As everyday consumers themselves, today’s workforce has explicit expectations for mobility that mirror the demands of the customers they serve. In fact, more than 90% of IT decision makers (ITDMs) see enterprise mobility as the critical function for customer engagement, competitiveness, and operational productivity in 2016.1

Enterprise mobility plays a leading role in the digital workplace. However, the digital workplace is transforming how IT services are delivered to endusers. Employees want to access network resources from any device, at any time, and from any location. Not only is this good for employee morale, general satisfaction, and productivity, it also gives the business a competitive advantage, thereby enabling a fast response to market changes and customer needs more efficiently.

One of the IT suite’s major challenges, then, is how to ensure enterprises continue to keep up with the rapid-fire pace that the demands present. It takes more than just redefining business processes to take advantage of mobile, rolling out apps on the enterprise store, and providing employees with flexible options for choosing devices and apps. It requires ensuring that your mobile app actually delivers a quality experience while your workforce uses them. After all, what drives the business benefit of a digital workplace is not whether the workforce simply has access to apps, content, and data. What counts is usage and performance as experienced by the workforce in the field.

Therefore, with these demands ever present, the dialogue surrounding how to leverage Mobile Application Performance Management (Mobile APM) is heating up. The current technology landscape holds more questions than answers that address how enterprises can ensure that business critical “apps that matter” deliver an excellent experience to mobile workforce users. While the IT suite’s ultimate goal may be to create a solid digital workplace strategy, one has to know the critical components that make up this mobile toolkit before a strategy can be methodically put together — and be alert to the forces holding back the execution of that strategy in order to achieve it.

Mobile APM vendors have responded accordingly with products that provide mobile app developers with capabilities like crash analytics, app error reporting, service performance metrics, and data consumption tracking. As important as these Mobile APM capabilities are, they primarily solve problems for consumer-facing apps because the capabilities of these vendors lack visibility into important aspects of the enterprise enduser, which is comprised of their identity, role, and business function, the full range of apps and devices they use, and the business activities for which employees are responsible.

Workforce mobile apps — such as productivity apps, ERP, CRM, and HER — require capabilities beyond those which Mobile APM products provide to app developers. For IT Ops to prioritize their response to an incident, they need to understand the business impact, the functional organization and business locations of the impacted users, and whether desktop users are also impacted. For the line of business to determine whether or not mobile is improving workforce productivity, these stakeholders need capabilities that deliver more meaningful insight beyond crash analysis, stack trace, breadcrumbs, and handled exceptions. The IT suite need metrics and analysis in terms that are relevant to the business, such as the length of time to fill out a claim form, or the number of orders processed — or not completed — by employees in a remote branch office.

Here’s how mobile has impacted IT’s approach to enduser experience monitoring in order to address the pressing demands within the digital workplace, and also some the steps you can take to keep your project on track:

  • Focus on the enduser, not just the mobile app. Using Mobile APM to monitor the quality of service of the mobile apps used by your business requires instrumenting them to monitor key metrics such as user experience, diagnostic data, and performance issues. Two methods are commonly used.

    • Compilation: One option is for developers to compile the Mobile APM SDK into their app. It can be difficult for enterprises to get access to a development team to instrument an app with an SDK. In many cases, enterprises use third-party apps or outsource the development of custom apps to third parties.·

    • Wrapper: A second approach is to use a wrapper similar to those provided by enterprise mobility management (EMM) vendors for security and management policies. Since this approach doesn’t require a developer, it can provide agility and time to market advantages so long as the wrapper delivers all of the required capabilities that the SDK delivers. 

  • Adopt unified monitoring of apps used by consumers and by your workforce without tagging. Aside from performance diagnostics, some Mobile APM products also provide business insights by associating poor app performance with revenue impact. With these products, enterprises can rename the URLs the app refers to with business-friendly terms like “place order” or “execute trade.” However, simply monitoring URL response time does not provide the full picture or measurement of the user experience.

    • Measurement: To accurately measure user experience, the total activity time needs to be measured, which extends from the moment a user taps a button or link until the content renders on the screen. Some Mobile APM approaches require developers to tag their app code to designate the start and stop points of each business transaction that needs to be monitored. Because many enterprises rely on workforce mobile apps developed by third parties, getting access to a developer to tag the code can be difficult.

    • Tagging: Other Mobile APM products do not require tagging the code to define business activities. Rather, they enable enterprises to designate business activities based on the user’s interaction with an application through the user interface. This enables the enterprise to define the workflow that the business wants to monitor, whether a single interaction or a multi-step business process, without developers or access to the code.

    • Business Impact: Understanding the business impact of mobile apps used by the workforce requires visibility into important aspects of the enterprise enduser — their identity, role, and business function, the full range of apps and devices they use, and the business activities for which employees are responsible. After all, for IT Ops to prioritize their response to an incident, they need to understand the business impact, the functional organizations and business locations of the impacted users, and whether desktop users are also impacted. Mobile APM products with these capabilities enable enterprises to provide unified monitoring of the full range of mobile apps used by both consumers and the workforce without tagging or access to the developer.

  • Unified monitoring of hybrid apps. With the broad diversity of mobile devices in play in today’s enterprises, hybrid mobile app development has grown in popularity, since it enables developers to leverage the same code base across multiple platforms. This is especially useful for development teams that have large backloads of projects. Hybrid mobile apps can provide a management challenge if the Mobile APM solution requires separate SDKs or agents to monitor both the native mobile app and the web server content. Multiple monitoring solutions have proven less effective.

    • The negative impact of two solutions: Having two solutions to monitor each component of a single app fails to provide an integrated view of the user experience and fails to monitor the performance of business activity traversing both the native and web driven portions of your app.

    • The benefit of one single solution: A Mobile APM solution that relies on a single SDK to monitor both the native side and the web site provides a unified view of the mobile user experience with hybrid mobile apps.

  • Unified monitoring of apps running on mobile, physical, or virtual devices. To efficiently manage such a broad portfolio, enterprises need a unified approach to monitor enduser experience, not just for mobile apps, but for every business-critical app used by the workforce, whether that app runs on mobile, physical, or virtual devices.

    • The risk of separate tools: Using separate tools to monitor the enduser experience of different types of apps, or apps that run on different types of devices, leads to redundancy, complexity, and cost.

    • One tool with a full integration: A solution that integrates Mobile APM together with enduser experience monitoring for other types of apps is key to efficient management of converged enduser computing environments.

Making mobile part of your digital workplace strategy requires more than just rolling out apps on the app store, establishing a BYOD policy, and investing in an EMM solution.

In other words, “mobile-first” alone does not guarantee success, especially if usability and app performance monitoring are considered last. Mobile performance excellence starts at the onset of an application’s lifecycle and goes beyond launch. With this understanding, the IT suite should begin to monitor and optimize the client-side and backend infrastructure well before the app is ever rolled out. There’s no silver bullet. It comes down to proper planning, alignment, and continues improvement to ensure that your digital workplace strategy includes the proper framework to ensure that your mobile apps actually deliver the gains in revenue, customer satisfaction, and workforce productivity that you expect.