Writing and supporting custom applications is the last thing a Fortune 500 retailer, pharmaceutical company or bank wants to do. They’d rather be tweaking inventory and store layouts (the retailer), unclogging their drug development pipeline (the pharma company) or figuring out how to make money in a low-interest rate world (the bank.)
But employees, customers and business partners want snazzy mobile apps and they want them now. How to best deliver these apps poses challenges, but also opportunities, for IT marketers.
The mobile craze is forcing enterprises back into custom app development, according to Dimitri Sirota, senior vice president, security at CA Technologies FCN. (Note: CA Technologies is a client, but did not solicit or reimburse me for this post.) He argues organizations need custom apps because each has different products or services to sell, different markets to serve and different messages to convey.
The customization these apps require go beyond easily-tweaked user interfaces. They involve harder-to-solve issues, like drawing data from repositories or formats not easily accessible by mobile devices. Sirota co-founded Layer 7, which provides API management software to ease such access, and which CA acquired earlier this year. Among other things, he says, such API management can help developers solve mobile-specific challenges such as compression and caching to improve performance and battery life.
Gil Bouhnick, vice president of mobility at mobile workforce platform vendor ClickSoftware has a different take. He sees most of his customers turning to the cloud for quick, easy-to-deploy mobile apps so they can reach the market quickly and learn what works. Whatever customization they are doing tends to be done with offerings from their own app store that provide, for example, specific types of forms or data access without the need for custom coding.
Whether customers build their own mobile apps or pull them from the cloud, they don’t want to code. Whatever brainstorming they do must be around streamlining workflows or reaching new customers with mobile, not the plumbing required for it. Just as with security, business managers want mobile apps delivered in consistent, proven and measurable ways.
If you’re selling to folks who need such industrial-strength mobile app development, some suggestions:
- Provide examples of repeatable, proven policies, templates or frameworks you’ve provided customers. Consider sharing appropriate examples in an open-source model or creating an app store like ClickSoftware’s. That makes life easier for your customers, enhances your reputation as a “go-to” source for knowledge and tools, and lets customers and partners do some of the hard work of developing new mobile tools. Tracking such community-based development also gives you insights into what customers need but aren’t getting in tools like yours.
- Push your customers to discuss the specific cost savings or revenue gains they’ve experienced by doing mobile app dev in a repeatable, measurable way. Yes, getting folks to agree to case studies is harder than ever. But proving they have solid mobile development processes is not only a great competitive advantage, but can help recruit top development talent.
- Get your internal experts talking, blogging and sharing about best practices in app dev, security or any other IT discipline. This move to “industrialized IT” is still in its early stages, and there’s a wealth of market education to do and challenges to discuss.
How do you see mobility changing corporate app development, and how is mobile changing your marketing message?
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