If you’ve made even a few steps toward making your business better through the introduction of mobile apps and the mobilization of core business processes, you’re well aware that developing apps for a mobile environment is a completely different beast than desktop application development.
It’s nearly night and day, in fact, as mobile poses a significant number of unique challenges. This blog uses a canine-inspired mnemonic to illustrate some of the ways mobile differs from desktop.
But by keeping the following mobile-specific characteristics in mind, your organization will be best positioned to deliver business-critical mobile apps that enhance the user experience, maintain the security of the network, reduce downtime and create a foundation for future innovation and business enablement.
Inside-the-enterprise connectivity is nearly always high-speed, reliable and persistent. That’s not usually the case with mobile connectivity. Mobile apps must be designed to function across a wide spectrum of mobile environments. An app designed to run on a private WiFi network with free range access to the corporate network, for example, can run into performance issues when end user access the file from outside the company’s facilities.
Another common pitfall of mobile app design stems from the erroneous assumption that connectivity issues can be mitigated through VPNs – or that VPNs are risk free. The reality is that VPNs are session based and prone to drop those sessions, forcing users to frequently repeat the log-in process. This can be a usability nightmare.
The optimum approach to overcoming connectivity challenges associated with mobile apps is to design apps that are not session based, work while coverage is intermittent, and conserve battery life. Equally important is the adoption of an Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solution that supports secure connectivity without the implementation of session-based VPNs.
2. Data on Demand
Leveraging push technology is an important and often overlooked attribute of mobile application development. While mostly associated with the delivery of user notifications, push and synch technologies deliver significant value by enabling mobile apps to work when users are offline. A key factor to consider when building mobile apps is that business apps need to work whenever and wherever they can provide the most value. A field service worker, for example, will need access to critical ticket data from remote areas with no coverage, or a traveling executive may need access to business intelligence from 35,000 feet.
These use cases can be accommodated by either pushing full enterprise data content to the application or leveraging a “poke and pull” method in which the user is notified that device synchronization is needed. A mobile application environment that can incorporate push and synchronization capabilities into application design offers the best way to ensure your users gain access to information when they need it.
3. Integrated Application Management
An unappreciated aspect of application development is the management of those applications. This includes all of the components of comprehensive lifecycle management, including application testing, rollout, updates and retirement. Mobility brings an entirely new level of complexity to application management – and that’s especially true of BYOD environments – not found with desktop environments. The biggest mobility wild card is the frequency of app and OS upgrades in the mobile sphere.
Mobile apps, especially those that have become critical to a business, carry with them the expectation that the IT department will provide immediate fixes and upgrades. To handle the variety of devices and operating systems your employees use, you’ll require a comprehensive way to manage the various apps as you migrate, approve or deploy them. An enterprise application store provides a valuable resource for application management and can be leveraged to provide optional value-add apps for employees to download on their own. See this ZDNet blog for a list of enterprise app store benefits.
4. Unique User Experience
The usability gulf between the desktop and mobile environment is both wide and deep. Given their limited screen space and tightly integrated input interfaces, mobile devices require design considerations that differ dramatically from desktop apps. Battery usage, of course, is also an issue in the mobile environment, as are differences in usability. Workers conducting business from a mobile device are often on the road and likely to be under time constraints or in an environment plagued with distractions. Apps that require the user to launch multiple processes, for example, could impose usability barriers that limit or curtail productivity.
Mobile computing and communications require a unique user experience, completely distinct from a desktop environment. Enterprises that adopt development platforms that enable the creation of apps that provide the ability to reach mission critical information through a simplified user experience that is consistent across multiple platforms will make huge strides toward realizing their enterprise mobility ambitions.
5. Integrated Security
Given that the principal outcome of the next phase of the mobilization of the workforce is the increased accessibility of behind-the-firewall data to mobile devices, security is a crucial consideration of mobile app development. It cannot be an afterthought – baked into apps after they are deployed to the workforce. Instead, enterprises need to ensure that mobile apps are constructed from scratch – or amenable to “app wrapping” procedure — to conform to security policies that protect against data leakage or third-party intrusions into the network through malware or ill-intentioned hackers.
Mobile apps are more likely than not to reside on smartphones and laptops that contain personal information and open access to social networks and other destinations outside the enterprise. To guard against leakage and exfiltration of company information, organizations need to fortify mobile apps, and content associated with those apps, with the ability to be segregated from personal data residing on the same smartphone or laptop. Device management containerization has emerged as a viable mechanism for segregating work data from personal applications and information.
The Transformative Power of Multi-Platform Mobile App Development takes a comprehensive look at the state of mobile enterprise apps. Designed as a guideline to assist CIOs and other business leaders through the planning of a mobile app development strategy, the white paper provides useful advice on overcoming the unique challenges of mobile development to unlock the business-transforming benefits of the next stage of enterprise mobility.