It’s funny to think that seven years ago the first iPhone was introduced and apps were just starting to make their way into our lives. Now, both Apple and Android users can choose from over 1 million apps in their respective virtual stores, and the numbers continue to climb. App fever doesn’t appear to be fading anytime soon. It’s seems only natural, then, that this proliferation of apps would eventually make its way into business and make our work lives easier, on top of our personal lives. As an employee, it would be great to access and share files, collaborate with coworkers and have more tools at your fingertips that make your job more efficient.

Although adoption in enterprise has been much slower than the consumer market, apps are building a strong foundation in the market and 2014 was a very pivotal year. Here at IBM MaaS360, our customers pushed out over 15,000 apps to millions of employees in the last year alone – a mix of both public apps and customised apps. This was more apps than organisations had pushed out in any previous year!

It’s clear that both IT and business leaders are truly starting to understand the benefits that productivity and employee satisfaction bring to their companies. Taking a look back in 2014, there are five key lessons I learned that help me understand the enterprise app landscape and where the future of apps in business is heading. Here they are:

1. Apps Are Everywhere & Aren’t Going Away

Apps were certainly in the spotlight this year, and will continue to be as businesses recognise the value of enabling workers on the go. According to common public data, almost a third of employee devices have over 50 apps. Many users with 16GB devices have so many apps they need to remove some to make room for others. Enterprises are embracing apps as productivity boosters, not killers. This year clearly demonstrated that having an app policy is an integral part of the whole enterprise mobility package.

2. Public Apps Are Being Supported By IT

IT is enabling devices (both BYOD and COPE) and workers to be more productive. After providing access to corporate email, calendars and contacts, the next natural step is distributing public apps to employees. In 2014, we saw an increasing number of public apps being pushed to workers to increase productivity.

3. Companies Are Finally Developing Private Apps

This year taught us that IT is on board with mobile enablement. Whether it’s coming from line of business owners or internal team pressures, IT is working to be a champion of mobilisation by building, designing, developing and deploying private apps more than ever. Many of these apps give workers access to systems that were previously guarded behind a firewall. According to MaaS360 data, custom apps account for about 38% of what’s pushed to employee devices. The trends of this year are a testament to the fact that the custom to public ratio will likely creep closer to 50/50 in the future.

4. Apps Still Aren’t Secure

As apps get more and more access to corporate information, the need to secure not only the application but the data within that application grows exponentially. Many public apps, as well as first generation corporate apps, were built and deployed without security being an important or necessary function. In 2014, we learned that the technology to secure apps and their associated data has finally caught up to the rapid pace of development. Security features like containerisation, app wrapping, and building apps with security SDKs are becoming part of standard EMM offerings. This makes it quick and easy to implement security features and policies. Even better news is that usability of the app is not compromised.

5. IT Professionals Can’t Do This Alone

In almost all organisations, IT needs a suite of tools to satisfy the app hunger of both employees and internal business owners. IT needs to be able manage the entire lifecycle of the apps, including design, creation and deployment, while also managing the devices that will house the dozens, sometimes hundreds, of applications created and pushed to employees. Considering how quickly apps are being developed and adopted, management is necessary every step of the way. Support from the C-suite is also essential to the success of an app programme. Without these two pillars, an app programme cannot be successful.