We are in the midst of a mobile revolution where smartphones, laptops and tablets are emerging as the device of choice for Internet connectivity. In fact, the entire user experience is undergoing a dramatic change; convenience and accessibility are necessities. Together with this ease-of-use interface, mobile is everywhere
More than 80 percent (819 million) of Facebook’s billion monthly active users access it through a mobile device
iTunes is the largest music vendor in the world
Google generated around $1billion of its total $13.9 billion revenues from mobile in Q1 2013
According to a Nielsen Smartphone Insights Study 2013, smart phone penetration in the Asia-Pacific region is booming, presenting a huge mobile commerce opportunity. Australia, along with Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, is slated to be one of the next big mobile commerce markets and it’s only a matter of time before mobile commerce shapes the future of APAC’s overall retail landscape.
Furthermore, it’s not only the developers that are tech savvy nowadays, but also end users, who have higher business expectations around mobility. For the ever growing young population entering the workplace– 24×7 connectivity and instantaneous updates are the norm rather than the exception. There is clearly a need for business apps to move with the times and use mobile to harness the productivity and business efficiency of this young demographic.
It is hardly surprising that 90 percent of CIOs expect to deploy more than 25 mobile apps in 2014 and by 2015 mobile app development projects will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4:1.
Chart a mobile roadmap
While the need to go mobile is entering boardroom discussions, what remains imperative is charting out a mobile roadmap. Enterprises can seldom convert their complete suite of apps at one go. A well thought out roadmap can help prioritise the portfolio. Starting with the most critical apps that can deliver the most value in the initial years, enterprises need to gradually adopt a ‘Mobile First’ mindset. This mindset teaches enterprises to think of mobile at the inception stage of a new application/solution, and to consider the use case when developing the mobile app (eg. consider the device form factor, requisite capabilities or ease of use). Indeed, if enterprises adopt a long term vision that the future is mobile, they can translate this into crucial brainstorm sessions at the initial product development stage to ensure mobile experiences are integral to all their applications.
An absence of this mindset will result in the enterprises acting in retrospect and simply replicating the same set of capabilities for their web applications to mobile resulting in a waste of time, resource and a far from ideal user experience. Take for example when a customer wishes to conduct a mobile banking transaction. Expecting the customer to go through several steps to execute the mobile transaction defeats the entire purpose of providing users with the convenience and immediate access that they now expect from their mobile apps.
Leverage the power of the mobile device and recognise its constraints
Businesses need to understand the constraints of mobile. While a mobile provides the efficiency of location based solutions, the size of the device is not suited to long, busy web pages that make browsing inconvenient. While designing apps for mobile, enterprises need to consider the various uses and functions of a tablet compared to a phone or the desktop and weave in a responsive design to make the app mobile friendly– either providing a different application flow or even providing different types of information to the mobile user. Of course for the most optimised mobile experience, enterprises should redesign and rebuild the app from ground up. But before venturing into the custom design space, enterprises should first evaluate what they want to achieve via the app, consider the integration to many of the standard device features such as GPS or camera etc. Very often, a simple notification sent via SMS or a social network can create as powerful a user experience.
Put the backend in the forefront
Embarking on the mobile channel, especially for enterprises, is not just about the device or the design and interface of the app; it’s about providing a complete end to end user experience. This user experience depends upon a stable back end. Indeed, for enterprises, the integration and secure access to backend systems is the most critical aspect. A common approach is to build Web APIs in the backend. The issue with this is that the architecture requires constant connectivity. An alternative is to use a Transaction Replay model – when users are disconnected a cached database sits on the mobile client. This allows the user to perform all available transactions that are subsequently recorded and replayed when the connection is restored. However, given that we are now moving to an era where connectivity is consistent, an open back-end that can leverage the power of new technology trends such as Cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly emerging as the platform of choice for enterprises across the board.
Without a doubt, security is the key aspect of an integral mobile experience. Even within closed corporate networks, the mobile device looms as a significant security threat. According to a Global Corporate IT Security Risks study conducted by B2B International and Kapersky Lab in May 2013, personal mobile devices used for work-related purposes remain one of the main hazards for businesses with 65% surveyed seeing a threat in the Bring Your Own Device policy.
Yet according to the same study, only 14% of companies have a fully developed mobile device security policy for their corporate networks. Enterprises require a secure environment on the mobile device that separates personal data from corporate sensitive data. Real BYOD management means delivering a secure container around the corporate applications so that enterprises can secure access privilege, easily separate, protect, and wipe corporate applications, e-mail and data of their employees, partners or customers.
Fortunately, businesses are beginning to recognise the need to create strong, stable and secure mobile ecosystems that simplify compliance and truly exploits the new opportunities that mobile, cloud and social access have introduced. After all, there’s no looking back with mobile- it’s changed the way we communicate forever and it can change the way business is conducted for our future generations. The way forward is for enterprises to embrace the mobile revolution responsibly – to deliver engaging user experiences on secure platforms, for any application, on any device and around any data.
Bill Hicks, Sales Consulting Director at Oracle