Oct 27 2015

The Mobile Imperative

Smartphones and tablets are the way of the future, and enterprises should decide how to manage devices and apps in ways that further their goals.

The market for mobile applications and device-centric computing has exploded over the past five years, dramatically affecting organizations of all types.

Increasingly, employees expect to use enterprise or personal smartphones and tablets for business activities. A 2014 Dimensional Research survey found that 95 percent of surveyed organizations reported mobile devices connecting to their networks.

The trend toward mobile devices has fueled a transition to bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, in which an IT department supports personal mobile devices for work use. The Dimensional Research survey found that nearly three-quarters of organizations now support BYOD, with the number of BYOD devices connecting to enterprise networks more than doubling in the past two years. One-quarter of survey respondents claimed a more than fivefold increase in BYOD device connections.

Data, applications and assets that once resided safely behind the firewall are now routinely exposed on poorly managed mobile devices, yielding a litany of serious risks, from data leakage to the introduction of pernicious malware and advanced persistent threats.

As a result, workers today are as likely to access email, schedules or documents from a smartphone or tablet as they are on a traditional PC. Most rely on some form of mobile app to do so. Enterprises that can strategically optimize that same technology to mobilize business activity can greatly benefit. However, organizations to date have been slow to adopt mobile apps in the workplace.

Based on the Citrix Mobility Report for 2014, Windows-based applications still dominate at work, although the numbers are slowly dropping (down from 64 percent in 2013 to 54 percent in 2014). Mobile apps rose from 6 percent in 2013 to 9 percent a year later; web applications rose from 20 percent to 23 percent; and Software as a Service rose from 10 percent to 14 percent. The report concluded that IT departments must work to mobilize and manage the different types of applications so they can be delivered in a diverse BYOD environment.

The rise of mobile software in the enterprise has some serious implications for IT shops already burdened with supporting internal IT systems, cloud engagements and BYOD mobility. The Citrix report found that 42 percent of surveyed respondents expected to manage more than 100 apps in 2014, while 21 percent expected to manage more than 1,000 apps.

As a result, IT budgets to support mobile software are ramping up. A May 2014 CDW survey illustrated that small and midsize businesses expect to spend, on average, 10 percent of their IT budgets on custom mobile apps and related technologies. The figure for large businesses was 12 percent. Nearly half of the survey’s respondents reported rising mobile app budgets from 2013 to 2014.

Continued mobile activity points to a future with more mobile apps, delivering an ever larger set of services and functionality, while targeting an increasingly diverse array of tablets and handsets. In short, the proliferation of mobile apps and software poses a major management challenge.

Enterprises moving to mobile must make important decisions, including deciding whether and when to deploy off-the-shelf mobile apps or develop custom mobile apps. Perhaps most important, organizations must transition internal processes and organizational structures to support the diverse application environment enabled by mobility.

Buy, Build or Virtualize: Mobile App Approaches

For organizations coming to grips with this mobilized future, committing to mobile apps is a vital waypoint. Enterprises can choose from several categories of mobile client software to meet their mobility goals. These include:

Client virtualization: Virtualization software from Citrix, VMware, Microsoft and others can be used to package and stream desktop applications — or entire desktop environments — to mobile devices.

Productivity apps: Enterprises can procure and deploy off-the-shelf mobile apps, such as email clients from Microsoft and Google, that can support existing business processes and data flows.

Partially custom apps: Rich software platforms can extend the reach of deployed systems, such as Salesforce.com customer relationship management or SAP enterprise resource planning systems, or create custom apps using visual, rapid development tools.

Fully custom apps: By creating and supporting fully custom apps that are tuned to each mobile platform and operating system, an enterprise can often best meet stringent requirements around performance, functionality and user interface.

For more information on mobilizing enterprise applications, read the white paper “The App Roadmap: Mobile App Strategy for the Workplace.”