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Mobile applications are on the rise. Both new and existing business software is appearing on smartphones and tablets for use on the road. “We are on the verge of a fundamental turnaround in the use of software.” Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms are an absolute growth market. They help companies develop and implement their mobile strategy and their choice of business apps, in particular.
About ten years ago, it was all very simple. You and your staff member had a (desktop) computer with the software on it that you used for work. Today, mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, are becoming more common and even software is going mobile.
“You would be surprised by the extent that business mobile applications have changed the way companies do business,” says Joe Blake, Vice President of Sales at FeedHenry, a company that offers an application for the management and creation of mobile apps. “It makes me think about a British police service that uses a tablet with a customised mobile app to gather evidence in the investigation of a crime,” he says. “Business mobile solutions are being used ever more and they have a direct impact on how organisations perform their core processes. This is not a gadget, but an application that incorporates their central activity.”
Joe Blake also cites other organisations as fervent users of mobile applications, including Network Rail, the organisation managing the railway infrastructure in the United Kingdom. “Today, they have a range of mobile apps for their staff members, and that will expand significantly in the coming years,” he states. “On the one hand, this is about apps that can help engineers with the maintenance and inspection of the railway infrastructure, and on the other, about apps that assist passengers with real-time travel information. In terms of the use of mobile apps, what was limited or negligible a year and a half ago, is now critical for companies. And the big wave is still to come. Recent data teaches us that sixty per cent of organisations have plans for mobile applications or apps.”
The march of mobility will fundamentally change the entire business software market over the coming years.
Filip Verbeke, Managing Director at MC2BIS
Platform for the management of apps
With the breakthrough of business mobile apps, a raft of challenges has risen to the surface: the complexity of the development of apps for diverse platforms and devices; the secured integration with company systems that support behind the scenes; the distribution and control of apps within an organisation and the continuous challenge of lifecycle management. Ever more organisations recognise the need for a strategic viewpoint and are choosing Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms (MEAPs). “These help companies with the development, safe integration, distribution and management of mobile applications,” explains Joe Blake, who, via FeedHenry, offers such a MEAP. “Among other things, a system like this ensures that companies can use mobile technology to solve their business problems. This is instead of worrying about the technical complexity that is linked to constructing and integrating apps in a safe and reliable manner.”
Although the market for MEAPs has been around for quite some time, the explosive growth of mobile devices in companies, combined with the trend surrounding Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), will propel the market adoption, according to Joe Blake. “Most large organisations are looking at the integration of dozens of mobile apps, both for internal (for their staff members) and external use (for their clients). Such a Mobile Enterprise Application Platform is then quickly needed to make this happen in a cost-efficient and safe manner.”
This offer doesn’t just respond to the trend for mobile devices and apps, but also to the inclination towards cloud computing, where larger and larger amounts of infrastructure and software are heading outside the company walls. “Our MEAP is built for the cloud as well,” acknowledges Joe Blake. “Cloud computing gives us the possibility of saving all data at a central point and accessing it there.” And with the use of open standards and toolkits for app development, there is no so-called "vendor lock-in", the phenomenon where you, as a client, are bound to a certain supplier.
Role of the operator
While a lot of companies are coming to grips with their smartphones and tablets via a system like Mobile Device Management (MDM), MEAPs are the next step: keeping an overview of mobile business applications. “Both markets, MDM and MEAP, are slowly but surely growing closer to each other,” believes Filip Verbeke, Managing Director at MC2BIS, the local partner of FeedHenry in Belgium, that offers support for mobile projects in companies. “But eventually, the apps for companies will become more important than the mobile devices themselves. Finally, it will come down to what you can do with your device. According to the IDC research bureau, in three years, the MEAP market will be larger than the MDM market,” says Filip Verbeke. There are possibilities here, especially for telecom operators like Orange. Orange understood this and launched Enterprise Mobility 3.0. Important elements relating to this include their own MDM system, and their client offers relating to MEAP. “Such a total offer is a wise and good choice–for their clients too,” says Filip Verbeke. “Operators are the only party that can effectively connect all these mobile solutions and services to each other,” he believes. “They can offer a sort of one-stop shop for Enterprise Mobility for companies with services and products based around mobility. It will also help their clients with their mobile strategy. Because there is no doubt that, sooner or later, companies will have to resolutely opt for mobile solutions.”
The whole software market goes mobile
The advance of mobility will fundamentally change the business software market in the coming years. Because besides the applications businesses develop to suit their own organisations, there are also existing and standardised software forms.
A nice example of this can be found in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, perhaps the most-used form of business software in Belgian companies. Then there are salespeople or technicians who are outfitted with mobile solutions. The whole CRM market will undergo a complete metamorphosis: traditional software for PCs will be replaced with mobile apps for smartphones and tablets. Today, there are 200 CRM apps available in so-called app stores, and according to Gartner, that number will jump to 1,200 next year. An indication of how CRM is becoming an app more and more frequently. Salespeople and technicians are typical mobile workers. Although they most certainly aren’t the only ones. Their colleagues from internal positions, such as shops and offices, are also moving around more often. “Personally, I estimate that half of the staff members in an organisation have a mobile profile,” says Filip Verbeke. Other categories in business software are adjusting to the mobile evolution. “Just like vertical applications specific to a certain sector or industry are going mobile with more frequency,” he says. “This often includes mobile apps for clients. Take for, example, an app from the pharmaceutical sector that provides dieting guidance via the smartphone.”