Maciej Granicki at Gijima Holdings
“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. Your employees are also consumers, and they expect great business apps from you.
Imagine your company has decided to embrace mobility, has implemented a mobile device management (MDM) suite and wants business apps to mobilise the workforce… what do you need to consider when identifying that killer app for your business?
1. Underlying business processes.
Apps offer a great opportunity to simplify cumbersome or out-dated 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 you choose, 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 your organisation is supplying the device the app will run on, then then the choice can be narrowed 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 5 and 7 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 you need 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 you’ll have their support and buy-in.
4. Adopt a ‘Human First’ approach.
Don’t focus on what your 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 you. 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 you have 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 your customers. Being able to offer your 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 that 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 vs. 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. Ask yourself if you are a development house. Does it make sense for you to try to become one or should you stick to what you do 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 your core competencies and leave the development work to the experts.
While the focus above has been on the internal (staff) side, these concepts apply equally to external (consumer) apps. Don’t make the mistake of only focusing externally or internally. Regardless of where you begin, both areas of your business should be mobilised. 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 your business shouldn’t be such a daunting task, your core business processes are a great place to start, those which are measureable and with the right app will have a positive impact on the bottom line.