Rapid Mobile App Development Works—But Not Without Management

Gone are the days of mobile app development being a long, expensive process—at least in the enterprise.

Although the developers of Angry Birds probably didn’t know at the time how much their app would take off, one thing’s for certain: they didn’t set out to create an app with a terrible user experience. They wanted a mobile app with depth that would cater to as wide an audience as possible, with all the right features and nothing cut-and-paste.

One of the biggest differences between the consumer and enterprise mobile app worlds is that a feature-rich, native platform, extensive mobile app doesn’t really add more users. If an enterprise has 5,000 employees, that’s the top limit. No amount of new features or rich user experience add-ons will increase the number of employees using that app past 5,000.

That challenge is a big part of the reason many enterprises have grown unwilling to commit to pairing up with a developer and a mobile application development platform (MADP) to develop rich, immersive mobile apps in a native environment. These sorts of apps are expensive, take a long time to produce, and don’t necessarily increase adoption. Why spend a quarter of a million dollars to produce an app when theoretically, an app developed at a fraction of the cost because it’s simpler would work just fine?

Enter what Gartner calls Rapid Mobile App Development (RMAD). Companies like Snappii, Globo, and Out Systems have turned the MADP principle on its head. Instead of devoting months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to building an app, rapid mobile app development presents a codeless (in most cases) environment so simple that nearly anyone in the enterprise can throw an app together in just a few minutes. This lets business owners or decision makers get things done quickly and simply.

The RMAD approach is excellent for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is how it allows players in the enterprise to quickly manage apps and bring critical business elements mobile. But it also introduces a new problem: enterprise mobile app management.

When an enterprise is only developing, say, 2 apps with the traditional MADP approach, investing time, money, and a lot of labor into helping the workforce go mobile, it’s not imperative that they have a solution in place to manage the apps. 2 mobile apps in the enterprise is essentially a one-off, and it doesn’t take a lot of brain damage to manage those apps.

When you’re quickly churning out apps to meet a variety of different needs, however, perhaps even creating seasonal apps that may only be relevant for a few months at a time, you’ve taken a non-issue and put it at the forefront. You have all these apps—and that’s great—but how are you going to manage them? You need to get on an enterprise mobile application management platform if you want to have a positive user experience, high adoption rates, and perhaps most importantly, a true ROI.

For many of the clients we work with, rapid mobile app development just works. It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s efficient, and it gives employees everything they need and nothing they don’t. If your enterprise switches over to an RMAD model, though, don’t leave management out of the equation. With lots of balls up in the air, MAM is the key to a successful rapid mobile app development approach.

RMAD may take less investment up-front, but that doesn’t mean you get to ignore management over the long run. Go ahead and rapidly develop your mobile apps for the enterprise—just make sure that doesn’t come at the expense of a sustainable mobility program.

Posted in EMM, Enterprise App Store, Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Mobility Management, MAM, Mobile Application Management | Leave a comment

The One Key Enterprise Takeaway from Mobile World Congress

This week marks two weeks passed since Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona. As one of the (if not the) world’s biggest mobile-focused shows, every year, MWC is the place to be for cutting-edge mobile tech, trends, news, and more.

We’ve had some time to digest all the news coming out of the show over the last few weeks. What did we find? Well… a lot.

Some of the biggest themes seem to be mobile security and management—both of which are good for us. BlackBerry is bringing cloud-based enterprise mobility management to the masses, a host of companies released new mobile apps, Android for Work is getting bigger (and so is security), and hundreds of other companies are all hopping on the enterprise mobility train. Which is great.

There’s one trend we don’t quite get, though: wearables. After seeing the slow adoption rate of mobile apps and BYOD—nearly the pace of a snail—why does everyone suddenly think that wearables in the enterprise are going to take off at the speed of light?

We’re still working on building enterprise apps for devices built two to three or more years ago, not to mention addressing ongoing security concerns with BYOD and enterprise mobility. For us, then, the thought that a new, unknown technology like wearables will enter the enterprise, see quick adoption, and suddenly have tons of features behind it seems a little silly.

What’s going to be the business driver for this tech? Don’t get us wrong—wearables are cool. We’ll probably be getting our hands on Apple Watches this year. But let’s not forget the pace of enterprise. Almost nothing happens quickly.

Although we do like the idea of this new technology, our key takeaway is that wearables probably aren’t the next big thing in the enterprise—at least not yet. Let’s get our current tech sorted out before we jump on the bandwagon and hope for the next big thing to take off.

Posted in EMM, Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Mobility Management, MAM | Leave a comment

What My Neighbor’s New Mobile App Can Teach Enterprises About ROI

The other day, a neighbor of mine called me in need of help. She said her laptop got a virus and she wasn’t sure what to do. As the neighborhood’s resident geek (shocking, right?) I said I’d be happy to help.

I gladly fixed the laptop, and as it turned out, she needed help setting up her email on her brand new iPhone 6, too. Her work was moving away from their network solutions-based email provider to a new system, and she wasn’t exactly sure how best to configure it.

I’ll interject by saying that my neighbor is the very definition of a mobile worker. Without naming names, she works for a fairly large healthcare provider as a physical therapist. She helps people recover from surgery by providing PT service in the home.

At face value, the new system her work is using—a mobile app—seems like a win. Great, right? Well, hold onto your security hat.

When the app starts up, she’s required to enter her full email address—approximately 40 characters long—and password. This happens on startup or any time the app has been idle for more than 10 minutes. She’s also required to enter her personal PIN every time the app resumes execution. After that, the app downloads her messages for review. Nothing is cached. Ever.

This new app is designed to be secure with one thing in mind: HIPAA.

I get it! Security is important. But here’s the thing. My neighbor has already told her supervisor and coworkers that if they need anything, they should call her instead of emailing her. Because it takes her approximately 5 minutes to get logged in on her iPhone, downloading data through a VPN over LTE, she just doesn’t have the time needed to quickly react to emails requiring immediate attention.

I’m personally grateful that all healthcare providers are required to treat my personal information with care, and I can see in principle why the app is configured the way it is. But there are much better ways to solve the problem.

The app could, for example, allow for PIN verification to work for more than just the current session. It could enable remote wipe via a MAM provider. (Yes, that’s a blatant plug.) It could remember the username and simply require stronger passwords. It could even encrypt your data at rest and in transit for quicker response times rather than downloading the information and never ever caching it.

As we’ve talked about before, at the end of the day, the enterprise must measure their mobile efforts based on ROI. In this case, the app actually has a negative ROI. The company has made a sizeable investment with a vendor to provide mobile service, and yet, its employees are refusing to use the app because of the horrible user experience to simply log in and check email.

Before developing and deploying a new mobile app, be sure that you’re not accidentally creating a user experience like the one my neighbor now has to deal with.

Some things look great in principle but in execution are much less ideal. If you can’t trace your app back to tangible ROI from productivity gains or some other means, you may find yourself actually hurting your employees—which I’d hazard to guess isn’t a place you want to be.

Posted in BYOD, EMM, Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Mobility Management, Mobile App Security, Mobile Application Management | Leave a comment

How to Use Technology to Protect Your Assets

Think for a moment about how hard you worked to earn your assets. You had to put in a huge amount of time at the office to afford that big screen TV and MacBook Pro. Likewise, you’ve worked to build up a great credit score. The sad fact of the matter is that one person with malicious intentions could ruin all of that in a second. There are a number of great gadgets and services out there that are specifically designed to protect both your digital and physical assets.

Find My iPhone, iPad and Mac

Previously called “Find My iPhone,” Apple’s free “Find My iPhone, iPad and iMac” service now works for all devices with the iOS operating system installed. All you need to do is sign into a device with your iTunes user ID and password and the hardware in question will automatically be linked to an iCloud account. If you ever lose one of your devices, you can log on to the iCloud website, click “Find My iPhone, iPad and Mac” and locate it using the built-in GPS feature.

LifeLock

LifeLock offers a full line of identity theft protection services that are designed to safeguard everything from your personal finances to your credit score. If someone steals your identity, they could potentially ruin your credit and rack up thousands of dollars in debt in the process. LifeLock’s 1 Million Dollar Guarantee is incredibly valuable with regards to preventing that from happening.

MicroTrax

MicroTrax is a service that uses technology called MicroDots to allow you to track any asset that you may have from a device with an Internet connection. Once the MicroDots and labels have been properly attached to the device in an inconspicuous location, you can use any Internet connected device to view its current location regardless of where you happen to be.

1Password

1Password is billed as a detailed password management system, but in reality it is so much more. It’s an efficient way to safeguard all of your assets in the digital realm. 1Password will automatically generate a complex password for all of your important accounts that it will then store so you don’t have to remember them. Hackers won’t be able to get into your bank account, your credit card account or other valuable Web portals and you can keep track of all of your unique passwords from one user interface. 1Password can also be used to store credit card information, addresses and other data that you want to protect.

Prey

Prey is an anti-theft software that can be installed on the vast majority of the most popular electronic devices in existence. Computer versions exist for popular operating systems like Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS X and even most popular distributions of Linux. Mobile versions also exist for Android, Apple’s iOS platform and more. Once the software is installed, it allows you to track your hardware using any device on the planet with an Internet connection. The most helpful part is that Prey isn’t something that a thief can disable. Once installed on your computer or other device, it leaves no traces that it is installed on the system at all.

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We’ve Spotted the Enterprise Mobility Parade. Where Are You?

A wise investor once told me to “find a parade, and get in front of it.”

During our four years as a business (we celebrated a birthday last month!), we’ve brought on and kept many great customers—some small, and many large. Regardless of size, I’ve always felt that our customers have been intrepid first adopters in the market, which is a large part of the reason we love working with them so much!

In my reflection on our last four years, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about that advice to find a parade and get in front of it. Initially, we thought the enterprise mobile app parade was happening in 2011. I still think that’s true—and I think that the increasing frequency of conversations about enterprise mobility shows that we’re living out that sage advice in real time.

Looking at articles published just even within the last few weeks shows us all we need to know. From Workspot’s advice on how to build a mobile-first architecture and OS, to IBM’s Bob Egan’s discussion of how to effectively mobilize your workforce, to Huffington Post’s (talk about mainstream!) list of 6 things you need to know before building a mobile app, there’s no shortage of folks talking about the now popular idea of enterprise mobility.

All of which is to say that the enterprise mobility parade is reaching critical mass.

It’s exciting to see how many people are talking about not just how to build the next great commercial app, but how to take that know-how and learning into the enterprise. And with momentum behind enterprise mobility, specifically enterprise apps, at an all-time high, now’s the time for your business to invest. Many of our customers are clearly ahead of the game, but there are still a lot of businesses lagging behind who aren’t yet involved in enterprise apps.

We’ve spotted the parade and still feel very comfortable that we’re in front of it, but I’d ask you to ask yourself: are you as much a part of the parade as you should be?

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At App47, We’re All About Open Source!

Open source is quite the buzzword these days.

It seems that every last thing you hear about is open source. So much so, in fact, that it can sometimes be hard to figure out exactly how it’s being used, or why. But as it turns out, at App47, we’re all about open source—and we think we’re a great example of how organizations can use open source to make a better product and bring ideas to market more quickly.

Back in the “old” days, a company like App47 may have looked completely different. I’ve run different tech teams where we’ve built everything from scratch. If we were looking to add reverse geocoding functionality to find IP addresses and make decisions about how the software should behave, we would spend a week writing rule sets, figuring out UI management, and going through the rest of the process to get things working seamlessly. Setting up servers took a while, too.

All told, it may have taken a team of 10 people then to do what 2 people can do today with open source technology.

Enter today. When we built App47, we weighed all the options for open source automation software. We looked at two of the most popular tools, Chef and Puppet, but ultimately decided on an IT automation software called Ansible that’s given us everything we need and more. What once would’ve taken us a week now takes us a fraction of that time. As a matter of fact, that reverse geocoding functionality we mentioned above that would’ve taken us a week to build from scratch took us about 2 hours to integrate last week.

What does that mean in practice? It means that Ansible has helped App47 be better. Because it fit within our environment and because it’s so easy to set up, our entire process has been tremendously simplified. Server setup takes 30 minutes instead of a day, and thanks to consistent language on the servers, we know exactly where everything is located—every time. We can add new software features and scale them easily, and scan for bugs and security features. Our servers are updated daily, so we know we have the most secure, reliable software we can.

None of this would be possible without the open source community. These days, it’s hard to count the lines of code that are ours and those that are open source. We’ve benefited tremendously from the open source community, and we make sure to give back regularly, too. We help fix bugs and add feature enhancements, but quite frankly, it’s amazing what we’re able to do within this new environment today.

Needless to say, we’re big fans of open source—both using and contributing to. If you’re looking for an example of what Ansible and open source tech can do, look no further than App47. We’re living proof of how this great new(ish) movement can help make companies better.

Posted in EMM, Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Mobility Management, MAM, Mobile Application Management | Leave a comment

What the Success of Apple Pay Can Teach Us About Driving Enterprise Mobile App Adoption

Just a few weeks ago on their fiscal Q1 2015 earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced something surprising: after launching in October 2014, Apple Pay now accounts for $2 out of every $3 spent with contactless payments. Especially given the failure of Square Wallet last year, which sought to solve basically the same problem, this announcement surprised a lot of people.

On closer look, though, the initial success of Apple Pay—even if it’s only been around for a few months, and even if it still only accounts for a fraction of all payments that happen every day—can be traced to something that Square Wallet didn’t address: need.

Before options like Square Wallet and Apple Pay came around, consumers essentially had two options: paying with cash or paying with a card. While cards may have been more of a pain when they first came out, today, it’s hard to beat their convenience. No waiting for change and stuffing it into your wallet, no counting out pennies in your pocket, no confusion. It’s basically just swipe and go. So right from the outset, anything that wanted to make payments better for consumers had to somehow be easier than paying with a card.

Square Wallet, quite frankly, wasn’t. Partly due to a lack of retailer adoption, and partly due to the fact that the process of paying with Square Wallet took more time than paying with cash or a card, it never really took off. Who wants to give the cashier their name and then wait around for them to pull you up? Not us—and apparently not many other consumers, either.

Building off of the failure of others to make payments easier, Apple Pay has—where it’s an option—made payments easier and quicker. It’s not swipe and go, it’s touch and go, and apparently it’s working. What Apple Pay does that Square Wallet and others before it didn’t is address a true need and offer a solution that really is better.

If a solution didn’t make payment easier, or quicker, or eliminate the need to get out your wallet, why would you use it? The short answer is that you wouldn’t. From the outset, any new payment ‘solution’ had to find a need and provide a solution that addresses it in a better way than anything around today.

You might be wondering what all of this has to do with driving enterprise mobile app adoption. It comes down to the same thing: need. Enterprise employees don’t use apps like consumers. They’re not using them for fun, and they certainly aren’t using them to make their job more difficult. They want a solution that helps them be better, faster, more efficient at their job. If you can’t get that figured out, you’ll likely never see the level of adoption you’re looking for.

In thinking about your enterprise mobility solution, from the app store all the way down to the apps themselves, ask yourself: what’s the value you’re providing? What needs are you addressing? What exactly are you doing for your employees? If your answer is that you just want them to use your apps because you think they’ll somehow use them for the sake of using them, you’re going to remain behind the curve.

Your app store and your apps need to address a real need of your employees, whether that’s helping them check out customers faster, look up information quicker, go through everyday processes more efficiently, or any other of the number of needs in the enterprise today. Without that, your apps aren’t a value-add, they’re a novelty.

Want to drive enterprise mobile app adoption? Go back to need. Chances are, the answer you’re looking for lies with the biggest problems your employees face every day.

Posted in EMM, Enterprise App Store, Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Mobility Management, MAM, MDM, Mobile Application Management, Mobile Device Management | Leave a comment

Vision 20/20: Investing in the Future of Loudoun County Public Schools

Most of my time here at App47 is spent taking care of customers and formulating new solutions to make sure we stay ahead of the game. Sometimes, though, I like to take a break and get involved in the community.

Last May, I took a trip out to DC for the House Student App Challenge to help connect Congress with tomorrow’s coders, entrepreneurs, and tech leaders. It was a great opportunity to help make a difference in legislation that will likely affect the next generation of companies like App47. This year, however, I decided to do something different and take some time to help determine the vision of Loudoun County Public Schools.

As someone with 4 kids in our local public school system, I’m pretty invested into the outcome and productivity of the public school system. After all, LCPS is going to play a huge part in my children’s future. So when I was invited to participate in the LCPS Vision 20/20 Strategic Plan Stakeholders Work Group back in December, I jumped at the opportunity.

The premise is simple: meet with other stakeholders in the community to determine what LCPS graduates should know and be able to do. We started with our first meeting back on December 16th, and last Tuesday, we continued the conversation, synthesizing and making more recommendations about the vision of LCPS. The meeting was very productive, and I left last week feeling confident about the work we’ve done and the direction we’re headed.

We had people from all different walks of life, from teachers to parents, administrators, and financial officers for LCPS present at the meeting. While we all pretty much agreed about what the top two components of the vision statement should be, once we got past that, the hard work began. There were a wide variety of goals, views, and concerns about what else should be included, and although we made great strides in figuring all of those components out, we still have a lot of work left to do at our meeting next week.

All of that being said, helping to paint that vision to those that will take our work and implement it, well, that’s a story all unto its own, and something I know we’re all looking forward to.

Anyone with a company (and really, most people in business today) probably knows how important a vision statement is to a company’s future. Here at App47, our vision is our guiding principle for everything we do on a day-to-day basis. The same is true for public schools, so having the opportunity to shape LCPS’s vision is something I’m proud to be a part of.

Even though it meant time away from the business, any time that’s invested back into the future of public schools is time I’m happy to spend. With one more session with the Vision 20/20 Work Group, I think it’s safe to say that all of us are confident in the future of LCPS.

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With Mobility Predictions, Don’t Always Believe the Hype!

I get it: predictions are fun to make.

We see a lot of mobility predictions. Many of them, we support and agree with. Many more even support what we do here at App47. But before we get too carried away, I think it’s important to take a step back and remember that even the best predictions sometimes need a touch of reality.

Case in point: other companies’ recent predictions that phablets are the enterprise technology of the future, or that the Internet of Things will provide a “killer app” for mobile development. These predictions are fun! That much is for sure. Unfortunately, however, they’re not exactly great targets for us to set our sights on.

At the risk of being the downer at the party, new phablets are not going to drive enterprise mobile app growth, if for no other reason than that there are more smartphones than there are phablets and tablets. New devices and technology trends like the IoT may bring quick spikes in growth, but to achieve truly sustainable, widespread adoption, there must be a clearly defined business model at play behind the scenes.

In very simple terms, that business model needs to be centered on ROI. We’re seeing more and more companies building a mobility center of excellence, and spending money on enterprise apps, infrastructure, and the other usual suspects. These companies expect a return. If you’re not measuring that ROI with analytics, you’re missing a key component to any viable enterprise mobile app strategy. It’s that simple.

Here at App47, we provide enterprises with an enterprise-grade, data private hosted solution to easily deploy, configure, secure, and most importantly, measure their app deployment and usage. Devices may change, and trends may come and go, but the need to measure usage and track progress with hard data will never go away. That’s been our focus at App47 since the beginning, even as tangential distractions have come and gone.

Predictions are fun to read, but don’t get off track by spending too much energy chasing shiny objects. An ROI-centric mobility strategy will drive success within your enterprise. Everything else? It’s nice to have—but probably not what you need to succeed.

Posted in EMM, Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Mobility Management, MAM, MDM, Mobile Device Management | Leave a comment

Announcement: We’re Updating Our Platform This Month!

After announcing our goals to update our technology and focus more on security just a few weeks ago, we’re pleased to announce that the App47 team will be updating our platform this month!

Although there’s a lot happening with this update, the two biggest changes are:

  • An update to the onboarding UI.
  • A newly-released native iOS app store.

Our update to the onboarding UI makes it easier than ever for your employees to onboard to the App47 platform. It looks cleaner, and it’s also easier to use. We’ve integrated screenshots and links to more detailed instructions (should an employee need them) so there’s no ambiguity about what steps to take to get on board. App47’s ease-of-use starts here with this ever-important onboarding step.

With this new update, we’re also releasing a native iOS app store. In striving for consistency across platforms, we made the decision to release this app store to get a platform out there that can help us deliver on the security promises we’ve made over the last few months. Addressing iOS users in a native format simplifies this security process, and also only serves to increase usability on the platform.

While all software is an iterative process, we’re excited about the step forward this represents, both for enterprises and for their users. For any questions about this new update to our platform, don’t hesitate to reach out to us in the comments.

Posted in App47 Product Tips/Tricks | Leave a comment

    Contact App47

    2201 Cooperative Way, Suite 400
    Herndon VA 20171
    703.251.4557 | info@app47.com

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