Three Ways Apple is Influencing Enterprise Software Development


ERP Analyst, Software Advice

In the old world, consumer tech followed the lead of the enterprise tech community. That’s starting to change. Today, enterprise developers are drawing much of their design inspiration from consumer tech innovation. And nothing in the consumer tech world than is bigger than Apple and their flagship iPhone and iPad products. Coincidentally, few trends in the enterprise are hotter than enterprise mobility.

In fact, a recent report by Kelton Research indicated that 90 percent of IT managers intended to implement mobile applications this year. The report is an indication of what some analysts are calling the move to a post-PC world – heralding the smartphone and tablet as “enterprise terminal of the future."

92% of the Fortune 500 companies are testing or deploying the iPad.         - Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

So it comes as no surprise that the enterprise is calling on Apple for design inspiration as vendors develop for the mobile world. I see three ways that Apple – and the ubiquity of the iPhone and iPad – is influencing enterprise software development and its approach to mobile technology. Today, enterprise software vendors are:

  1. Trying to create a mobile user experience that mirrors that of iOS.
  2. Creating an ecosystem of mobile app developers.
  3. Selling apps in their own enterprise apps marketplace.

This approach is a decidedly different take on how enterprise applications are designed, developed and distributed.

1. Vendors are Focusing More on User Experience

While Apple may not have been the first to design for a mobile platform, they were certainly the first to nail it. As a result, they’ve become the gold standard for design simplicity and usability. The impact has been so significant that ERP users are starting to expect the same iOS experience in enterprise-grade apps.

Key to creating a pleasant user experience is an interface that incorporates multiple data sources in a way that’s easy to use. As Brian Sommer pointed out in a recent article, users want to work from a single platform that draws on the functionality of multiple apps, without dealing with the multiple screens and security protocols. For instance, an HR manager working from their iPad may want to check employee performance from their talent management system and then move on to accessing their business intelligence features to analyze expense report data.

That notion is only partially hypothetical. Here are two examples of companies that are making this a reality:

  • Workday released a native iPad app that incorporates an activity stream from Salesforce's Chatter. HR staff can use it to stay up to date on employee projects, quickly approve a time-off request, etc. The app also includes business intelligence features.
  • SAP released an iPad app for their Business ByDesign product that provides dashboard view of the data analytics stored in ByDesign. Users can also access a graphical view of their sales revenue and analyze their profit margins, among other things.

Both of these examples represent a decidedly different approach to enterprise software and provide a unified experience while offering employees a better way to perform their job functions.

2. Vendors are Building an Ecosystem of Mobile Developers

Today, building one app with an elegant user experience isn’t enough. Users have come to expect options when it comes to mobile apps. To satisfy that desire, some enterprise vendors are building out a developer ecosystem. Recognizing that much of the success of the iTunes App Store is a result of their developer network, enterprise vendors are creating a developer community that can establish them as the enterprise app pioneers. The hope is that these developers can cater to unique market needs and allow the vendor to rapidly seize market share in an open field.

In Apple’s case, the developer ecosystem has been essential to creating the more than 500,000 apps that are available in the iTunes App Store. The fact that Apple provides the platform for talented developers with a good idea has democractized the development process. It’s transformed a resource intensive process into one that can be managed by three programmers in their garage.

When you don’t have to worry about the distribution and platform issues of developing an app, the barriers to entry for any commercial software developing firm are virtually non-existent. – Brian Sommer, CEO of Vital Analysis

Recognizing the payoff of building a development ecosystem, enterprise vendors such as Salesforce and SAP are providing app developers with a native platform to develop on. Salesforce is already off to a great start in building out a development community by attracting mobile developers to their platform. To date, developers have built more than 1,300 apps for Salesforce customers using the tools provided to them via Developer Force.

3. Vendors are Creating Their Own Apps Marketplace

Of course, building out an ecosystem of developers doesn’t mean much if you aren’t successfully distributing and selling the apps. As enterprise vendors build out their development ecosystem, they’re also monetizing apps by distributing them through their own marketplaces. Apple has made it clear that app stores aren’t just about extending useful software functionality to the masses – they’re also about improving the company’s bottom line.

Apple had enough vision to realize that there was money to be made off an active community of mobile app developers. At Apple’s recent Let’s Talk iPhone conference, Scott Forstall noted that Apple paid out $3 billion to their developer community. Given that Apple takes a 30 percent commission on app sales, we can guesstimate that Apple brought in revenue somewhere near $1 billion for simply providing the development platform and distributing apps other people built. It’s a win-win situation for the vendor and the developer.

Enterprise vendors are realizing the value of adopting this model of app distribution in exchange for a licensing fee. SAP recently created their own apps marketplace designed to cater to their Business ByDesign product. Other notable examples include Micrsoft’s CRM app store and NetSuite’s Suite App website.

Meanwhile, Salesforce’s AppExchange marketplace recently hit the 1,000,000 download mark – making them a nice chunk of change in the process. Salesforce monetizes their app development by charging a $300 fee for a security review in the first year of development, and $150 for each year of subsequent development. It's an easy, and steady, revenue stream that's largely untapped. Gradually, I think this will become the rule for mobile app development rather than the exception. 

Clearly, Apple’s success in the consumer world is bleeding into the enterprise and pushing development toward a new paradigm in the process. As the enterprise looks to capitalize on the red-hot trend of enterprise mobility, Apple is inspiring enterprise vendors to change the way they design, build and sell for mobile devices.

What do you think? How else do you see the Apple iOS impacting enterprise application development? Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.

A special thanks to Philippe Winthrop of TheEMF and Brian Sommer of Vital Analysis for sharing their insights on this article. Thumbnail image created by Marcin Wichary.

  • Anonymous


    You have identified some key trends in the Enterprise space that have borrowed from the Consumer Mobile space. What you are writing about, especially focusing on the user experience is key to a mobile workforce trying to use enterprise applications while you are on the road. Whether you are a salesperson or a field service person you are in a high customer touchpoint situation. The last thing you want slowing you down in getting things done in front of the client or customer is dealing with a bad user experience.

    Also the pervasive use of opening up the enterprise API for use is also very key! I ran across a very interesting company called ValGen that is built on top of demonstrating the power of specialists to add something on top of an existing enterprise app that adds immense value. For selling products that have a repeat sales potential, Valgen uses past sales statistics to predict when and how a customer will buy and remind them to do the buying! What could be more useful than a add on that guides you day to day who to call to maximize your sales?

    Great article, great observations!


  • Holly

    Thank you so much for your e-mail. Your article hit the heart of what Apple is doing in the app development world. Along with what you stated as the three ways that Apple is inspiring enterprise software development, it seems that Apple is also spurring on creativity among developers. This is key because it is exactly what Apple stands for. Creativity and innovation are the cornerstones to Apple’s success in delivering the hottest, most savvy, sleek and innovative products on the market. This has caused them to be the leader in design and innovation over the last decade starting with the ipod. Apple has a tendency to change the way we think about technology and thrust us into new paradigms for what is possible. Because of this, Apple’s marketplace for designing and selling applications for mobile devices breeds that very thing into their followers. People who never even thought of themselves as software developers are now selling applications that are making them hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more. It has sparked the idea of entrepreneurship once again among the American people as well as people from all over the world. People are developing businesses centered around applications that catapult birds across a screen to hit some obstacles. Who would of thought that would be a legitimate business idea 10 years ago? Apple has a way of taking what seems daunting and put it into the hands of the people and see what they do with it. They have created a place for unsuspecting entrepreneurs to arise, create products, and sell them with a platform that guarantees some level of visibility and credibility for their product(the app store).

    It will be interesting to see what else Apple does to create a culture for innovation beyond what we already have today!

    Thank you again for the great article and your interest in our blog.

    Have a great day!

  • Blogs by Market:
  • Subscribe to the Software Advice Enterprise Blog

Popular Blog Posts