With mobile phone subscribers numbering in the billions today, the majority of businesses are wanting to develop one or more mobile apps to reach this massive audience. Mobility has changed life and business forever. It has vastly grown the types and volume of devices that connect to an organisation’s resources. The number of subscribers is burgeoning globally, the devices are forcing businesses into an “always on” or 24/7 mentality and the flood of Internet of Things (IoT) devices promises to see tens of billions of devices connecting to the Internet within just a few years.
Richard Firth, CEO of MIP Holdings, says these IoT devices, which include mobile phones in the broad sense, have new operating systems that are forever altering the way companies deploy software and services. “Over and above that, these tremendous shifts in technology go hand in hand with opportunities to engage with customers, staff and other partners on different platforms and levels.”
Many businesses relate their mobile strategy similarly to the provisioning of a company’s web site, Firth adds. “An example of the difference between a company’s web site and the real power of an app running on a mobile device is the fact that on a web site, a company only knows that the consumer is using the web site when the consumer is logged in. However, a consumer using a mobile app on any device is logged in 24/7, enabling a company to communicate via notifications and so on 24/7. This is a fundamental difference in the abilities of the two architectures, and this is why most apps today will request access to the customer’s notifications, camera, location and contacts.”
To reap the benefits of mobility, business services simply have to be accessible via mobile devices, and companies across all industries are taking notice. But how does one avoid the ‘app gap’ and make mobile applications user friendly or “social” for the platform? How to make them simple, yet boasting full functionality? By embracing the new B2B2C, Firth says.
“I call it socialising the infrastructure. This really translates to a new era when machines or systems will begin to socialise with consumers. For this to become a reality, the traditional business system needs an arsenal of functionality to truly bind the system, with a consumer sitting on the other end of a mobile app running on a multitude of devices.”
According to Firth, companies who are doing this successfully are creating digital or mobile strategies that have flexible platforms to enable scalable mobile application development. In turn, these support all the vital elements of communication or relationship management such as consumer lifecycle management, workflow, service level management, business process management, notifications, timelines, rules engines, enterprise content management, gamification, chatbots, online chat, security and suchlike. Firth says the term digital strategy is confusing to business users, and he believes that we should rather use the term “socialising technology”.
In addition, companies must ensure that data is secure across all devices, networks and clouds. “Remember that mobility has altered the way we access and store data. The very concept of mobile has seen the data perimeter in which information sits safely, vanish. Data needs to move freely between the data centre, the cloud, and the device. Businesses have to be able to contain and control this data.”
Successful businesses are also making sure their apps are good looking, and highly efficient. “Apps can’t just be pretty. They are of zero use to anyone if they can’t access the information as and when the user requires. They need to be mobile optimised, and able to connect to all the systems they need to, to be simple yet functional. These systems sit on the backend (cloud, financials, commissions, stock, etc.) and on the front end (camera, GPS, finger print reader, Bluetooth etc.),” Firth explains. “All these components on the front and backend need an architecture that will allow them to communicate with each other seamlessly.”
App developers should also keep workflow in mind, he says. “Mobile apps are empowering a collection of business processes that is becoming a complete workflow in itself. Information has to be gathered from a multitude of systems and devices and given to the user in such a way that they can act on it. Therefore, developers need to keep integration, socialisation and synchronisation in mind at all times.”
He says to remember that a successful app will drive engagement. “The application must work in the way the end user wants. Developers would do well to work with the end users from the beginning to understand what features they most need, and which they will find most useful. It helps to get feedback to understand the user experience across the complete application lifecycle.”
He believes that the requirement to work with the end users has given rise and credence to the “Agile Methodology” of system development. “Agile has been pushed as development focus shifts from form and function to process. The developers should test the app to improve performance and employ analytics to gauge the extent adoption and engagement, and can look at frequency of use, retention and crash reporting to do this. A final element in the cycle is that if you have to train a person to use an app, it will never gain traction. Intuition is the new name of the game.” Remember that if one has to train the consumer how to use the app, you have failed!”
Apps are now mainstream. They are the de facto way many businesses deliver their content and their services. However, a good app needs to separate itself from the noise by being useful, intuitive, relevant, and easy to use. If it isn’t, people won’t bother learning how to use it. “Develop apps with these points in mind, from design through to roll-out, and your business will guarantee a good adoption,” Firth concludes.