Enterprise Mobile Apps Gaining Momentum in 2016

More enterprises are expanding the use of mobile apps for their employees, partners and customers. Here's a look at what they are doing.

Mobile Enterprise Apps 2

Nine years after smartphone use truly took off with the debut of the first Apple iPhone, 2016 could finally be the year when the adoption of enterprise mobile apps grows substantially to solve many of the daily work needs of business employees, partners and customers.

That tipping point has been approaching over the past few years, John Jackson, an IDC analyst, told eWEEK, but until now, it hasn't really gained critical mass. The key reasons for slower-than-expected enterprise mobile app adoption in the past have been security concerns, the difficulty of accessing backend data and the pain of developing apps across multiple platforms, all of which are improving today, he noted.

Those worries are finally dissipating as more companies are seeing the advantages of providing a wider range of versatile and often time-saving mobile apps to their employees, he said.

"It's happening," though it is coming later than expected," Jackson said. Last year alone, the adoption of enterprise mobile apps was not as high as IDC estimated based on earlier research.

In 2013 and 2014, the average enterprise with more than 1,000 employees had about 3.5 apps that were used regularly by workers, he said. That figure was "shockingly low" and was similar to the number of apps a BlackBerry user might have had on his or her device back in 2006, he said.

With that progress, IDC surmised that 2015 would have been the year that enterprise mobile apps would really take off and double from the 2014 figures to an expected average of seven apps being used by enterprises. But that didn't happen. Instead, in 2015, the average enterprise only adopted about 5.8 apps each for its users, said Jackson.

"It's still a shockingly low number, given that anything you'd want to do as a consumer is available to you in an app," said Jackson. "We thought 2015 would kick off in earnest with the 'appification' of the enterprise. The data was supportive of that, but not to the level we expected. It is possible that we are looking more at a steady climb than at a [quick rise]. Things tend to move slower with enterprises."

One factor in 2016, though, that could increase the adoption of mobile apps in enterprises is the always-present pressure of competition, said Jackson. "It's becoming the case that if your competitor out-mobilizes you, then you have problems."

With that in mind, "progress at some level is a slam-dunk in 2016," said Jackson.

Mobile App Creation Increasing at The Boston Globe

At The Boston Globe, where a small selection of enterprise mobile apps rolled out in 2015 to about 100 employees mostly in advertising and finance, more apps are already being planned to help with additional tasks this year.

"Users are bringing us ideas for apps they need," Wade Sendall, vice president of IT for Boston Globe Media Partners, told eWEEK. "Having the ability to be able to build applications for parts of the business that historically had never been serviced is huge."

The Globe is building apps using a cloud platform for rapid application development from Mendix, which compiles apps using templates that can be customized as needed, said Sendall. "We did a rate card for advertising salespeople last year and are building a couple production-specific apps as we are re-engineering our production processes."

The Globe IT staff is building a mobile app now that will help sort and organize newspaper advertising inserts for several Sunday editions that the company prints for other newspapers, according to Sendall. Globe production workers "have to be able to find them as needed and match them to the right papers," he said, which will be aided by the upcoming app.

Most of the ideas for new apps come from employees who see new potential uses for apps as they do their jobs, he said. "Frankly, we don't know what the best thing is to fit the advertising staff's needs are, so hearing from users gives us the needed feedback."