Mobile

How to Select a Mobile Application Management Platform

  • author image

I’ve never seen anything evolve faster than the enterprise mobility industry. I don’t mean just the growth in adoption of mobile devices; a lot of industries experience hyper growth. But the pace of adoption within the enterprise for custom mobile applications is staggering. Over the past 12 months, companies began realizing the power of mobile apps, and the industry quickly changed.

An example is our platform for mobile application management; it is dramatically different today then it was even six months ago. As companies expanded their mobile strategies to include bring your own device (BYOD), they realized that they needed a mobile application management platform. Just creating a custom app storefront no longer addressed all of their needs.

The driver for mobile application management is the global BYOD movement. But without question, the device that drove the growth of mobile application management platforms is the iPad. The consumption of applications on the iPad grew hot very quickly. Mobile phones were already in the enterprise, but it was the push to have a rich experience on an iPad that really drove managed platform solutions. In fact, a lot of the apps built today in enterprises are designed for the iPad first and the iPhone second.

Three trends in enterprise mobility became dominant over the past 12 months:

  • Shift from premise-based to cloud-based mobile management solutions
  • Device management and application management merging into one solution
  • Availability of robust mobile application management platforms

Cloud-based mobile management

In a lot of institutions, especially in the financial services and healthcare industries, there is still a sense that a secure device management service requires an on-premise solution. But this is an “old school” mindset. The theory behind a premise-based solution is that the corporation needs total control of all corporate-owned devices and employees’ personal devices. If an employee leaves the organization, the company can effectively wipe all of the content off that device versus only removing the corporate content. There are privacy implications associated with going down that path. And it’s an extreme, sledgehammer-like way of managing a mobile environment.

In contrast, a cloud-based solution gives the company the ability to make surgical deletions/removal of just the corporate-owned assets. This allows the organization to embrace a BYOD environment with its associated cost savings and employee satisfaction. But the company doesn’t incur the liability of taking personal data off a non-corporate-owned device. Through our cloud-based platform, a company can update or remove corporate apps but not see, remove or touch an employee’s personal information on the device.

A cloud-based solution also is more cost-effective than a premise-based solution. The cloud eliminates the need to provision hardware. No rack space has to be allocated. And there is no need for additional training.

Merging device and app management

As companies expand their use of mobile apps, application management and device management are coming together into one solution. There are aspects of device management, such as app delete or device wipe, that are appropriate for maintaining control over corporate assets.

Retail kiosk devices are an example. An employee at a makeup counter may hand a customer an iPad to help with the shopping experience. If that iPad happens to walk out of the store, the makeup company needs to be able to wipe that device clean. In the more advanced platforms, companies have the ability to selectively choose particular devices and how they will be secured at both the device and application levels.

As the market has grown, we’ve seen certain aspects of device management merging with application management. And as the category for application management has grown, the requirements of customers have grown. They want to know from cradle to grave how to manage their applications. Before robust cloud-based platforms were available, they had to create the app, do code checking and find another company for policy management and security, and then hire another company for the custom app storefront. There was no cohesive ecosystem.

Eight characteristics of an advanced mobile application management platform

Most mobile application management platforms on the market today go only as far as deployment and basic management. By that I mean they create an app store, deploy the apps onto the devices and manage updates to the apps.

An advanced cloud-based platform provides many more services and functions than the on/off functionality of a premise-based solution. When selecting a mobile management platform, make sure the platform has the following eight characteristics.

Flexibility. The best platforms let you pick and choose the services you want. If I go into a buffet and don’t want shrimp, I don’t put it on my plate. With an advanced AppBus platform, you can choose the services and features that fit your corporate environment, culture and business rules.

Most companies have a combination of corporate-owned assets (their own iPads and smartphones) and devices owned by employees. The platform should give you the ability to choose exactly how you want to apply security policy for particular devices. Security aspects include sign-on with enterprise credentials, application wrapping (additional app-specific security) and app delete and device wipe.

Code inspection. In the beginning stages of rolling out an app, you need to check for malware and validate the code. Those services should be in the platform. It’s also important to validate that corporate apps are built with corporate specifications (for example, requiring apps to store data on the device in an encrypted format). Code inspection reports will confirm this.

App personalization. The platform should provide your company different custom branding opportunities. For instance, your logo or custom messaging can appear on your apps.

Targeted content. This platform function allows you to drop particular types of files or content (such as a video) onto specific devices.

Reporting. Compliance reporting, application inventory and application performance are essential services on a robust mobile management platform to understand what’s happening in your mobile environment.

User engagement. The platform should have functions that allow you to analyze user adoption of an app. It may be crowd-sourcing capabilities to get feedback on apps. Or it may be an app-rating system similar to what you see on Amazon.com (1-5 stars). It may also include some gamification techniques for increasing usage of an app or include incentives such as earning extra vacation days.

Device support. The BYOD trend means that users are bringing their favorite devices from home: iPhones, iPads, Android phone and tablets, even Blackberry devices. It’s obvious that a mobile application management platform should be able to manage any of these popular devices.

Unified admin console. Some companies are trying to build their own management systems by patching together solutions from multiple vendors, but this approach brings its own set of issues in terms of creating administrative headaches with multiple admin consoles. It’s best to have a single admin console that consolidates all of the mobile administrative activities.

A mobile management platform’s key to success

  • The adoption curve of mobile applications in the enterprise today covers the spectrum. Companies coming to us for a solution to manage their mobile environment are in one of three different categories:Executives in enterprise companies hear about the great work being done by companies like Cisco, with its wildly popular AppFridge. Essentially, everybody wants to do what the “cool kids” are doing. They hear that Cisco is successful and they want to find out how to do it and what’s the benefit.
  • Some companies have already built an app or an app catalog but they don’t know how to deploy it to more than a handful of users so they struggle with adoption and engagement.
  • Other companies have tried managing their mobile users via mobile device management but are quickly learning the limits of managing devices versus apps.

It’s the companies on the bleeding edge, which have embraced mobile application management, that are driving the innovation of these platforms. How to measure user engagement is a big area of interest. Companies spend a lot of money developing an app and need to understand how people use it and what they think of it. Security is another hot topic.

The large enterprise companies are realizing the severe privacy implications associated with adding a corporate profile to a personally owned device via a mobile device management vendor and are looking to solve this through the development of native corporate apps where policy is wrapped and can be surgically removed, leaving the employee’s personal information intact.

We realize that the key to success in mobile applications is not just the management platform. At the end of the day, success is measured on whether a company’s application was successful in delivering the desired return on investment. They just want to know one thing: was it a success? The job doesn’t end once the application is deployed. We help customers be a hero by helping them understand how to get better user engagement and adoption with their apps.

SandHill and Apperian are among 40 collaborators for the 2012 North Bridge Future of Cloud Computing survey. 

David Baeza is the CMO at Apperian. He founded several private and one public tech company. He is the former VP of Global Demand Gen for Citrix Online, makers of GoToMeeting and GoToMyPC. He regularly blogs about marketing and social media, is a contributing blogger at workshifting.com, producer of online mobility conferences, and speaks on the topic of media and brand positioning. He is also advisor to TreeHouse and TwitterKids. Contact him at dbaeza@apperian.com.

Post Your Comment




Leave another comment.

In order to post a comment, you must complete the fields indicated above.

Post Your Comment Close

Thank you for your comment.

Thank you for submitting your comment, your opinion is an important part of SandHill.com

Your comment has been submitted for review and will be posted to this article as soon as it is approved.

Back to Article

Topics Related to this Article