A trio of studies – from Frost & Sullivan, Kinvey and appFigures — points to big growth and change in the business application sector. appFigures found that business apps are enjoying the highest growth rate of any category on Apple’s App Store and are growing quickly on Google Play. Kinvey found that 70 percent of enterprises have or are planning to create a position focusing on mobile strategies. The creation and management of apps is a big part of the position’s mandate.
The third study more directly addresses app adoption by enterprises. Jeanine Sterling, the principal analyst for Mobile and Wireless at Frost & Sullivan, said that a July, 2014 survey showed that 82 percent of responding companies use at least one app and 17 percent use 20 or more. Next year, the survey said, 79 percent will add at least one app to the number they have and 27 percent will add 11 or more.
It is clear that businesses are using more apps for more granular and sophisticated tasks. A variety of dynamics are driving that usage and the way in which enterprise apps are changing as their importance grows.
SMBs Are Using Apps
Sterling points to a couple of reasons that enterprise/business apps are proliferating. A new group of target companies has emerged: There is more interest from small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). It’s not only that SMBs see the value of apps. They also are getting help. She points to a greater willingness on the part of wireless carriers to act as the middleman and help business users get what they need.
Joe Woods, the director of Mobility Solutions for CDW, echoed Sterling’s assessment. He added that it is gradually becoming easier for businesses to find the app or developers that they need. He used CDW’s App Marketplace to illustrate the trend. The marketplace, he said, was created to educate customers and match businesses with vetted developers that have the skills to meet their needs.
Another transition is in precisely what business customers want, Sterling said. She said users are far more sophisticated and willing to look beyond apps’ revenue-generating capabilities. The other advantages apps provide business – for example, greater efficiencies and deeper customer engagement – naturally drive apps’ overall popularity.
Here Come the Departments
Insiders say that more people in the business environment are looking to apps to solve problems or improve processes. Woods points out that lines of business and departments are creating their own apps or doing so in conjunction with IT departments. These are by nature more specialized apps created for specific and often highly specialized purposes. “The sales organization or the field service organization [and others] are coming to recognize that they need apps,” Woods said. “As workforces become more mobile, they’re recognizing and justifying the need.”
Speed is another big issue, and in a couple of ways. Margaret Rimmler, the vice president of Marketing for Kinvey, suggested that a two-tier approach to app creation is emerging. On one hand, the need to get apps out the door quickly – with great “velocity” – has made the long testing and vetting process that enterprises traditionally demand into a relic of the past.
At the same time, the things that those old processes were meant to ensure – security, reliability, ease of use and others – still are important. The basics can be implemented with increasingly common building blocks and perfected over a longer period. The bottom line is that creative ways of building and deploying apps quickly but without compromising on security and in other vital areas are emerging. “Mobile architects are trying to figure out how to enable two-speed IT,” Rimmler said.
It is serendipitous that it is becoming easier to create the apps. appFigures’ Co-Founder and CEO Ariel Michaeli said that Apple is investing a lot in making it easier for developers to create enterprise apps. The Swift programming language, for instance, can ease the creation of business apps and therefore make them more appealing to developers.
Speed also is king when it comes to controlling the apps. Todd Anglin, the vice president of Product Management and Marketing at Telerik, said that organizations must push out updates in minutes or even seconds to users – and can’t depend on workers to do it. “They have to be updated without the manual pull process” in which users are depended upon to install and execute the updates.
It is a rapidly changing world. Anglin points to the trend of making apps look and function uniformly across all interfaces: tablets, smartphones, the Web and PCs – and using analytics to understand the differences in usage patterns between form factors. This knowledge can lead to adjustments that drive usage and increase the value across all the form factors.
In the near future, it will pay to watch how active Google becomes in business apps. Though sales at Google Play increased in the sector, the nature of the marketplace presents challenges for businesses. Google has not been as active in this area as Apple, Michaeli said. The main stumbling block is the Google Play model. It is considered to be inherently less secure and likely discourages developers from building Android for the enterprise. “I think Apple is investing a lot of resources in developing that side of iOS, so it is ready for business and the enterprise,” Michaeli said. “I don’t see as much coming from Google.”
Google no doubt will take steps as the category moves toward being more central to enterprise mobility. The bottom line is that while the focus still is on consumer apps, businesses increasingly are big players. “Apps are out there, being deployed and are on an upward trajectory,” said Frost & Sullivan’s Sterling. “We are not hallucinating.”
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.