"There's an app for that."
Not a day goes by without hearing those words. The world is going mobile; everything is becoming easier to access – whenever and wherever. Consumers are spoilt for choice and are exposed to great quality apps. Employees are also consumers, and they expect great business apps from the company where they are employed.
Imagine a company has decided to embrace mobility, has implemented a mobile device management suite and wants business apps to mobilise the workforce… what does it need to consider when identifying that killer app for its business?
1. Underlying business processes
Apps offer a great opportunity to simplify cumbersome or outdated business processes. But don't just mobilise verbatim. Ask what problems the process should solve, and if it's still valid, then select the best way to mobilise the process. Don't keep processes in place to solve problems that don't exist anymore. Get rid of processes that simply waste time; make things easier for customers and clients. Don't replicate a bad process on the mobile platform. Whichever process is chosen, it needs to be measureable and have an underlying business case for mobilisation. Airlines handed out iPads to pilots in order to cut costs on fuel by eliminating the weight of the manuals the pilots had to bring on board; naturally, there were many more benefits, like ease of use and improved accuracy, but there was always a key measureable underlying business case.2. Platform and operating system choice
If a company is supplying the device the app will run on, then the choice can be narrowed down to the most suitable device for the business function. Battery life, form factor, price, data storage and processor speed could determine success or failure of an app. The next decision is between tablets or phones, bearing in mind that users' expectations of apps and their features differ between the two formats. Phones usually fill moments of need and are typically used between five and seven minutes at a time; on the other hand, tablets are used for longer periods of time, but not necessarily as often. This decision should not simply be a cost exercise, as the wrong choice could result in low adoption and initiative failure.
3. Understand users and their needs
In order for the app to be successful, the company needs to understand users and their expectations. This is challenging because users are not always IT savvy and can struggle to articulate their needs and wants. Agile methodologies and mock-ups help a great deal to build apps to align with users' expectations; involving them in the process early on reduces the risk of failure, as the company will have their support and buy-in.
4. Adopt a ‘human first' approach
Do not focus on what the company's legacy systems do – they restrict what is possible. This approach fails in mobility because users are exposed to high quality, publicly available apps and expect the same or better from the company. Rather concentrate on what users want the app to do, in a way that enables them to do their job better.
5. Leverage new technologies and information
Remember that with mobile, there are a whole lot of new features – GPS, camera, microphone, touch-screen, accelerometer – and information available. Location-based information, for example, can be very powerful. A view of stock inventory in real-time on a map can assist with demand delivery and manage expectations of customers. Being able to offer users what they need before they need it is possible through real-time predictive analytics.
6. Keep it simple
Keeping the app simple does not mean the backend services won't be complex; it just means they will be hidden from users. Most successful apps do one thing, but they do it extremely well. Do not overcomplicate it. If it starts to feel cumbersome and complicated, consider splitting the app into smaller, separate apps.
7. In-house versus outsourced
App building needs to be a quick, iterative process, and with the ever-changing landscape, developing apps is a full-time business. As soon as the app is complete, it will need updates – users will want more features and the OEM will upgrade the operating system, forcing app redevelopment and testing. Is the company a development house? Does it make sense for the company to try to become one, or should it stick to what it does best? Even in this relatively young space, there are plenty of experts who have made and learnt from mistakes. As the window for innovation closes, rather focus on the company's core competencies and leave the development work to the experts.
Get rid of processes that simply waste time.
Often, companies create a consumer-facing app and ignore their internal needs, or worse, forget to educate and empower their staff to support the app.
Apps never sleep and neither can the services surrounding them. Building the killer app for the business shouldn't be such a daunting task. Core business processes are a great place to start, those which are measureable. And with the right app, they will have a positive impact on the bottom line.
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