Wanted: simple apps for complex enterprise applications

Wanted: simple apps for complex enterprise applications

Summary: End-users want to see experiences similar to what they get from their smartphones. Can IT deliver?


Is the rise of mobile apps spoiling business end users? There's an increasing groundswell of demand for simple, mobile apps to serve as front ends to applications. However, enterprise software may be too complex and inter-related for a simple smartphone app.

In a recent post, Accenture's Ari Bernstein points out that enterprise application front ends are increasingly mimicking the simple, no-frills look of mobile apps. The push for simple, app interfaces is coming from business end users who want to see experiences similar to what they get from their smartphones:

"Eager for relief from some of their biggest pain points—especially their systems’ lack of agility—business leaders have been pushing for software that is far nimbler than the legacy systems they’ve relied on for decades. They have been pressing IT to give them, in the workplace, the kinds of low-cost, accessible, and often intelligent apps they use every day on their own mobile devices."

So there's a big-time push for simpler, more modular, and more custom apps. However, Bernstein cautions, building an app that will manage a song playlist is far simpler than the complex computing requirements seen in enterprises. Enterprises often "require multiple applications to run intricate business processes that may span multiple time zones, several countries, and thousands of employees."

The key to enterprise apps, then is connectivity and ability to integrate. Bernstein says that the apps that will function best in enterprise settings may not be individual, single-function apps, but rather, "libraries or ecosystems of applications that can, while still being individually simple and agile, be bolted together to tackle the most challenging problems." Ultimately, business end-users themselves will have the tools to design and build their front-end apps. But IT's guidance is needed.

(Thumbnail photo: Joe McKendrick.)

Topics: Enterprise Software, Apps, Mobile OS, Mobility, Smartphones, Tablets

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  • The question is

    Are these users going to be willing to pay the freight? People get spoiled by mass market software that can afford to get by with advertising support or dollar-a-unit pricing.

    While it isn't unreasonable to want these things there are real costs to creating and supporting them. Low-ball the effort and you risk getting nothing but crappy "mobilized" web applications.
  • Making the move towards a more mobility-centric organization...

    Hi Joe, great article -- solving the riddle for enterprise apps is certainly important in our mobile world. I agree it’s important that enterprises make the move towards a mobility-centric organization while keeping the user in mind – especially as more and more professionals bring their own device to the workplace. In recent research, we found that to ensure greater app engagement (and reduce the privacy and security risks associated with rogue app usage), it’s important for enterprises to adopt the same best practices as they do for customer-facing apps. Specifically, the data showed that poor UX drives nearly 60 percent of employees to abandon corporate mobile apps. (http://www.mobiquityinc.com/our-ideas/blog/jennifer-halloran/2013/11/are-corporate-mobile-apps-failing-employees). A good place for an enterprise to start is by identifying use cases and user personas which will help in the design of rich, mobile app experiences that keep employees engaged and productive. And then work to integrate that into the broader mobile/IT strategy.
    --Scott Snyder, chief strategy officer at Mobiquity.
    Scott Snyder
  • Can IT deliver? Depends on the amount of users...

    End-users say they want yummy cake. But some want chocolate and some want lemon. And some prefer fondant over butter creme. Ditto for filling.

    Enterprise projects can become complicated because a number of influential users want specific things, things that others don't need but still affect their experience.

    For the "smartphone experience", all the end-users have to understand that applications must become more focused and single-purpose. This is directly at odds with any project that will be utilized by people from multiple levels: majority users need their details and me-focused data, while managers/executives need summaries and reports in a way that isn't directly analogous to the every-day-user data.