Ten years ago, the Financial Times ran a headline asking, “Will iPhones sneak into the workplace?” and pointed out the corporate disadvantages of the closed iOS platform, compared to the 18,000 consumer-focused apps that were already available for Windows Mobile. Today, we have witnessed the arrival of Apple’s iPhone X.
Three years ago, Satya Nadella announced Microsoft’s new mission to become mobile-first and cloud-first. Today, with Windows Mobile consigned to history, Microsoft has rephrased its mission and supplanted ‘mobile’ for intelligent cloud, intelligent edge and AI.
Mission statements aside, most of the CIOs we speak to recognise that enterprise mobility and cloud-based apps are still core components of digital transformation. In 2017 enterprises can be represented at every stage of the mobile adoption curve.
Where are we on the mobile journey?
To demonstrate this spectrum of adoption, a survey of UK and US enterprise mobile maturity, undertaken in 2017 by Sapio Research on behalf of Synchronoss, classified organisations as, ‘Entry level, ‘Opportunistic’, ‘Additive’ and ‘Transformational’, based on their adoption of mobile productivity technologies and data and security required.
Using these criteria Sapio Research gauged that just over a third (38%) of respondents were still at the entry level of using basic mobile email and calendar functionality. Only 19% were using app integration; multi-factor authentication; file-sharing apps and collection and analysis of data.
Sapio Research’s results differ from the findings of Red Hat’s mobile maturity survey carried out two years earlier, which found that while 37% of respondents were using mobile to automate existing processes and more than a third of enterprise respondents (35%) were using mobile apps to reinvent business processes, indicating a higher level of mobile maturity.
Benefits of mobility
Sapio Research reported a correlation between mobile maturity and profitability and attributed this to the fact that respondents in the ‘Additive’ phase of mobile adoption were, on average, 15% more productive and 29% more profitable than enterprises at the ‘entry level’ of mobility.
These organisations were using mobile app integrations; applying multi-factor authentication; using secure data transmission and making informed business decisions and improving processes based on contextual usage data from employees’ devices.
Mobile is not just for millennials
In spite of the common perception that the demand for mobile apps is driven by younger people, a 2016 survey undertaken by the Economist Intelligence Unit, on behalf of Aruba Networks, found that respondents of all ages were benefiting from mobility.
The Economist Intelligence Unit found that organisations in the study with mobile-optimised workplaces achieved better collaboration, creativity and productivity gains that equated to eight weeks of additional output for every employee per year. The larger an organisation, the potential for bigger gains. Mobile-first organisations in the study were also found to be three times more effective at attracting employees and enjoyed higher retention rates.
Mobile traits demand new approaches
That said, mobile app development does present different challenges in the form of bi-directional data synchronisation and disconnected workflows; data caching to cater to device memory and responsiveness; mobile access control and data security; push notifications and management of apps at scale; the need to maintain SDKs, build mobile binaries and support newer versions of mobile OS.
Mobile apps also require data from backend systems to be available with greater security and in real time. Enterprises can resolve this challenge by using mobile back-end-as-a-service (MBaaS) to centralise back-end services such as storage, push notifications, APIs and social media connectivity, making them accessible and reusable for enterprise-wide mobile app projects.
Enterprise mobility has influenced how applications are developed, deployed, and managed. In contrast to traditional enterprise apps, mobile apps are often more lightweight and agile, with functionality typically focused on a relatively narrow business use case. They usually have a simple user interface and are subject to ongoing updates, based on business requirements and user feedback.
These challenges can drive enterprises to seek to take advantage of the elements of modern application technologies and approaches, for example:
This approach involves developing applications as lightweight, modular services, where each runs a unique process to serve a specific business need. The microservices approach allows each service to be deployed, refined and redeployed independently without requiring redeployment of the entire application. If one microservice has an issue, neighbouring services can continue functioning while the affected service is isolated and updated, repaired, or retired.
Microservices are designed to handle failure and iteration and offers developers flexibility in mobile backend development . This approach is also well-suited to enterprise mobility models where CIOs and developers want to retain the option to connect to new device types that might need to access the application in the future.
Immediate access to information across multiple channels has helped create an era of faster-paced, user-driven demand and the need for greater speed in delivering products and services. In tandem with this is the ability of software applications to respond in shorter, more frequent, and faster development and delivery cycles. Together, these things have helped lead to the emergence of DevOps practices as an important way to help accelerate digital business innovation.
DevOps is an approach designed to increase the speed and flexibility of application development and delivery. Modern application platforms based on container technology and microservices are important to DevOps practices, helping deliver more secure and innovative software services at the speed of digital business.
Mobile app development benefits from a DevOps approach that supports the continuous integration and delivery of mobile apps as well as the automation of mobile app testing and monitoring.
Container platforms are designed to provide consistency across environments and support app modernisation and DevOps. The need to run traditional applications alongside mobile and other cloud-native applications is helping to drive an interest in container platforms (such as Red Hat OpenShift) that can manage containers and help to accelerate mobile app development and delivery, while providing enterprise-grade policy management, access control and greater security.
Because they can help reduce conflicts between the development and operations teams by separating areas of responsibility, containers can plan an important role in DevOps. Using a container platform, ops teams can manage traditional and microservices-based apps with greater visibility.
Which industries benefit from mobile?
While the earliest adoption and benefits of mobility were seen in field workforce management, other sectors are now starting to see some element of mobility.
An enterprise-wide survey undertaken in October 2015 by Vanson Bourne, on behalf of Red Hat, found that respondents from the US and Western European manufacturing sectors reported the highest return on mobility: 92% reported positive ROI from mobile technology.
Perhaps more predictably, 83% of the telecoms sector and 83% of construction respondents reported positive return on mobility. This was followed by 76% of retail respondents, 75% of transport and distribution respondents and 71% of the business services sector respondents reporting positive return on mobility.
The rise of app-based banks
In the Vanson Bourne survey from 2015, 69% of financial services respondents reported positive return on mobility investments.
While they can gain much from mobile interactions with their customers, financial organisations face greater security and regulatory barriers to mobile and cloud adoption.
However, the rise of multiple, ‘challenger banks’, such as Starling, Atom Bank and Monzo , may result in established banks and financial institutions looking at mobile and cloud-based apps to help meet the demands of customers who don’t have time to visit branches and don’t want to use call centres.
Ofcom’s Communications Market report 2016 noted that, “in March 2016, nearly a third (30%) of mobile internet users used their device to access their bank accounts and 20 percent used their device to pay or transfer money electronically.”
Mobile in healthcare
Mobile healthcare apps, in particular, can offer an important tool for enabling patient-centred care. The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has announced that by the end of 2018 he wants NHS patients to be able to use apps to access their medical records, book appointments with their GP and order repeat prescriptions.
As part of the Digital Standard for Health and Care, NHS England has announced two new platforms to provide an online resource for healthcare app developers: the NHS Digital Apps Library and a new ‘Mobile Health space’ providing resources for developers on Developer.nhs.uk.
A mobile healthcare app survey from Vanson Bourne, undertaken for Red Hat in October 2016, found that the shift towards patient-centric care was a key driver for healthcare respondents to develop mobile apps.
However, the majority of healthcare respondents (98%) cited security, regulatory and compliance barriers when developing mobile healthcare apps. To address this requirement, more than half of the healthcare providers surveyed (53%) were using on-premise or partial on-premise deployments rather than cloud deployments of their mobile app platforms.
A separate survey of 115 NHS directors and CIOs, carried out by OnText in July 2016 found that 46% of NHS directors in the study were concerned about meeting NHS digital targets by 2020. The same survey found that more than half of NHS Trusts in the study were planning to encourage staff to make more use of wearable devices and mobile technologies in the coming years.
The drive to mobile-first
Many organisations are recognising that mobile should become part of mainstream enterprise application development, delivery and management models. One point that is becoming more clear is that app development is just the tip of the mobile iceberg.
Agile app development and delivery can require a cultural change as much as a technological implementation. A collaborative approach should be used between business heads and IT managers, to help ensure that apps meet specific business need.
IT management now includes container orchestration and new infrastructure designed to support app portability and consistency across on-premise and cloud environments.
Digital transformation is underpinned by modern application development technologies and practices that help promote greater business agility and innovation. Wherever your organisation is in its adoption of mobile and the supporting integration, delivery and deployment technologies, it is becoming an important journey. However, mobile is no longer a standalone project – rather, it is becoming part of the broader enterprise application development model.
As organisations evolve in their digital transformation initiatives, the role of container technology, microservices architecture, agile and DevOps practices and the platforms that support these will play an increasing role in how mobile applications are developed, delivered and managed. Despite the cultural and technological challenges that this digital revolution can entail, the productivity, creativity, customer service and cost benefits may be too good to ignore.
Sourced by Clare Grant, general manager, Mobile, Red Hat