The main reason enterprise mobility initiatives are struggling to scale…

Photo by Jindong H/CC 0/Cropped — via Unsplash

Stakeholders will be able to interact with the business from anywhere, at anytime. Everything will be mobile accessible. That was the promise!

For a few years now, mobility has been high on the list of strategic priorities of CIOs. However, despite billions of dollars and countless hours spent on executing on these priorities, the promise of a fully mobile enabled digital enterprise has not come to pass.

A recent survey of practitioners on the Global State of Enterprise Mobility provides key insights worth noting.

A majority of respondents (> 50%) state that they are anywhere between scoping solutions and early implementations with another quarter of respondents in their second phase of implementation.

Their challenges?

Courtesy: Global State of Enterprise Mobility 2016— Enterprise mobility exchange

In addition to the challenges of integrating with legacy systems and getting stakeholder buy in, nearly 40% of the respondents indicate change management as a critical challenge. Other noteworthy challenges include budget limitations for building bespoke solutions (33%), alignment of the many technology providers needed(27%), under estimation of length of implementation (23%) and a whopping 20% for ‘other’ costs.

And key areas of investments in technology include mobile security, connectivity and device management, in addition to the expected spend mobile application development.

Courtesy: Global State of Enterprise Mobility 2016 — Enterprise mobility exchange

And in mid 2015, Gartner accurately predicted: “By the end of 2017, market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than internal IT organizations’ capacity to deliver them.”

But all these challenges stem from a singular reason stemming from our current approach to mobility. And that reason is…


A Thick Client….

Yup, a thick client. We are approaching mobility as we did desktop software in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. We are building thick clients talking to servers — remember the traditional Desktop Application Architecture? — and we have inherited all the problems associated with it.

A Mobile App is a Thick Client

If you think about it, mobile apps are nothing but thick clients talking to servers — we just happen to be installing them on our mobile devices. Fundamentally, we are installing software on the client that are aware of how to communicate with a server and how to manipulate the data received and present a user interface for the user to interact with the system.

But there’s a reason we don’t think ‘desktop app’ anymore when we want to build user accessible solutions and overwhelmingly choose to use a web based solution. We know the problems having a ‘desktop app’ cause. However, we seem to have forgotten these challenges as we approach this brave new mobile-enabled world. History, it seems, does have a way of repeating itself…


So, what are the challenges with using thick clients?

Provisioning

Now, that’s obvious. To use these clients you have to install them. You have to physically get them on the device.

In enterprise desktop contexts, this usually meant a shared drive with the bits and one of a myriad of license management techniques to ‘authorize’ the client, or an application management solution (Marimba comes to mind).

In the mobile context, this means using a public (a public App store) or private (Enterprise App store) catalog of applications that can be installed.

Upgrades and Version Management

Once the app is on the client, you have to ensure that it is continuously maintained and enforce that all clients that are active are compatible with the server they are talking to. This typically means either a forced upgrade or the ability for the server to handle multiple versions of the client.

In the enterprise desktop context, that means either using an application management solution (such as Marimba etc) to handle patching and upgrades or out of band communication to coordinate upgrades of the clients. Typical client upgrades were months long projects. And reverts were even more expensive.

In the mobile context, this means an upgrade of the client from the app store or the use of EMM solutions to ensure version compatibility. And there’s, for all practical purposes, no going back.

Client Security

Every app has to be meticulously vetted to ensure appropriate access controls and data security. The more critical the system, the more meticulous the vetting. And if a problem crops up, then once again the ugly process of upgrades has to be dealt with.

As before, in both enterprise and mobile contexts, there are management solutions designed entirely around facilitating and simplifying this process in the form of expensive application management (enterprise desktop) and EMM (MAM for mobile) solutions.


But it’s actually worse now…

In the mobile environment, the above problems are actually even more acute.

Multiple Operating Systems

While for desktops, there was predominantly a single operating system to deal with (i.e. Windows), in the mobile world, we have at least two dominant operating systems (iOS and Android) to deal with and potentially more (Blackberry, Windows, Tizen or even more modern ones such as tvOS or evolving VR environments).

Device Formats and Capabilities

Desktops have a relatively stable form factor and peripherals (keyboard and mouse) and had the added benefit of not requiring application window size to be in sync with the device screen size.

BYOD

While enterprise desktops were owned by the organizations and IT departments had full control over the devices, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) presents a unique challenge to enterprise IT departments who now have to constantly test the boundaries between security of enterprise applications and data, and an individual’s right over their devices. Individuals predominantly own administrative rights over their devices in this new world.

In addition, mobile devices are much more space constrained than their desktop counterparts. This means that there’s always contention for space between applications that the user wants and the applications that the user needs to do her work.

App Fatigue

Too many apps…

End users are tired of installing apps for everything. While use of mobile devices has increased, end users are increasingly reluctant to install more apps.

And enterprises are realizing that the cost of building, maintaining, evolving and managing more than a handful of apps is exponentially more complex and expensive.


How The Web won the war!

The web revolutionized how we built enterprise systems in the 90s precisely because it solved these thick client problems. By moving control over to the server and using a generic client (the browser) on the device, enterprises were able to dramatically improve their productivity and ability to deliver solutions that were powerful and yet seamlessly accessible to their end users without any of the challenges mentioned above. Note, specifically, that the solutions that helped clean up the aftermath of deploying desktop solutions (Application management solutions) were pretty much rendered obsolete by the web architecture.

Mobile Web applications are particularly attractive for this very reason. However, Mobile Web has been unable to deliver the user experience that mobile users have come to expect for various reasons that are well documented in literature. This leaves enterprises with an impossible choice. Embrace mobility fully and deal with the cost, time and complexity of delivering and operating it or live with the inferior user experience that does not leverage the full power of mobility.


At OmnyPlay, we aim to deliver a solution where you don’t have to choose. The OmnyPlay platform is designed to provide the end user with the best native user experience with none of the challenges of delivering multiple mobile solutions. And much more. Check us out!