In a bit less than a decade, we have been blessed, overrun, inundated, enlightened and cursed with millions of mobile apps driven by nearly ubiquitous smart phone ownership and the concurrent demand to conduct even the most minute activity via these phones. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is a philosophical discussion best left to social scientists.
For now, mobile app development continues to be targeted more to the individual consumer than the enterprise. Perhaps no surprise there as developing and marketing the next Angry Birds may often lack the human, financial, intellectual and structural capital investment required to deliver an enterprise app that possesses the potential to transform elements of the enterprise business model. As well, the lifecycle of these consumer mobile apps can have both a truncated front and back end that means less time and cost to market, but also with a market life measured in months rather than years.
Mobile enterprise apps face many more hurdles than most consumer apps. They must be constructed on very strong and stable technology platforms that can handle significant stresses with big data, real-time demands and integration across the enterprise and the globe. They must also often spend valuable time convincing process owners that mobile is the future of their business and then run the gauntlet of a sales cycle that includes, financial, procurement and IT management that not yet become believers in the power of mobile.
Despite the challenges, mobile apps for the enterprise are beginning to gain serious traction in firms across every industry. There are apps being developed and delivered that address the challenges inherent in every function, process and task that comprise today’s value chains. The data here is very encouraging as more and more companies transition to mobile technologies across their value chain.
Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best solution. As an example, forms, in their myriad designs, functions and technologies have been the connective tissue that has allowed enterprises to integrate activities with some level of sophistication for generations. Cumbersome and not very efficient, physical forms have remained the only real option, particularly for highly distributed enterprises and field work where the job has always been mobile.
The advent of smart mobile devices, initially tablet computers but now upsized smart phones, has made mobile forms a reality and necessity for firms competing in environments with ever slimmer operating margins. Our own checklist and audit compliance app was born out customer frustration with the many inefficiencies of traditional manual form filling, filing and sharing. Errors of omission and commission in the initial manual recording of data/information, errors in transcription to digital form via desktop computers and significant lag times in aggregation and reporting of activities provided incredibly robust and profound value propositions for mobile enterprise forms apps.
But, here’s the rub (there always seems to be one). We have made tremendous strides over the past half decade bringing mobile app technology to the enterprise and the impacts of been nothing short of extraordinary, from retail and restaurant ordering technology, marketing and advertising, healthcare and medical, travel and transportation and manufacturing and distribution. What has yet to emerge is a mobile app for the enterprise that possesses the design flexibility to adapt to many, if not most or all, of the functions/processes/tasks the comprise the modern business.
Our work with customers over the past two years has shown us how powerful a mobile forms app can be in situations as diverse as fast casual kitchen management, new product development and testing, field service support and facilities management, just to name a few. What we should be looking for as we work to make our economies, industries and enterprises as efficient and productive as possible is not 100 apps for 100 tasks. What is needed is one foundational enterprise mobile app that performs as the centerpiece of the digital enterprise, reaching into every part of the business while built and operated on a common platform.