The rapid penetration of tablet computers is also shifting the goalposts: “As more consumers buy them, they then tend to bring them to the workplace and use them for their jobs – often led by executives,” says Gartner analyst David Willis1.
Tablets – and the apps that bring them to life – are increasingly used in client-facing situations. “Anywhere you once saw people carrying a clipboard or lugging printed reference material, you’ll find an application for a tablet” observes David.
For the most part, employers have taken a back seat during this transition, allowing staff to use their own devices and apps to support their work. But that’s now changing as issues arise regarding everything from app security to the cost of supporting cross-platform applications.
With employees accustomed to controlling their own app purchases, getting the app and device estate under control is increasingly becoming a headache for CIOs. The list of concerns continue to grow:
Because tablet apps serve as a corporate shop front, a cohesive look and uniform functionality are essential – but with staff calling the shots, app consistency remains a pipe dream for some businesses.Too many devices
The average number of devices carried by each employee has now hit 3.5, up from 2.7 last year. The sheer size and diversity of this mobile “stack” is a big challenge for businesses. How do you monitor such a complex array of technology, much less manage it?Too many platforms
From BlackBerry to Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7 – supporting all of the platforms on the market is not cost-effective for most enterprises.Security
Apps could prove an easy way to access corporate data if devices are mislaid or stolen.
In order to address these concerns, many organisations are implementing organisation-wide mobile communications management strategies, providing employees with everything from the devices themselves to a suite of approved corporate apps.
Vodafone Telecoms Management is one such programme and includes the ability to wipe the contents of lost or stolen devices, as well as managing, auditing and recommending mobile apps to end users.
What about the apps themselves?
Thanks to the abundance of generic enterprise apps, finding applications has never been easier. An increasing proportion of these are fine-tuned to meet the needs of specific industry sectors. But for many businesses, bespoke solutions are required.
"A successful enterprise app is built with the end user in mind. It demonstrates a clear understanding of how the app fits into a broader enterprise mobile app strategy." Juan-Jose Juan,
Global Head of Innovation, Vodafone Global Enterprise
Ease of use is critical, so relevant content and a high-quality interface are essential. The lesson from the world of generic applications is stark: more than 25 per cent of apps are used just once.
The most effective apps draw on the full range of functionalities offered by the mobile devices they’re hosted on. “Context aware” applications, for example, use GPS to target relevant content.
The Vodafone Global Enterprise Innovation Team has taken all of these lessons on board, developing an app that is designed to turn any conference into an interactive, social experience, while slotting nicely into the long term enterprise mobile app strategy of any business. The appropriately-named Collaborate app can be preloaded with everything that participants need for an event, from general information to specific support materials such as session details, agenda items and speaker biographies. It includes built-in analytics and integrates with various social media platforms.
The app taps into the geo-location capabilities of a smartphone from the moment an attendee arrives in the host city, providing a seamless journey to the venue. On arrival, participants can plan their day using a built-in scheduler and floor plan. Documents and presentation materials for every session are made available before, during and after the event. Participants can also pose questions live to presenters during sessions, take part in polls and see instant results, upload photos taken on the day as well as linking to speakers via social media channels.
As Collaborate demonstrates, truly effective business apps do more than simply provide information or improve productivity – they take advantage of the full capability of current mobile technology, from geo-location to camera phones.
Perhaps more importantly, they confirm that in the long term, apps will shape
the future of flexible mobile working as much as the devices themselves.
Top 10 commercial business apps for tablets
According to Gartner, the top 10 commercial business apps for tablet devices are:
- Sales automation systems for customer collateral, sales presentations, and ordering systems.
- Business intelligence: analytical and performance applications with management dashboards.
- Containerised email to separate corporate messaging environments from personal email.
- Collaboration applications for meetings.
- File utilities for sharing and document distribution.
- General corporate/government enterprise applications for CRM, ERP, SCM and messaging.
- Medical support systems for doctors, nurses and physical therapists.
- Hosted virtual desktop agents to provide secure remote operations of traditional desktop applications and environments.
- Social networking applications with intelligent business insight.
- Board books for secure document and report distribution.
1 “Gartner Identifies Top 10 Commercial Business Applications for Tablet Devices” – Latest Media Tablet Trends Discussed Today at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo on the Gold Coast, Australia, 14-17 November 2011. Gartner press release. http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1849621