Enterprise mobile development is a very tricky niche within the app development industry. It’s important to make a distinction between the corporate apps that focus on the business ecosystem, its internal agents AND customer-facing apps – which is a whole new ball game.
Mobile application development for enterprises, depending on the requirements, may demand the widest variety of features to be implemented. But what’s uniform for all of them are the basic underlying principles that corporate apps have to maintain. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key ideas which an enterprise mobile app should possess.
Your Target Audience is Everyone
An enterprise business app is going to serve the staff and it’s important to keep in mind that employees will inevitably have a variety of technical skills.
Some of them will be using the app to work with clients. While others will use it as a strictly internal tool, which will never serve as an augmentation for employees during their interactions with customers. Most of these people will probably only use a handful of the available features and the majority of them will be on Facebook more than on your business app.
The bottomline is that you will have a very diverse group of people who need different things from the app. Your job is to make all of those things available in a single environment that is:
- Easy to learn
With hundreds or even thousands of users with different roles, a steep learning curve is not something that you really want to implement
Quality UI is absolutely crucial if you want the app to work for thousands of people
Can be customized by the users
Unlike public/commercial apps, which most of the time, have a specific demographic to deal with, enterprise apps have to work for everyone within a team. A user’s demographic should never be a limiting factor.
There are plenty of ways to achieve this, for example, making the UI as simple as possible. It’s a good idea to create additional learning materials for anyone interested in getting to know about the app and its final capabilities. Another way is to let people from all of the client-departments participate in the testing process…which takes us to the next part.
It’s not just about testing, it’s also about the development process. It’s not important if you’re a developer who’s working on the app or the business which ordered the app in the first place –insist on direct user involvement during the process. It’s essential to forget about the documentation for a second.
There’s no better feedback than the information that you’re getting from the actual users, plus, it’s cheap. However, you should keep one thing in mind: these people also have to be prepared for the involvement.
There are a couple of things you can do to facilitate that:
- Make sure that a person is motivated to provide feedback
- Make sure that the person understands the basic feedback that they’re required to provide
- Make sure that they are an experienced representative for that specific department
Function Over Form
Remember that an enterprise app is there for one simple but all-encompassing task – to get things done. In many cases it’s not about selling and that’s why you have to make sure that the app’s functionality is polished and solidified for one single purpose – business efficiency.
There are plenty of things that you can do to achieve this, apart from creating detailed documentation, a business plan, a budget, etc. For example, creating a simple chatbot within the app to help users navigate and learn about its features might be a good way of delivering extra functionality. Remember that the existence of the app is not the goal in this process. It’s simply a tool required to reach the ultimate goal, which is a better business pipeline through mobility and efficiency.
An App is not a Site
A proper business app has to augment work – the keyword being ‘augment’– an app is not there to replace a website and its backend.
If you’re thinking about an app that functions on the same level as your site, then you’re missing the whole idea of apps and how they work. Apps are there to simplify processes, they’re not there to “do the same stuff that the site does, but on a smartphone”.
This is why context matters! You don’t have to hold the apps to the same quality standards as your site, specifically because the app won’t be able to perform the full range of functions that your website does.
A growing enterprise is an ever-changing machine, which might even pivot at some point. And this means that the functionality of the app might, in an instant, become obsolete.
That’s why building a robust API ecosystem that can actually adjust to the changing business environment is a very smart idea. You want to have a system that doesn’t simply connect to the tools that a company already uses, but also a system that will connect to the tools a company will need in the future.
It’s easier to build it this way than to re-build or meddle with your app every time a new, important third-party integration is required. This idea has a certain following in the tech world and is now called APi-first development.
Imagine that you have a 1,000 employees: can you guarantee that all of their devices are 100% secure, 100% of the time? Probably not. That’s why security has to be one of the basic cornerstones of the future app. It has to ooze from every menu, every action prompt and every interface. Apart from going all in with app security, there are tons of really basic things that you can do in order to lower the risk. For example, allow only high level employees within a department to install the app.
We hope that these tips will help you build or envision the perfect enterprise mobile app.
Stay tuned for our next article where we disuss enterprise mobile development.