by Robin Wirz (Guest Author), Handelszeitung, 8. Nov 2012 (original article in German)

Business apps: the more sophisticated they get and the deeper they are integrated into existing systems, the more difficult it is to manage them.

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Mobile applications have evolved enormously in recent years. The first generation mainly consisted of simple games and practical aids, but now many apps are key tools for companies. The introduction of tablet computers in particular has made many companies aware of the strategic potential of mobile applications. They are now developing extensive and powerful apps that make entire business sectors mobile. This includes a growing number of internal company apps, for example for sales or service teams, for process optimization or for mobile intranets. As a result, these applications are coming closer to the core business, are integrated ever deeper into the IT landscape, and contain increasingly large amounts of sensitive or mission-critical data. In addition to raising the level of requirements for security, this also makes traditional IT topics – such as availability and control – key factors again. Companies see themselves confronted by a rapidly growing number of mobile applications, and the growing complexity of these applications makes their development and management more difficult. To master these challenges, new approaches and tools that address the specific circumstances of the mobile domain are necessary.

Higher efficiency

The new possibilities have a positive effect on efficiency and business success. First studies indicate that they can markedly boost both productivity and sales figures. Employees can access current company data everywhere and any time, processes can be simplified and improved, product and service portfolios can be attractively expanded, and new opportunities arise for marketing and customer loyalty.

However, the new possibilities also harbor new challenges for companies. In addition to the greater complexity and higher security requirements generally resulting from deeper integration into the core business and the growing maturity of mobile applications, the mobile world has its own pitfalls. These make application development and management more difficult.

Just maintaining an overview and effective control over all the apps is already a challenging task. Protective measures must also be taken to deal with the loss or theft of these small, mobile devices, since nobody wants to see their valuable company data in the wrong hands.

Management challenges

Weak or missing network connections are a stumbling block. To ensure that users can access the latest information everywhere and any time, as well as to use the apps offline, sophisticated synchronization mechanisms must be employed to copy the data onto the devices. The data volumes must be kept as small as possible, since bandwidth is often limited. Access control, which is normally handled by password requests from a server, must also be equipped to deal with missing network connections. In addition, user monitoring and performance control, similar to website analysis, are necessary to allow user behavior data to be captured while offline, and subsequently be transferred to the server for consolidation.

Controlled distribution of apps to defined target groups is not easy with all the different app stores. All of these vendor-dominated sales channels have their own processes and guidelines, which severely restrict the options for app distribution and updating. Although entirely company-internal apps can be distributed via an internal company app store, this requires a suitable infrastructure and reaches its limits when the mobile software must also be made accessible to external user groups, such as partners, customers or communities.

Using existing, non-mobile methods to meet these challenges rarely proves to be a good choice. The resulting structures become too cumbersome and elaborate, which increases complexity and costs while degrading performance and the user experience.

A remedy is provided by app management systems, which enable the efficient development and management of multiple apps over various platforms and app stores. These systems simplify application development and provide a suitable infrastructure for distributing and synchronizing data for mobile use. This provides an efficient means to distribute mobile applications to different user groups and to monitor and analyze use. Updating problems are mediated by dynamic updating and version control. Finally, these systems can master many security issues and allow for completely new app concepts.

Since it can be expected that the diversity of apps, platforms and devices, as well as the general expectations and complexity, will continue to rise, companies are well advised to tackle this subject now and to invest in suitable systems so that they are well equipped for the future.

Source of original article: www.handelszeitung.ch (in German)

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