I recently had the opportunity to speak at an event hosted by Wall Street Technology Association (WSTA). The event was their 2015 mobile seminar titled “Enabling the Mobile Financial Services Enterprise”. My presentation was titled “A Day in the Life – Financial Services Application Mobility” and focused on enterprise mobility as a progression:
The audience consisted of financial services professionals and, as such, the use cases in my presentation focused on the financial services industry. However, the general themes are relevant for any enterprise that is looking towards mobility to deliver business value day in and day out. Let’s explore these topics in relation to general use cases.
Mobility is a strategic business platform and companies should now be planning beyond email/calendar/contacts. You should start by:
- Evaluating users for population segments with special needs (executives, regulated users, etc.)
- Reviewing your existing device population and what is allowed by your current mobile policies.
- Identifying app requirements to ensure you evaluate corporate-wide, legal & regulatory, as well as line of business requirements.
- Gauging anticipated level of investment as this may impact technology strategy (e.g. especially native vs HTML5)
A knee jerk solution when a business group asks for mobile capabilities is often to “build an app”; however, your business is looking for a “solution” and the best way to solve the problem may not be with an app. You should start with:
- Reviewing the target devices for your solution, as well as your device management platform (MDM), to ensure existing capabilities cannot already fulfill the requirements.
- Ensuring there is not a 3rd party application provider who is providing the solution you need for all your target platforms.
- Ensuring that deploying a link to a responsively designed web site (intranet or internet) is not, at least initially, acceptable. This way you can ensure demand prior to investing in a custom application. It is also a solution that can be quickly rolled out.
- Once all these options have been reviewed, it is time to design your app.
At its core, enterprise mobility enables access to corporate data from anywhere at any time. Enterprises are rarely short on data but rather have challenges around the accessibility of data. Much of the effort around extending capabilities out to mobile users will be focused on locating, merging, exposing, and securely delivering enterprise data to mobile apps.
When looking to extend capabilities to mobile, your focus should be on key business interactions that have mobile use cases. In the consumer application space, this is similar to a “mobile moment” which are the moments when a person pulls out a mobile device to get what they want immediately and within context.
When building enterprise applications, especially in the BYOD space, you need to focus on engaging users on their platform and within their form factor. This results in the need to focus on:
- Form Factor – Phone vs Small Tablet vs Large Table
- Orientation – Portrait vs Landscape
An area where many people cut corners and lose engagement is around connectivity. In the consumer mobile space, the assumption is often that universal connectivity exists. In an enterprise, if you are only developing for mobility on a corporate campus, or major metropolitan area, this may be a valid assumption. For those building for a truly mobile workforce, where work is occurring in the field, connectivity varies a lot and can often be non-existent. Mobile does not mean connected. You should focus on the connectivity access patterns for your users and design for their actual use cases. True mobility thrives on edge cases, the easiest way to lose engagement is to ignore the cases where your users need your app the most.
Once you have enabled, extended, and engaged it is time to fully execute on mobility as a business productivity tool. Often key processes within enterprises are workflows. These workflows are dependent on inputs, outputs, and actions by multiple actors within an organization. Improved efficiencies in these workflows usually have positive client impact, often with quantifiable financial benefits.
This is the area where more advanced capabilities, like offline support and leveraging platform features, bring home the value of the application and thus deserve the investment consideration. It improves the edge case experience for users, allowing them to focus on the work use cases that you have mobilized. In enterprise mobility, a “killer app” is the one that delivers real business value.
In summary, the way to be successful in enterprise app development is to follow this advice:
- Focus on user experience
- Implement key business use cases
- Handle and test edge cases
- Plan for application evolution
- Just build a desktop application on mobile
- Get fixated on apps, look instead for solutions
- Try to do it all with v1, user feedback is critical
- Wait to begin, mobilize your business processes