Mobile Apps – A New Challenge for IT

Karl McDermott
On: 8 Sep 2015
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In the last few years, cloud applications have revolutionised how economically pressured organisations manage information and consume and pay for their IT. As these pressures wane, mobile apps could achieve similar scales of change, but this time around helping businesses to innovate – in both how they work internally and how they interact with their customers.

Mobile apps can help IT extend, change and improve processes, productivity and business performance, without the pain of having to re-invent every core system from scratch. However there are challenges to making them a success, for example managing user expectation and technology integration.

In terms of the user, today’s employee or customer is a different beast. Most now have a fair degree of knowledge of mobile technology and this is going to increase in the future. This knowledge might alleviate the challenge of up-skilling the workforce or overcome customer resistance, but a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing! There can be expectations to manage around what mobile apps can and should do. IT has a whole new `extended family’ of technology-aware stakeholders to deal with, who will not accept second-best in terms of app quality and usability.

Consider the likely variety of business functions’ motivations around mobile apps. Sales see them as dynamic tools to help them perform on the job and close business; finance want the cost effective and lowest risk option; HR want to make life easier for staff and marketing want to give customers a new and exciting experience. And in terms of customers, mobile apps must account for a wide demographic mix and technology attitude.

IT has to get the app right for the user. IT also needs to think about integration and control, with senior software executives recently stating that CIOs must regain control of mobile app development. Whether building internal business apps or external ones to engage the customer, IT needs to take the lead role and ensure that integration with the systems needed to `feed’ the app is managed securely and robustly.

In my view the following steps are essential considerations for IT managers formulating their mobile apps strategy:

  • Openly consult business stakeholders and map out their motivations and desires as part of the project brief;
  • Find effective ways of collaborating with users on ongoing app development, for example DevOps, collaboration tools, or early user testing;
  • Do not lose sight of IT’s objectives – security, integration and retaining control of application and mobile usage policies.
  • Seek specialist partners who know mobile app development inside out and can utilise pre-built app frameworks that will dramatically reduce the time and expense involved;
  • Ensure the integrity of the data on the mobile device and app through the use of appropriate mobile device management tools.
  • Start simple with basic functionality that can be gradually developed through future iterations. This speeds time to market and avoids costly mistakes about the app’s direction which become harder to reverse.

Mobile business apps present a new challenge for IT and a huge opportunity for business, but the approach taken to their development and use is critical to success.