Enterprise Mobile App Management
It is easy for mobile apps to get developed in disparate organizations without any supervision by the IT department. It’s important for the IT organization to stay on top of all enterprise apps – from mobile app development and deployment to remote device management.
Now that just about everyone working in an organization has a smartphone, it is natural for different business units to want to build mobile apps or deploy third-party apps that will help the department operate more efficiently. Sales might want an app to keep track of prospect information (if they are not using Customer Relationship Management software). Marketing might want an app to gather competitive information, and finance might want to build an app to keep a summary of how the company is doing financially. The different kinds of apps are almost endless.
However, what often happens is that the business unit tries to get IT to build the app for them. They submit a request to the company’s IT department, which is often under-staffed and underfunded, to fulfill requests to build mobile apps. So, the different business units go off and figure out a way to develop the desired mobile app themselves. Or, they contract with outside organizations to build it for them. They put the resulting app in the Apple App Store or Google Play and simply ‘protect’ it by requiring a password in order to run the app.
Jump forward a year or two, and all of a sudden the organization has a real mess on their hands regarding the many different mobile apps that employees are using. This isn’t because the organization intended to create a mess… far from it. The mess resulted from each separate business unit having been left to its own ways, which created environments that are not compatible. One organization develops native mobile apps while another uses HTML5. One uses outside contractors and another develops them in-house. One uses good security and the others don’t.
To make matters worse, the different business units have to keep track of the mobile apps they have created, so they put them all in an internal app store. But the different app stores are not compatible with each other. The company can’t easily consolidate the different apps into a single app store.
IT finally realizes that they have to clean up the mess. Or, the CEO tells the IT director to take charge of the mobile app mess they now have. More money is required to try to take the reins over the mobile app environment. Often, the disparate environments are discovered when the company installs Mobile Device Management (MDM) software, which looks at the software installed on the different mobile devices in the company’s inventory (or has to find out what the inventory is). They often find out that all kinds of different apps – some personal – are installed on the different mobile devices.
The clean-up process begins. IT gets a true inventory of the mobile devices used by the employees. Some are approved while others are not. Those that are not approved have to be either replaced or incorporated into the company standard. The apps have to be inventoried and decisions must be made on how to get control over both the app development process and how to manage the distribution through a company app store.
One of the more difficult things to do is to get a rein on the standards used for development of the mobile apps, since some of the apps may conform to one standard such as native while another department may have built apps based on HTML5. Some may have built them internally and some may have been created using outside development organizations.
Again, IT needs to at least to get an inventory of these apps, who built them and what development resources were used. I’ll be writing in the future with some input on the different resources to help build enterprise mobile apps. But for now, the organization at least knows the different mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) that it has and what is operating on them.
In any organization in which multiple mobile apps and app stores exist and the goal is to unify app development and management, a central mobile app leader must be designated to take leadership over the entire mobile environment, instead of just leaving it to the different business units to independently manage their own domain.
This does not mean that the mobile app leader becomes autocratic and issues ultimatums on what can and cannot be done. Rather, it’s the opposite. The mobile app leader facilitates visibility across the organization of apps; and their purpose is to help different business units take the next step in moving the organization’s mobility environment forward in unison while streamlining mobile app development and management.
Here are some recommendations that enterprise mobile app leaders can take to help the company have better control over their mobile environment and help the company utilize mobility to the organization’s benefit:
- Have the CEO empower the mobile app leader to work with IT and mobility management resources to unify enterprise mobility management issues that cover both internal mobile assets and external mobile assets that interact with customers
- Provide the mobile app leader with adequate funding to get control over all mobile development and deployment efforts
- Declare that enterprise mobility management is a strategically important initiative for the entire company
- Form a mobile user committee with members representing the different mobile operating units inside the company
- Meet with them to get their input on their requirements, and solicit their input for all policies that get created
- Meet at least once a month to give them updates, which will make the user community feel that they are part of the decision making
- Establish a solid set of mobile policies and policy enforcement mechanisms and implement them so everyone knows about them and can comply, which makes life more productive for the company and all mobility users
- Make sure it includes a policy for how to manage the use of personal apps and data
- Give the IT policies regarding the use of devices and apps to all employees
- They should be asked to sign an agreement stating that they adequately understand the policies regarding EMM so there is no misunderstanding as to what is allowed and what is not allowed regarding the use of the employee-owned devices and software when used by the employee
- For example, the employee needs to know that the enterprise software and information on the employee’s device will be removed (‘wiped clean’) once they leave the company
I will recommend what these enterprise mobility management (EMM) policies should be in a future newsletter. While this column is focused on the management of mobile apps, I’ll be writing companion columns on mobile app stores and mobile app development.