While the excitement may be about apps aimed at consumers the real opportunity may be in developing specialized apps designed meet the specific needs of large and small enterprises seeking to support their workforce with apps that boost productivity and drive positive business results.
It’s a fledgling market poised for explosive growth, and a mobile app mega-trend highlighted in my new book The Everything Guide To Mobile Apps: A Practical Guide To Affordable Mobile App Development For Your Business (F+W Media Inc.), which is now available for pre-order via Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and slated for release as a book — and later an e-book — on March 18. This book brings together the insights of 25+ mobile professionals, practitioners and pundits to identify market trends, best practices and lessons learned in developing and distributing mobile apps.
This article is the first in a series of in-depth posts drawing from the input and insights of expert contributors (see list below) to help make your app a success. We kick off with valuable advice to app companies wanting to break into the lucrative enterprise app market offered by Mike Anderson, CEO and Founder, Chelsea Apps Factory, a company that made the shift from consumer-focused fun apps to company-centric utilities over a year ago, and has been counting the money ever since.
In the case of the Chelsea Apps Factory, the focus on the enterprise was a happy accident. The company started out, like the vast majority of app makers with a sharp focus on developing consumer-facing apps — either as standalone apps, or apps on behalf of ad agencies, media companies and popular brands. That was before the company discovered that the enterprise market is the untapped opportunity.
Today the company has grown a whopping 135 percent and is listed among the top five companies in EMEA that can produce industrial strength apps. More recently, the company was nominated one of the top 50 innovative companies by Mobile Entertainment. Its clients include Deloitte, Guoman Hotel Group, Waitrose, BP, Mumset and Vodafone.
What is the size and scope of the enterprise app opportunity?
In a word: huge.
Big companies are hungry for business apps. In fact, nearly 4 in 5 large companies would like to purchase mobile applications for various business uses, according to a survey (via Supply Management) of company execs conducted and published by Partnerpedia, a mobile app development services company.
But don’t expect them to buy apps from popular apps stores managed by the likes of Apple. The business community takes issue with purchasing business tool apps through these consumer-focused stores for a variety of reasons. The top reason is a lack of business focus, a concern named by nearly 58 percent of respondents. Other concerns focus on the inability to own or control app licenses and the potential problems associated with security (or rather a lack of it). Additionally, organizations also cited a lack of volume purchasing or PO purchasing as another reason why they would prefer not to purchase apps from consumer-focused stores.
Sensing a business opportunity major software vendors are hoping to follow in Apple’s footsteps and open up their own so-called enterprise app stores, which sell not only their software but software and services from an ecosystem of partners and resellers. It should be noted that the term “enterprise app store” is used in this case as a vendor-hosted electronic marketplace serving up apps to customers. This shouldn’t be confused with another meaning of enterprise app store, whereby a company serves up apps (usually mobile ones) to employees.
Global software giant SAP has launched the SAP Store, and more are sure to follow. The SAP Store serves up some 1,500 different solutions across computing categories: mobile, cloud, on-premise, PC-based. Hundreds of solutions are added every quarter. Apps can vary in price from a few bucks to millions of dollars. SAP’s 190,000 enterprise customers around the world have access to the store. A couple of million unique visitors came into the store in the first year. SAP is now actively recruiting app developers with a dedicated partner program.
The next years will see an avalanche of enterprise apps and app stores. But don’t assume they will be as simple as consumer focused app stores. Mike warns us that enterprise apps stores are wrought with challenges and confronted with issues ranging from app certification to neutrality (because the software vendors who manage them are loathe to promote similar apps from industry competitors).
Enterprise app stores hold a lot of potential, yet it’s difficult to define the market, but that isn’t keeping app developers from flocking to take advantage of the opportunity. Studies from Appcelerator and IDC note that developers are turning away from consumer games to the more clearly defined business application. Interestingly, it’s a niche where Microsoft could stake its turf because a significant number of business users want a tablet that is completely compatible with Windows systems and about a third of respondents said they were ‘very interested’ in Windows 8 tablets and apps.
Made to order
Organizations striving to achieve or maintain a competitive edge are increasingly turning to mobile apps to help them respond to business needs more promptly and effectively.
Recent research supports that trend: A survey conducted by IDG Research Services found that IT leaders believe mobility will play a key role in their ability to increase efficiency, control costs, and improve customer service. It is estimated that by 2017, the global enterprise mobility market will be nearly $174 billion, according to a report by Global Industry Analysts. New, more powerful mobile devices – namely tablets and smartphones – and mobile business apps on them are, and will continue to, help drive this trend.
What are the apps enterprises want most? Fortunately, Mike has a list of enterprise ‘need-to-have’ features and functionality to help you focus your efforts and resources:
- Management: Apps that help companies conduct paperless meetings or take notes securely
- Marketing: Apps that help the company connect with its customers and explain/demonstrate key value services, products or broad-brush value propositions
- Sales: Apps that offer presentation tools equipping the mobile workforce to sell to customers on the spot
- Finance: Apps that enhance business cash flow or allow staff to input time
General Electric shines the way
A great example is GE (General Electric). Fortunately, I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Andy Markowitz (@andymarkowitz), GE’s Director, Global Digital Strategy to discuss the role of apps — and mobile — in the company’s strategy. The bottom line: GE is a pioneer, and it was a privilege to speak with Andy. The company that doesn’t just offer apps; it has cleverly positioned these apps at the center of a comprehensive strategy to engage with it’s customers and build loyalty. In this way, GE satisfies customers by allowing them to engage in ways they weren’t able to do before these mobile apps were created.
An example is an iPad app it developed for its gas turbines business, called Energy Transformers. It enables customers to remotely monitor the performance of their turbines. Through this remote monitoring, customers can optimize engines, and/or understand which ones need service, which ones need maintenance, which ones need attention, etc. without having to actually send someone out there.
But not all apps are so technical — and some are downright fun to use. Patient Shuffle is a game that literally uses gamification to illustrate the difficulty of running an emergency room and attempts to provide a hospital management software solution for these complexities. The game basically shows how patients enter an operating room, then move onto a cardiology room, then to a recovery room. The user matches the patients with doctors and moves them through the full hospital experience from entry to release.
GE are prolific app developers. The company has created a mobile Center of Excellence within its IT group that has developed more than 90 apps for iPad, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. The apps were developed with the customer in mind and tailored to specific audiences.
Numbers speak volumes
According to Gartner’s latest worldwide IT spending forecast, global IT spending in enterprise software and apps has grown to $253 billion in Q4 2010 from $228 billion in Q4 2008, with a low point of $224 billion in Q4 2009. This represents a 7.5 percent growth over the 4-year stretch.
Connect the dots, and more companies are going to be needing more mobile apps to do more tasks. It’s early days, but app developers like Chelsea App Factory are preparing now for increased demand from enterprise clients for custom apps.
How can you prepare for the impact when enterprise apps hit?
Again, Mike has worthwhile and practical device.
If you’re a developer, don’t dismiss Window and Microsoft just yet. It would appear with Apple’s 68 percent share of the tablet market for now iPads are the winner. But you should also keep an eye out for Window 8 because Microsoft traditionally enjoys deep ties with the enterprise, relationships that will likely sit more favorably with the C-level executives at companies everywhere.
If you’re a business thinking about mobile apps for your workforce, get in now. The companies with smart enterprise apps will have a fast-mover advantage when it comes to improving business efficiencies and making staff feel (and function) as if they were at the bleeding-edge of technology.
And keep in mind there is a shortage of quality development capability, so if you are a business looking to impress with enterprise apps, find your supplier now and lock them down. There are not enough developers out there able to meet the demand.
It’s been crazy-busy at MobileGroove and it’s great to come back and be able to present the key takeaways of the Everything Guide To Mobile Apps. More excerpts, exclusive interviews and insights from our roster of contributors here on MobileGroove — and look for a new companion series over at untetherTV.You may also want to tune in to hear me on the LinkedIn Lady show, where I share the TEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MOBILE APPS.
Meantime, a round of thanks to the book’s amazing and expert guest contributors:
- Akash Sureka, Hoopz @akashsureka
- Alfred DeRose, Tego Interactive @AlfredDeRose
- Andy Bovingdon, Bango @bangodotcom
- Asif Khan, the Location Based Marketing Association @AsifRKhan
- Chris Jones, CodeNgo @AppSubmissions
- Daniel Appelquist at Blue Via @BlueVia
- Derek Newell at Jiff @dereknewell
- Ed Vause, Appromoter @Appromoter
- Gary Schwartz, Impact Mobile @ImpulseEconomy
- Heini Vesander, Blaast @Blaast
- Helen Keegan, Heroes of the Mobile Fringe @technokitten
- Itay Gadot, Inneractive @Itay_Gadot
- James (Coops) Cooper, Mobyaffiliates @mobyaffiliates
- Jennifer Hiley, (formerly WeLoveMobile) @jenniferhiley
- Jez Harper, Tús Nua Designs @tusnuadesigns
- Jonathan Kohl, Kohl Concepts, Inc. @jonathan_kohl
- Joy Liuzzo, Wave Collapse @joyliuzzo
- Ken Herron, social marketer and ‘cool hunter’ @KenHerron
- Linda Daichendt, MTAM @MTAMLinda
- Lisa Ciangiulli, Optism @Optism
- Magnus Jern, Golden Gekko @MagicMagnus
- Martin Rugfelt, Expertmaker @expertmakertool
- Martin Wilson, The Mobile Web Company @mobilewebCo
- Matos Kapetenakis, VisionMobile @visionmobile
- Matt Lutz, AppClover @AppClover
- Mike Anderson, Chelsea Apps Factory @ChelseaApps
- Moshe Vaknin, YouAppi @YouAPPI
- Paolo de Santis, ChupaMobile @chupamobile
- Paul Poutanen, Mob4Hire @Mob4hire
- Phil Hendrix, immr @Phil_Hendrix
- Rimma Perelmuter, Mobile Entertainment Forum @MEF
- Rob Woodbridge, untetherTV @RobWoodbridge
- Ryan Morel, Placeplay @ryanmorel
- Sam Chan, Wireless Industry Partnership @wipjam
- Scott Townsend, Urban Airship @urbanairship
- Stu Arnott, Spark Inspires @MindingsStu
- Suzie Mitchell, boomer expert at Mitchell PR @suziemitchell
- Tomi Ahonen, best-selling author and consultant @tomiahonen
- Viki Zabala, Fiksu @Fiksu
- Yasmina Haryono, Fjord @yasmina