Gartner principal research analyst, Adrian Leow, gives his thoughts on the latest enterprise mobile app trends, developments in Australia this year and explains how partners can build better apps and leverage new technologies.
“Demand for mobile apps remains strong, but we’re seeing signs of app fatigue setting in,” says Leow. “It’s hardly surprising with more than 1.5 million apps in Google’s Play Store and 1.4 million in Apple’s App Store.
"The original saying of “There’s an app for that!” is now realistically “There’s a thousand apps for that one thing!” It’s making it very difficult to find apps of interest or use.
Leow explains that it is getting harder to make an enterprise app stand out from the noise, not to mention convincing users and employees to download a new app.
Leow says this has led to user experience (UX) growing in importance, rather than functional utility alone, in driving mobile value.
“Capabilities must motivate usage based on the UX, otherwise users will be quick to abandon a mobile capability with a poor UX and return to what they already know — the PC application they’ve used for years, or worse, better designed apps outside your organisational control.
“Given mobile is such an important part of many digital business strategies, this is a real challenge for organisations.
The challenges facing the Enterprise
Leow goes on to say that on average, organisations have at best released about 10 or so apps in the last few years, which he says is ridiculously low considering the productivity gains around mobilising the workforce.
“This is an indication of the nascent state of mobility in most organisations. Many are questioning how to start app development in terms of tools, vendors, architectures or platforms, let alone being able to scale up to releasing 100 apps or more.
He says the majority of businesses are focused on custom mobile app development, rather than customising configurable apps or building from off-the-shelf templates.
"Given most development teams use custom development for all of their apps, extending this to mobile is a natural behaviour.
He also warns that many off-the-shelf mobile apps still require significant development activity to integrate the back-end databases and applications into the mobile app front ends.
New and innovative approaches
A “bimodal” approach is imperative for scaling up enterprise mobile app development efficiently and cost effectively is what Leow recommends for partners and app developers.
“This means managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery – one focused on stability and the other on innovation, speed and agility. It’s the most important aspect to help you scale up app development at speed, while maintaining quality and accuracy,” he says.
“The mobile analytics feedback loop is also a must. The session length of an enterprise app usually ranges from 20 seconds up to only a minute and a quarter – so it’s important the app is very economical, targeted and business function specific.
“If there are things that people aren’t using, you want to get rid of those functions and replace with something that will potentially be used. It’s an iterative process where continuous user feedback loop feeds improvements back to developers.
“Enterprises need to treat mobile apps as products and not projects. Projects are something that you do and then it’s finished once delivered. Mobile apps on the other hand are developed, then nurtured and improved. They change and evolve over time.
Beginning with strong foundations
To succeed in the ever competitive race for mobile app success, Leow says developers should take note of successful app deployment and the foundations behind it.
“Nearly every company with successful mobile strategies have a Mobile Centre of Excellence (MCoE), or a working group of individuals made up of representatives from business units within an organisation with IT acting as a co-facilitator and participant of the group,” he says.
“Almost universally, the MCoE is charged with setting standards and practices for app development and deployment.
The wearable opportunity
While wearable devices may be considered by many to be useful only to the consumer, Leow disagrees, suggesting they offer a wide range of new opportunities to engage customers and employees, and will create innovative experiences and digital business offerings.
“Devices such as smartwatches, smart jewellery or new forms of displays (i.e. smart glasses), provide many discreet ways to notify users without the inconvenience of removing a smartphone from a bag or pocket, such as brief messages, service alerts, non-text alerts or navigation directions.
“Many wearables will support some form of information entry. Although text input using a smartwatch has been demonstrated, it's not very convenient. So for most organisations, the immediate opportunity involving wearables will be for micro-interactions that take a second or two.
"These will be attractive because they're fast and convenient, such as speech input on those wearables that include a microphone.
He says the research firm is starting to see the rise of employee-facing applications, such as multi-factor authentication. A wearable device can act as a proximity token for authentication, whereby an app can be designed to run only if it's within a metre or two of the token, or a PC may automatically lock itself when a user moves away from it.
“Wearables can also be deployed to improve worker effectiveness and safety. Wearable cameras, fall detectors, EEG monitors, headsets and location trackers will be integrated into mobile Internet of Things solutions, enabling new insights from workplace analytics.”