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Apperian CEO: Mobile app adoption hinges on usability

When it comes to deploying mobile apps, user experience is just as important as security, Apperian CEO Brian Day says. Plus, he explains why MDM isn't dead.

BOSTON -- As organizations develop and deliver mobile apps to their employees, both the value and security of apps all comes back to usability.

Apps still need to follow corporate security policies, but a rich user experience will drive mobile app adoption in the first place, said Brian Day, president and CEO of Apperian Inc., a mobile application management (MAM) software provider based in Boston. At the company's Mobile App Meetup here earlier this month, Day discussed the current role of mobile device management (MDM) and explained the trends behind native app development.  

What are the biggest mobile trends today?

Brian Day, CEO, ApperianBrian Day

Brian Day: We are finally starting to see more and more native apps being built. For a while, people were saying HTML5 is the way they will solve a problem, but HTML5 doesn't give anywhere near the same rich user experience that people want. It all comes back to usability. If the graphics are good, it's fast, it works [and] it fits my device screen perfectly, that's the app I'm going to use. And the only way to get that is for it to be a native app.

That's one of the big changes we're starting to see. There are a lot of good development tools out there.

What are your thoughts on the recently formed AppConfig Community, which promotes enterprise mobility management vendor-neutral standards for mobile app development?

Day: It's about getting apps out to as many people as they can and making them as useable as they can. I think it's a signal that the MDM companies, like AirWatch and MobileIron, have realized that locking down devices isn't enough. Customers need to get apps out to as many people as possible, as securely as possible.

In the long run, it'll have to be standards-based. In three years, IT will not want 17 vendors solving 17 different problems. They'll want three or four. There has to be consolidation in the industry. You won't have Apperian for contractors, and Microsoft for certain employees, and AirWatch for others and so on. It doesn't make sense in the long run.

What other challenges do mobile app developers encounter?

In three years, IT will not want 17 vendors solving 17 different problems.
Brian DayCEO, Apperian

Day: The [operating system] changes so frequently. Every time Apple comes out with a new version of iOS, developers have to scramble to make sure their apps work. It's a lot of work. And for a small development company, it's kind of thankless work. Customers have already paid for the app. They aren't going to pay you to make sure it works on iOS 10, because they assume it's going to. All the work you are doing to keep up with the changing of the OSes, you aren't making any money doing that stuff. That's a challenge.

Apple has added some notable security features. Which are key for IT?

Day: Apple iOS has VPN built in now. Android does not have that yet, so the problem we continue to run into is [an organization] may have 10,000 iOS devices and five Android devices, but you still have to support Android. Otherwise, you have five employees who can't use your stuff. Apple does a great job of keeping up with stuff like that. We make sure we leverage Apple's app VPN, but we had to make our own for Android, because they don't have one at this point.

What are some examples of complex business apps?

Day: The apps that really matter are apps that enable field workers. Maybe they have pricing information in them. Toyota is a customer of ours. If you're a salesperson sitting in the lot with a customer, you want to be able to answer exactly what options a specific car comes with. Does it have a sound system or an upgraded navigation? These are critical apps.

Is MDM useless, or does IT need a combo of device and app management?

Day: At the end of the day, devices aren't going away. In certain sectors of the economy, such as financial institutions, they want to make sure that device is locked down. MDM definitely has a place.

What we see a lot is a call for running MAM and MDM simultaneously on a device. We have a number of customers who have MDM on a device, but then run Apperian on top of that to secure the app, so they'll have security at the device level and security at the app level.

Senior managing editor Alyssa Wood contributed to this report.

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How do you ensure that mobile apps provide a strong user experience?
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Corollary to UX I'd stress on Accessibility. Ensure that your product does not discriminate users by their preferences. For examples, some "baby boomers" may need large fonts and high contrast in order to use the application. If the app is not flexible enough they'd switch to another product.
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