Early this year I wrote a blog post titled Why 2013 Will Be The Year of the Mobile App‘ and the main reasons for this argument were: (1) the cost of building enterprise-grade apps is plummeting, (2) mobile security is a reality, (3) total integration with existing corporate data systems, and (4) the average employee now carries 3.5 mobile devices. These factors, among others, create a ‘perfect storm’ for enterprise app development and it is important to note that enterprise app development can be applied to the customization of a prepackaged mobile application with an integrated mobile application development platform.

Where many companies have, and sadly continue to, gone wrong in their mobile project is when they have taken an application-centric approach to adopting mobile technologies instead of a platform-based approach. Let’s outline the two approaches to properly evaluate which one is better for your business.

Application-Centric ApproachPlatform-Based Approach

An application-centric approach focuses on developing or buying point solutions or prepackaged mobile apps, with limited customization options, to enhance specific business operations. Some believe that the emergence of HTML5 as a viable mobile app technology makes this simple strategy more valuable because HTML5 apps are portable across devices.

A platform-based approach requires an enterprise-grade mobile application development platform. Some large organizations will implement their own on premise. Many others will opt to use a managed enterprise mobility service to realize the value of platform based management without investing in a platform themselves.

Beyond the basic descriptions of each approach are the advantages and disadvantages of the two paths to mobile application development and adoptions. The application-centric approach provides an easy entry point to business mobility. However, its lack of uniform controls means that it can quickly become difficult to manage and secure.

A grab bag of mobile apps from different sources is very difficult to integrate. As demand for mobile functionality grows in an organization, the app-centric approach bogs down in management overhead and lack of agility.

On the other hand, a platform-based approach provides a solid foundation for uniform security controls, total integration between mobile operations and core business activities, and greater flexibility to adapt to changing technology and business needs. This functionality has a direct impact on the value mobile technology delivers to business operations.

As the figure below shows, not only is the overall cost of enterprise mobility management lower with a platform solution, but the tighter integration between mobile and fixed operations results in more efficient business processes. Platform-based enterprise mobility makes it possible to rapidly develop and deploy mobile apps at lower cost. As more workers become enabled to do their work anywhere, the organization as a whole does a better job of capturing and sharing information that is critical for maximizing the value of all business operations.


The platform-based approach clearly provides a long-term strategy however some mobile application development platforms provide the ability to customize prepackaged mobile apps. If you are looking for a solution today that meets a specific business need, look for a mobile platform that offers this ability. This will allow to rapidly implement a mobile app without sacrifycing your mobile strategy/

Regardless the approach your choose to take, I encourage you to read Bill Clark’s recent ZDNet blog Are You Ready to Future-Proof Your Investment in Mobile Applications? that addresses current dialogue about HTML5 and Native approaches to mobile app development and how app developers that will rise above the pack will take the time to focus on cultivating three habits. Read the blog to find out what these habits are!

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  1. Graham Robinson

    Hi Carolyn,

    thanks for this blog making a case for a platform-based approach to mobilising the enterprise.

    Can I ask for your thoughts on the difficulties of cost justifying such a platform?

    My experience is that customers are advised to start small. Identify a single business case that can be improved with a mobile app and use the experience of building, deploying and supporting that app as learnings before choosing the next business case for mobilisation.

    The problem is that it is very difficult to justify the cost of a mobile platform for a single app – or even for three or four.

    When do customers find suitable benefit from a mobile platform to be able to present a successful business case for one? And how best can such a business case be presented?


    Graham Robbo

    1. Carolyn Coad Post author

      Hi Graham,

      Thanks for reading my post and for asking such a common and important question.

      You are right that many companies start with small or even pilot mobile projects for mobile application development and deployment. In my experience working with mobile customers, they often begin with one project knowing that there will be many business and consumer use cases for mobile apps in the future.

      If you are to compare the cost of one point solution/prepackaged mobile app to the cost of a mobile application development platform there will be a difference. The reason is because the point solution or prepackaged application is a somewhat one time cost (add on maintenance options, etc) while the cost of the mobile platform is an infrastructure cost that was be resued with mobile application 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on. The platform offers much more than the app/point solution.

      Beyond the cost considerations, and what I suggest are more important, are the capabilities of the single app versus a mobile app development platform developed application. These are often IT requirements that may not be considered, or known, to the business buyer but was crucial to the deployment and optimization of the mobile application.

      A helpful list of the capabilities is available in the Gartner MADP Report, you can access it here: http://www54.sap.com/solutions/tech/mobile/featured/offers/mobile-gartner-report.html

      The best way to build the ‘business case’ is to involve both the business and IT buyer. I recommend that you also include, when appropriate of course, the developer or partner because they will also be impacted by the decision and may have input based on existing skillsets and resources. Input from these areas will help you evaluate what is missing in an app centric strategy and what is likely covered in a platform centric strategy.

      There is a whitepaper that provides more details about a platform and touches on the app vs platform strategy debate. You can accesss it here: http://download.sap.com/download.epd?context=968716466E1699BB79C5AC4BB768A74DC2D5C88BDB0235ADA5343FF8A485D19E2443BE620A9E3BBCA1FCD0CF2DF2C1B1ABFA85EB0769BE00

      Keep the questions coming and look out for my next blog post that follows up on this one!


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