The onset of mobility and BYOD in the enterprise has created an enormous opportunity for large-scale companies to take advantage of their employees’ eagerness to use their own technology in the doing of their jobs. In earlier blogs I’ve discussed some ways to identify the best opportunities for companies to increase profits with mobile apps. If you want to realize any app-related increases of revenue or decreases in costs at scale, however, you have to get hundreds – or thousands – of your employees to use it. Once you’ve identified that exploitable business opportunity, you have to take off your company hat and design with your users in mind!
You all have seen the stats about mobile – suffice it to say that you can count on almost all of your employees having (or soon having) a mobile device and looking for cool apps to download. Why? Because they all want to play games, have instant access to all their contacts, carry around their entire music libraries, and take and share photos. They want to be in touch and share and have fun and enjoy convenience. There are probably tens of unused apps on your iPad or smartphone to remind you that If you forget about meeting the needs of your users and providing a great mobile user experience, then you’ll be doomed to disappointment by the results.
So what are some of the ways your you can tie your users’ core motivations back to improvements in your business processes to provide incremental value to your company?
Save time or make a process easier for your employees: Perhaps your app can be designed so that tasks that your employees perform over and over again could be automated. Could predictive algorithms be used to make intelligent suggestions about what next steps your mobile users might take? Save steps by allowing the app to interface directly with the users’ calendar or contacts apps, adding appointments, reminders and customer information to their phone or tablet as appropriate. Develop ideas that will allow the native functions of your users’ devices, such as the touch screen, camera, microphone, GPS or gyroscope, to facilitate a critical process. Examples of these might be filling in forms, capturing documents and images, processing credit cards or checks, or facial ID recognition, to name just a few.
Provide an excellent user experience: One thing is for certain, if your app doesn’t meet the standards of usability we expect from anything we can download for free, it will quickly be relegated to obscurity. Your app should be easily navigable and take advantage of well established gestures and workflows so that your employees can get what they need easily and quickly. Make sure that you provide spinners and other icons as appropriate so that users know that a process is actually happening, and provide definite feedback when a process has been completed. For bandwidth-intense processes, you might have all the response/feedback occur entirely within the app, and then cache the data to process in the background later, when the user accesses a wireless network.
Make your app fun – give it some “wow” factor: Of course your purpose is to transact business with your custom mobile app, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stodgy. Perhaps you might incorporate a social gaming aspect to your business process, where there is friendly competition and commentary encouraged between your employees. Other ways to make the app fun might be to include Easter eggs or other quirky graphic elements that can add surprise and laughter to the experience. Perhaps you can develop a really cool and useful interaction model using a native device feature. However you choose to add fun to your app, be careful here not to encourage TOO much off-task activity as you may offset smaller productivity gains
Prevent your employees from making costly or time consuming mistakes: Depending on the scope of your business, your app could be used to provide on-location training and information for new employees, which can help to avoid mistakes and shorten the learning curve. You could save on up front training for advanced processes or special scenarios by providing on-demand or live video guidance. You can even allow your employees to share their own best practices so that individual efficiencies can be scaled across your enterprise.
If all else fails, incentivize your employees to use your app: It could certainly be argued that within certain mobile business models, saving time (as suggested above) can correlate to increased earnings for the individual. Other ways that employees can be motivated to adopt your newly launched mobility app is to offer hard incentives for app use, whether these are in the form or monetary or career-based bonuses, or maybe in the form of credit towards time off or some discount of products and services. While incentives are no replacement for usefulness, fun and a great mobile experience, they can certainly help (especially if they are offset by the additional margins the app provides.)