Mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones have fundamentally changed the way we work. What makes these devices powerful business tools rather than just fun electronic toys is the ever-expanding ecosystem of mobile applications.

Mobile apps have become integral to business operations, and many executives believe they soon will become the dominant interface. According to a new global study from Adobe and Edelman Intelligence, more than three-quarters of the 1,500 executives polled across three continents say market demand has driven significant changes in the mobile app world over the past two years.

Moving beyond an outward focus on downloadable apps, organizations have greatly expanded efforts to create mobile versions of all the enterprise apps they’ve been using for years. Two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents to the Adobe survey say the number of employees using enterprise mobile apps has increased, and a similar number (62 percent) say the number of apps in use has also risen.

As enterprises develop the teams, capabilities and strategies they need to implement an effective mobile app strategy, communication and collaboration capabilities need to be among the top priorities. More than 57 percent of those surveyed said mobile apps for messaging and collaboration have become critical to their organizations’ success.

In fact, 55 percent say the need for instant communications is the driving force behind their mobile app strategy. They cite the ability to connect with customers and stakeholders, equip employees with good information, and increased productivity as most beneficial byproducts of strong mobile communication capabilities.

For many organizations, ShoreTel Connect has become a foundational element of their mobile app strategy. ShoreTel’s mobility app enables organizations to integrate their employees’ favorite smartphones and tablets with the company phone system — securely, simply and cost-effectively. Employees can BYOD (bring your own device) and stay connected from any location around the world on any network — Wi-Fi, 3G/4G or cellular — while keeping business and personal calls separate.

ShoreTel Connect works with both iOS and Android devices to deliver a range of productivity-boosting features such as video conferencing with room-based systems, peer-to-peer video, web conferencing, calendar access, CRM integration, instant messaging and presence.

To remain competitive in an increasingly mobile world, organizations must find ways to enable employees to communicate and collaborate anywhere, anytime from any device. According to the Adobe study, organizations that fail to effectively leverage mobile apps for better communication run the risk of losing clients, losing employees and becoming generally inefficient.

Based on the survey results, Adobe suggests a five-step plan for creating an effective mobile app strategy:

  1. Focus first on mission-critical apps that supplement core functions such as messaging, collaboration, customer service and sales enablement.
  2. Invest in features most likely to drive success, including security and systems integration.
  3. Use a dashboard to centralize app management.
  4. Use training, surveys, analytics and updates to measure and enhance employee satisfaction.
  5. Future-proof apps through integration with cloud-driven systems and back-end data stores.

We’ve come a long way since the days when Angry Birds and Bejeweled were the hottest mobile applications going. Mobile apps have evolved from almost exclusively entertainment functions to become essential business tools. Communication-driven apps such as ShoreTel’s Connect can provide a fantastic starting point for organizations looking to develop a comprehensive mobile app strategy.