Overcoming the Challenges of Enterprise Mobile User Adoption

Why is getting mobile users to adopt a new app often more difficult than pulling teeth? It’s a question asked by countless developers and a wide-spread problem that frustrates enterprises of all sizes that invest in apps. To shed some light on the enigmatic issue of mobile user adoption, we have written a three-part series here on the appsFreedom blog called “Tackling the Challenge of Enterprise Mobile User Adoption.”

We encourage you to share these posts with friends and colleagues who have either been plagued by the challenges of poor enterprise mobile user adoption or who are about to begin an app project. You will definitely want to follow along as we shine a light on this common problem and provide specific solutions for what can be done.

Enterprise Mobile User Adoption Challenges

It seems like these days you’d be hard pressed to find an enterprise that hasn’t deployed smartphones, tablets, or both to their employees. Nearly everyone recognizes that the next big step to actually derive value out of these mobile devices is to deploy business apps that leverage their functionality and mobility.

And, a growing number of companies have started taking the plunge by developing mobile apps. Here’s where the challenge begins.

Upon deployment, many of these companies realize they are facing significant user-adoption problems : even after going through a complete business justification cycle that included the line of business requesting the app. This is never a good situation : particularly when you are the one with the lead responsibility for the app!

In some cases, it takes a while for IT to even realize how much of the business app deployed is really used, by whom, and under what conditions. As a result, the enthusiasm exhibited from the line of business for mobile apps eventually slows down.

In our experience at appsFreedom, based on numerous enterprise mobile deployments, the user adoption problem boils down to these three major issues:

  1. Business Strategy
  2. IT Execution
  3. Business Collaboration

We will be addressing the first reason “Business Strategy” in this first blog post of the series.

Problem #1 : Business Strategy

Enterprise mobility has become a game-changing opportunity for many companies. And, it is quickly becoming something similar to what business intelligence is now : ubiquitous and driving strategic and tactical decisions.  However, enterprise mobility can also be executed at the point-of-contact with the customer, unlike business intelligence which is only executed within the back office.

In other words, enterprise mobility is really akin to deploying your enterprise applications within the field whether it is for sales, field service, customer support, logistics, supply chain, or project management. Without a doubt, it will be its most valuable where your company touches a customer or partner.

Of course, there will be business apps like managing expenses, leaving requests, travel approvals, etc., but these are the low hanging fruit. The real differentiators will be apps deployed at external touch-points. Some employee productivity apps like purchase order approvals or timesheets that seemingly come across as internal facing apps actually can have a much larger business impact.

However, the highest value enterprise mobile apps will come when they are executed at the point-of-contact with customers and partners at the right location and at the right time.

What exactly does this mean for your company?

It will be vitally important to consider customers and partners, along with where and how they touch your company, when it comes to developing both top line and bottom line enterprise apps.

Top Line Apps : Mobile apps that impact your top line and serve as competitive differentiators and assist in revenue generation. An example would be an app for field sales reps.

Bottom Line Apps : Mobile apps that impact the bottom line by process optimization such as field service, logistics, procurement, or time management.

Both types of apps have some common tangibles like leading to customer satisfaction or giving better real-time field level visibility to back office and management.

So, if enterprise mobile apps are similar to deploying systems at the field level and can be a differentiator then you have to consider the following:

  1. You don’t want these apps to be similar to your competitors unlike an HR or financial system, which is not a competitive differentiator and is deployed for your back office operations.
  2. The business process at the field level, especially at the micro process level, is different than what may have been configured in your ERP. For example, a day in the life of a sales rep or service technician may be totally different than the business process configured in your CRM or ERP. So, you cannot enforce the back-end ERP and CRM processes, as it is, on the front-end, where your employees are actually touching the customers. The deployment of apps must accommodate the processes used by customer-facing employees.

These two reasons by themselves warrant some considerable thinking and the need for business strategy at the highest level. Further, user experience becomes a key ingredient when you deploy systems at the field level. This spans far beyond how flashy or nice an app looks. Apps need to be successfully incorporated in daily work life. Field personnel are best spent interacting with customers or vendors or fixing systems at the customer site. The last thing they need to be doing is spending significant amounts of time navigating multiple complicated screens to enter data on a mobile device.

From our experience, we have seen that any enterprise that puts some strategic thought behind enterprise mobility finds higher rates of user adoption as opposed to enterprises not doing this exercise.

Having strategic intent also reflects on the field personnel as they tend to start viewing enterprise mobile apps as a value-added service and a competitive differentiator. This automatically drives user adoption. Moreover, with a business strategy and a plan in place on how and where to leverage mobility, IT and the rest of the organization can focus on mobile-enabling relevant parts of the organization instead of trying to go across the board.

Aligning your mobility strategy to your business goals and overall business strategy is critical and the first meaningful step that will deliver tangible results in driving user adoption. It will also deliver real value out of mobility for your organization.

Now, we all know that a strategy is of little use without execution. Stay tuned for the next post (Part Two) in this three part series where we’ll be addressing execution challenges.

Read Part 2