Does it pay to build your own custom mobile apps? Yes, says survey

Survey finds more off-the-shelf mobile apps in enterprises, but acknowledgment that custom apps can provide more targeted experiences and resources.

There's a tendency among people in enterprises to use off-the-shelf mobile apps to help them get their work done. This is the essence of shadow IT, and to a large extent, mainstream IT as well. But it may work out better in the long run for companies to design and build their own mobile apps.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's the key takeaway from a new survey of 374 executives, published by CDW, which sought to measure the business value gained from mobile apps. The survey finds that for the most part, companies use more off-the-shelf than custom mobile apps -- six off-the-shelf apps for every five custom mobile apps, on average. Nearly 80 percent of businesses surveyed said they allow employees to use off-the-shelf mobile apps.

But IT budget dollars are flowing to custom apps. Close to half, 48 percent report that their app development budgets increased over the past year, and 42 percent plan to invest in new app development in the year ahead. On average, businesses estimate spending 11 percent of their 2014 IT budgets on custom mobile apps and related technologies.

Many enterprises apply the same processes they apply to mainstream application development: 43 percent engage in beta testing and evaluation of their apps, 40 percent apply strategic planning requirements, and 40 percent will define end-user cases before proceeding. Plus, 60 percent indicate that the mobile apps run in their own data centers.

Custom apps have the ability to deliver high business value because they are targeted at a company's unique needs and aim to transform processes, the CDW report states. Many businesses believe their custom mobile app investments already have produced tangible benefits by increasing efficiency (46 percent), increasing productivity (41 percent) and allowing employees to work remotely (39 percent). Further, they say their employees save 7.5 hours per week, on average, by using mobile apps.

Companies primarily use custom mobile apps to support communications (36 percent), sales support (35 percent), and data access (34 percent). But they are overlooking the potential to enhance other areas of work, CDW adds. Only 13 percent said they use custom mobile apps for vertical integration, and only 25 percent use them to support competitive advantage.

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