We have come to take the intuitive, seamless nature of the mobile user experience for granted. As these expectations are now infiltrating business, healthcare, government, education and other sectors, the turn of the year represents a timely opportunity to reflect on how far mobility has come and what lies ahead in 2014.
Mobile apps are increasingly being used as a complement to (and even a replacement for) traditional, siloed enterprise applications — bringing user-friendliness, agility and virtual collaboration to day-to-day business processes.
This is prompting a rethink of the role of various functions within the business, most notably that of IT. As organizations venture beyond a handful of app deployments and establish formalized BYOD initiatives, they are maturing towards more strategic and cohesive mobile strategies. A combination of new technologies and approaches are needed to support this maturation.
Four distinct tipping points are emerging, combining to shift organizations from a “there’s a mobile app for that” mentality to an “apps are how I do business” mindset. These are:
1. From Simplicity to Sophistication
Now that organizations have dipped their toe in the water and successfully rolled out some basic apps, they have a growing appetite for more apps serving broader and more complex use cases. This invariably means pushing data to multiple devices and connecting to diverse enterprise applications and systems of record. The point at which an organization tips from a couple of apps with minimal back-end integration to multiple apps across multiple devices connecting to multiple systems demands a substantially different approach.
2. From BYOD to App Enablement
BYOD is here to stay. As organizations have embraced enterprise mobility Management (EMM) implementations over the past couple of years, they have found these to increasingly intersect with app development initiatives. Once the initial flurry of BYOD/EMM initiatives abates, many are discovering their focus on app projects has been somewhat neglected in favor of device management. In recognition, organizations are prompted to take a more joined-up approach to “app enablement”, rather than regarding device management and app development as separate entities.
3. From Gatekeeper to Enabler
Never before have lines of business been so tech-savvy or IT so commercially-minded. Whereas once enterprise software was fully centralized, provisioned, governed and managed by IT, consumerization has led to a greater understanding and control of app projects by business units themselves. Armed with smart devices and off-the-shelf toolkits, lines of business now play a more active role in deciding what features and apps they need to streamline everyday operations and transform business processes. In parallel, IT oversees infrastructure, security and compliance, together with any connectivity to back-end enterprise systems. IT’s metamorphosis from gatekeeper to enabler, and the accompanying shift of business units from passive users to active specifiers of mobile apps, demands organizations take a more open and flexible approach to software application development and management.
4. From Old School to New Rules
Traditional big-budget software implementations with long development cycles are no match for the nimbleness of mobile apps. Designed for speed, user-friendliness and ease of access, mobile apps have turned enterprise software development on its head. However, the old school rules of security, scalability and availability are no less valid, and must be balanced with expectations for open, extensible, agile, flexible app development. Speed to market depends on being able to accelerate development cycles, facilitate upgrades and provide on-demand scalability.
These tipping points have implications for organizational culture and structure, as well as software architecture, development approaches, tools, standards and underlying IT infrastructure.
As these tipping points converge and mindsets begin to evolve accordingly, organizations are looking to open, agile, cloud-based platforms. These are designed to support ever-decreasing development cycles for a growing catalog of apps that connect securely to a complex network of back-end systems and services.
In 2014, expect to hear increasing talk of reusable code, API management, mobile backend-as-a-service, open source plug-ins, out-of-the box apps, flexible cloud deployment, cross-platform development and node.js runtime.
These hallmarks herald a new era of enterprise-grade platform technology that will enable organizations to tip into a mobile-first approach that will serve them as a disruptive force, rather than a source of business disruption.