Most pioneers in the field of B2E mobile apps for the enterprise have the wounds to prove it. Early adopters who worked almost entirely in native development environments have horror stories to tell. Early war stories told by these innovators include year-long rewrites from iOS to Android, the inability to reproduce device-specific functionality and inconsistent or illogical business processes across apps.
Despite testimonials from leading companies that say that its field service mobile app is a game changer for improving customer service as well as productivity, many mobile projects don’t meet their true potential.
In some cases, mobility projects are not even approved because a more cumbersome, but workable solution is already in place. Other times, employees resist using mobile apps because of unfriendly, complex user interfaces and navigation feature. In fact, a study by Mobiquity found that 43% of smartphone users and 41% of tablet users are not impressed with their corporate mobile apps.
Fortunately though, there have been enough early successes and recognized potential to warrant enterprises’ continued investment in new B2E apps. Armed with new budgets and fresh ideas, many of these pioneers are taking a step back from early development approaches and are reconsidering use of app development platforms.
Here are 6 keys to ensure the success of your next B2E mobile apps development projects:
Get employee involvement. This can be obtained by using an informal "water cooler" approach where coworkers are encouraged to identify tasks where mobile apps could provide the most benefit for them personally and for the organization as whole. Later, employees can provide input on user experience issues. Getting employees involved early and often increases the chances for smooth adoption of mobile apps, makes employees mobile champions, and positions IT as a business unit that drives app development based on business value.
In addition, IT should have an open dialogue with employees who are already using or who wish to recommend other commercial mobile business apps. Developers should understand which tasks employees perform using these mobile apps and how these apps make their jobs easier. Corporate IT should apply this knowledge to create internal apps that are even better.
Employ rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping and agile development methods enable developers to accept feedback often and to make needed adjustments quickly, resulting in a final product that is usable and meets business objectives. Rapid prototyping provides a convenient way to test new mobile functions and to continue to test all the way through to final development. For example, developers can receive immediate feedback about cumbersome data entry screens, missing functionality, or if validations are required from back office systems. New functionality can be identified and included, increasing the app’s value along the way.
Limit the scope. Focusing on mobilizing a specific process, rather than a creating a huge application, increases the chances for success. A project that mobilizes several processes at once can result in too many technical complexities, too long of a wait before benefits are realized, and too high of a risk that the project will be bogged down by political issues.
Consider context. Not all business processes are conducive for execution on all mobile devices. Think about how the device is used in the field. Screen size, and input methods (single finger or touch screen input) and use cases should all be considered before building your app. For example, approving a purchase order or checking an order status might make sense on a smart phone, while more involved tasks such as creating sales proposals might be better-suited to a tablet or a laptop.
Build a reusable template. Include policies concerning security, management, provisioning, off-line access and data storage. This allows policies to be kept or modified for future apps. Certain functions can be shared across applications eliminating the need to develop them from scratch. A template can also make future mobile applications easier to learn since apps built with then can share common user experiences and features.
Consider a mobile application development platform. Built in multi-channel capabilities can help accelerate the process of shifting the organization to mobile apps by making it easy to leverage a single development effort to create apps for multiple mobile operating systems and devices. Enterprise-grade mobile app development platforms with In-Memory Data Grid capabilities enable mobiles apps to be easily and cost-effectively scaled up to support more users and growing numbers of transaction while assuring real-time data availability and 24/7 business continuity. In addition, when paired with a complementary integration solution, a mobile application platform allows the easy mobilization of data and processes from back-end IT systems.
Successful mobile apps not only deliver ROI based on increased efficiencies, but they also create strong employee loyalty and enthusiasm for the value that IT brings.
Glenn Johnson is a Senior Vice President at Magic Software Enterprises, Inc. Active in the software industry since 1984, he frequently speaks at industry conferences and writes for numerous publications.