A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a major industry analyst who said they project that every company will have 1000 mobile apps. For a moment, that seemed unrealistic. We work with hundreds of large companies, and I had not heard of any company having more than 150 mobile apps. But when you consider the number of use cases that a large enterprise might want to enable on a mobile device, the 1000 number actually sounds pretty realistic.
Now clearly every employee is not going to have 1000 mobile apps from their company. Many of these apps would be specific to their particular role (inventory checking, sales order creation, systems monitoring, custom tools for project teams, etc). It’s also pretty clear that, if a company has 1000 mobile apps, many of them are custom. Most modern systems have a mobile client that performs the standard actions for that system (e.g. Microsoft Lync has a Lync mobile client). Most large enterprises, however, have a combination of:
- Legacy systems which do not have a mobile client
- Custom applications which do not have mobile clients
- Cross-system use cases which aren’t covered by the standard clients (e.g. issuing a quote requires both pricing information from Salesforce and inventory information from SAP)
Solving these use cases on mobile devices will require the development of many custom apps. Now it’s worth a short pause here to say that some companies try to pursue a strategy of creating mobile web interfaces for everything and only using the browser on the phone. While there are pretty clear drawbacks to this approach like access to phone features, offline functioning, and degree of control of the user experience, companies sometimes take this path because they realize they don’t have native app development skills and feel like they can’t support the cost of development. In most of the companies with whom we work, native apps are seen as the best solution assuming cost and time to develop were not issues.
The trick is that unless you find an interesting approach, you can’t ignore that time and cost. Here’s a simple picture to illustrate.
Let’s say you had 1000 use cases that you wanted to make available as native mobile apps. If you had users on iOS, Android and WinPhone8 devices, that’s actually 3000 different native apps. No matter how good you get at building apps, that’s a tremendous amount of work. Now there are some development tools like Xamarin that can reduce that work a lot. These tools let you write the native app code once and then compile versions of the app for the different mobile operating systems. That cuts the 3000 native apps down to 1000. But that’s still a tremendous amount of work, and beyond the initial development, you need to maintain and update those apps.
Now you’ll notice in my picture there’s a bar on the right labeled “1 native app”. This is how Sitrion ONE works. Sitrion builds and distributes the ONE native client (You can download it from your favorite app store to take a look at it in demo mode.) So with Sitrion ONE, the company doesn’t have to develop even a single native app, yet they can have 1000 use cases up and running on their phones. How is that possible?
The Sitrion ONE client is actually a very powerful engine that takes your definition of your app and delivers it as a native experience. So if you wanted to have an app that did time tracking, you would define the screens and pick the backend system where the data is stored. Then the ONE client that Sitrion has built would display those time tracking screens and send the data back to your systems.
Sitrion ONE is actually a full platform that does much more than this. For example, you can decide which people in your company would get this time tracking capability, and only those employees would ever see it. And if you ever updated your time tracking app (maybe to add a notes field), every employee would automatically get the update as soon as they opened the app. There’s a lot more to creating successful enterprise mobile apps, and Sitrion ONE is one of very few options that actually solve the entire problem from backend system connectivity, through secure access, to rapid app development and all the way to native client experience.
But for now, I just wanted to focus on the simple point that hit me as I was listening to the analyst. If you’re going to enable 1000 mobile use cases for your company (or even just 100), you need to take a different approach than pretty much all of the other mobile development concepts. Take a look at the Sitrion ONE site to see an approach that can handle your 1000 enterprise mobile apps today.