Mobile Apps Mean Business

Willie Jow

Willie Jow
Willie Jow is vice president for business operations and mobility product marketing for Sybase.


Mobile phones aren't just for talking anymore. With the release of the iPhone in 2007 and the App Store in 2008, Apple gave consumers the power to download and use all types of applications in a mobile format, including games, utilities, social networking, news, weather, reference, travel and productivity tools. Now, a smartphone user has an at-the-ready assistant for 24/7 access to e-mail, calendar, the Internet and literally thousands of other applications. For smartphone users, availability of applications has shifted from curiosity to expectations.



You can download helpful guidelines on developing apps for the Android platform -- and others -- in our Knowledge Network.

Developers built the initial wave of mobile apps for consumer vs. business use. However, consumers are starting to rely on their mobile phones not just for personal use, but also for professional use, and they are bringing their smartphones into the daily workplace. According to a recent Forrester report, "Understanding Information Worker Smartphone Usage," 13 percent of information workers currently use smartphones for work at least weekly. And the number of information workers using smartphones is predicted to escalate rapidly, hitting 34 percent by 2012.


While the most common mobile apps in the enterprise workplace today are e-mail, Personal Information Management (PIM) tools, and calendaring, users are accustomed to getting much more from their device. Having access only to corporate e-mail on the smartphone does not suffice in the business world any more. Forrester reports that information workers are tapping into mobile application stores or operator portals for a multitude of business-related functions. These include productivity apps, instant messaging, collaboration tools and even more advanced functions such as location-based services.


This move to mobile apps in the enterprise gives IT departments interesting alternatives to make the workforce more productive. Enterprises can take advantage of the features inherent to mobile devices, such as SMS and GPS, to create powerful composite apps that merge smartphone functionality and enterprise systems and can take business to the next level.


To stay ahead in mobilization, IT departments must make critical decisions regarding the company's application strategy and policies. Some important questions to consider:


  • When should you use off-the-shelf mobile business apps from Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and when should you build your own custom tools?
  • How can you securely segment and manage personal and enterprise information on the same mobile device?
  • What types of mobile applications - such as sophisticated context-aware tools - should you prepare for in the enterprise?


Off-the-Shelf vs. Custom Development

The smartphone user is already well-versed in using third-party apps on the mobile phone, including business and productivity tools. So the first consideration in your mobile strategy is whether you use existing business apps or grow your own. A good place to start is to understand the who, what and where of your user base - who in your company is already using mobile devices, what apps they are using for business, and where they most often use them.


Not surprisingly, the top business-focused applications in use today on smartphones are e-mail, information management and calendar apps. According to Forrester surveys, 92 percent of information workers have a mobile e-mail app on their smartphone, while approximately 80 percent have personal contact information and calendar apps. Most often, these applications are preinstalled on the smartphone by the mobile operator.


Beyond e-mail, the various consumer app stores are rife with other popular business-focused applications. Mobile instant messaging and productivity apps are common favorites. Information workers are relying on the apps to read and modify data stored in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF and other popular document types.


Off-the-shelf productivity apps for mobile devices continue to emerge and evolve. To take advantage of this developing trend, a smart IT department may recommend existing apps for the information worker vs. building custom productivity apps for the corporation. Many large ISVs, including CRM-expert SAP, are developing or partnering to create enterprise-ready mobile applications.


While some off-the-shelf consumer applications may be sufficient in the workplace, the majority are not rich enough, and not secured, to address the needs in the enterprise. However, with a multitude of available choices and functions, these apps are good sources of inspiration for what enterprises can achieve with internally developed composite apps targeted to core business functions.


Chris Hazelton, Research Director for Mobile and Wireless at The 451 group, recommended in a recent Webcast that enterprises use off-the-shelf apps for activities that are not core to the specific business or are not significant revenue generators (such as basic company dashboards, visualization tools, job schedulers or expense management tools). Many of these off-the-shelf apps are already in their second or third generation and can connect to the enterprise backend for data input. The corporation must still ensure this data is secure, however, or all potential benefits can be outweighed immediately by sensitive data leaking into unsuitable hands.


Conversely, Hazelton recommended that enterprises spend development budget to build custom mobile apps that give the business a competitive advantage or are critical to revenue generation. These would include apps designed for executives or the sales team that offer new ways of doing business or reaching customers.


A custom app developed by General Motors is a good example of a revenue generator. As reported in InformationWeek, GM is building an iPhone app for its salespeople that will allow them to close a sale of GM's new Chevrolet Cruze from anywhere, not just in the dealership. The app links to videos of the automobile to share with a customer and also allows the salesperson to search inventory and prices. The app not only eliminates the paperwork associated with buying a car, it can also transform how GM makes a sale and potentially lead to key revenue gains for the struggling automaker.


Next page: Apps in the Sandbox


Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post

Mar 22, 2010 11:04 AM BUMP BUMP  says:

Try the new MOBILE phone APPLICATION for FREE on

Jul 2, 2010 5:38 AM Formotus Glen Formotus Glen  says:

There is an alternative to off-the-shelf apps or custom application development. Formotus enables the rapid creation of custom mobile business apps without writing a line of code. Design mobile business forms once that connect directly to your SharePoint or other business systems, then deploy business apps across platforms on all kinds of mobile devices including Android and Windows Mobile. Formotus mobile business apps are all unique, and are suitable for data collection, signature capture, field service dispatch, workflow approvals, site inspections and more. Check it out at

Aug 30, 2010 11:58 AM ANolan ANolan  says:

This is an excellent article in confirming that there seems to be very limited good business Apps for the mobile smart phone spectrum. Recently found an very useful time management App that would be ideal for Lawyer, Accounts or any company that wants to track & tag calls for work purposes. A company called covers a key area for the corporate Fortune 1000 that has to manage the spiraling costs associated with minutes & data plans. Software companies need to now address the business climate for success.

Nov 20, 2010 12:36 PM Araba Araba  says:

Many companies have deployed some form of mobile email for the workforce as their first foray into wireless applications. Yet some are still hesitant to deploy applications that enable connectivity to back-office systems. Despite the maturity and success of most email deployments, companies are still highly cautious when looking at more complex applications. They worry about complexity, deployment costs, security, user reluctance to work on small devices, and -- having been unsuccessful in early implementations -- they are often gun-shy about trying again. Yet this reluctance to deploy applications is outmoded thinking. Forward-thinking companies are deploying mobile applications in a short time, at reasonable cost, and often on existing infrastructure. And they are reaping significant gains in end-user productivity and business efficiency.

araba oyunlari

Nov 24, 2010 2:33 AM Calgary Calgary  says:

this market will continue to grow and the new businss applications hitting the market monthly.  It's a competitive advantage if you have the right applications.

Dec 24, 2010 6:09 AM Revenue Generation Software Revenue Generation Software  says:

This article addresses a common trend in the marketplace, growth of enterprise mobile applications. With iOS and Android operating systems now dominating the US market mobile app developers now have only a few platforms to focus on. Platform simplification will drive consumer adoption and subsequently enterprise adoption. Regarding buying enterprise apps from ISVs or building your own custom tools, it depends on the functionality required. Our company, Lead Liaison, an ISV is working on a number of Software as a Service (SaaS) applications for revenue generation that provide marketing automation, lead tracking, and other resources for sales and marketing teams to give businesses competitive advantage. With SaaS, its easier to provide secure applications to enterprises since the solutions are hosted and not running native on the employees handset. It's true, now that smart phones come with wifi, SMS, and GPS functionality enterprise apps, as well as ours, will leverage this functionality. It will be interesting to watch the enterprise mobile app market and smart phone adoption evolve over the next five years.

Jan 4, 2011 1:45 AM Robert Robert  says:

I'd be really surprised if mobile app sales doesn't begin to take over enterprise software in sales.

Mar 22, 2011 7:01 AM Mark Warburton Mark Warburton  says:

The article is very comprehensive in outlining the mobile apps that contribute to efficient business practise. However, I would like to add that precautions must be outlined in dealing with potential data loss and mobile misuse. Mobile devices were originally used solely for personal reasons, so the transition to a clean business tool might not be as simple as we hope. The article below provides a short, succinct overview of these potential pitfalls.

Mark at IDG Connect

Oct 2, 2011 11:08 AM latest news today latest news today  says: in response to Calgary

well I think these design mobile business forms once that connect directly to your SharePoint or other business systems, then deploy business apps across platforms on all kinds of mobile devices including Android and Windows Mobile....

Nov 30, 2011 12:27 PM Lucy Lucy  says: in response to latest news today

These days customized mobile applications that are tailored to specific business requirement are getting rather popular. The mobile apps allow employees to work at any time and from anywhere via mobile devices.

Apps offer great potential to market your business, network, boost customer service and enhance the way staff work on the move and communicate with one another.

Should you be interested-please visit our website

Jan 1, 2012 1:39 AM Suchmaschinenoptimierung Suchmaschinenoptimierung  says:

Well I think according to Forrester surveys, 92 percent of information workers have a mobile e-mail app on their smartphone, while approximately 80 percent have personal contact information and calendar apps.

Sep 27, 2012 11:12 PM Mobility Management and the CIO Mobility Management and the CIO  says:
Excellent post! Like this..Thanks for sharing! Reply

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