April 10, 2016

Designing Mobile Apps for Enterprise Users

In today's connected world, its no surprise that most of enterprise software vendors are investing in mobilizing their software offering. While there is a rise in the number of mobile companion apps for enterprise software, not all of them have gained momentum.

Let's have a look at some of the considerations and challenges in designing a successful mobile app for enterprise users.

Enterprise mobile apps are complementary to their larger screen counterparts on PCs, not replacements. 

Enterprise mobile apps are meant for content consumption. Enterprise users cannot truly do “everything" on an app. At some point, they have to retreat to a laptop or desktop to "finish up" the heavy duty stuff. Enterprise users will not abandon the larger machine permanently, But in an always on-the-go world, having a mobile app to keep an eye on on work from anywhere is very convenient.

A great case in point is the Basecamp 2 mobile app. While the desktop web version is focused on adding content, the mobile app is focused on the viewing the latest content added to the recently active project.

Source: 9 Cool Mobile Apps To Improve Productivity

The Basecamp 2 mobile app is not a permanent substitute for a larger form factor device. The users will retreat to their larger machines to post messages and upload files, but content consumption is what the app’s sweet spot is. For enterprise users who travel a lot, mobile devices extend capabilities to work on-the-go when necessary, but the depth of info. available in a single glance at a larger screen will make sure that PCs remain relevant.

Design for sub-section of users

Not all the users of a enterprise software need a mobile app. Administrators for the enterprise software perform complex tasks that are best supported on an PC or high power laptop. They don't travel for work either, effectively negating the value of mobile apps for these administrator users.

On the other hand, there is a specific set of users who travel for work and would find using a enterprise mobile app to be very productive. For example, a maintenance technician employed with an air-conditioning company needs to visit sites and access information related to customer issues on the go. Effectively supporting a small sub-section of functionality for a sub-section of users instead of building a giant app would be good strategy for a successful enterprise mobile app.

Device Support

What are the devices to be supported? Are there any office issued device for these enterprise customers? These are some the key questions that need to answered before embarking on mobile app solution. Enterprise mobile device usage might not be equally divided between iOS and Android. The organizations might choose to issue devices. Additionally, there might be security measures applied on the devices.

Productivity is the key

Enterprise mobile apps need to be pragmatic and utilitarian. While a photo sharing app can have all the cool animations and creative interaction style, an enterprise apps for a field technician needs to get the job done quickly and effectively. At the end of the day, they should enable the employee to increase their productivity.

Pleasure is an important bonus

While the efficiency and productivity is a must for enterprise apps, today’s enterprise employees are expecting as fluid and flexible user experience from their work app which matches their Facebook experience. So the bar has definitely gone higher for enterprise apps. Considering that employees now have a say in choosing the software they work with, the enterprise app designer can no longer ignore them. So, even though efficiency comes first, pleasure is an important ingredient that adds that “fun” to work. A balance of standard utilitarian design and pleasure is the recipe to a great overall user experience for enterprise mobile apps.

Design for the limitations

Internet connectivity is tricky thing even in first world nations. A ticket checker's app might not work while they are on board a bus or train and make it completely useless. Design your enterprise app so that the user can perform the key things in offline mode or at least save data locally for the time being.

Consider the current workflow. What is it going to replace?

Why do we need a mobile app to do work? Why would employees use a mobile app to do a job when they have access to a high-speed internet connectivity and powerful computer at their desk?
What is the current workflow? How are they managing now. Most often, the mobile apps do not compete with a desktop solution. Rather they offer a productivity increase by replacing a tedious manual process or tool. A mobile app for a store manager lets them check inventory on-the-go instead of carrying a notebook and coming back to desk to re-enter the information.

To sum up, designing an effective mobile app solution can add value to the overall enterprise software offering provided by a vendor apart from just mobilizing the enterprise software.


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