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As users call for more mobile applications, enterprises must develop a mobile app strategy to meet the demand. But, it's important to only include apps that truly bring value to the organization.
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There's been a shift in the focus of mobility in the enterprise. Until recently, the attention was on controlling devices and making sure users could easily access their email, calendar and contacts. Many organizations had doubts about the need to deploy -- and in some scenarios, develop -- mobile applications. Others were simply happy to take a wait-and-see approach.
The wait is over, and there is an immediate need for enterprises to adopt a mobile app strategy that fulfills business requirements and focuses on meeting users' needs and expectations. In fact, Gartner estimates demand will outpace the capacity to develop mobile apps five to one by the end of 2017. Whether or not you think your organization will experience such a large spike in mobile app demand, the presence of mobile apps is going to increase significantly in the next couple of years.
There are at least three parts to every effective mobile app strategy: Prioritizing what goes into an application portfolio, selecting universal app development tools, and establishing governance and standards.
Prioritize the application portfolio
Organizations are comprised of many different lines of businesses with many different needs and requirements for mobile applications. Whether an organization plans to handle app development internally, buy off-the-shelf products or outsource projects, IT needs to identify the list of mobile opportunities and prioritize them.
Prioritizing what goes into the application portfolio is an objective process that should identify the goals of each initiative, decide how they align with the overall goals of the business and determine which app initiatives bring the highest value to the organization. IT should have predetermined evaluation criteria before it starts that process. For example, IT may look for apps that work across several mobile operating systems, or may seek apps for specific units of the business.
By documenting each opportunity, the entire organization gains visibility into its mobile applications. Visibility allows separate parts of the company to see what others are doing. If two groups are working on similar initiatives, they can use the portfolio to share knowledge and resources, which will save time and money.
Select universal app development tools
Every organization will need some level of custom development to meet its mobile application objectives. However, whether the organization meets its needs through internal development or outsourcing varies.
No matter which approach an organization takes, it should standardize its app development tools so everyone is familiar with them. Choosing a set of tools that all developers will use makes support, training, iterations and updates, and portability easier because everything is universal.
In many cases, organizations may create a toolbox with specific development tools used for particular types of applications. No single tool truly meets the needs of all four application types. Mobile Web, hybrid, native and cross-platform applications each have their own set of available tools, so it's ideal for IT to decide on a standard group for each type of application.
Establish governance and standards
Creating an application portfolio and a standard toolbox of app development tools both fall into the larger bucket of governance and standards of mobile app policies and practices across an organization. This way, the mobile app strategy remains consistent through the organization.
Governance and standards prevent organizations from running into fragmented, unmanageable mobile efforts. This process ensures that IT captures and evaluates any mobile requests securely, and consistently delivers applications to the target audience. The process also manages app support and maintenance expectations, defines measures, fosters reusability and encourages knowledge sharing across the organization.
Governance and standards are not meant to stifle innovation or slow down the process of completing mobile initiatives. Instead, they should ensure that business units can deploy mobile devices and apps in a consistent, secure and measurable way. For instance, reference architectures, reusable components, access to corporate resources and security standards can all be used to help breed consistency, no matter who is developing and deploying the mobile apps.
Organizations must have a clear understanding of how to manage application demand so they can control it and make it profitable. The best way to do so is through a clearly defined, documented and communicated mobile app strategy.
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