In June 2011, consumers spent 81 minutes accessing information via apps on a daily basis versus 74 minutes on the mobile web, according to data from Flurry. Looking at it from a slightly different perspective, according to Nokia at MindTrek 2010, on average we look at our phones 150 times per day – once every six and a half minutes of every waking hour, of every day, globally.
For CIOs, this data should act as a stark reminder that the majority of employees working within an organisation are using apps on their smartphones and tablets in their everyday lives. However, the question they should now be asking themselves, if they aren’t already, is how can I use this trend to better equip the workforce?
Apps in enterprise are nothing new. Commentators on this site have looked previously into decisions around platform choice and how consumer apps are being used by businesses. But one of the common misconceptions is that apps are meant to generate a source of income or in some way enhance the branding of an organisation. Although it’s true that the first wave of apps focused on these areas, many of the real benefits are yet to be realised.
Apps designed for employees are often all about improving cross-company communication, collaboration, project management and business process improvement. These apps have far reaching business benefits, enabling employees to fill in time sheets, check their holiday entitlement or monitor the progress of critical tasks. For sales teams, they can help give access to interactive, up-to-date company presentations in one place or provide a snapshot on top prospects or recent wins. For finance teams they can provide live, real-time access to financial data whilst for CEOs there are apps to help them with everything from finances and business development information to networking and corporate communications – such as an app to give employees the CEO’s ‘thought for the day and business insight’.
Now more than ever in corporate history employees are electing to use their own mobile devices rather than ones provided by their company – a trend which many have referred to as the consumerisation of IT. This brings its own challenges. Not only do employees want to access sensitive information on the move, but also on their personal devices. Companies such as Sybase and Juniper have managed to overcome this by securing corporate information on mobile devices but they also have the ability to remove access to apps if employees lose their device or leave the business.
There a number of highly successful examples, predominantly from North America, where organisations have developed internal enterprise apps. In many cases this has involved introducing enterprise app stores that deliver specific business needs securely. In the UK, this is being recognized but there is work that needs to be done to help the enterprise market implement the required tools to deliver real business benefits and do this securely. The true benefit of internal apps lies beyond marketing or direct monetization. It lies in the ability to deliver real-time information securely, wherever and whenever it is needed.
Demand for enterprise apps is clear and rising. With the right level of education, awareness and security in place, companies can protect their employees and assets whilst also helping their business expand the ways they interact, collaborate and operate every day.