If you have read even a small sampling of my posts you know that I am a big believer of the capabilities the future of mobility will bring to the enterprise. I believe this will be brought about through a combination of factors such as BYOD, the Consumerizaiton of IT, ever-present connectivity, economies of scale, etc. However, to temper my excitement is the present nascent state that we find enterprise app functionality. Currently, the enterprise experience on mobile devices exhibits limited capability – meaning – apps unto themselves are feature-rich but fall quite short on integration with cloud and on-premise functionality.
To me, the current state of enterprise ecosystems is a byproduct of the very factor that makes mobility valuable – apps. In a way, the value proposition works against itself. Apps provide users with a specific slice of functionality that meets their exact need at a volume discount price. Yet, when the marketplaces push singular app functionality, integrated enterprise capability is overwhelmed and outflanked. In the long-run isolated app singularity is an enterprise dead-end. However, mobile apps with a singular purpose currently dominate the landscape. What we need is a sort of enterprise app alliances in the form of architecture, functionality, and infrastructure that leverages the value proposition of mobility and marries it to a unified enterprise experience. Apps that are part of this alliance will prevail in the end. Not because they have more functionality (For great posts on why just adding functionality gets you nowhere see Brian Katz’s series on Applications and Crapplications) but because they extend enterprise capability beyond just a specific piece of functionality. They integrate seamlessly with other apps in the enterprise ecosystem thus creating move value for the enterprise.
How does this get translated into app reality? What steps need to be taken? This added value can be achieved with just a slight shift in app development. App developers need to design apps that take into account ecosystem use-cases. If a use-case is a possible functional scenario in an application than an ecosystem use-case is a functional scenario that takes potential ecosystems into perspective. Ecosystem use-cases consider how app functionality fits into functional circles outside of itself. In order to win in the enterprise, companies that develop mobile apps must consider ecosystem use-cases. I can’t stress this enough. In fact, I’ll say it again. Companies that hope to develop enterprise mobile apps MUST think of use-cases beyond their specific app functionality. Those who do so will find that they will have a long and prosperous tenure in the enterprise, those who do not will be relegated to the realm novelty – tossed to the side once their limited value is exposed. Why? Because as apps and users become more sophisticated the added value of ecosystem use-cases will set the standard. Once users in the enterprise get a taste of the capability and efficiency of an app than connects to their ecosystem there’ll be no going back, users will just expect it. By the way – an ecosystem use-case means more than integration with the “share this” functionality of your mobile platform.
I want to be clear that there is a subtle, yet very important, distinction in what I am advocating. I am NOT saying that we need to move away from distinct app functionality toward monolithic apps. The ability to select the exact bit of app functionality is highly important and one of the great value proposition of mobility. Great apps will continue to provide targeted functionality at a decent value. As well though, great enterprise apps will need to extend out into the right ecosystems and present a unified experience to the user.
When it comes to apps in the enterprise space we are currently living those lanky years where we are growing really fast, our feet are too big, pants too short, and our voice can’t decide if it is a tenor or an alto. Some of us will grow into our bodies and be able to work together in harmony. Those that still trip over their feet will falter and fail. What gaps in apps for enterprise do you see needing to be filled? Do you use any apps that you feel do a good job of integrating with your ecosystem? What do you envision possible for enterprise ecosystems? Post a comment and let me know!
Benjamin Robbins is one of the founders of AdminBridge – providing IT Administration from mobile devices. For more information visit http://adminbridge.com