By Richard Frykberg
There’s an App for That! Thanks to Apple, our software user experience has been transformed. From complex menu-driven behemoths to pithy, powerful, to the point Apps. For Everything! And with good reason, we prefer native Apps to websites for daily tasks from checking the weather to communications and banking. The most are important reasons we love Apps are:
- The purpose and function of Apps are clear, resulting in an intuitive, no-training-required solution to a specific need;
- Apps deliver a faster, more animated and appealing user-experience;
- Offline capability – whilst we’re getting closer there are still too many dead-spots, and Apps provide life in those desolate moments off-the-grid; and
- Apps provide a clear value proposition: a defined set of capabilities for a low transparent cost.
But use-for-work Enterprise Apps impose some unique challenges:
- Platform – Thanks again to Apple, the majority of enterprise executive users prefer Apple mobile devices which provide a solid integrated base for solution development. But Android devices of all shapes and forms are growing in popularity, and now have the majority share of new devices sales. And even Windows-based phones and tablets are clinging to market share with the promise of desktop and mobile operating system standardisation. So whilst IT departments can specify a standard operating environment for end-user desktop workstations, mobile devices present an unfamiliar infrastructure challenge.
- Security – The primary concern with internet-based mobile access to internal IT systems is naturally security. Of course, as soon as email is exposed on mobile devices, confidentiality considerations are already in play, and mechanisms for Bring Your Own Device management to wipe and secure devices are already necessitated. But exposing actual business processes to mobile users raises the Ante with respect to both effective user-authentication and data security both at rest and in-transit.
- Deployment – Whilst consumer apps are readily accessible on the respective platform ‘stores’, mechanisms are required to control the effective distribution of internal Enterprise Apps to the appropriately ‘authorised’ target user groups.
- Dependency – A number of mobile apps platform providers promise to solve many of the unique enterprise mobility challenges by offering an App development platform. These would make sense if they were cost effective, offered a wide array of commercial off the shelf apps, and enabled a low-cost skills-base for bespoke development of unique scenarios. Unfortunately, this is not the case. A number of ‘free’ apps on the App Store impose significant back-end and middleware dependencies (and cost).
- Flexibility – Nearly every enterprise software app on the market today from SAP to Salesforce.com offers mobile ‘Companion Apps’. But similar to the applications with which they connect, only limited degrees of flexibility are offered in tailoring these apps to the specific needs of the organisation. So whilst they may support generic processes effectively, the commercial Companion Apps fall short in accommodating the unique and most critical business processes.
- Cost – Custom mobile application is expensive. Especially where support is required for multiple mobile platforms, and most commercial enterprises choose not to maintain large mobile app development teams, instead preferring to outsource key Apps to development organisations. Completed on a per-project basis, and initiated by different internal departments for specific needs, it is not unusual for a large organisation to have multiple Apps in development, with multiple providers, concurrently. This is not only expensive, but imposes a high cost of maintenance and support of a plethora of inconsistently developed solutions.
- Suitability – Because of availability, or due to a policy rush for mobility, some organisations are ambitiously churning out Apps for everything. But let’s be honest, some tasks are best deferred to when you’re in front of a keyboard and a big screen!
- Useability – Both generic companion apps and internally developed apps typically have one thing in common – poor useability. By attempting to support complex business processes in a generic fashion, or using inexperienced internal resources to ‘roll-your-own’, provides users with a distinctly under-whelming impression when comparing internal to consumer Apps.
- Clutter – The net result of both personal App downloads, and enterprise app deployments is overwhelming App overload. There is an app for that, but where is it? An App for purchase order approvals. An App for leave approvals. An App for contract approvals. You got to be kidding!
As a Business User, what you expect from your work Apps is the following:
- Accessible Apps for your most important mobile tasks only. You want to be able to choose your Apps, and have easy to use, discrete Apps for common tasks. One Purchasing App, one Sales App, one Task Approvals App, for example.
- You expect a consumer-grade, high quality user-experience that is highly performant, intuitive to use, and tailored for your business process requirements with no confusing nor unnecessary data or functionality.
- Desktop and mobile continuity – you expect a seamless experience at your desk and on the road.
As an IT Manager, what you want is:
- Fewer apps to deploy and maintain – each App, even if ‘free’ imposes overhead to deploy, support and sustain;
- Customisation, not development – you need to be able to tailor your mobile Apps to your users’ needs using your in-house expertise;
- Security – you need enterprise quality Apps that implement the highest security standards for authentication, local storage and communication;
- Independence – you don’t want to be locked into any particular, high-cost mobile app development platform. You seek Apps that work on all current devices without an onerous list of middleware or back-end dependencies.
- Cost – always an important factor with squeezed IT budgets, you need solutions that provide a clear business-case value proposition.
A good example of an App that meets all these needs is OneList Approvals by IQX Business Solutions. OneList Approvals specifically addresses the most important mobile scenario: workflow task approvals. OneList Approvals expedites critical business processes by eliminating the approval bottlenecks inherent in everything from sales and procurement to safety incidents. It achieves this by providing a consolidated task list of all your assigned approval tasks irrespective of source system. So rather than having to access some tasks via email, and others through a whole range of Companion Apps, executives are presented with a single, active task list that is accessible both from desktop and mobile devices. IT is able to flexibly configure the workflow scenarios for consistent and tailored useability. OneList is fully integrated with your current enterprise applications and document management systems using commercial or customer adapters. There are no 3rd-pary middleware platform requirements nor pre-requisite application versions. Rapidly install and go ASAP. So approving executives are able to make better informed decisions, more confidently, anytime, everywhere.
So, be the IT hero. Don’t clutter your users’ devices with apps that are difficult to find, use and support. Find solutions that provide the right balance of commercial robustness, enterprise security and device support with the flexibility to accommodate your unique business process needs. Consider OneList Approvals as a great example of a cost-effective solution to provide your senior executives with a delightful solution they’ll use daily and love you for!