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Why Security and Usability Are the Two Most Important Pillars of Enterprise Apps


Jeevan Sharma

November 13, 2017

According to a report by Allied Market Research, the enterprise app market is expected to cross USD$ 213.43 billion by 2020.

The enterprise app market has shown this upward trend owing to the growing digitization drive across organizations, greater mobile adoption, and the growth of a large mobile workforce. Enterprise apps have now become contributors to productivity and are seen as tools that help in increasing the efficiency and output of the workforce.

However, enterprise apps of today have come a long way. With greater smartphone adoption, enterprise apps also had to get an upgrade from their clunky and disjointed experiences and deliver smooth experiences like consumer-grade applications. They have clearly moved away from being just utilitarian in nature to become more functional and well designed.

While usability is essential for enterprise apps, it is also true that these apps are complex in nature. Since most of the enterprise apps deal with sensitive enterprise data, they also demand a high level of security. Is it acceptable to compromise the security of data in order to improve the usability of an enterprise app? Will a highly secure enterprise app that is not user-friendly be adopted by its users?

Usability and security are often pitted against one another in the enterprise app debate. Let’s take a look at where enterprises should focus more.

The Importance of Usability

The ISO 9421-11 standard defines usability as “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.” Usability, thus, does not just mean ease of use but also mandates user satisfaction that emerges from having engaging and aesthetically pleasing content. As the mobile-savvy Millennials constitute 70% of the working-age population by 2020, the focus on usability becomes all the more important.

Today the workforce demands enterprise apps to be as intuitive as consumer applications. If the end-users have to use apps that do not deliver intuitive experiences and have to use apps regardless of their level of interface and usability familiarity, it can lead to productivity loss and errors that can cost an organization heavily. Elements such as gamification, haptic technology, animation, mechanical simulation of the touch sensation, etc. have become a standard to deliver these consumer-grade experiences to mobile apps. Developers are also creating functionalities that facilitate easier information consumption and make them performance-focused to drive greater adoption. It has become abundantly clear today that unless enterprise apps are usability-driven, they can be rendered useless and will prompt the workforce to use alternative apps which can open a new can of worms.

The Security Angle

As organizations focus on the usability aspect of enterprise apps, they are becoming increasingly concerned regarding app security. Today’s enterprise apps host a huge volume of critical and sensitive organizational and customer data. Enterprise app developers, therefore, have to be focused on the security angle to ensure that these apps have a robust security structure to avoid threats, vulnerabilities, and data theft.

Security assumes paramount importance since if an app is not secure then it is not fit for enterprise use. Gartner estimates that cybersecurity spending on products and services will exceed $1 trillion from 2017 to 2021. With cybercrime becoming the biggest threat to organizations across the globe, the security aspect of enterprise apps becomes impossible to compromise at the altar of usability.

Either /Or – Why not Both?

Until now, the conversation had been towards choosing one over the other. Enterprise apps could either be usable or could be secure. Instead of taking this approach, enterprise app designers could look at creating a balancing act by embedding security well within the architecture of the app. In order to achieve this, it becomes imperative to understand that the way to achieving secure usability is by making security a part of the business instead of passing it on as the sole responsibility of the IT. The security teams have to work like design thinkers and developers creating the enterprise app. They need to assess the security risks and determine solutions to best solve these issues. By working as a single cohesive team, where security is embedded into the development fabric, the either/or mentality disappears. Developers then code with security in mind, ensure that security considerations are at the core of development, use frameworks that are secure and security testing becomes a part of the app development process. When the security components of the application are a part of software and UX from conception, achieving greater usability and security becomes simpler to achieve.

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