Overcoming the Challenges of Enterprise Mobile User Adoption (part 2)

In our previous blog post of this three part series, I highlighted three areas that are often overlooked when it comes to facilitating mobile user adoption of enterprise apps : Business Strategy, IT Execution, and Business Collaboration. In this post, we are going to focus on IT Execution

IT execution is always the key ingredient in any successful enterprise mobile app project. In general, most IT departments do the right things to accomplish this from starting with a business case and business requirements to mobile vendor evaluation, deployment, and roll-out.

At appsFreedom, we see enterprises increasingly adopting a mobile first approach for many of their applications. This makes sense when you consider the increasing focus on mobile enablement. However, adoption of mobile apps typically fades after roll-out.

A Mobile First Approach

Before delving into how to improve on IT execution, let’s take a closer look at what exactly defines a mobile first approach. In a nutshell, mobile first approach means creating an application for mobile devices before creating them for desktop. This entails designing an app for the smallest form factor first and then enhancing it for the bigger form factor.

For example, a CRM contact app for a smartphone may include five fields. The same app might have 10 fields for a tablet, and then two tabs with 10 fields each for a browser version.

The mobile first approach ideally creates a better user experience for the end-user and ultimately better user adoption than simply taking a desktop app and shrinking it down to fit mobile devices. Unfortunately, a mobile first approach is not enough. Too often, mobile apps, even those developed using a mobile first approach, are lacking in user experience for the end-user which results in a suboptimal experience and poor user adoption.

Where Is the Problem?

We often find that the mobile app development methodology is to blame. Typically, a back-end to front-end approach was taken to create an app. The IT department looked at the data elements, business logic, and the workflow between data fields at the source system to drive the design of the mobile app.

The problem with this approach is the mobile app experience is data-driven and dictated by the work flow and the data relations by the back-end enterprise system. The result is a mobile app that becomes an extension of the enterprise business transaction but never attempts to change the mobile experience of the end-user.

This is not a good approach when you consider that the mobile app is being executed at the point where company boundaries touch the customer/partner (see blog post: Develop and Deploy Mobile Apps that Create a Better Customer Experience!).

Back-end enterprise systems and its processes were typically never designed for use in front of customers. When they are extended to customer-facing, they are often deteriorated where it matters most. After all, it is where the first-hand experience of your customer with your company really lies!

Extending the back-end process and data as it is, without any consideration of the customer experience, takes those employees who deal with customers away from what they should be doing the most, and this ultimately results in lower adoption of your mobile apps.

To be fair, there are some advantages to focusing on the back-end first. In some cases, it can be beneficial to keep the same enterprise system process flow so that there is no change to the business user. And, most enterprise developers naturally prefer a data-driven approach.

Adopting a Customer-Facing Focused Approach : The Customer Experience Methodology

The best way to solve this problem is to start with your customer-facing business processes and the overall customer experience, and work your way backwards to your ERP/CRM mapping these more visible processes to your back-end business processes.

This needs to be combined with an iterative approach (that we’ll discuss in the next blog post of this series) with rapid deployments until you hear the “click” and see the app “sticking” to your customer-facing employees.

IT can still maintain a mobile-first approach, such as developing for the smallest form-factor and go towards the bigger form factor. But within the mobile first methodology, they can also adopt more customer focus when it comes to mobile app development.

In this front-to-back process, mobile screens are designed without worrying about the back-end data or processes. The focus remains on customer-facing business process and those using them based on their roles and business requirements.

You do not want a developer to think of the constraints of the back-end system and its processes at this point. The whole focus is to develop awesome UI screens, the best interactions, and the most optimized process flow without worrying about the back-end while always collaborating with the business users in doing so.

Once the UI with its process flow and user experience components are developed and agreed upon, the IT developer worries about back-end data and back-end integration.

However, some developers are reluctant (with good reason) to use this approach because they fear that there may be too many data requirements or that the customer-facing process may not conform to the back-end business logic. While these concerns are genuine, we believe that most skilled developers have ample data and business logic to make it happen.

With the right platform and toolkit, they can successfully link screen flows to back-end business logic to create apps that are truly designed with the customer-facing user in mind.

Yes, there may be times when it’s necessary to manage business users’ expectations and remove or change a few fields from a mobile app. However, even when this occurs, you are always starting from what the business user really wants and tailoring it to meet enterprise system needs, instead of the other way around : just like the mobile-first approach.

A customer experience methodology used within a mobile-first approach will enable you to put the fundamental steps in place that will drive user adoption. A customer-facing approach ensures the end-user’s needs and business processes are always in focus for the IT developer and the back-end systems are aligned to meet the end-user requirements.

A Platform Built Around Customer Experience

At appsFreedom, we have built an enterprise-grade mobile cloud platform (Freedom Platform) that is built around this customer experience methodology. One of the platform components, called the Freedom Designer, is really meant for business analysts to design and build user interface along with the process flow with the customer-facing end-user in mind.

In the Freedom Designer, there is no view of your back-end system or processes (by design) so that the developer is not distracted by the constraints of the back-end system. The whole idea behind the Freedom Designer is to let someone design a mobile app for the customer-facing business process and the end-user experience without being distracted and once done, worry about the back-end integration using a separate tool called the Freedom Builder.

Based upon our experience and success rate, we highly encourage all enterprise mobile app developers to adopt a customer experience methodology, even if they are using a mobile first approach. You will notice that by changing your development to this much more customer-focused methodology, the end-user adoption problems will usually solve themselves.

Now, a customer experience methodology will not address all of the problems by themselves, and you will need business collaboration to make it successful. In our next blog post (part-3 in this series), we’ll share how business collaboration can further increase mobile user adoption of an enterprise app.

Read part 3.