When it comes to mobile device management, there’s a fundamental mindset shift that’s required in today’s organizations between IT and application developers. Instead of being at odds, IT and developers should collaborate with one another. According to businessmen, IT’s traditional goal of controlling the developer should be replaced by the willingness to do six things to help the application developer do his or her job better. They also said there are also five ways in which developers can help IT to more effectively do its job.
Through this partnership, IT and developers can better manage their organization’s mobile devices and applications throughout their life cycle. “If IT can create value for the app developer, then they’re going to have a partnership where they can work together,” said Ojas Rege, vice president of strategy at MobileIron, a mobile device-management solution provider.
“If IT can’t do that, then the line of business is just going to go right around IT and you’re going to have hundreds of orphaned, unsecured applications out there in the next 12 months in every major organization.”
Because of the importance of this collaboration, mobile device management has grown much beyond the fact that IT can, for example, remotely wipe a device. “The MDM concept is much broader today,” said Yoram Mizrachi, CTO at Perfecto Mobile, a provider of cloud-based mobile-application testing solutions. “Now IT has to support hundreds of developers and testers in the organization. And developers need, basically, an IT service of managing those mobile devices.”
There are six core things that IT can do to provide value to the enterprise app developer—and thus the organization—and it begins with developer sourcing, according to experts. IT has to help organizations find capable developers. “What developers are you going to use? It’s not easy to find great mobile developers,” Rege said. “Which vendors do you use? Do you contract? This is the whole notion of, ‘Let me help you to get the resources you need to build a great app.’ ”
The second fundamental thing that IT can do, Rege said, is to provide developers with access and support for enterprise APIs because all of these apps are going to rely on enterprise data. Having really well-designed APIs to build apps on top of is going to make app development cheaper, faster and more effective. “That’s absolutely a role that IT can play, which is, ‘Hey, I’ll give you the APIs, I’ll give you guidance around those and I’ll educate you on them. I’ll tell you how to use them effectively and I’ll make new ones available when you need them,’ and so forth,” he said.
The third key thing involves emphasizing the importance of the user experience and giving developers design best practices. This is important because, with mobile apps in particular, user experience is absolutely the litmus test to adoption, according to Rege. He said if a company screws up the user experience, it has just wasted money.
“All of us are very used to incredible consumer apps,” he said. “Consumer apps have set the bar for user experience. So, if I try to cram a big enterprise app onto that little mobile screen and give you 15 pull-downs, you’re just not going to use it.”
The fourth thing that IT can do to help developers is to help them with security. It’s probably the one that’s most important for IT to do. But in some ways, Rege said, helping with security has traditionally been the hardest for them. “This is what I call ‘plug-and-play security.’ IT needs to give the developer something that’s easy for the developer and invisible to the user,” he said.
The fifth thing that IT can do is provide developers with a fantastic enterprise app store. When developers build apps, they need to figure out a way to get it to the employees. “The way to get it to the employees is through a private app store that’s run by that enterprise,” Rege said. “If IT can provide a consumer-grade discovery experience through an enterprise app store, that’s a big value to the developer because the developer will say, ‘Hey IT, I really need to get this app distributed to all the people in marketing. Can you help me do that?’ And IT will say, ‘Absolutely. I’ll pop it on my internal app store and will make it available just to the marketing team.’ ”
The sixth and final thing is IT providing the developer with tools to drive and measure adoption. “So, IT can actually tell a developer, ‘Hey, you know those three apps you built? This one’s getting a lot of use, but this other one’s not really getting a lot of use,’ ” Rege said. With these tools, IT and developers can figure out why some apps are more popular than others, then find and fix the problems with the unpopular ones.
And in return…
Those are six ways that IT can help developers, but for the collaboration to work, developers must also help IT with their job. In speaking with experts, five things for developers to do have become clear. “First off, it’s important for the developer to understand the company’s business model because there are many different paths,” said Troy Fulton, director of product marketing at Tangoe, a mobile device-management solution provider. “Their role is to ensure that the application experience meets the requirements of the IT admin manager who is relatively new to mobility and managing thousands of devices.”
Fulton said developers need to make sure that what they are doing can scale across platforms so that there is consistent policy enforcement as well as flexibility to accommodate business unit operations, different locations, and different roles. Developers need to understand how they all contribute to the company’s business model, he said.
Whether they’re internal or external, multi-platform mobile applications are starting to be very tightly associated with enterprise goals, experts said. So, a second way that developers can help IT is through learning how to do multi-platform applications. Not all developers are good at this. “It’s going to be very important for the app developer to really have expertise—either individually or in their organization—on multiple platforms because they’re so different,” Rege said.
There are ways that people interact with iPhone apps that are different from Android apps because the user expectations are different, he said. “You don’t want an app that feels like Android on an iPhone or vice versa because the user is not going to like it,” he said. “There’s a reason they picked that operating system, because they like the way you navigate screens or the way you flip up and down.”
Understanding the notion of a true native experience—what an iOS app feels like or what an Android app feels like—is very important. “Then being able to integrate that into the apps they build for the enterprise, that’s a big deal. That has real value to it,” Rege said. “I think that that’s an absolute responsibility of an app developer, to understand the differences between systems, not just from a technical perspective but also from a usability perspective.”
Because it’s important for a company to have cross-platform apps, experts said the third thing that developers can do to strengthen their partnership with IT is make sure they get a clear definition of what’s expected for their mobile applications on each platform. “IT needs to decide if it’s okay that a mobile application will run only on the iPhone 5 or on previous iOS versions or on Android as well,” Mizrachi said. “If a certain platform is not supported, IT has to know the impact of that on the organization.”
The fourth thing that developers should do, Rege said, is to absolutely go to the table and say, “Yes, I am going to spend time and think about data security.” If IT is going to give developers a big novel to read about security practices, chances are they won’t follow it. However, that doesn’t mean app developers shouldn’t put security high on their priority list.
The fifth thing that app developers can do is take a consumer-like view to the user experience, because user experience is fundamental. “That means that if you’re a traditional enterprise app developer within an organization, you may have to relearn your tools of the trade,” Rege said. “Some enterprise app developers may have a hard time moving to that world, and there may be some retraining needed.”