Enterprise Mobility is one of those nebulous terms which while used frequently, covers a broad range of concepts and technologies. A few years ago, the buzz was around bring-your-own-device, as the consumerisation of IT took hold, with the accompanying challenges related to mobile device management.

But devices are only part of the picture. Providing access to enterprise apps also has its own set of challenges. As corporates focus on their customer-facing apps, providing staff with access to enterprise systems from mobile devices comes some way down the priority list.

“There are not many really good mobile developers in the marketplace. The ones that are around want to become millionaires by building customer-facing applications for consumers, gaming and so on. So for a boring old corporate like a bank to get hold of them is hard,” Russell Acton, VP and GM International for enterprise apps payer Capriza, told Mobile World Live.

And the ones that do find their way into the corporate environment are unlikely to be used to develop internal apps.

“If you look at the Amazon application that you can get on your mobile phone, it’s a super well designed, beautifully developed, well-crafted piece of code. And the reason why that’s so advanced is because there is billions of dollars worth of revenue potentially for Amazon – so it’s worth making an effort,” he continued.

According to a recent Gartner report, market demand for mobile app development services will grow “at least five times faster than internal IT organisations’ capability to deliver them” in the near future.

Legacy challenges
Russell Acton - Capriza
But headcount is not the sole challenge. In many cases, corporates have made significant investments in enterprise applications from applications such as Oracle, PeopleSoft and Salesforce. Providing access to these platforms to mobile users can create a number of hurdles.

“Tunnelling into that is so hard, and what you are doing is opening Pandora’s box. All the techies will resort to ‘let’s build APIs’, but that can take years and even then the skillsets required are difficult to find. And businesses stand there, saying ‘I don’t have two and a half years to wait for the 10 APIs I need for this one app – I need it now’,” Acton said.

“Where you see people being further ahead is when they have less dependence on legacy. Where you’ve got people further behind, it’s more about dependence on their legacy,” he continued.

Of course, the established enterprise IT players and systems integrators have their own efforts to mobilise enterprise apps, but Acton cites customer feedback that for these players, “every problem they have is a nail, because they have got a hammer”.

This means there is frequently a focus on bespoke work and deploying consultants and developers on billable hours, which can often be tied-in to existing spend commitments or contracts.

“We hit pockets of vested interests – the guys who manage the systems integrator relationships want to use SIs,” Acton said.

Lightweight apps
Capriza’s approach is small apps, which it calls Zapps, designed to enable employees to carry out specific tasks – for example field data capture, expense approvals or inventory management. Zapps, the company said, are “bite-sized, intuitive, mobile-first” – more like familiar consumer apps than enterprise tools.

These can be created using a design module that also includes templates. “The skills you need are more around the process. So if you know how an approvals process works, that’s more valuable than knowing how JavaScript works, for example,” Acton said.

Capriza’s platform depends on the availability of a web-based interface for enterprise apps, which Acton said covers around 85 per cent of the market. It analyses what would be displayed by the browser, before enabling specific elements – such as form fields and options – to be selected to include in the Zapp.

This also has the benefit of meaning nothing has to be changed on the back-end system, so that, for example, user permissions are retained – although back-end changes also affect Zapps.

Charging is on a subscription model – the executive described the proposition as “simplification and mobilisation as a service”.

But Acton also acknowledged that Capriza is not the ideal partner in all cases.

“There’s no perfect solution out there, there’s not a solution that covers 100 per cent of use cases. And anyone who says otherwise is not telling the truth. We have our sweet spots, and we have our areas we don’t handle as well, just like every other solution,” he said.