By Adam Fingerman, ArcTouch
With 90 percent of enterprises planning to increase mobile app development this year, it’s safe to say that enterprise mobility remains a hot topic. The value that mobile apps can bring to an enterprise is undeniable: faster communication, increased collaboration and instant access to data, whenever and wherever employees are.
As internal demand for enterprise mobile apps increases, the pressure to deliver quickly may force internal developers to take shortcuts that compromise the user experience. The problem is, employees are just like consumers of apps you can find in the public app stores -- and they have an expectation that their work-related apps will offer an experience comparable to the apps they use at home.
With that expectation, comes this realization: If an app sucks, employees simply won't use it.
At ArcTouch, we've determined there are four key elements to building a successful enterprise app:
- Create an app with purpose
- Make jobs better by solving one problem at a time
- User experience is everything
- Create a virtuous cycle of app improvement
Create an App with Purpose
The development of great enterprise mobile apps requires orchestration and alignment among different functional teams, systems and stakeholders. Therefore, it's crucial to kick off a mobile enterprise project with a strategy session. In this session, all project stakeholders come together to deconstruct an app idea down to its core value proposition and then rebuild it into the minimum viable product (MVP) definition for a first release.
By the end of this strategic discovery process, everyone involved should be aligned on what the first-generation app feature set will be, how it fits into your company's overall mobile strategy and roadmap, and which performance metrics need to be met for it to be considered a success.
Make Jobs Better by Solving One Problem at a Time
It's crucial that the MVP meets a clearly defined, real-world problem that your employees are struggling with. An app will only be worth allocating money and resources to if it solves a problem for your employees, allows them to perform their primary tasks in a more productive manner or makes their job more rewarding.
The trick is to find the overlap of your organization’s objective for building an app and the actual user need. And, by all means, avoid creating an app that is trying to solve so many problems at the same time that it fails to perform any task well.
User Experience Is Everything
It's not enough for an enterprise mobile app to just solve a workforce problem. The app has to be intuitive and rewarding to use. Only when an app provides user experience that compares to a consumer app will it be used to the same degree.
The enterprise mobile app must meet employees' expectations and deliver the most relevant information and experiences quickly and easily. And it should be a more convenient -- even delightful -- way of engaging with job-related information. If it's hard or confusing to find or do something in your app, your employees will just stick with the old way (i.e. PC, requesting IT) -- and your development effort will have been wasted.
Create a Virtuous Cycle of App Improvement
The saying "if you build it, they will come" does not ring true when it comes to enterprise mobile apps. Just like consumer apps, internal enterprise apps need a "go-to-market" plan that helps you promote the app and create awareness. You can't just expect your employees to use the app; you have to actively pursue users.
Equally important, you need a plan for keeping users continuously engaged, and for maintaining and improving the app over time. Devices and operating systems are always changing, and the same goes for data systems that an app may plug into within the enterprise.
Now Is the Time for Enterprise Mobile Apps
Companies that don't start to address the demand for enterprise mobile apps that support employee job functions are overlooking a massive opportunity to take advantage of the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices. With the growing popularity of BYOD (bring your own device) in the enterprise, virtually every worker has a phone or tablet -- which means providing mobile access to key information is more affordable and doable than ever.
The promise of well-designed, responsive internal mobile apps in the enterprise is huge. Accenture found that more than 80 percent of executives agree that internal mobile applications are necessary to realize digital benefits and will be the dominant interface of the future.
The trick is taking the next step to make good on the promise of enterprise mobile apps.
Adam Fingerman, co-founder and chief experience officer of ArcTouch, was working on a list of potential apps well before the iTunes app store was open. That prescient list still exists and some of the ideas on it illuminate how ArcTouch has maintained its position in the industry. Before founding ArcTouch with Eric Shapiro, Adam worked in product management and marketing at companies including Apple, Lucent, and Roxio. His experience creating and introducing award-winning products goes back to his high school days, and his vision has guided over 200 apps to market.