I recently had a question about my take on enterprise mobile application development and deployment and this is a big subject so thought I’d pen a quick response for the blog.My short answer is quite simple – HUGE. Enterprise is where the majority of all application development will focus for the foreseeable future. If I could use a battered analogy here, when it comes to mobile applications and impact of those applications, the iceberg is the potential, the tip is the consumer market, the rest is the enterprise market.
Why is the enterprise app market so big?
Scale and competition. We’ve already seen killer examples of mobile implementation at companies like Best Buy and Pepsi for different reasons. Companies are deploying mobile applications to administer their IT infrastructure from afar, manage the sales funnel from the road, invoice, bill, collect payment on the spot, quote for services, report accidents and pay for parking – all from mobile applications. Most of these are pilot projects and most are out there looking for efficiencies – both internally for the company and externally for the consumer.
Take something as simple as collecting payments on the spot. This has been done by cheque for, well, ever but mobile will make this a more efficient process. We’ve recently seen portable POS systems for debit and credit cards but the equipment hasn’t been deployed to its fullest. Hand everyone a smartphone and their customers will be paying by credit card, PayPal, Facebook credits, whatever. The app economy has taught us to ask for cash up front – an efficiency that retail stores get and mobile will help the services side adopt as well.
My kids won’t use a desktop computer to do their jobs. They are just 4 years old and already embrace technology as no other generation before them and this is what the enterprise must build towards. The generation just entering the workforce is connected and works in drastically different ways from other generations – technology is an enabler not the end game – so enterprises large and small, consumer-focused or business-focused, need to start bring enabling mobile applications into their business and quickly.
Training the business
The consumerization of the enterprise is already happening with employees looking for ways to make their jobs more efficient. We are seeing enhanced applications that tie into Salesforce.com, on-device CRM applications, inventory applications and meeting applications. These are just the start of the business training that is happening whether enterprises like it or not. There is a blurred line between the consumer and the employee and that will blend into one quicker than anyone imagines.
How to cope?
Embrace this but do it with a strategy. Mobile is not a yes or no proposition and starting from one stance (open or closed) without a specific outcome in mind will limit enterprise growth and ultimately the ability to attract and retain customers and employees. Look at the specific holes mobile can fill (the aforementioned speeding up billing/invoicing/in-the-bank example from above) and implement. First steps in mobile don’t have to be huge, but you do need to take them…and soon.