the BYOD scenario where employees are bringing their own devices, so they've got three or four multiple platforms just for employees on top of increasingly sophisticated apps that are connecting into an increasing number of backend systems and sensitive data points. Rolling out multiple apps for multiple different platforms and multiple different back-end systems without breaching security can quickly get out of hand. This is where we are seeing organisations turn to mobile application platforms to securely and easily manage the complexity of their app landscape.

The second tipping point we're seeing is an interesting dynamic within companies where business units themselves (whether it be marketing, operations, sales units, etc.), want to create their own apps and not wait for IT to design, develop and deliver these apps. So, we see competing forces of IT wanting to control mobile app security and lock things down and the business units wanting to innovate at a much faster pace. That's generally a good indicator for needing a mobile app platform, where IT can set security standards and create the policies, while allowing the business units to choose their own client side development tool to develop whatever app they want to make their business area successful. The access to sensitive business data is then controlled by IT by means of the app platform but without stunting the innovation and inspiration for mobile apps.

Finally, there are traditional enterprise mobility companies who understand the need to use a platform and these are typically companies in the business services or utilities area that have large field sales or service teams. They've been using enterprise mobility software for years, but very often it's a replacement of older devices. They understand that mobility has changed and they're adopting these new platforms.

EME: How do your next generation mobile application platforms deal with legacy applications that they may now want to mobilise for smart devices?

C McGloin: As organisations look at pulling information from older legacy systems to present to smart devices, there are a range of tools to help them do this. These tools allow them to build apps very quickly and to use drag and drop technologies to do it. The key to these tools is the use of a lightweight integration tool such as Java Script and Node.js to connect to back-end legacy systems. This allows us to do two things. One, it allows us to separate the presentation of this older legacy application from the actual system itself. It means the app can focus on user engagement and getting it to do whatever process or transaction that they want it to do, and then use the lightweight Java Script integration to integrate with and get the data from the back-end system quickly, but presented in a form that the mobile app can use.

So, we're really seeing a change in focus moving from the complexity of integration, where in the past it might have been six or 12-month lead times to get an API into those systems to a newer, faster, more mobile, more agile speed of development where the focus is on the front-end interaction. And they're using these lightweight middleware technologies such as Node.js to actually go and get the data and they can do that much, much faster than before. That's probably the biggest trend we're seeing.

EME: How do you see enterprise mobility shaping up in 2014?

C McGloin: I think we'll continue to see a drive towards the mass market adoption of enterprise mobility. Everything will be mobile. There is no distinction now made between the old world of "I have a field sales force" or field service teams that need to be mobilised. Everybody's mobile today, and therefore, we have to get our heads around the fact that it's a mobile first world.

Mobile is the primary means of connecting and getting our information. This is the way information's being consumed today and increasingly where information is coming from. So, we're seeing what we call the up enablement phase beginning to enter that mass market. We're seeing Mobile Device Management software and Enterprise Mobility Management in the mass market phase, so that's step one; securing the device. There is also a closer integration of that phase and the next phase; app enablement, which is rolling out apps on those secure devices to companies.

As companies roll out their fifth, sixth, seventh, tenth, twentieth apps, they'll look to platforms to start to help them to do this. There will be a continued sophistication of these apps and continued engagement of these apps, so companies will accept that apps are not just a smaller screenshot of what can be seen on the web, but actually become a new engagement model. Apps have to engage the user, create a much simpler process, and have a simpler set of features; so we're going to see more of that and a general focus on content and rolling out apps quickly in 2014.

EME: Thanks, Cathal. Finally, I'd like to ask you where do you see technology driving the future of enterprise mobility.

C McGloin: That's an interesting question. Looking to the future of enterprise mobility, I think it's going to be the users rather than technology driving it. The technologies themselves will be tools to support that. It's the newer, more open, agile, and flexible technologies that will assist, but again, it's all about the user and user engagement.

For even more insight into Enterprise Mobility from FeedHenry, download this free whitepaper, Enterprise Mobile Applications: Old School, New Rules.

Categories: Enterprise Mobility Exchange, FeedHenry, Mobile Applications, MAPs, Mobile Strategy, BYOD, MDM, Legacy Systems, User Engagement, IT
Contributor: Robbie Westacott