2020 Top Barriers to Enterprise Mobile App Development – And How To Overcome Them

While more than two-thirds of enterprises say mobility is a top priority in 2020, most admit they’ll be lucky to deploy five mobile apps this year, according to the Enterprise Mobility Forum.  Appdome CEO Tom Tovar explores the barriers – and some solutions.

Tags: Android, Appdome, deploy, developers, iOS, mobile apps, PAW,

Tom Tovar, AppDome
Tom Tovar

"While enterprises say mobility is a top IT priority for 2020, most say they’ll deploy no more than five mobile apps this year."

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There’s little doubt among enterprise mobility leaders of the importance of providing a mobile experience to their end-users.


But while more than two-thirds of enterprises say that mobility is a top IT priority for 2020, most organizations say they expect they’ll be able to deploy no more than five mobile apps this year,. according to an Enterprise Mobility Forum study released in December.   


Contrast that to the number of desktop web apps organizations have deployed. According to an Okta study, companies with more than 2,000 employees have an average of 163 apps.


So, why so few mobile app releases, despite the clear importance of delivering a mobile experience to employees, partners and customers?


Let’s take a look at the top barriers to launching enterprise-class mobile apps.  It may not surprise readers that these barriers span the entire app lifecycle. 


Barrier #1:  Lack of Time

The biggest roadblock to enterprise mobile app development and deployment is a lack of time and resources. The modern enterprise depends heavily on web apps for critical internal processes, and development teams are under tremendous pressure to continuously provide new capabilities.

Creating feature-rich mobile apps from these web apps is a hot potato issue inside enterprise IT organizations. Enterprise app developers are under strain to move to the next project, and enterprise mobility teams often don’t have the developer resources to pick up the task. The result: not many enterprise mobile apps see the light of day.


Barrier #2: Lack of Specialized Expertise

Developing mobile apps requires specialized skills.  First, developers often need to the intricacies of the two dominant mobile operating systems — iOS and Android. Beyond that platform knowledge, in 2020 most enterprise mobile developers should be conversant in security skills to ensure the apps aren’t vulnerable to cyberattack.


These skills are both in high demand and short supply, particularly when considering the myriad choices and methods enterprises have to secure not only the apps but back-end systems as well.  


Barrier #3: Lack of an Enterprise-Class Mobile Infrastructure

Another barrier is the lack of a strong mobile infrastructure to support mobile apps, which differs significantly from the web app infrastructure that most companies already have in place.


Particularly problematic is the distribution and management of internal apps internally. IT has to set up an app store, and, if employees are using their own devices (which is the case for most organizations), they’ll need to install enterprise device management software. This introduces barriers to widespread usage of apps, because employees’ devices will initially warn them that the software is not trusted, requiring a number of steps to bypass. It also introduces privacy concerns.


What employee would be comfortable with their employer having access to activity on their personal mobile devices?


Barrier #4: Mobile App Distribution

A final barrier to mobile app development hits directly at getting the app ‘live’ for users.

As difficult and time-consuming as building, testing and securing a mobile app can be, distributing enterprise mobile apps can also be a barrier.  One difficulty, for instance, is in getting the binary for SaaS applications from vendors who don’t provide a mobile version of their web apps.


Without the binary, it’s impossible to produce a native mobile app of a web app, and though many SaaS applications incorporate responsive design, accessing the app via a mobile browser often performs poorly and lacks many of the most important features of a mobile app, such as persistence, the ability to work offline and push notifications.

So, Are There Solutions?  Short Answer: Yes

Thankfully, there are solutions to each of these challenges.  So, let’s look at how to tear down barriers to your mobile enterprise.


Solution #1: Use Automation Where Possible – Save Time and Money

Platforms now exist that can create PAWS (progressive web apps) and hybrid apps from web and cloud apps in mere minutes using a no-code platform and it can provide a superior experience to a mobile browser. These platforms can convert web apps to mobile apps in a small fraction of the time and cost it would require to manually port them.


But not all PWAs and hybrid apps are the same.


Solution #2: Provide the Best Mobile Experience for Enterprise Web Apps

One of the biggest issues is how to provide a mobile experience for enterprise web apps -- without incurring massive development costs and/or wrecking the development schedule.


Here, traditional PWAs can be a fast, cost-effective solution. But PWAs and web clips have their limitations when it comes to experience, usability and security.


The ideal scenario is for enterprises to use a platform to create hybrid apps that give the benefits of the PWA for rendering web and cloud service apps, as well as provide the persistence and user experience inherent with hybrid mobile apps.


This scenario provides a mobile experience that requires no manual coding includes all the advantages of a mobile app, including the ability to work offline, push notifications, and device hardware access. Further, some new platforms are able to incorporate strong security, which makes it possible to convert web apps into mobile apps quickly and then distribute them via any distribution method, including private UEM and MAM stores and Google Play and the Apple App Store.


Solution #3: Sole Distribution with Public App Stores

This brings me to the best ways to deal with distribution and management of apps. The solutions are relatively simple, and there are a number of options for organizations to distribute apps via private or public apps stores.


That said, the public app store in 2020 seems to be gaining momentum.  We find public app stores are actually increasingly the choice that Fortune 1000 companies are making for their internal employee-facing apps.


According to our Appdome December study, more than a quarter (27%) of the Fortune 1000 distribute internal apps this way.


What’s more, the bigger the company, the more likely they are to put their internal apps on a public store. This is because with a public app store, there’s no need to register a device in order to use internal apps, and companies don’t need to violate their employees’ privacy by placing management software on their personal devices.


So despite the barriers to enterprise mobile projects, tools and technologies now exist to allow enterprises to accelerate mobile app strategies that benefit mobile end users without constraints. With auto-build systems, enterprises can create secure hybrid apps, overcoming most of the formidable barriers to deploying secure mobile apps at scale for enterprise applications.


Tom Tovar is CEO and co-creator of Appdome, the mobile industry’s first no-code mobile solutions platform. Prior to Appdome, Tom served as executive chairman of  Badgeville, an enterprise engagement platform acquired by CallidusCloud, and as CEO of Nominum, a DNS security and services provider that was acquired by Akamai.