With Apple releasing its new iPhone 4, most of its innovations developed to satisfy the needs of the individual users also apply to enterprises throughout the world. Now it’s the turn for a CIO and IT department to get prepared for this new smartphone release, and especially for a certain challenge: coming mobile enterprise applications.
IT departments are advised to adopt Apple’s slogan ‘Think different’ to consider iPhone 4. iPhone was the one that succeeded to convince the consumers of importance mobile data, which even surpassed that of the voice. Now iPhone is less likely a phone, as its heart is taken by applications, which can be found in the quantity of 200,000 in the App Store. One should admit that the platform has clearly conquered both developers and end-users.
Although mobile enterprise applications have held productivity promises over many years, they remained on the level of just using wireless email. Now, with iPhone 4 release, there is light at the end of the tunnel. First of all, it provides a powerful development environment, allowing everyone to build an application for iPhone 4. Moreover, it isn’t necessary to depend on iTunes to distribute the app anymore, providing the IT with a possibility to control applications end-to-end. Enhanced security plays its role, and the device’s popularity frees the enterprise from advertising the iPhone apps.
As Apple seems to be completely ready to offer the enterprises mobile apps, that’s their turn to prepare to use devices in their operations. It would make sense to start with preparing for the departmental applications explosion. What the CIO needs to acknowledge is that the mobile applications are not the same as the traditional ones and should be handled differently. The large organizations are familiar with the basic model, where heavy software offering hundreds of functions is taken for a basis for the large systems like CRM or Knowledge Management. But here they will face small and focused apps taking weeks, not years, to get to market and delivering a very limited number of functions.
The sharks of the industry won’t wait for central IT to develop their own applications. Instead, they can become developers themselves or hire a freelancer to build simple applications that would satisfy their particular demands. Since iPhone apps are very easy to create and convenient to use, the CIO will only need to decide who will be responsible for which type of applications, appointing the certain people to build, to support, to fund, to innovate, to deal with chaos, to distribute bright iPhone 4 covers, etc.
Besides, the enterprises should think of the training helpdesk specialists. Today most helpdesks can deal with the questions on email settings or delivery for the mobile phone, but they most likely won’t be able to help smartphone owners with Calendar integration, Google Maps, or memory conflicts and issues from the hundreds of applications. With broadening of the helpdesk roles the enterprise call center will require a new level of expertise to be able to consult on troubles that don’t occur on the desktops. And this type of questions might become those of a higher priority, since the urgency of resolution for mobiles is much higher than for desktop. If user experiences some application slowing down his desktop’s system, he could agree to wait on it. But if something’s wrong with a mobile, losing the battery power and unable to make calls, they would definitely opt for fixing the phone first.
The CIO should decide on what investments will be required to support mobility, including the training expenditure. Although smartphones have enabled employees to send and receive their email on-the go for a long time so far, iPhone 4 promises that enterprise apps functionality will be far beyond just wireless email.
The next step to think about is always a policy. If the enterprise decides it needs to define some policies, it should be done at the very beginning, right after you first noticed the iPhone 4 case on your colleague’s table. Although the major part of companies isn’t thinking about mobile apps yet, let alone building their own applications, application policies still need to be set. The reason is clear even if there won’t be a corporate use of iPhone apps, there still be a private use inside the company. Every business user is still a consumer, while the ordinary user usually has more than a dozen of applications and keeps seeking out the best.
This means that CIO needs to define a policy model covering both internal and external applications. In order to do that, the questions should be settled regarding the list of app to be officially supported, reimbursed, tolerated or denied; the list of people responsible for taking decisions and analyzing the impact on individual’s satisfaction and the consequences of breaking the policy.
The world is looking forward to meeting a new generation of mobile enterprise applications. Are you ready to join the team of those carrying iPhone 4 cases on their belts all around the company?