by Robin Wirz (Guest Author), Computerworld, Feb 26 2016, (original article in German)

Mobile access to email and documents is just the tip of the iceberg in modern enterprise mobility. It requires entirely new IT concepts that fully focus on the perspectives and the needs of app user. This demands a suitable strategy, with the right attitude and infrastructure.


Employees naturally would like to be able to use their own mobile devices for work. However, most are lucky if they are able to access their business emails and are allowed to use specific third-party apps. Companies that fit this category don’t even come close to exploiting their full mobile potential.

The trend today is toward internal company apps, but many companies find it difficult to adapt to this new stage of enterprise mobility. It’s not enough to enable access to existing systems: the real challenge is to mobilize entire processes.

Tailored to the company

Although major software vendors such as SAP offer more and more mobile apps for their systems, such standardized solutions are all too often merely knock-offs of the standard originals. New vendors also provide innovative mobile apps for accounting, HR, and CRM. The disadvantage of these standard apps is that they can only partially cover the specific business processes of a company and force users to constantly switch between apps. It is however precisely these different processes and IT systems that define a company and give it its competitive advantage.

For a company to fully exploit its mobile potential, it must have customized apps, which only the company itself can develop (or get developed). These must reflect the internal circumstances of the company and meet the specific needs of the individual user groups. Only apps created in this fashion will be liked and used by the staff as intended – which is the prerequisite for achieving the desired improvements in productivity and efficiency in the first place. The consumerization approach has proven especially helpful in this task.

Consumer apps show the way

Consumerization is the total opposite of traditional enterprise IT, which is often characterized by irritating user interfaces and applications that are difficult to use. This results from the basic attitude that it doesn’t matter if the users are unhappy because they are just employees and have no other choice. Those times are definitely over. Thanks to Apple and others, today’s employees have much higher expectations of a mobile experience and they apply these to internal apps as well. If employees cannot do what they want with just two or three clicks, they simply won’t use the app.

The key to user acceptance is to merge the necessary data and systems into a consistent and coherent experience, tailored to the individual circumstances of each user. Companies now have to provide their own employees what they are providing to customers and consumers: the simple and intuitive mobile interaction with the company.

In consumer marketing, apps are focusing on the customer journey and providing users with the appropriate service for each moment in time. Uber is the perfect example of this. Advanced concepts like contextualization and Mobile Moments enable service technicians, for example, to automatically display the data they need for their next call (ticket, task, service history, manuals, confirmation). General Electric, for one, has implemented this for their wind turbine technicians. Using GPS data, they can automatically view the right data for the wind turbine standing directly before them. For sales field representatives, the right products and presentation content can be displayed automatically based on their appointment calendars, along with GPS and CRM data, including suggestions for cross-selling or up-selling.

User centered

A common mistake in the development of enterprise applications is to take the bottom-up approach, in which existing backend systems are simply adapted to mobile devices and small screens. The better approach is top down, based on the user perspective or the user’s work process. Only this makes it possble to combine the backend systems into a user story and optimize it through contextual functions like location, function, history, or appointments calendar.

The user stories concept is generally well known in agile software development. It is now even more applicable (and offers more opportunities) in the development of mobile apps. Used consistently, it not only ensures proper mapping of processes but also their improvement. The result is a compelling mobile app that requires no training and is happily used by employees – contributing to the fulfillment of the productivity goals.

No tools, no glory

To achieve the satisfying mobile user experiences with company-internal apps, one needs the right enterprise mobility tools. Such tools must effectively “mobilize” the traditional and proven systems, which are seldom designed to deal with mobile conditions, such as slow or missing Internet connections. Since these systems were not originally intended for mobile use, they now require clever synchronization and a layer of mobile services. This can include push notifications that enable users to perform various actions directly, even without opening an app or website.

Before the advent of mobile apps, web-based and thin-client architectures were the most popular choice. Today, the trend is back to work more with “thick clients” and synchronization to ensure functionality even without Internet access. In addition, this approach allows the use of diverse hardware functions of mobile devices (GPS, notifications, address book, camera/scanner), which is essential for a typical app user experience.

Security and monitoring

Another very important aspect of enterprise mobility, of course, is security. Deployment and access control, as well as encrypted data transmission and storage are crucial, whether on the devices or in the Cloud. This requires a powerful user management across multiple apps and devices, capable to handle both online and offline scenarios.

Monitoring tools are hereby essential for a professional success tracking. Such tools are used to analyze app usage (anonymously, if required), also across multiple apps and devices. One can also track the load times of individual functions or the exit points where users leave the app. Gesture tracking can also provide useful information for improving the user interface. For example, if users always swipe to the left at a particular point even though nothing happens, it would make sense to add a function there. Beyond that, user ratings provide additional qualitative feedback for assessing satisfaction and identifying weak points. These findings are essential for a structured and fact-based optimization and enhancement process of the user experience.

Source of original article: (in German)

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