5 tips for successful mobile app development for the enterprise

The founders of Taptera, a young software company making mobile apps for BYOD in the enterprise, offer tips for developing the kinds of apps employees will want to use, and that will bring real productivity to the enterprise.

As the "bring your own device" (BYOD) phenomenon grows exponentially, companies are looking to capture real productivity from all the mobile devices their employees are toting. There's now a booming market for enterprise applications built for the mobile platforms.

Taptera is a young company that is building a name for itself by bringing to market a set of mobile applications that simply make life easier for mobile workers. Among their current products are:

Colleagues -- a mobile corporate directory that allows workers to securely access, navigate and communicate with everyone else in their organization.

Rooms -- a convenient tool to see what conference or meeting rooms are available and to reserve it for use.

Events -- a mobile tool to be used at company conferences and events to track sessions, speakers and other important parts of the event agenda.

Four keys to successful BYOD

While the concept of these tools seems common, what makes them special is they have been designed to securely integrate with enterprise information (as does the company directory used by Colleagues). What's more, the people who use these apps love them. It's clear that the developers understand how to create successful mobile apps.

Chris O'Connor and Dan McCall, the co-founders of Taptera, came from a large organization where they spent years developing corporate applications for a mobile platform. That experience helped them hone their expertise in designing apps that authenticate to underlying enterprise systems.

I asked O'Connor and McCall to share some of their tips for successful mobile application development for the enterprise, and they offer the following:

* Create task-specific-apps: The successful app is task-specific and solves discrete problems people actually have. Simple, task-specific apps increase productivity. Every app should have a mission statement and focus on mobile usage. It doesn't make sense to put all of SAP on your cellphone, so identify what people use most and need to access while on the go, and then focus on those tasks on an individual basis.

* Design for the user: First and foremost, the app experience is about the user. It's paramount for developers not to confuse their personal behavior with their users, or even department manager behavior with staff behavior. Product development needs to be iterative. You must seek user feedback every step of the way. The goal is to create an app that connects with users, is intuitive and solves a real problem. You should never have to sacrifice aesthetics for functionality.

* Make security a priority: From the beginning, you absolutely must address app security and data integrity. It is imperative that developers build security functions into the app. Essential security measures include remote access admin controls, app login credentials, building password protection on the actual device, and encryption. We also always recommend using third-party remote device management systems like MobileIron, for example.

* Embrace the platform: Optimize data for mobile so that it's fast and seamlessly integrates with your existing IT systems. If you're developing an app for iOS, incorporate platform features like location services, maps, FaceTime, iMessaging, camera and Retina Display, and integrate with other apps and social media. Developers can further enhance an app's functionality and appeal to users by creating interfaces that are built for touch.

* Mind your business: Companies should focus on their expertise rather than wasting time and valuable resources on building custom software. Either build upon middleware platforms or buy fully finished and complete apps, and link them to existing systems instead of attempting to have your team build and maintain an entire new system. Building an internal custom mobile software shop wastes time, and is challenging and expensive. Ultimately in the end, this won't end up giving your company a competitive advantage.

Linda Musthaler is a principal analyst with Essential Solutions Corporation. You can write to her at LMusthaler@essential-iws.com.


About Essential Solutions Corp:

Essential Solutions researches the practical value of information technology, and how it can make individual workers and entire organizations more productive. Essential Solutions offers consulting services to computer industry and corporate clients to help define and fulfill the potential of IT.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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