App developers are making more than just “Angry Birds.” They’re also revolutionizing the workplace, an expert panel said during the New Jersey Technology Council Mobile Applications Forum at Princeton University on June 14, 2012.
The panel discussed enterprise apps, which operate workplace-related software on mobile devices. Recently Gartner estimated the enterprise app market at $120 billion in 2012.
Enterprise apps are any apps that are “helping employees do their job better,” said panelist Rich Napoli, COO of the enterprise app firm ObjectFrontier Software, which has offices in the United States, India, Australia and the Philippines.
Napoli cited a doctor using an enterprise app to retrieve medical information in an emergency and a claims adjuster investigating an insurance claim on location.
Vaibhav Rampuria, head of mobile practice at Diaspark, an Edison- based enterprise app firm, elaborated on Napoli’s definition: “It’s making that information available at the point of activity, where they [employees] are able to increase profits and the bottom line.”
Napoli and Rampuria spoke on the panel with James Ouyang, senior director of business development, Qualcomm (San Diego), and William Petruck, founder and CEO of Canadian digital marketing firm iShare. Jim Fischer, a Princeton-based partner at the national law firm Drinker Biddle, which cosponsored the forum, moderated the panel.
The panelists spoke about enterprise software liberating companies from being stuck in one place of business. “The whole goal is to have the team out and in front of customers, not behind four walls,” Napoli said. “The effect is they’re still behind those walls but completely untethered.”
Petruck, whose company specializes in serving nonprofits, spoke about how enterprise apps can make those organizations more efficient. The more charities have to spend just to operate, the less they have to give to their chosen cause.
“The cost of competing for dollars is very expensive,” Petruck said. “But if it can be done through the right networking, it can raise your profile.” Petruck said mobile apps in general have benefited nonprofits because they let users learn immediately and donate money quickly after surprise events like natural disasters. “The community can get engaged right away with the greatest need,” he noted.
The panelists answered questions about developing apps for companies eager to acquire enterprise software to better run their businesses.
Rampuria said businesses ordering apps debate having developers design software from scratch versus adapting something already on the market. “I’ve seen both,” he said. “The process is specific to the organization. They can start out with something ready to use that they later want to customize. Customers don’t always know what they want.”
He said companies have to decide whether they want to buy something ready to use immediately or wait for a product that would take longer to make but include proprietary rights.
Napoli elaborated, “With customization, they own it, but the trade-off is cost, time and the risk that the developer may go out of business.”
As the discussion was ending, the panelists spoke about general trends in the enterprise and larger app markets.
Napoli was bullish, saying that technology development was happening rapidly in this space. “Things are happening in weeks and months that used to take years. The good news for all of us is we think we’re seeing maturation pretty quickly. The hardware is continuing to innovate.”
“There’s a lot of experimenting happening,” Rampuria agreed. “It’s taking entire organizations into total mobility.”
In addition to providing panel presentations, the forum honored winners of a mobile app competition in several categories:
- RantNetwork, which provides translation services from its Bloomsburg, Pa., and Freehold offices, won the content category.
- PublicStuff (New York) won the location services category for its platforms allowing citizens to submit public services requests.
- paSafeShare, a Colts Neck firm, won the mHealth category for protecting business data.
- The Casey Group of Parsippany won the mobile media category with a sales app.
- Westfield firm Hatchedit, which offers a shared calendar for families, won in the personalized services category.
- Holmdel-based Vonage won the social media category for its talk and text app.
- Alfred NFC (Halifax, Nova Scotia) took the Best of Canada prize for an app that identifies active smartphones at particular locations.
- Smart Cities winner 2XM Interactive (Montreal) offered an app featuring a locally produced soundtrack to accompany bus routes starting in its hometown.