Enterprise mobile apps should be as simple and functional as their consumer equivalents

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Companies that want to drive the best results from mobilising their business processes need to give their employees access to apps that are as simple, attractive, integrated and rich as the consumer mobile apps they use every day. This means organisations and their IT departments must learn from best practices in consumer app design and put the end-user experience at the heart of their mobile app development decisions.

The simple, beautiful design of consumer apps such as Evernote, WhatsApp, Dropbox, and various social media tools has set the benchmark for enterprise mobile apps. Mobile business solutions that are difficult to use will experience poor adoption or end up hindering users more than they help them.

Enterprise software has traditionally had a reputation for delivering poor end-user experiences. They’re often unattractive, unresponsive and poorly integrated with tools users rely on every day such as email, calendaring and time management. This results in poor adoption and high training costs.

What’s more, users often go out and find unauthorised consumer apps and software to do their work when they’re not happy with the corporate issue tools. That introduces security and integration problems into the enterprise. So, when designing and developing mobile enterprise apps, companies must think as deeply about the end-user experience of the actual business users, as they do about the functionality and corporate goals.

Globally, app adoption in the enterprise market is around two years behind the adoption of apps in the consumer market. But adoption is climbing as organisations seek ways to innovate, create efficiencies, and engage partners and customers in new and different ways. Organisations also want mobile solutions that can seamlessly integrate into existing operations and processes. Strategic Analytics projects that the mobile enterprise app market will nearly double in value between 2012 and 2018 from US$31-billion to US$61-billion.

Mobile business solutions can help companies to become vastly more efficient and effective, with organisations looking at providing employee apps such as: employee self-service solutions that let people apply for leave from their cell phones; mobile access to ordering, invoicing, quoting and inventory for sales staff; and tools to support and manage field technicians.

But to get real ROI from these solutions, companies need to rethink their old approaches to designing and deploying applications. As consumers, people get to choose the apps they use, while their work systems are chosen for them by the IT manager or a line executive.

Enterprise application design decisions are often centred around the business process or the IT environment rather than the end-user’s experience and needs. A more user-centric philosophy can accommodate everything the business needs in terms of security and workflow without sacrificing beauty and ease of use.

Many South African companies are piloting mobile enterprise solutions. The best way to test the waters is to pilot solutions, analyse results, and find ways to improve, then roll out apps on a larger scale. The good news is that many of the principles learnt in the process of developing consumer mobile solutions can also help create positive user experiences for the end-user in the enterprise world.

Since users will use these apps every day to communicate and do their work, it’s a good idea to make them easy and enjoyable to use. Looking into the future of enterprise apps, I believe the ones that are most successful in achieving end-user adoption and meeting corporate goals will be those that resemble the consumer apps we use on our smartphones every day of our lives.

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