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In-house 'app stores' ease tablet-management woes

Bob Violino | April 13, 2011
Although this level of control isn't for everyone, it does help keep a lid on chaos and support woes.

Menefee says Schumacher Group is encouraging its software vendors to deploy mobile applications and is also investing in internal development. It has trained several developers to build apps for the devices.

For example, the company created an internal application, now deployed on every iPad in the company, which aggregates data from on a Google Map. It serves as a communication aide for recruiters who are meeting with physicians. "The recruiter can quickly show the physician which hospitals are available to work at, have immediate access to the profile of the hospital, and fill out a quick form which emails the physician details of the hospital for future follow-up," Menefee says.

"I went into 2011 telling the IT team that everything they do needs to be considered for a mobility solution," he adds.

For his part, VanOsch says Imris first searches for public applications that might meet the company's needs. If nothing suitable exists, Imris weighs the cost vs. benefit of developing apps in-house. "For company-specific functionality, our plan is to develop internal resources to build the apps in-house," VanOsch says. Since deploying iPads in November 2010, the company has delivered 16 tablet applications for its business, 15 of which were internally developed.

At Marist, code writers, including students, submit iPad applications to the Apple App Store for consideration after internal review at the college. "Once approved, the app becomes available to any users of the App Store," Thirsk says. So far, four applications have been approved and one is under review.

William Clark, a research vice president at Gartner, says CRM vendors, particularly those offering salesforce automation, are supporting tablets through native applications. But some ERP and supply chain management vendors are more conservative than CRM vendors and aren't prepared to deliver tablet versions of their applications anytime soon. "I'd say that most enterprise app vendors are hedging on tablet support by focusing on Web enablement, and taking a wait-and-see strategy to assess which of the [tablet] platforms is going to win out in the long term," Clark says.

He notes that companies using tablets that don't have internal development resources can turn to a growing number of vendors that specialize in helping to build custom enterprise mobile apps.


Potential integration hassles

Yet another tablet software issue involves integrating applications on the back end and determining whether the enterprise can handle this on its own or should seek outside help.

For some, the mobility strategy, including integration, is still unfolding. "By the end of the first quarter [of 2011], we are going to solidify our mobile development strategy, which will take many of our solutions to multiple mobile devices," Schumacher's Menefee says. "I am confident that I will need to outsource the bulk of the [software-related] work."



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