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If you build it they will come… as long as you don’t forget about distribution, security and maintenance

We’ve learned from consumer use of smart devices that unless the app is easy to download, install, and get up and running, people won’t use them. Our expectations for simplicity are really quite astounding. If an app on my phone takes more than 5 seconds to load I get frustrated. If I have to tediously enter several fields of configuration data I might just give up (or at least call IT and have them talk me through it). If you take a look at the amount of information that is often needed to connect your mobile apps into your back end system, you’ll quickly realize that it is imperative to automate several things to make the experience with your apps a great experience. Just remember: you can build the most fantastic app, but unless you take care of a few critical things first, it may be all for naught.

In this blog, I’ll expand on my last three blogs about enterprise apps with a focus on what you need to think about once the app is released. The value that you expect to gain from deploying your mobile apps will only be realized if the right application management process is in place.  I think that distributing, securing and maintaining your applications are just as important as building the app in the first place.

In the whitepaper ‘A Guide to Successfully Deploying Enterprise Mobile Applications” written for SAP by Chris Marsh of Yankee Group, Chris breaks this topic down into three core areas of importance: Mobile Application Distribution, Mobile Application Security and Mobile Application Maintenance.

Mobile Application Distribution

When getting your apps out to your users, the most important aspect is getting it to the right device at the right time. Pretty basic, right? It is certainly basic, but it’s a critical step that may not be easy – especially as your application usage scales into the thousands or even tens of thousands of users using a host of applications. Marsh tells us that it is important to clearly define policies to guide the distribution of apps – after all you don’t want a contractor accessing an analytic app built for the CIO.  You can get very specific when defining policies and you can manage them with the right software, distributing apps based on employees’ roles, devices (even OS version), location and more. This is where the issue of configuration becomes important to minimize the burden on your users. Your strategy for app distribution is important, so consider rolling out an internal “App Store” to distribute apps directly to your users, as well as a tool to manage this for you.

Mobile Application Security

When it comes to buying a house, people always say the most important 3 factors are location, location and location. When it comes to mobility, people often say the 3 more important factors are security, security and security. Security is absolutely critical, especially with mobile devices that live outside your corporate firewall and operate over public networks. In the whitepaper, Chris discusses the importance of a layered security approach that protects the device, the app and the data flowing in between. I recommend you read this section of the whitepaper for more detail (you can receive a copy when you register for the webinar on this topic).

Mobile Application Maintenance

Getting the app on the device is an important first step, but ongoing maintenance and administration will ensure that you keep operating smoothly. According to Marsh, this includes remotely updating the app and monitoring its usage, monitoring the app life cycle and ensuring that ongoing feature enhancements are made. Furthermore, if a mobile device is lost, or an employee leaves the company, or a consultant’s contract ends, you’ll probably want to remove business applications and data from those devices. If companies support a BYOD policy, they must be able to perform these tasks without touching the personal data on the device.

Overall, the heart of an effective application management strategy is in having a robust application management platform that takes care of application distribution and configuration, managing who gets which applications, and managing different methods of distribution. At SAP, we recommend looking for these key capabilities in an enterprise grade application management platform: compatibility with the widest selection of device types and mobile operating systems; remote provisioning and control; dynamic device interrogation, group policy management; and support for an App Store distribution model.

If you’re an IT person, you want maximum control, minimal user configuration headaches, and some self-service functionality for your users. Remember that your mobile strategy should be able to scale as you deploy more and more apps over time.

I hope you will join a webinar with Chris Marsh of Yankee Group to talk about the big picture approach to application development and application management. The webinar is being held on November 1st and registration is open now.

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