Mixed feelings on Australian enterprise app market

The enterprise mobile app development market is attracting big money despite a lack of corporate appetite

When Australian software giant Atlassian announced in it was acquiring Trello for A$577m, it sent a signal that the enterprise app development market was alive and kicking.

Trello allows companies which rely on collaboration within their teams to project manage collaborations by creating digital post-it notes and white boards where team members can share information. The software compliments Atlassian software aimed at software developers.

In February 2016, Microsoft spent a not dissimilar amount of money buying Xamarin, which allows enterprise apps to be written once and run on multiple devices. Again, it was seen as a signal that the enterprise app market was worth the serious money being spent by suppliers on platforms to support app development.

However, according to Gartner principal research analyst Adrian Leow, the adoption, release and creation of enterprise apps remains low. A global survey of enterprises conducted late last year revealed that on average companies had just eight deployed apps, a further 2.6 in development and 6.2 on the drawing board.

“It’s abysmally poor,” said Leow. While employees are keen to use consumer-style apps to provide access to and flexibility with enterprise applications, companies remain perplexed about how to deliver that. They are also wary of employee “app-pathy” where an investment in an enterprise app is wasted because employees don’t see the need for, or are frustrated by, a poorly conceived enterprise app.

At the same time, in-house IT teams struggled to identify which app development platform to use, which consumer devices to deploy for, and were beset by a general lack of in-house app design and development skills. Compounding that, Leow said that the flux in the app development suppliers market was such that companies needed to “recalibrate” their thinking every 6-12 months.

The most success came from working with third party app developers, with 59% of companies Gartner surveyed using “mixed sourcing” when it came to enterprise app development – writing some of their own code but also working with specialists.

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Long-term success was also predicated on companies creating a mobile app integration layer that would link new apps with the company’s enterprise back end. That would reduce the risk of spaghetti APIs where each app developed its own connectors to the back end.

This was particularly important for companies that wanted to create new-generation apps that leverage emerging hardware capabilities.

Deloitte’s newly released TMT report forecasts that in 2017, 300 million smartphones will be sold worldwide which will feature neural network machine learning capabilities. This would allow new classes of apps to be created to support indoor navigation, image classification, augmented reality, speech recognition and language translation.

It also revealed that 35% of smartphones in Australia already have a fingerprint reader to allow access and authentication. Meanwhile, the advent of 5G communications networks is tipped to spawn a new class of high speed, high bandwidth apps in consumer and enterprise settings.

These much smarter devices and communications capabilities open the door for radically different consumer applications, but also a new class of enterprise app. The only way enterprise IT managers would be able to keep pace with change would be to first invest time creating a mobile app integration layer that could then meet both consumer and employee app expectations now and in the future.

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