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Analysis: Enterprise apps – The future of the mobile worker

The proliferation of mobile devices within the workplace, coupled with the expansion of cloud computing and advances in mobile device security, is transforming businesses and bringing to reality a truly mobile workforce.

The proliferation of mobile devices within the workplace, coupled with the expansion of cloud computing and advances in mobile device security, is transforming businesses and bringing to reality a truly mobile workforce.

Previously confined to marketing campaigns and customer engagement strategies, many businesses globally are realizing how mobile apps can not only add value to their customers’ experience, but also revolutionise their business processes. An Aberdeen survey of 240 enterprises suggests that overall, the use of mobile apps designed to help employees completing their work, increased productivity by 45% and raised operational efficiency by almost as much (44%).
The recent report from Strategy Analytics, entitled ‘Growth in Mobile Worker Use of Applications for Business Processes, Collaboration, Productivity’ highlights that businesses across a wide range of industry sectors are reaping the benefits mobile applications can deliver, through improved efficiency and productivity. The report suggests hundreds of millions of mobile workers are already using business collaboration applications. Additionally, CRM and ERP applications will be used by tens of millions by 2017, according to the latest Strategy Analytics Mobile Workforce Strategies (MWS) report, “Global Mobile Enterprise Business Applications User Forecast, 2011-2017.”
According to Gina Luk, Senior Analyst of Mobile Workforce Strategies and author of the report, “With an eye toward becoming mobile businesses, today’s organizations are committed to mobilizing critical applications by ensuring that workers have access anywhere, including at home, at remote work and customer sites, and while traveling. Use of 3G and 4G Wi-Fi networks provide the bandwidth needed for accessing business applications on mobile devices. In addition, enterprise mobile app stores enable workers to download applications for the mobile devices.”
Mark Levitt, Director of Enterprise Software and Communications, added, “Mobility is not just for email and calendaring anymore. Today’s mobile devices and software enable workers to be productive by making it possible for the mobile user to access CRM, ERP and many other business applications and data.”
Enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management are a natural fit for mobile apps due to the ability to facilitate the flow of real time information, regardless of time or location.
Mubaloo has seen an increasing shift towards enterprise applications for the workforce, and has helped various clients consider their internal infrastructure and look at how their businesses processes could be improved through the use of business critical mobile apps.
These applications can cover any part of the workforce and automate and mobilise any number of processes. For example, one area of app development that has been in high demand is the use of iPad presentation apps by sales teams. Due to their very beautiful and interactive nature, iPad’s lend themselves very nicely to sales teams who want to deliver professional and compelling presentations to potential clients.
Pharmaceutical companies, such as Roche and Novartis, were amongst the first to see the potential that iPad apps could deliver to their sales force, deploying custom apps within months of the original iPad launch. As companies have realised the potential that tablets can bring, these apps have now evolved to integrate with their back office CRM and ERP systems to create a mobile toolkit for the user.
At the other end of the spectrum, UNITE, the UK’s leading operator of student accommodation wanted to develop an app that would mobilize their facilities teams. With such a large portfolio of properties to upkeep, UNITE wanted to utilize mobile technology to give employees easy access to view, update and schedule job information in real time, wherever they were. This innovative app entitled UNITE Maintenance, has revolutionized UNITE’s business process. As well as the benefits to the Facilities teams, UNITE’s head office can view all of the job details in real time and even see where the employees are, thereby enabling them to plan and schedule more efficiently.
These are just a couple of examples, but it is clear that many businesses are benefiting through whole suites of various, process related apps. Be it through the use of a beautiful and interactive presentation app, a cost saving employee communication app, or dashboard app that gives an overview of real time business information; there are many guises in which the value of bespoke enterprise applications can be realised within businesses.
Symantec’s State of Mobility Survey 2012 talks about us having reached a tipping point in the business use of mobile devices and, in line with Strategic Insight’s report, suggests that as many as 71 percent of surveyed businesses are now looking at implementing a corporate “store” for mobile applications.
So why the shift? What has been the tipping point?
Mobile technology has reached a point where businesses are realistically able to consider bringing mobile devices into their security infrastructure. The growth of mobile devices, coupled with the expansion of cloud computing, access to 3G (and soon 4G) and WiFi networks and advances in mobile device security, have all had a significant impact on us reaching this so called tipping point.
As well as this, one particularly relevant trend is the notion of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). BYOD has brought to the forefront the challenge of employees wanting to access sensitive information on the move, from their personal devices – something businesses are unable to ignore.  As recent as a year ago, this would have scared many IT department, but Good’s Technology State of BYOD Report 2011 suggests that many large businesses are looking to actively encourage it with as many as 72 percent of respondents actively encouraging BYOD within their organisation.  Through education and enhancements in security, businesses are becoming more comfortable with bringing in procedures that ensure they are able to manage the mobile devices securely, either themselves or through a Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform like those offered by Good Technology, MobileIron and Zenprise.
This is not to say that embracing mobile technology is without its challenges, far from it. But now is the time to consider how businesses can make sure their internal infrastructure is ready, minimize these risks and really add value to their business by utilizing mobile technology. As Good’s report concludes “enterprises must take a proactive approach if they are to compete effectively with their peer companies, maximize the productivity of their employees, and ensure ongoing security and compliance in an ever-increasingly mobile and BYOD world.”
There is no doubt that mobile apps and the use of mobile devices in the workplace are revolutionising the business environment. If you give your employees access to information wherever they are, at any time, therefore enabling them to be constantly ‘connected’, they are likely to be more productive than if they have to wait to come back into the office to access the information they need. But, as the Strategic Insight highlights, mobile apps should not just be about mobilizing particular applications. But actually businesses have a lot more to gain by looking at the mobile workers’ business processes and considering suites of apps that can aid in making these processes more efficient.
Mobile enterprise applications are enabling businesses to maximise employee productivity regardless of the location or time, bringing to reality a truly mobile workforce. It is my vision that in the future companies will run their entire organisations; their business processes and day-to-day functions, through smartphones and tablets. In effect, mobile devices will become a company’s intranet as well as improving the efficiencies and collaboration of teams within those businesses.
As mobile devices become more entwined in the way we live our lives and do our jobs, business leaders need to consider how to make the most of mobile devices within their organisation, and the value bespoke applications may be able to add.
Featured in The Drum, April 2012

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