Six Keys for Building Successful Enterprise App Stores

By Regev Yativ, President and CEO of Magic Software Enterprises Americas

As the new iPad continues to proliferate in the business market and smartphones stay on track to outpace the overall handset market for the foreseeable future (according to a recent study from MindCommerce), businesses can no longer hide from the mobile revolution. Not only do companies need to mobilize their business applications, but they must also consider the diverse user preferences that stem from the variety of smartphones and tablets from which employees can choose. Mobile device preferences are ever-changing, since no single mobile operating system controls today’s market. 

Once considered a luxury, fully-synchronized mobile applications are now attainable for business users who want companies to offer these apps with back-end enterprise software systems. In the past, IT departments that did take on the challenge of integrated mobile apps typically took years to develop and implement them. However, users expect to see apps developed quickly. Newer approaches allow IT professionals to overcome the massive risk of development failure due to the burden of parallel development for multiple platforms. This burden can be overcome with a mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP).
To successfully meet customers’ demands for enterprise mobile apps, a good MEAP vendor will help you follow these simple do’s and don’ts:
Do be wary of code generation promises. Using a high-level integrated development environment (IDE), code generators convert source code into a form that can be readily executed by a machine. That code is then used to determine how well your development team created the app. This technique is effective; however, many times changes need to be made once the app enters the testing phase. Code generators rarely allow the changes in code to come full circle because tweaks made to the native code cannot be read by the high-level IDE. This means all modifications must be made in the line-by-line text editor, which can cause significant delays to the release of the app and complicate future efforts to maintain it.
Don’t use software development kits (SDKs) to cater to business users.Integration components in a SDK may seem like a reasonable solution for the problem of integrating to back-end systems. However, SDKs are not designed for business users; they are intended to be used by programmers. There is a large difference between an integration SDK library and an integration platform. With an SDK library, you have the pieces you need, but you lack the ability to put them together. An integration platform that has all the built in servers, communication brokering, service orientation, messaging, security and monitoring offers a better solution and allows the integration to be implemented quickly. 
Don’t use a standard look and feel. It is easy to make this mistake when a MEAP vendor explains to you how easy you can set up identical applications across BlackBerry, Android, Windows and iPhone devices. Although this may sound like the best and easiest solution for you, your users will not feel the same way. For example, BlackBerry users are used to handling their keypads and trackballs and iPhone users are comfortable with their touch screen interfaces. Whatever the preference, users have a reason for purchasing the latest models of their specific smartphones. By creating one unified application, you take away that novelty. Be sure to choose a MEAP platform that is up-to-date with the latest new features in the major smartphone platforms.
Don’t abandon legacy applications. Some outsourced app developers are eager to pry IT departments off of environments they don’t understand like the IBM i, and many see the demand for mobile apps as a way to do so.  The problem with completely replacing a legacy application is that you sacrifice years of built-up value and proven environments. Don’t be fooled, IBM i, Linux and Windows are all suitable as a server environment for mobile apps and legacy applications and business processes can be integrated with mobile apps.
Do be cautious when using long distance outsourcing. Oftentimes overseas development outsourcers try to keep their clients as dependant on them as possible. This should raise a red flag if you decide to engage in outsourcing. The MEAP vendor with which you work should collaborate with you, not control you. A good vendor will allow you to use your staff on the project, will mentor your staff and will provide all training materials to ensure that your team is able to take over the management of the project quickly and easily once it is complete. 
Don’t wait. Your competition is moving and the market is constantly changing. The biggest mistake you can make is to put off implementing your enterprise mobility strategy. Choosing the right MEAP vendor will help you deploy your business applications faster, meet your employees’ expectations and easily adapt to new technologies.

Enterprise mobile app stores are the key for longer term mobile app development and delivery. The sooner enterprises get started – by which we mean having a fully developed plan in place and taking the above steps into consideration, the better off they will be to most effectivdly position themselves from a competitive and strategic perspective.

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