Habit-forming technology: the future of enterprise app development

Enterprise mobile apps are now pervasive, and have come to be deployed for a wide range of employee activities. Indeed, Gartner has predicted that, by 2022, 70% of software interactions in the enterprise will take place on mobile devices.

While it cannot be denied that mobile and apps are now a crucial part of everyday life, important question marks still exist as to whether organisations are using them in the most effective possible way.

Traditional enterprise apps, despite being designed with increased productivity, efficiency and security in mind, are often cumbersome and difficult to use: despite honest attempts to make apps slicker, quicker and perceived as more user-friendly, organisations fail to acknowledge the psychology behind what makes an app engaging in the first place. As a consequence of this, adoption rates are often low.

>See also: Knowledge sharing in the age of millennials

To address these difficulties, businesses need to spend more time working on how they can incorporate habit-forming principles into their enterprise apps. By doing so, engagement levels can be increased and the true potential of apps can be unlocked.

Habit-forming technology: an introduction

Habit-forming technology involves studying closely the behaviour of app users, and working out the psychological triggers which create desirable habits and, ultimately, make them come back to the app again and again. Currently, too many enterprise apps do not leverage this.

In stark contrast, many of the most successful consumer-focused apps, including Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, have incorporated habit-forming technology and seen hugely impressive results in terms of engagement. If these principles are applied to enterprise apps during the design and development phase, organisations can reap similar rewards internally.

To successfully implement and exploit habit-forming technology, businesses need to identify four key attributes, which can help drive better employee engagement.


This first focus should be on building an app so it focuses on solving a particular pain-point for a user. This could be a negative emotion, such as anger or frustration with a workplace process, with the app then offering a solution to these issues. When this association is made, employees are more likely to pick up the app and engage with it.


Once a trigger has been identified, an enterprise app should make it easy for users to take action. In the workplace, this could take the form of a user-friendly interface where workers can quickly find useful resources. This is an area where apps in the consumer world have excelled: scrolling through an Instagram or Twitter feed, for example, is a very straightforward process.

>See also: Building enterprise mobile apps for business the right way


Without there being a positive end-result for taking action – a reward – an app can fall flat. Users need to know that embracing the app has varied, tangible benefits if they are to be encouraged to come back and use it again. In an enterprise situation, this could take the form of targeted, useful information which helps an employee to become more efficient.


Once a user has acted and received an appropriate reward, there must be an incentive for employees to come back and use the app again. Essentially, an enterprise app needs to work so effectively and be so user-friendly that it becomes irreplaceable. Again, consumer-focused apps are so successful largely because of their addictive properties, which keep users coming back again and again.

Applying the consumer approach to the enterprise

As discussed, great consumer-focused apps successfully embrace the virtues of habit-forming technology. By replicating these approaches when developing enterprise apps, organisations are more than capable of seeing similar benefits.

>See also: Leaping into the cloud to develop enterprise apps

A key consideration for any enterprise undergoing digital transformation is working out how technology can improve employee and company performance. By concentrating on developing enterprise apps that are easy and satisfying to use, organisations can increase worker productivity and satisfaction, thereby increasing employee output and general well-being.

In the long term, this can enhance a company’s reputation as being not only successful in the way it delivers its products to its customers, but also a good place for its employees to work.

In addition, forming positive habits amongst workers can have a hugely positive impact on security within an organisation. There is a large amount of research which suggests that the biggest risk for an enterprise does not necessarily come from external threats, but originates instead from poor security practices embedded in working culture.

This could include staff using the same password across multiple devices, sharing log-ins, working while remaining connected to public Wi-Fi and accessing social media via work computers.

By understanding the psychology behind why people may leave passwords unchanged, for example, businesses can then identify the triggers and reward systems needed to drive behavioural change.

This can then be incorporated into the enterprise app development process, and can subtly eliminate these poor habits in favour of a fresher approach to security.

>See also: It is time for enterprises to embrace mobility?

A productive, secure future

Consumer-focused mobile apps have demonstrated the potential of habit-forming technology. It is now time for businesses to do the same with their enterprise apps. Their aims may be different to those companies developing apps aimed at consumers, but the psychology behind forming positive habits is not.

By looking more deeply into how their employees behave and what they respond to when using apps, organisations can use the rapid rise in mobile usage to revolutionise employee engagement, efficiency and security.

Sourced by Ross Tuffee, co-founder and CEO, DOGFI.SH Mobile

Avatar photo

Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

Related Topics