The growing adoption of smartphones in the enterprise may make it harder for the IT department to control data, says Peter Breunig, general manager of technology and architecture at oil and gas giant Chevron. He draws a parallel with Microsoft’s spreadsheet software Excel.
“Excel is a mixed bag – it has helped us make a lot of great decisions but it’s tough to go back and audit spreadsheets unless you have a framework,” he says. “What I’m wondering is: what is the framework for mobile apps going to be?”
One way to control smartphone applications centrally is to take a leaf out of Apple’s book – the company’s App Store is unquestionably the platform that has popularised smartphone ‘apps’.
There are now more than 350,000 applications available in the App Store, ranging from bizarre gizmos to legitimate enterprise applications. And yet, while supporting this flourishing innovation, Apple has managed the platform with notorious stricture, and maintains tight guidelines on what is allowed into the Store.
It is a model that enterprise organisations, including biotechnology pioneer Genentech, have deployed internally. Having issued its 4,000 employees with iPhones, Genentech uses self-built iPhone applications, including CRM and an employee directory app, delivered through a central App Store-like portal.
The idea does not require iPhones, though, or even smartphones for that matter. It would be possible to build something similar for conventional applications, through judicious use of application virtualisation.