When should an enterprise app become a mobile app ?

Posted on January 16, 2013

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 There’s gold in them thar hills !

Right now businesses of all shapes and sizes are rushing to create mobile apps.  This begs the question when should an app be mobile ?  or at least to have a mobile part to it.  What is gold and what is iron pyrites ? well here is an attempt to look at that through the concept of moments of truth, outlined below.

If you can improve it, or come up with a different scheme then I am all ears

Firstly lets just be clear what a Mobile Enterprise App is,  well Strategy Analytics put it like this

Mobile enterprise business applications are those that are accessed by mobile workers using mobile devices including laptops,  smartphones and tablets.    They include applications specifically designed for use on mobile devices as well as desktop, web and cloud applications that are accessed on mobile devices.  Included are collaboration/productivity and business process applications.

Moments of Truth for Mobile usage

The mobile nature of the application comes through in the following moments of truth.  These are the underlying reasons that spur individuals, teams or organizations to make the change from more traditional ways of working (on computers or not) into a mobile centric or mobile supported way of working.
What these moments of truth tell us that is that there are clear criteria to drive a successful use of mobile applications,  and that apps that will be successful will have to display several of these characteristics if they are to succeed in the market,  due to the very high level of competition during 2012 and 2013,  a situation that is not showing any signs of easing.

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  • When time is key
    Examples include tasks and processes around Sales orders, alerts, Deliveries, SEA.
    For many tasks and issues it is important to move with alacrity, and as mobile solutions allow for the ability to swiftly switch to a task. This is the effect of immediacy.  Mobile apps are carried with the user on their portable devices, and are typically quick and simple to load and use.  Therefore apps that provide point solutions to specific business challenges/ processes, and facilitate the “do it now” will be successful. Indeed those apps that allow the user to complete the action in otherwise idle/dead time (for example traveling, waiting etc) are also becoming common, and these often require the facility to work off line, as the “idle/dead time” may well be when mobile communications are not possible or feasible.
  • Where value/costs is high
    such as maintenance and asset management tasks.  The impact of the work can have a material impact on the business’ cost basis.  Other examples would be where the cost of a delay is to avoided.  For example those apps that support the tagging and subsequent scanning of assets are becoming vital in the ever dispersed world of supply chains.
    This is also tightly linked to where time is key, because tome is money, in particular in the order to cash processes.
  • Where location of usage is key
    Customer Site, Home working, traveling.
    Workers who are off site, at a customer, on the road etc.  This is a large category for field workers, sales staff etc, and in recent years knowledge workers, IT staff are become more and more flexible in their working pattern with regard to location and indeed time of day. Mobile apps typically provide highly focused functionality, that is able to be used on devices that are not tied to the business’ facilities, making use of the mobile networks to have effective communications in a wide range of locations.
  • When alerts are triggered
    Sensors, reports, process, communications.
    Life is unpredictable, events cannot always be controlled, and more and more with Agile working practices patterns of work are also less predictable or pattern based.  This leads to systems which rely not on a schedule, but on managing each event on an individual basis, and distributing alerts and or notifications as required, often appearing to be ad hoc.  Mobile devices are connected wherever they are, and this means that it is becoming safer to assume that it is possible to send an alert to a worker via their mobile device, and consider the delivery to be guaranteed, regardless of time of day or location of the device.
    Systems, processes and platforms that make use of alerts / notifications as a central part of their process are increasingly common and their apps that interface to these are able to receive and manage alerts (in- and out-bound).
  • When content is critical
    Augmented Reality (AR), process, performance metrics, KPIs, training/support
    At times,  access to content is vital, in particular when time and place result in the user not being within the business’s facilities.  Therefore those apps that provide local content on the mobile, or are able to use the local computing / sensor power of the device to enhance the content (eg AR, or CRM/customer data) have the opportunity to increase effectiveness and provide efficiency gains.
  • When collaboration is needed
    email, conferencing (voice and video), Instant Messaging, SMS/Tweets, Social Networking, knowledge sharing.
    Businesses are becoming ever more complex and few enterprises are not a network of highly inter-dependent teams, or relying on partners and suppliers to transact or execute their business.  To this end collaboration amongst disparate teams is a vital part of the business tool kit.  Mobile devices with strong communication support are making this trend more and more embedded into the “DNA” of businesses.  Therefore apps that can make the organization of, the participation in, and capturing the details from collaborations are the building blocks of enterprise communication systems. This all ties in with the time, location, alerts and value aspects above.
  • When hands-free is needed
    Voice mail, messaging, search
    The ability to interact with your mobile in situations where using your hands is not desirable or possible, for example driving, operating machinery, or in while transit.
    Apps that are able to make full use of the wide range of interfaces on a mobile device will improve the chances of successful execution of tasks while the user is not ideally situated for mobile usage.  So called multi-modal, multi-channel apps are becoming more practicable.
  • When transactions and workflow are as above
  • When context is key
    Location, financial, regulatory, information security
    Often the context in which a user operating can have an effect on what is appropriate for them to do,  or indeed they may require help in understanding their context.  The mobile devices are able to have extraordinary details of the context in which they are working, they can know the time and date, the location, if they are in motion, are they in the dark or not.  Further location can be not just the physcial coordinates of it’s location,  but able to interpret where this equates too, through geofencing, wifi analysis and other tools.  Therfore the mobile app is able to utilise this data to interpret the next best action,  for example alerts and notifications may be held back till later, sensitive information may require an extra step-up in authentication before they are revealed and so on.  This sophistication in the use of context will be far greater in enterprise apps as compared to consumer apps.
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Posted in: Apps, Architecture, mobile