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The First “R” of Mobile Enterprise Apps

Ojas Rege
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Ojas Rege | December 21, 2012
Categories:
Applications

When I was a kid, the three “R”s of education were wRiting, Reading, and aRithmetic. Growing up in Canada in the 70′s, my fourth “R” was Rush, but that’s a different story.

My last post was about the changing role of IT catalyzed by the move to mobile but especially by the growing business demand for mobile apps. So if IT’s role is changing, what are the three “R”s for this new re-training? Because what we learned in “IT school” is not enough. As @bmkatz reminded me, the slow response from many IT organizations is not because of disinterest or denial, but rather lack of knowledge on what to do.

There is no perfect guidebook for mobile apps. Best practices are coming out of experimentation, and that experimentation over the last year has taught us all some great lessons. Many of those lessons revolve around the three new “R”s of Mobile Enterprise Apps: expeRience, aRchitecture, and Role.

expeRience:

User experience is the litmus test for mobile app adoption. IT must first realize it is actually providing consumer apps for its employees, not business apps for its enterprise. The latter is taking ERP and cramming it onto a tiny screen. The former is picking the one or two most important functions in a business process, and then building (or buying) a simple and intuitive interface that users love and lets them finish their work quickly. This has been a difficult mindset shift for many organizations used to large-scale, monolithic, deeply-functional app projects.

Achieving expeRience means:

  • Singular function, not multiple features … feature creep is the kiss of death in a mobile app
  • Fast cycles … eight weeks of development, fast iteration, six month lifespan, and reasonable cost
  • High expectations … your employees are mobile experts in their personal lives. Your business app design is not competing against a desktop SAP app in their minds. It is competing against that great cardio exercise app they downloaded last night which feels like it was built JUST for them.

But expeRience raises some key questions as well, not just of mindset and approach, but also of capability and organization:

  • These feel like new design skills – where will they come from?
  • Does the existing team have the aptitude?
  • Should this function be in-house or contracted?
  • Should it be centralized or scattered throughout the business?
  • Who should run it and fund it?

These are tough questions, but, luckily, the question I hear less and less these days is: “Is it necessary?”

I was in a meeting this week with one of the biggest private food companies in the world. The person responsible for mobile said in his intro: “Nothing is more important than user experience.” That is awesome. Three years ago, user experience in the enterprise required evangelism. Now it is starting to be seen by the new generation of IT as a necessary condition of success. So the intent is there … the next step is making it real.

In the next post, I’ll share what our customers are learning about the second “R”: aRchitecture.

 

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