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Mobile Solutions

App users must be at the center

Mobile access to email and documents is no longer enough for modern enterprise mobility. Today, entire processes must be available on the go.

13 Jun. 2016 Robin Würz
(Photo: Sentavio /

Enterprise mobility

Users often have to settle for accessing their business emails and occasional third-party apps on their mobile devices, but this hardly has companies fulfilling their entire mobile potential.

The current trend is towards proprietary corporate apps. But many companies are struggling with this new phase in enterprise mobility. Because enabling access to existing systems is not enough. The challenge is to develop entire processes for mobile use.

Tailored to the company

Large software manufacturers are offering an ever growing number of apps for their systems. But these standardized solutions are often just a cheap copy of the desktop version. Innovative third-party mobile solutions for bookkeeping, HR and CRM are also increasingly available. These standard apps have the drawback of addressing only portions of a given firm's specific business processes, and forcing users to constantly switch between apps. And yet, businesses' different processes and IT landscapes are precisely what define a company's essence and competitive advantage.

Tailored apps are needed to take advantage of a company's mobile potential – and the company has to develop these themselves (or have them developed). This is the only way to create apps that employees appreciate and therefore use – a prerequisite for achieving the desired productivity and efficiency gains. Consumerization has proven itself here.

Consumer apps show the way

"Consumerization" is the opposite of traditional business IT. The latter is known for its often ugly control interfaces and non-user-friendly applications. These are based on the attitude that it doesn't matter if users aren't satisfied, since they're just employees and don't have any other choice. But this era is definitively over. Spoiled by Apple and its ilk, employees now have much greater user expectations. If they can't do what they want in two or three clicks, they simply abandon the app.

Mobile GPS service: apps show General Electric technicians the data for the system that's in front of them. (Photo: GE)

The key to acceptance lies in connecting the required information and systems within a coherent and consistent operating concept that aligns with the personal circumstances of any given user.

Consumer marketing apps are oriented to the customer journey and provide users with the appropriate offer for each moment. Uber is a supreme example. Concepts such as contextualization and mobile moments, for example, enable a service technician to automatically display the required information (ticket, task, service history, manual, confirmation) for pending appointments.

Based on GPS data, wind turbine technicians with General Electric automatically receive the data for the wind turbine they're standing near at a given time. For sales employees in the field, the right products and presentations can be automatically displayed, along with cross- and up-selling suggestions, based on their appointment calendar and GPS and CRM data.

Users at the center

A common error in developing enterprise applications is the bottom-up approach, where existing back-end systems are simply adapted to mobile devices and smaller screens. The correct approach is top-down, that is from the perspective of the users and their work process. Only then is it possible to connect the back-end systems to a user story and optimize them using context functions (location, function, history, appointment calendar).

Robin Würz, CEO Terria Mobile: If employees aren't satisfied with the user experience, the app won't be used. (Photo: Terria Mobile)

Extremely important: great tools

The right enterprise mobility tools are needed to create proprietary apps with attractive user experiences. They have to successfully mobilize the tried and true systems, which are seldom designed for mobile conditions such as slow or missing Internet connections, and equip them with savvy synchronization and a layer of mobile functionalities. This might include push notifications that enable users to directly carry out actions without having to open an app or a website.

Web-based and thin client architectures were key before the rise of mobile apps. Today there is a changing trend in the mobile sector, which is returning to relying on thick clients and synchronization to ensure functionality even when Internet connections are lacking.

The many hardware device functions (GPS, notifications, address book, camera/scanner) can also be used to create a typical app user experience.

Professional monitoring

The right tools are essential to professional monitoring of enterprise mobility success. They can track app use, including for several apps at once, to measure load times for functions or identify the exit points where users leave the app.

Measuring gestures can also lead to important conclusions for improved operation: If users always swipe left in the same place, even though it doesn't do anything, it would make sense to introduce a function there.

User ratings also provide input about satisfaction or flaws in the app. This data is very important for structured, evidence-based optimization and development of the user experience.