Is there anyone in your IT department who doesn’t carry a smartphone or tablet? For that matter, are any of the other employees in the organization still carrying an old flip phone? Probably not. It’s 2013, after all. So why not co-opt their phones and tablets and keep them connected 24×7 to the management information systems in which you’ve invested thousands of dollars? Native apps are easier than ever to develop on iOS and Android and many systems, whether CRM, budgeting, ERP, content management, enterprise visibility, or virtually any other MIS has APIs that are easily leveraged through mobile apps or third-party backend tools that can feed native apps.
If you roll out a new budgeting system for your organization, employees should have an app for submitting expense reports. If you have a network monitoring system, IT staff should only be a few swipes away from critical information. Doctors shouldn’t need a computer in front of them to access patient records and sales teams should be carrying leads in their pockets.
An increasing number of management systems across verticals and functions now ship with their own native mobile apps, but the lack of such apps shouldn’t be a deal breaker if your organization has found a COTS tool that otherwise meets its needs very well. At the same time, the need for mobile apps shouldn’t be the only reason to abandon legacy applications that are still working well. The answer is in-house (or outsourced) development of custom, native mobile apps.
Why not HTML5?
Native apps are all well and good, but isn’t HTML5 the future? Create one site that works on mobile as well as desktop browsers? Avoid cross-platform development and the vagaries of Android’s Java and Apple’s Objective C? Skip submission processes for various app stores? Bypass OS fragmentation on Android and don’t sweat hardware differences for Android and Windows Phone?
HTML5 always sounds like the holy grail when we’re talking about application development in a post-PC world and the promise of the new platform is hard to ignore. That said, the reality of HTML5 has yet to catch up to the promise and native apps remain the easiest, most robust tools for users with the best user experience. Once users install a native app, it’s there for immediate access without any need to navigate to a website and with far easier connections to a device’s hardware, OS, and other apps, particularly on Android and Windows Phone 8 devices.
Start with a dashboard
In-house app development doesn’t need to be complicated and it certainly doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing approach. Something as simple as a dashboard app that includes shortcuts to enterprise applications, relevant website and web apps (HTML5, mobile-optimized, or otherwise) and other native apps would be immediately useful to users and could leverage existing mobile and web resources with a minimum of programming. This dashboard could be regularly updated as more apps are rolled out.
Easy tools exist – make use of them
Many MIS tools have well-documented APIs that make it simple to access at least a subset of functionality from mobile devices. Add to this tools like Titanium, PhoneGap, eZ Publish, and Avai’s AMP platform and developers with even a minimal understanding of mobile applications can publish native apps across platforms quite easily.
Native mobile apps neither need to be overly complicated nor difficult to develop or deploy. Rather, they can be powerful tools to connect users via their own devices to a variety of management systems, increasing the systems’ usefulness and, significantly, their utilization.