It’s funny–coming to write this blog, I had a different concept in mind than when I wrote the title. Thinking about the enterprise mobile application dilemma, I was thinking first about how enterprises should identify what to mobilize. But while writing the title, I started thinking, which enterprise dilemma, really? There’s certainly more than one, and many have been around for years. So I thought I’d take a look at some of the main enterprise mobile dilemmas and throw a few thoughts out there.

So first some perspective. I started in the mobile industry in 1995. Even at that time, there was always discussion about the “killer mobile app.” Dedicated, national data networks based on RAM and Ardis technologies were available and the first data over digital cellular (CDPD-cellular digital packet data) was being planned. Of course none of the technologies were really national and none were faster than 9.6 kbps. But nobody thought that much a limitation at the time. Short, two-way messaging became the killer enterprise app at the time–and to this day, even though it has evolved to IM and email–still remains so. Since that day, everyone has been searching for the next great enterprise killer app. There are many major inhibitors to this, the enterprise mobile dilemmas of the day. These include: the identification (user requirements), business case (costs v. value), the platform (OS, native v. thin client, home grown v. ISV) and the resources (who develops, manages). These are the key enterprise mobile application dilemmas today. I’ll cover identification in this entry and the others in future ones.

So let’s look at identifying what enterprise apps should be mobilized. Often the answer to that is either “I don’t know” or “Everything.” Everything is a real bad answer but an easy one. Enterprises want to replace current computing platforms for mobile ones, so they think they should take everything off the desktop/laptop and put it on a smartphone/tablet. This is not a good idea. Some don’t know what should be mobilized because they aren’t close to the business. They focus on horizontal apps like email or calendaring, but potentially miss company and user-specific applications that drive business processes. IDC recently published some data to get a feel of what enterprises are thinking, see figure 1. The responses are similar to what we saw 15 years ago–that enterprise just don’t know.

Figure 1 Why Enterprises Wish To Mobilize Apps

(http://www.mfauscette.com/software_technology_partn/2014/05/what-are-the-biggest-benefits-of-mobile-enterprise-applications-1.html)

As you can see, the top two responses were based first on increasing productivity. This is a nebulous goal without distinct measurements in a horizontal world, but one typically attributed to mobility. Email was adopted to increase productivity. But did it? Don’t know. We all get and send a lot of email, but don’t think we can measure the business impact. The second request is to increase sales revenue. This again, has always been in the top rankings and probably the reason why Salesforce.com (SFDC) has grown successful over the past ten years. In the past CRM solutions like Oracle and SAP were designed first for desktops/laptops not handhelds, and were clunky and difficult to use on smartphones. SFDC was designed specifically for mobile devices and was successful in taking over a lot of the CRM business. But has it driven sales, reduced costs or increased customer value. Again, most enterprises will have a hard time tracking this. So what should enterprises do about identifying the next great mobile app?

First, think about the goals that the enterprise have. These could be user goals, lines of business or corporate. These will help drive the identification of the mobile process. Next, stop thinking about apps. Smarter thinking is to mobilize the needed data that will drive the business, reduce costs, increase productivity, collaboration or revenue. Apps are secondary, important for accessing and securing data, but not “killer.” Next–think about your users. Not everyone is truly mobile for their everyday work today. Sure many extend office hours or want an easier way to access email on the fly, but who are the real mobile workers in your company? And don’t just think about the road worriers or executives, what about those inside your buildings, or campus that may never be at their desk. Think about both increasing revenue and saving it. The business case will help a lot in identifying which users and data to mobilize. We will cover that in an upcoming post.

Have you had success in identifying, deploying your next killer app? What did you do, how did you get there?