‘Poor app performance and speed are clearly deal-breakers for a company’

A recent Oracle study reflected on the fact that how a poor mobile app system may dwindle a company’s ratings. In an interaction with Voice&Data, Mitesh Agarwal, Group Head – Sales Consulting and CTO, Oracle India, throws light on the growing mobile app ecosystem and how mobile app development projects will outnumber native PC projects.

Voice&Data: The India mobile app economy in the following two years is forecasted to grow more than four times from its current estimated size of $150 mn and is said to breach $600-650 mn by 2016 with paid apps accounting for more than 50% share. What exactly Oracle is doing to cash in on this opportunity?

Mitesh Agarwal: Oracle strategy is based on the paradigm ‘Simplify Enterprise Mobility’. We are the market leaders in Fusion middleware and Oracle’s mobile platform leverages our middleware infrastructure for easy integration between mobile apps and back-end systems. We offer a robust, high performance and highly scalable architecture that can run both web and mobile apps, meeting the 24/7 requirements with intuitive access to mobile business functionality.

We have pre-built mobile apps across our product lines including Oracle EBusiness Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, as well as Cloud Applications including Human Capital Management, Talent Management, Customer Service and Support etc, to help business users access, and work with these solutions anywhere, anytime and on any device of their choice.

Developers can leverage Java and HTML5 to build mobile apps once and deploy them to multiple operating systems and multiple mobile devices whether smartphones or tablets. In addition, our mobile platform works with popular native, open-source and third party frameworks, just as it works with Oracle Mobile Application Framework, providing for a very open and flexible architecture.

Voice&Data: What is driving the trend towards mobile platforms?

Mitesh Agarwal: According to the United Nations, six of the seven billion people worldwide now have mobile phones. Workers and customers alike are untethered, which is enabling new business models and transforming industries. Look at Uber, SnapChat, or even Facebook, where 400 million of their users log in only with their mobile devices.

In other words, mobility is now becoming the primary way for consumers to interact with a brand and get things done. To adapt to this changing paradigm, businesses are adopting a ‘Mobile-First’ strategy. They are making mobility a core part of their business, and the primary channel by which they engage with customers. In fact according to Forbes, mobile app development projects will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4-to-1 by 2015.

In many cases the drive towards mobility is driven from within the organization, as innovative users and line of business managers accelerate the need for a mobile strategy. Line-of-business users want to be able to extend their enterprise applications to mobile devices because keeping the workforce connected empowers everyone to make decisions, take action, and stay informed.

IT developers and architects want to be able to extend their current skill sets and tools to embrace mobile paradigms, develop new types of mobile apps, and spearhead strategic, innovative endeavours for the enterprise. What we are seeing is that mobility is taking the same trajectory as that taken by the web when it came into being. Today, nobody questions the need for a web presence. Similarly time has come when it is imperative to have a mobile presence for all applications and services.

Voice&Data: What is customer response and expectation from an app platform?

Mitesh Agarwal: The race to engage prospective and current customers and business users via smartphones and tablets is a worthy one, but sometimes companies lose sight of what makes applications on these devices attractive and they can overstep the boundaries with the people they serve.

A recent study by Oracle on the use of apps by millennials explored the fine line between delivering app-based services that improve the overall user experience and those that are too intrusive or pushy. The study found that while millennials are happy to receive support in the form of value-added communications, they are turned off by wholly unsolicited communications in the form of push-notifications that aren’t relevant to their individual needs.

In fact, the survey says that a poor mobile app experience will make millennials less likely to use a company’s products or services. And this has serious implications for businesses moving to an app only platform. The study shows that businesses must avoid thinking of the mobile channel as just a vehicle for self-promotion and advertising. From seeking expert advice from a product expert to being able to change their billing structure with a service provider, customers see their mobile app as resources that will better their lives and make them more productive wherever they are.

Voice&Data: What kind of technology investment is required from enterprises?

Mitesh Agarwal: Only the right blend of business, marketing, design, and technology expertise will enable the enterprise to succeed with business-to-employee (B2E) and business-to-consumer mobile (B2C) solutions. It goes without saying that the best apps have to be intuitive and reliable, and should be developed with a view of who will ultimately be using them. Consumers, employees, and business partners will all expect a very different experience from their applications. In the case of enterprise apps, for example, these should connect seamlessly with back-end systems so employees can always have access to the information they need. Importantly, security is and should be a concern for all users.

Businesses will need to integrate measures such as single sign-on across all their apps. When it comes to enterprise apps, they will need to take this one step further and apply advanced data protection measures to employees’ mobile devices. For companies to address all these issues, they will first need to transform the core of their business to embrace mobile as the way forward.

Voice&Data: What are the challenges businesses are facing in addressing the same?

Mitesh Agarwal: Customers equate the experience they get via a mobile or tablet app with the quality of the brand behind it. The design, functionality, performance, and security of apps today have become the new weapons in the battle to attract and retain customers, and businesses that do not arm themselves appropriately have little chance of coming out on top.

Poor app performance and speed are clearly deal-breakers for a company when it comes to their apps. While some businesses would argue that part of this lies out of their hands – as the strength of data networks is of course not their responsibility in most cases – it will fall to them to develop apps that fulfill customers’ requirements for functionality without being so clunky as to always require above average network connectivity to work. This may extend to providing users with some offline functionality or background synchronization options in instances when network performance is lacking.

Developers must also consider the impact of mobile traffic and load on backend systems that weren’t originally designed for mobile apps. Ideally mobile integration should be an extension of the service oriented architecture (SOA) that is already in place in an enterprise. This will help bring down cost and provide greater agility to business application. And then there’s the cloud; by abstracting back-end functions in the cloud, businesses can free up their resources to simultaneously focus on front-end development and develop strong mobile business models.

Another major challenge revolves around ensuring data security. With people accessing information and sharing personal details rather indiscriminately today via smartphones, tablets, and their personal computers, companies will need to take proactive measures to protect their data. No longer will simple encryption, firewalls, and network security controls alone do the trick. Companies will need to control access from the inside out and at every layer of their IT, from the database that processes data to the mobile devices tied to the system.

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