With every major update coming out of Cupertino, developers and app owners alike are confronted with an important and timely question: is it time to update our app(s)?

The pace of innovation in the 21st century begs such questions more often than ever before. But as enterprise business owners or developers, when is it worth the time and effort to make small updates versus when is it necessary to completely overhaul your solutions? Or, are you better off standing pat?

The first question you need to ask yourself is what do you want your app to do tomorrow that it can’t do today? And, how will that improvement or expansion of the app’s offerings affect your bottom line? Is it a huge differentiator that will propel your app into a much higher adoption range or is it a small ‘nice to have’ that won’t really make that big of a difference? As enterprise personnel, you have to ask penetrating questions and be brutally honest with yourself about the answers — whether that means staying in a holding pattern while foregoing a cool feature you’d like to have or instigating a total overhaul despite not wanting to allocate the budget to do so, the answers to those questions ought to guide your actions moving forward.

Sometimes, security necessitates an upgrade or an overhaul as new malware and system vulnerabilities are brought to light. This is never a fun reason to necessitate an upgrade, but they are often unavoidable. But, short of being forced into an upgrade for reasons such as these, the next concern is platform evolution.

Like with the recent release of iOS 9 and the iPhone 6s’ feature lists, platform updates can almost necessitate updates as new functionalities come on line, especially ones that materially alter the scope of possibilities you can deliver to your users.

From a mobile device management standpoint, iOS 9 delivers a number of improvements IT departments can leverage to better manage its fleet of devices. Some highlights per Mobile Iron:

  • Automated enrollment – Corporate owned devices can now be enrolled in an MDM server with no user interaction. These capabilities are enabled through Apple’s Device Enrollment Program (DEP) and the Apple Configurator 2 utility.
  • Device-based licensing – Previous versions of iOS tied app ownership to a user’s Apple ID. This can create confusion, particularly with company-owned devices and devices that are shared between users. iOS 9 allows organizations to assign apps to devices rather than users, greatly simplifying app license management.
  • Distribute apps and updates without the App Store – iOS 9 allows admins to silently install and update apps without the App Store being available on the device. Previously if the App Store was disabled, IT would need to temporarily re-enable it in order deploy or update apps and then disable it again, an approach that can be process intensive and could allow the user to access the full App Store while the install/update was taking place.
  • Convert unmanaged apps to managed apps – Apple’s managed app and managed account frameworks have traditionally applied to only apps deployed via EMM or installed through an enterprise app store. If a user had previously installed an app and needed access to a managed version of it, he or she would have to delete the original version and then reinstall the enterprise version. iOS 9 removed this step by allowing an EMM solution to convert an already installed app into a managed app, thus simplifying the process for the user and increasing the likelihood that users will use managed versions of business and productivity apps.

 

So there are definitely new functionalities to take advantage of as an enterprise, but these don’t generally require rebuilding your apps. The feature that you do need to think of in those terms, however, is 3D touch.

Apple remade the entire mobile user interface when they released multitouch gestures like pinch and swipe. With the newest iteration of their core navigation, 3D touch enables a slate of new user commands that app developers and owners can leverage into beautiful, more efficient apps. As these gestures become common throughout the mobile world, iOS app users will expect your apps to support 3D touch. As such, you need to be thinking in terms of this ground-breaking technology to get ahead of the consumer demand curve. And while your users might be internal enterprise employees, almost everyone wants consumer-level design and usability.

So, when should you update your app? When that which you want tomorrow is better enough than what you have today to materially affect your bottom line. If not that, security upgrades and improvements are often un-sexy but necessary upgrades to keep you and your partners’ data safe. And finally, when a platform upgrade completely changes the game, it often behooves you to get out in front of those changes to anticipate what your users are going to want.

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