At this point in your mobile strategy, you have chosen a Platform for your organization, Procured the devices, developed your mobile Policies and Provisioned the devices for deployment. The devices are in your users’ hands, and you need to get your apps and media to them. Publishing your information is the next step in your mobile planning.
Publishing your mobile apps and media inside your organization can require significant amount of planning. There are a number of steps to consider, from the deployment process, to updating the apps and securing the apps. In your mobile strategy, you need to find a distribution method that allows for you to manage all of these steps.
Getting apps and media on mobile devices has typically been done using one of three methods. There is the online marketplace method, such as Apple’s App Store or the Android Market, which is effective for getting apps to a large and spread-out user base, but really is only suitable for consumer media and applications. There is also a large number of app marketplaces from both the mobile platform developers and third-party sources. Your organization would either need to choose which marketplace best serves your needs, or use several and need to monitor and maintain your apps on each system. Enterprise apps, with sensitive or confidential information or a limited target of users, probably don’t fit in a publicly available distribution method. Another way to publish your organization’s apps and media is the ad hoc installation method. On some platforms, this is also known as sideloading or manual installation. Ad hoc installation requires downloading the application installer or media file and manually installing it on the mobile device. Some platforms are easier to manage manually than others, but users could find the process confusing or too time consuming to keep things up to date. The other method is to build a private app catalog to install apps wirelessly. A private app catalog lets you distribute your apps and media to the mobile devices in a more user friendly manner. The problem with this method, at first, was that it just was an automated way to perform ad hoc distribution. Users would receive an email or SMS that contained a link to your organization’s private app server. They had to hit that link and download the installer and put the application on their device manually. It helped to get the apps out to users faster and to a geographically diverse user base without putting them in a public marketplace, but there was still no way to tell if people downloaded and installed the apps or files. In the Enterprise IT world, organizations need to know what is installed where, and ensure that proper updates occur for security and licensing requirements. How can you make that happen in mobile?
A rapidly growing answer to that question is to use Mobile Application Management (MAM). Mobile Application Management systems allow organizations to create a private application catalog that works similarly to the public marketplaces. Media files and documents that are useful to your mobile users can often be included in a MAM system as well. Apps can be categorized and only visible to specific users, as they would in a traditional enterprise application deployment systems. Apps can be updated either by notifying mobile users, or even by push updates without user intervention, if the platform supports it. Apps can also be removed or disabled from mobile devices if a user leaves the organization, or has accessed the application improperly, without requiring a full device wipe. That can give you more flexibility in making sure mobile devices comply with your policies.
Mobile application development can also benefit from having an application management system in place. When it comes time to test on the actual devices, being able to publish updates for each build is easier than connecting each device and loading the app manually. This can dramatically speed up the development process in your organization.
MAM systems also can be helpful in monitoring and ensuring compliance with application licensing. Your mobile systems administrator can use an MAM’s reporting features to see which users have installed apps or downloaded available media and keep track of or limit how many users install a specific app to comply with licensing issues. In conjunction with a Mobile Device Management (MDM) system, you can have a variety of tools to keep your organization in compliance with your mobile strategy. MDM is not the same as MAM, however. Several Mobile Device Management platforms offer some application management features, but a dedicated Mobile Application Management system usually has more features and will serve your organization better.
Mobile Application Management is a tool that can help with your organization’s mobile applications lifecycle, from development and testing to deployment and updating. With a bit of planning, MAM can make it a lot easier to publish the apps and media in your organization.
How are you getting your mobile apps and media to your users? Float is always interested in hearing about more methods that work!