The right app can be a force multiplier for the workforce. We all know that putting the right information and tools in the right hands (at the right time) can tremendously increase the productivity of your team members. So why is it so complex and costly to build a successful app for the workforce? And why do most workforce apps feel so clunky? Is there anything you can you do about it?
The list below highlights the lessons I’ve learned over the past 10 years, building apps and mobile initiatives for small to large ($B) companies.
So let’s get started:
1)Aligning with a business goal and specific users
Successful mobile apps are concise, elegant, lean and functional. They make it easier to achieve a business goal with minimal number of steps, and while being on the go.
Start your mobile app by defining a clear (and measurable) business goal, and knowing who your target audience/ users will be. Make sure the audience is excited about the app's purpose, and that they describe the app as crucial for getting the goal accomplished. Your app should be a MUST, not a nice to have.
2)Designing a user experience and selecting a technology set
If it’s BYOD or a company-issued device, when it comes to devices your workforce is typically less fragmented than consumers at large. This means that you will need to design for less screen sizes and platforms than the average app developer. In addition, you may be able to take advantage of platforms such as Android for Work (AfW) or Apple Enterprise to rapidly develop and deploy apps to your workforce.
These decisions, along with the business goals, will help you define the front-end and the back-end technologies to use. I recommend starting with a simple Android app wired to Google Cloud Platform services (GCP). If your field app contains many screens and interactions, I would even consider building a lean app, and using HTML5 pages in a WebView to iterate through the initial designs.
After a few iterations and feedback from users in the field, you will likely finalize the flow and the design of the app, and then it may be a good opportunity to switch from a web experience to a crisp native experience across the app screens.
3)Integrating with your existing systems and platforms
In the past, integration and security constraints squashed most attempts to build Enterprise apps internally. But today, vendors make it easier to tie your F5 or ADFS to a Mobile app, or to get your backend platforms and your apps talking JSON.
However the complexity of a multi-screen desktop-based enterprise app cannot be poured over to a Mobile app. You will likely need to create a middle layer that bridges between the backend system data structure and flow, and the Mobile flow (and data structure). Once you do, you will need to secure the communication between the Mobile app and the middle layer, using Google Cloud Endpoint.
To summarize - with the recent development of tools and technologies, building an app for your workforce is easier and cheaper than it used to be. Make sure you align your app with a business goal, select the (Mobile) technology that achieves the goal quickly, and integrate deeply with existing platforms. When designed and deployed correctly, the right app can be a game changer for your workforce and help them advance your business forward.
- Shuki Lehavi
Shuki is a hands-on Mobile technologist who spent the last ten years building Mobile companies and leading Mobile projects for Enterprise clients. His extensive resume includes being the co-founder and CEO of Gumiyo.com (acquired in 2013), a cloud-based Mobile development platform that hosted more than 300,000 mobile sites and apps for publishers, brands and Enterprise clients.