The idea that applications on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets will become one of the core or even primary ways that users access content and interact with businesses isn't very controversial. But the speed at which mobile applications are coming to the fore is definitely taking many businesses and even vendors by surprise.
The challenges of the move to mobile application primacy are especially complex for those companies looking to manage, monitor and optimize the performance of native mobile and mobile Web applications.
Old-school tools for application performance management and optimization can break down when faced with the complex infrastructure of mobile apps. Many of these legacy tools have a hard time handling the unique deployment and device delivery requirements of mobile apps, which often require deployment to multiple device types and need to be delivered from different app stores or enterprise app deployment systems.
Add to this the difficulty of being able to analyze and understand mobile app performance once the application connection moves outside company networks and travels over external and carrier networks. These realities of the mobile app infrastructure mean that traditional monitoring and end-user experience management tools often have gaps in what they can detect.
The issues around mobile application performance management and optimization have been front and center in my recent research for Aberdeen Group. In July, I gathered and analyzed responses to a survey entitled "The Challenge of Application Performance in a Mobile Application World." In this survey, the No. 1 pressure that companies said was driving their application performance strategy is the increased importance of mobile application access (at 69% of responses).
From the responses that companies across the business spectrum provided, it's clear that, while many organizations are currently behind when it comes to managing and understanding mobile application performance and user experience, many of these companies are planning to address these shortcomings in the very near future. For example, while only 30% of companies have implemented a mobile application performance infrastructure or strategy, an additional 54% plan to do so in the next year.
It's easy to understand the urgency behind these moves to understand and improve mobile application performance. One can make a convincing argument that, for many businesses, the performance of mobile apps is more important than traditional apps. Think of the road warrior at a remote site, trying to pull vital contract data necessary to complete a big sale. If she runs into poor performance or an app that doesn't work at all, that sale may never happen. And on the consumer side, some users are increasingly replacing Web-based applications and sites with mobile apps.
One interesting finding from my research (and the full report, "First Class Mobile Application Performance Management") centered around the ways that organizations are trying to understand mobile app performance even when they don't have tools designed to fully track performance in real time and in depth. For example, the top two methods that businesses use to evaluate mobile application performance are user ratings on app stores and social trend analysis. However, those methods were at the bottom of traditional application performance measurement, where standard metrics such as response times and service-level agreement achievements were tops.
This shows that companies are using whatever information they can get to find out if users are having issues with their mobile apps. But the problem with these methods is that you really want to be able to find application performance problems before negative posts are made to app stores and Twitter.
There's no doubt in my mind that we're moving to a world where mobile apps dominate. And, in time, more and more tools and mobile application performance management products will be released. But how companies make the transition from managing traditional applications to mobile applications will be key to whether or not users and customers are happy to interact with them or if they decide to dump those companies as not ready for the mobile world.