The Zen of Mobile Apps: Six Harmonious Tips to Increase App Shelf Life
The enterprise software
market is poised to explode. In a recent Gartner report, the leading analyst house projects spending on
enterprise application software to rise 7.5 percent this year to $149.9
billion, and to surpass $201 billion by 2019.
However, developing more
mobile apps is not always the best answer. The explosion in mobile apps has
created less than harmonious mobile experiences for many enterprise users.
Mobile developers often
create an app for each individual feature rather than designing around a
user-centric need to make individual work processes more efficient within a
specific mobile context (geolocation, motion, time-of-day, and user behavior).
Instead of trying to build an app that enables sales representatives to access
work documents, it’s a better idea to try to make sales more efficient by
improving the sales process.
Background integration and process orchestration can eliminate busywork and put
just the precise information needed in front of the user regardless of which
giant enterprise software system it is stored in. By balancing between the
overarching purpose and the specific context of the user, enterprise apps are
more useful, cohesive and powerful.
Here are six things to keep in mind to ensure harmonious mobile apps that stand
the test of time:
1. Avoid “I have an app for
that” It’s important to prioritize apps based on the value that they
bring rather than churn out one app after the other. Too many apps, especially
when some of them have limited value, can result in a disconnected set of
solutions that is difficult and costly to maintain, and also create a
fragmented and confusing user experience.
Organizations need to
identify the app’s place in their organization’s digital transformation
strategy. All new apps should support this strategy with tangible benefits and
value. Avoid creating apps that are either too expansive or too limited in
scope. Find just the right balance between capability and usability. In
general, if two actions always occur in the same process by the same user in
the same setting, then they belong in the same app.
2. Be Holistic When
transforming a business process, it is important to take across-functional
approach that breaks down “stove piped” divisions and focuses on enabling
end-to-end processes within an organization. The process for taking and fulfilling
an order, for example, may flow across sales, production, shipping, and
accounting departments. Make sure apps integrate needed data and processes
across all business processes, both internal and external, on-premise or
cloud-based. Mobilize the specific functionalities that make sense, even
incorporating different functionalities for different users.
3. Wow Your Users Be
aware of the users’ device, context and reason for using the app. Include extra
functionality and productivity tools that makes users’ lives easier, like
Google Maps integration that lets employees in the field find the shortest
route to their destinations or see what other clients are in their
Carefully consider the
differences between smartphone and tablet uses. Where possible and relevant,
managers should be able to see graphical dashboard views of important KPIs.
Whenever possible, the context should be used to intelligently present
wizard-like options and next steps rather than forcing the user to navigate
from screen to screen as in traditional desktop applications.
4. Look Below the Surface Most of the important
features of the enterprise app lie below the surface, including security, data
accuracy, the ability to update, transform and synchronize data across multiple
systems, along with the ability to automatically trigger processes according to
specific changes, thresholds or actions.
Your integration platform
must be able to connect the systems you want, the way you want, reliably and in
real-time. And your mobile app and server must be able to work in disconnected
mode and then synchronize when back online.
5. Monitor Usage and Feedback Whenever
possible, make decisions based on usage data and user experience research.
Avoid making assumptions about what you think works best. Talk to your users.
Gather hard data based on usage patterns and behavior. Prove the business case
by calculating man-hours saved and improved productivity and innovation through
new capabilities provided, reduced errors and improved speed of processes.
Update the app based on all feedback and allow the app to reface itself based
on context and behavior.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Abandon
an App Act like a nimble start-up company, and don’t have reservations
about pivoting your strategy. If you observe several months of low/no usage or
results, don’t be afraid to abandon an app, merge apps or break them apart.
Invest time reviewing and realigning business processes as well as the user
interface and experience.
As enterprise mobility evolves under the greater digital transformation
umbrella, there is a natural need to revamp apps and retire those that are no
longer useful or relevant. Remember to look at the big picture: mobile
enterprise apps can no longer be isolated functions – they must be facilitators
of larger end-to-end processes. With this vision in mind, it is easier to
choose the right tools and solutions to support your enterprise app needs for
speed, agility, and reliability.
Glenn Johnson is Senior Vice President
of Magic Software Enterprises Americas. He is is the author of the
award-winning blog Integrate My JDE and contributor to the Business
Week Guide to Multimedia Presentations (Osborne-McGraw Hill). He has
presented at Collaborate, Interop, COMMON, CIO Logistics Forum and dozens of
other user groups and conferences. His interviews on software industry issues
have been aired on the NBC Today Show, E! News, Discovery and more.