Publishing an app in an enterprise today means supporting at least two platforms--and potentially up to four--to cover all of your employees. Unlike apps published for consumers, enterprise apps often need to rollout changes and enhancements simultaneously to all employees, rather than one platform at a time. How can you maximize functionality and performance without breaking the bank or killing your IT staff?
Forrester Research has released a report called "Building Mobile Apps? Start with the Web; Move to Hybrid." It discusses the four main approaches to development: native, hybrid, mobile middleware, and Web.
Native apps are the best-performing apps. They are tailored to each platform and take advantage of functionality provided by the OS. For example, Evernote probably has more clients available than most apps. It supports Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android, Blackberry, webOS, Windows Phone 7, as well as ensuring Web compatibility and native clipping features for Safari, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox. Evernote has stated in podcasts and blogs that native apps provide the richest customer experience, and it's worth it for the company to invest to target each platform specifically.
The disadvantage for Evernote is each client is at a different level of functionality. Just peruse through the Evernote Blog to see features added to some platforms while others must wait a while. That works for consumer apps, but not for enterprise apps. You generally need to get the same level of functionality out to everyone at roughly the same time.
How do you determine what approach to take? By answering some questions about your objectives, strategy, existing technology, and a few others, you can figure out which application model works best for you. For example, if you are a smaller company and the app is 100% internal, you can limit device support to perhaps one or two platforms. For larger companies, where employees as well as external business partners need access to the app, you may now have three to four platforms.
The Forrester report will guide you through some of these issues, hopefully saving you time and resources by not heading down a path that will cost too much, or worse, leave you with a project that never quite gets off of the ground.