So the data is kind of scary: According to a study conducted by Ansira, 44 percent of mobile app defects aren’t discovered by developers—they’re discovered by end users.
Take into account that Gartner, Inc., projects consumers will download 268 billion mobile apps by 2017, and you’re looking at a lot of disgruntled customers wondering why the app you just sold them isn’t working the way they or you anticipated. Not only are those frustrated users going to ditch your enterprise business app—they’re also going to tell the universe (via social media and online review sites) just how bad their experience was.
And it doesn’t matter that 92 percent of the apps that users download are free. In exchange for that complimentary app, users generally receive some kind of advertising from the app owner, not to mention the fact that they have to submit their own personal data in order to access most apps.
Numbers like these keep folks up at night. Why? Because the bottom line is this: if businesses can’t find more effective methods for discovering errors within their mobile apps before they hit the market, then they’re bound to face a heavy siege of user resistance before that first app even launches.
So why do so many mobile apps roll out with a plethora of defects, and how do we fix the process? As with all software development, planning and testing are key to a successful roll-out.
The general solution is creating synthesized internal processes for mobile app development, so that developers are discovering snafus before those apps hit consumers’ smartphones and tablets. This means that the age-old mantra of “test early, test often” needs to be amended in the mobile app world to include “test before it’s in the wild.”
Why Enterprise Apps Fail
First, let’s look at some of the most common reasons why mobile enterprise development fails:
Failure to Prioritize UX
When consumers complain about apps, those complaints typically have to do with a poor user experience—poor responsiveness, workflow design, or user interface (UI).
For example, while users will generally give a desktop app six to 10 seconds to load, speed expectations for mobile apps are much less tolerant. Users will often abandon an app that doesn’t work in a couple of seconds. KISSmetrics offers a pretty insightful visual assessment of user patience (or lack thereof) here.
Wrong Development Approach
Because of the interactivity between apps and users, companies often take an agile development (AD) approach with all application development, mobile included, as it’s the most straightforward way to get to the users’ preferences and habits, as well as to address those pesky defects we’ve been talking about.
As a part of this, the UX and its feedback can help drive the choice of development platforms and paradigms going forward. Some organizations choose fully native development, whereas others use HTML5 to keep complexity down and agility up. Unfortunately, even with today’s advanced mobile platforms, the functionality is not on par with a native app … yet.
The good news is, with today’s modern cross-platform software development kits (SDK), you can have one code base for multiple native application deployments as well as for your traditional web based application; in other words, you can almost have your cake and eat it, too!
Plenty of developers are recognizing the efficiency of using cross-platform tools like Xamarin and Titanium/Appcelerator, so they can write code once and then generate it for all four smartphone operating systems. Each of these approaches has its own pros and cons which need to be considered, ideally with substantial user feedback incorporated in the decision-making process.
Quality Assurance Failure
As we previously discussed, most mobile apps that fail in the marketplace do so because there are too many bugs that aren’t discovered until the end user experiences them.
In general, this is due to a rush to get a product “out the door” to meet the market’s demand. However, while speed to market is a major requirement in today’s digital world, it’s a big mistake to rely on the end user, intentionally or unintentionally, as part of your quality assurance testing team.
Building and following a development/integration/test/refine process, which includes having a detail-oriented test engineer in the loop acting as the user can oftentimes make the difference in successful mobile app deployment.
Failure to Iterate Quickly
A corollary to number three on our list, failure to iterate rapidly can be just as bad as iterating too rapidly, or, more to the point, skipping important test steps during rapid iteration.
Enterprise mobile apps, in particular, are vulnerable to failure, (due to their bespoke functional requirements) and require a dedicated analysis of user behavior and quick upgrades (read: 24 hours or less) to address changing behaviors and/or user needs. If you can’t respond to user demands in a timely and accurate manner, all else equal, your customers will go elsewhere.
How to Avoid Failure
How do you make sure the above doesn’t happen to you? Here are three critical tips to ensure optimal development and deployment of your enterprise mobile app:
Invest Time Identifying Audience
While one of the biggest challenges of timely and workable app development is the array of devices on which they may be used, give your app some close scrutiny.
Who is your target audience, and what are the primary devices they are using? Maybe your audience is primarily Android users, and engaging in app development for iPhone isn’t worth the investment.
Understand who is using the app before you start developing it. You may find the data surprising. For example, according to IT market intelligence firm IDC, Android holds more than 80 percent global market share.
Determine the App’s Usage
Usage behaviors can change over time.
Gartner advises AD teams to make an optimal user interface as the starting point for development in combination with an awareness of how to establish a workflow that reflects how users actually use the app.
Developers can deploy in-app instrumentation and analytics through vendors like Flurry or those that come with MADP solutions to learn what users are actually doing within the app they’re using.
With the lightning-speed changes in the mobile market, AD teams not only need fast development and deployment practices that constantly upgrade mobile apps as user expectations change but also as manufacturers release new versions of operating systems. Unlike desktop applications that may take 18 months to develop and deploy and then are often in use with minimal upgrades for as long as five years, almost all mobile apps experience constant demand for continuous iteration.
Test, Test, Test.
One of the biggest challenges of testing mobile applications is preparing them for use on a wide array of devices with different operating systems and variable wireless networks.
Some of the most common issues include user interface issues, inconsistencies across platforms, and excessive consumption of resources. We recommend, at a minimum, a two-tier testing approach on device simulators as well as on a subset of the most widely used and latest devices.
Developing an app and then testing it for quality just doesn’t work—you need an agile development strategy where testing is going on simultaneously with development. So it bears repeating: test, early, test often, and test before your mobile enterprise app is in the wild.
Importance of UX in Enterprise Mobility
Traditionally, enterprise products—from custom built intranets to ERP systems—are hand selected by a company’s top management personnel and put to use by end users who (by the way) have no say in the product selection. But this process of implementing mission critical software packages is archaic, and part of the reason that we’re seeing the light in today’s business world is due to the proliferation of mobile functionality within the workplace—not to mention the fact that modern design strategies have slowly but surely begun to effect the way we think about mobile enterprise apps.
Today’s teams and employees are more empowered than ever to select and use the tools they desire. If you prefer working from a tablet while entering data into a spread sheet, that can easily be accomplished (and without creating a data trail that’s difficult to tie into the rest of your company’s mission critical information). Likewise, if you love answering emails on the go, chatting with co-workers about a new project, or keeping up to date on an AdWords campaign, your smart phone is probably one of the best tools you have in your business related arsenal.
But, with desire, comes certain design obligations. Without the right emphasis on UX, the proliferation of mobile enterprise apps can (and will) easily add to our everyday clutter, as opposed to helping us do our jobs more efficiently. And as it becomes more common for end users to become decision makers, it is up to enterprise software manufacturers to focus not just on what solutions will work, but what solutions their constituents want.
That’s where the importance of Design Thinking in enterprise mobility lies…
Take your pick from any of the new kids on the block: Asana, Slack, Evernote. One thing that they all share in common is a passion for putting forth a concerted effort to implement Design Thinking strategies within the construction of their mobile enterprise applications. What all three of these companies know is that it simply isn’t enough anymore to make an application that solves a problem—instead, modern business solutions must also create an emotional connection with their end users.
But what is Design Thinking and why does it matter to your next foray into building a mobile enterprise solution?
In short, Design Thinking is an iterative process that—instead of attempting to fix problems as they arise—focuses on putting empathy at the forefront of finding solutions.
As opposed to a more analytical process of implementing an enterprise system, (think of how ERP’s are typically implemented: an executive, or group of executives, get together and systematically asses how the new ERP system can intuitively solve the end user’s needs—instead of the actual end user being involved in the implementation process) Design Thinking drives collaboration and abandons analysis in favor of creative problem solving.
Unlike more traditional project implementation strategies—which consider X so that they can solve for Y—Design Thinking allows for teams to think of Y as a constantly moving target. And with the number of devices that are equipped to accommodate enterprise level solutions growing by the day, it’s no wonder why Design Thinking has a big role to play in the future of how mobile enterprise applications will be received by end users, and not just the buyers who are at the top of the company considering paying for their product as a service.
Examples of Enterprise Mobility
At times the Enterprise can seem like an archaic place, especially when it comes to user experience and mobile capability. But the tide has begun to turn as companies begin to realize that great user experience is no longer just a nice thing to include in app functionality, it’s a necessity. What’s more, with the rise of mobile user adoption it’s becoming more and more apparent that the Enterprise will continue to look to app development for workflow solutions and data amalgamation.
The first app we’re going to give a shout out to has been a huge benefit to the airline industry. As anyone in business can attest, flight delays and changes are a huge frustration, and typically (if you’ve ever been in this situation) are hardly ever handled correctly. Improper handling of customer needs—especially when, say, that customer needs to fly out to LA for an important business meeting—can irrevocably damage customer loyalty.
With Passenger Care, however, customer service agents can check-in travelers while they wait in line, and get them to their gates more quickly. What’s more, if there’s a delay, flight agents can offer travelers personalized recommendations for alternative flights as well as overnight accommodations and vouchers. And all of this capability works straight from an iPad, meaning that customers no longer have to be put on hold when it comes to figuring out changes in the flight schedule.
For any company that requires remote access to internal networks, the headaches of working with VPN’s is all too real. They’re almost always difficult to set up and, like much of technology that’s IT centric, they don’t create a great user experience. TunnelBear’s mission, however, is to bring the benefits of VPN to everyone through their PC, Mac, Android, and iOS apps. Using TunnelBear your company can turn on or off your VPN capabilities with the click of a button, and the pricing goes from a freemium level to premium versions, meaning that the price is scalable for companies of all sizes.
Industry: Data Visualization
Even if you’re sick of buzzwords like “big data” it should be abundantly clear to you how important it is to be able to visualize the data sources that matter most to your company’s mission critical agendas. While there are many desktop applications that work well for any business’s needs there haven’t been many data visualization tools that work well for mobile—until Roambi Analytics came around at least. Essentially Roambi gives you access to high level charts and graphs that make data more relevant, and let’s you take this information with you wherever you go.
Industry: Health Care
This mobile app is the product of a collaboration between IBM and iOS, and it’s the collaboration that makes this suite of mobile apps so exciting. By combining IBM’s long history of building Enterprise technology with Apple’s unbeatable user experience, the IBM Mobile First for iOS Healthcare apps are changing how healthcare professionals coordinate and communicate. In a field as specialized as healthcare (which deals with verticals as disparate as nursing and technicians to pharmaceuticals) communication can quickly become an entangled web that health care providers get caught up in—which is exactly why the IBM Mobile First for iOS apps are so important, as hospital enterprise tech can now better organize employees from technicians to nursing aids, and allow them to spend more time caring for patients.
The last Mobile Enterprise App on this list is another collaboration between IBM and Apple. In a market that’s as competitive as the financial industry, professionals need personalized tools that allow them to work at lightning speed. The app features an array of analytic based data that financial advisors can use to make more informed decisions on their clients’ behalf, all from the accessibility of an iPad.