This is the first article of a three-part series on the key challenges of enterprise mobile app development. The second article discusses the challenges of developing and shipping employee-facing mobile apps followed by customer-facing mobile apps. This article will cover the shifting enterprise mobility landscape by exploring the impact of internal digital transformation.
Internal digital transformation has become standard for industries like banking, insurance, and healthcare. Powered by the rapidly changing expectations for digital and mobile experiences, forward-thinking industries have turned existing processes inside out with agile digital teams focusing on employee-centric mobile app development and productivity suites. This digital shift has had a substantial impact on bottom lines and is forcing virtually every vertical to adopt a new structure within the enterprise. By delivering worthwhile and useful workplace applications, performance can move from incremental improvements to transformative long-term progress.
The rise of the mobile workplace has given way to a new management environment and culture with the employee at the center of progress; an empowered employee is a productive employee. Unrestricted access to business applications is fueling a fundamental shift in an employee’s workday supporting faster decision-making, enhanced productivity, and stronger collaboration, which in turn, results in higher job satisfaction. Overall, companies that make mobile apps available to employees significantly outperform those who don’t.
A Forbes Insights study reveals that 62 percent of enterprise respondents state mobile applications improve the overall efficiency of their company, particularly in revenue growth.
The connection between the availability of mobile apps and improved employee performance is indisputable. Employee-centric mobile applications are an essential part of the workday, ranging from collaboration to customer-relationship tools. In a study by Forbes Insights and VMWare, all survey respondents indicated that mobile apps reduced their time spent on manual processes – what differs is the amount of time saved. When mobile apps are available during work hours, employees reported 14 percent time savings and when mobile apps were available at all times, employees reported saving 17 percent more time. Mobile apps are also shown to increase collaboration. With less time spent on manual processes and strengthened collaboration happening across teams, mobile apps improve employee performance – making teams more productive overall. Additionally, survey respondents stated that access to mobile solutions made their company a more desirable place to work.
Forbes Insights identified three central enterprise groups defined by the progress towards becoming a digital workspace:
A comparison of these three groups reveals a holistic impact on the efficiency of the companies that supply mobile apps to employees. The Forbes Insights study reveals that 62 percent of enterprise respondents state mobile applications improve the overall efficiency of their company, particularly in revenue growth. At face value, enterprise mobile apps appear to be tactical and low-level, but research shows that incremental contributions add up to a genuine strategic advantage. Executive-level respondents argue that enterprise mobile apps will play a central role in increasing revenue over the next three years and executive-level survey participants already credit 18 percent revenue growth from creating a digital workspace.
It’s clear that enhanced mobility improves the work-life of an individual employee, but when these benefits are rolled out across an organization, what is the far-reaching impact on the enterprise as a whole?
Some companies have piloted internal transformation projects by going after low-hanging fruit, but low-risk, low-reward upgrades don’t provide considerable disruptive value. Instead of undertaking one-off digital projects or solutions, companies need to think about mobile solutions from a broader perspective, specifically considering ways to reshape business processes to drive efficiencies. Internal digital transformation must be designed to focus on high-value tasks, eliminating waste and repetition. If a company wants to carry out a successful internal transformation, it needs to completely reimagine the way it develops and ships mobile solutions.
Companies frequently think of ways to “help” employees perform tasks and do their jobs better without taking the time to understand what these job functions actually entail. Releasing isolated mobile solutions or off-the-shelf applications rarely solve the most pressing business problem for employees. So, how do you develop internal-facing enterprise applications that make an impact on the day-to-day lives of employees? The remainder of this post will cover four actionable tactics for capturing value from internal digital transformation.
A central contributor to a successful internal digital transformation is making the most of employee expertise. Front-line employees know their work inside out and companies often introduce mobile solutions to replace employee expertise rather than supplementing it, which proves to be a significant challenge in user adoption. Forcing mobile solutions into the daily lives of employees won’t work in the long-term. Instead, it’s crucial to empathize, understand, and collaborate with front-line users in the design process. When enterprise teams partner with employees to design mobile solutions it creates important employee advocates for new business applications. Identifying and working with employee experts will minimize adoption challenges and change management efforts when the product is ready for deployment.
Throughout product planning, it’s essential to avoid creating mobile solutions for the tasks employees already do easily. A successful approach is to use the design process to carry out in-depth user research, pinpoint actual efficiency needs, and find opportunities to invent. In this process resist and challenge the “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality. Taking existing processes, digitizing them, and presenting them in mobile form is an easy fix, but hardly ever translates to improvement. Reenvisioning the entire process from the user’s perspective is the only way to capture real value and improvement from internal digital transformation.
A mobile-first solution is not always appropriate for every situation. Desktop solutions may still be necessary for work processes that demand time and attention. Context is key. Making the appropriate decisions about whether a mobile solution fits the context requires extensive research and observation. Only through research can you identify innovative work processes through mobile channels to the best advantage.
Mobile technology is ubiquitous and everyone is familiar with basic interaction models. Excellent enterprise products take advantage of the principles of consistency. By testing new mobile products with end-users, product teams can identify and incorporate user experience ideas that users already know and enjoy using. Everyone uses a smartphone in their personal lives, and creating enterprise applications that are simple and familiar will reduce time-to-market and long-term costs.
There is an undeniable shift in how companies are managing everyday work processes – a shift towards becoming a truly digital workspace. The ability to make the transition to a mobile-first company is becoming a serious competitive advantage. Employee-centric mobile applications are creating more productive and desirable work environments, but that’s just the beginning. By making mobile applications available to employees, companies are putting decision-making and proactivity in the hands of the end-user. Mobile technology, as it becomes more advanced, will become a central factor in a company’s operations and performance.