Strategies for successful B2E mobile apps

Enabling work from any location, improving collaboration, and reducing time spent on data entry, Business to Employee (B2E) mobile apps are a growing opportunity for enterprises.

However, despite testimonials from companies like Coca Cola that say that its field service mobile app is a game changer due to its ability to improve 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 they are difficult to use. A recent study found that 43% of smartphone users and 41% of tablet users are not impressed with their corporate mobile apps. With that in mind, I have a few suggestions to ensuring that your next B2E mobile app development projects are a success.

Getting 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.

> See also: 5 ways enterprise app stores will evolve

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.

Employing 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. Additionally, new functionality can be identified and included, increasing the app’s value along the way.

> See also: App, app and away: building an enterprise app store

Limiting 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.

Considering 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.

Building 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.

Considering a mobile application development platform

Built in multi-channel capabilities can help accelerate the process of shifting the organisation 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 mobilisation of data and processes from back-end IT systems. 

> See also: The app store vs. the service catalogue

Many enterprises have already followed these suggestions to launch successful mobile business apps. A golf equipment manufacturer, for example, used a mobile application development platform and rapid prototyping to make real-time inventory information available to sales people.  This mobile app integrated data previously available on separate systems, thereby enabling sales people to respond in real time to customers’ inquiries about order status and product availability.

  • An insurance company rapidly deployed an e-signature mobile app whose success resulted in launching a series of other mobile apps based on the same template.
  • A university hospital invited employees to identify the process that should be mobilized first, and then using a development platform and a rapid prototyping method, developed a successful mobile app that provided workers with quick and convenient access to the information they needed.

Mobile is the future, and employees are eager to get on board.  Mobile apps can be launched successfully if employees are involved, agile development methods are used, the most applicable mobile devices are selected for each task, and mobile development platforms are used to help facilitate and streamline development efforts.

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.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...