As soon as mobile phones and tablets begin rolling out in an enterprise, you know it’s only a matter of time before someone says “We should introduce an app”. Is that a sensible idea? It very much depends on the circumstances, and it certainly isn’t the case that moving to supporting mobile devices means you also have to roll out newly-developed mobile apps for your workforce.
Mobile picture from Shutterstock
This is an extract from Lifehacker’s ebook Making Mobility Real: How To Choose The Right Tech For Your Business. You can download the entire ebook for free here.
Here’s the central truth: If there’s a single application upon which the business is highly reliant AND it isn’t already available in a relevant format AND you know that the majority of staff will be using it in that format, then the expenditure and effort of developing a mobile app for a specific platform (or platforms) can be worthwhile. However, if you can’t match up to all three of those conditions, then it can make sense to consider a different approach.
If there’s a single app which is high value but which is only needed by a small proportion of your staff, then trying to port it to a separate mobile platform is of questionable value — your money would be better spent ensuring it can be delivered on relevant laptops. If the same or similar functionality is available in existing commercial apps, then utilising those will generally be more efficient (and also easier to integrate into your choice of MDM platform). If you’ve committed to allowing a diverse choice of hardware platforms, then concentrate your app deployment efforts on tools that are available either on a wide variety of platforms in native formats, or utilise web-based apps. While these won’t always have the slickness of a native app, they will require far less development effort and will work over a wider variety of platforms.
(Note that this is a separate question to whether your overall enterprise needs to develop mobile apps for use in business-to-consumer scenarios. That can be a strategy worth considering, but it will be driven much more heavily by marketing considerations rather than internal technology needs.)