telephone mobile Image credit pixabay/niekverlaanSalesforce has announced a powerful addition to its mobile portfolio with Mobile Publisher. The new solution enables companies to push apps to customers through the Google Play store or Apple iTunes store. This meets a need highlighted by customers. A need that Leyla Seka, now EVP, Mobile at Salesforce was enthuastic about resolving when Enterprise Times spoke to her. This latest announcement extends Lightning Platform Mobile even further to improve the development and delivery of mobile apps.

Leyla Seka, Executive Vice President, Mobile at Salesforce
Leyla Seka, Executive Vice President, Mobile at Salesforce

Seka, previously in charge of the major revamp of the AppExchange, assumed responsibility for mobile last September. Seka is keen to deliver a complete solution to support the Enterprise as it looks to meet the growing mobility trend. That trend as highlighted in a recent Kleiner Perkins report that cited that daily mobile usage in the US is now at 3.3 hours per day, double that logged in 2012 (1.6 hours per day).

The challenges

Seka has spoken to many customers over the last few months and she found that many did know how to overcome the challenges of getting started on mobile. They knew that they needed to do it but were unable to actually get a programme set up. Seka identified five challenges they faced:

  1. There is a huge developer shortage in mobile. This is a challenge for many organisations. Business needs to compete with a wide variety of industries, not least the gaming industry for the best mobile developer talent
  2. Enterprises are becoming increasing connected. A mobile app no longer needs to connect to a single system but to several. This is not impossible, but it means that application mobile platforms need to include third party data access
  3. Customers as well as employees are demanding a consumer like experience. While Seka didn’t mention PWA, it is a technology that Salesforce delivers with Commerce Cloud. Even if PWA is not used, customers still expect a smooth experience.
  4. Mobile apps change faster than enterprise applications. Even with the advent of cloud technology, the cadence of updates for enterprise applications is rarely more than monthly, certainly in terms of major releases. On mobile devices it is more common for users to receive updates more frequently. This brings the challenge of updating, especially when the process for doing so is much harder than within a controlled internal environment.
  5. Finally a lot of customers didn’t actually know where to start

The last point was the easiest in some ways to answer as Salesforce Trailhead has a wide range of information and tutorials for Administrators to follow and learn. They provide relevant information about creating and distributing mobile apps using the technology that Salesforce has already made available.

Meeting the need

For the enterprise this means that it needs to have applications it can build and deliver to both employees and customers. The existing Salesforce solutions, such as Mobile Builder, enable administrators as well as developers to create low code applications. This is supported by over 180 components on the AppExchange to help accelerate that development even further.

Mobile Service enables admins to add push notifications to their applications. They can embed workflows and utilise Einstein AI’s declarative services as well as integrate to third party data. While Salesforce does enable the dissemination of applications through MDM software, that is still a cumbersome process. Enterprises want the capability to enable users to easily download from the most commonly accessed point for applications, the mobile app stores. This is what Mobile Publisher will do, taking the burden out of the packaging and submission process.

Seka knocked off the challenges one by one.

The Mobile builder enables administrators to create personalised apps for their organisations. Further reducing the need for developers. That was demonstrated by one customer United Rentals that rolled out an application built internally by admins to advise reps of their best route for daily visits. This significantly improved their effectiveness

Screenshot of Salesforce Mobile Builder (c) Salesforce
Screenshot of Salesforce Mobile Builder (c) Salesforce

Mobile builder now enables third party data to be connected to apps. Not only can Salesforce data be accessed but through Mobile Services, applications can draw on other data sources.

The UI is consistent and, based on Lightning, delivers a modern experience to employees and customers.

Mobile Publisher enables organisations to roll out apps to its customers quickly. Seka gave an example: “Cornell University was emailed students for meal plans, communication and engagement. It has Salesforce admins build a Campus life App and deployed it to 22,000 users.”

While Mobile Publisher does support the Apple and Google stores it does not support MDM solutions. This will hopefully come in a later release as it would improve the life for devops rolling out applications to employees in a more secure environment.

Seka also confirmed that there were trails in place on trailhead. Including those that support the recently released Mobile SDK.

The waiting is nearly over …for some.

The companies mentioned above utilised the solution in a beta version. However, Mobile Publishing will become available in February in the US and Western Europe. Salesforce confirmed “Mobile Publisher is in pilot and will be GA in Spring (February) in the Americas and Europe. Pilots are currently underway in other regions, with GA expected in the Summer timeframe.”

In terms of pricing Mobile Publisher is available as an add-on for all Community Cloud licenses.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

The announcement comes at an opportune time for Salesforce. It is only the day after Mark Hurd, Co-CEO of Oracle (Source Seeking Alpha) threw down a gauntlet saying: “Today, there’s no one with more than 50 percent. In fact, the highest application percentage of any company in any segment is sort of mid-20s. This generation will see a leader that’s much more material than that, and I volunteer us to do it.”

Salesforce has immediately, if coincidentally, picked it up and made his task a lot harder. This update could have more impact than one might think. It will enable companies to communicate and engage with employees and customers alike in a much easier way through the app store they like to use. Seka gave another example in Jumbo, the Dutch supermarket chain that rolled out two apps to its employees that gamified activities within their stores

Robert Jan Koens Director of Customer Strategy, Jumbo commented: “Empowering our supermarket employees with a branded mobile app on their phone to help serve customers has been a game changer…. Building our customized app has really strengthened our brand. It’s something Jumbo employees can point to with pride.”

What Salesforce has done is made it easier to build apps, but more importantly easier for the end user to access them and to receive updates. The proof point of this success will be the number of apps that start to appear on the stores. The only issue is how many customers will actually want to use the apps. Organisations need to think carefully before they rush to rool out a new app. The rise of PWA has meant that some are moving away from customised apps especially in ECommerce.

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