Bespoke mobile apps are transforming the way business is done, says Mark Mason, chief executive and founder of enterprise mobility firm Mubaloo
Across all industries, organisations are working to utilise mobile apps to drive productivity gains, sales performance, customer and employee satisfaction, and reduce costs. At the executive level this is led by the desire and need for organisations to be strategic rather than opportunistic. At the functional level, employees are acting as a catalyst for change by using their personal devices and third-party apps for work purposes, leading to what has been labelled by experts as the “consumerisation of IT”.
The rapid growth of BYOD (bring your own device), BYOA (bring your own apps) and even BYOx (bring your own anything), coupled with access to faster connections, including 4G, have all had a huge impact on the ways in which employees are working. According to the 2013 Forrester report, Mobile Workforce Adoption Trends, 37 per cent of employees are now working from multiple locations and 82 per cent of these workers are using mobile apps when they do so.
Despite this rise, research by Deloitte and EE earlier this year revealed that more than 60 per cent of companies do not assist their workforce in understanding how the latest mobile tools and technologies can be usefully applied to their jobs. The move to mobile can be a slow. Organisations are being forced to juggle security concerns, develop roadmaps and frameworks, and manage internal IT resources to create the infrastructure for effective mobility.
Workforce productivity can be improved through mobile apps by thinking about how business processes can be redesigned around specific jobs. This requires developing user-centric, cloud-enabled mobile apps that integrate with a whole range of back-end systems. Further benefits are brought to organisations through real-time information transfer, resource allocation and data management. UNITE Group, the UK’s biggest provider of student housing, is one example of a firm that has used mobility to drive employee productivity.
UNITE faced the challenge of maintaining 95,000 rooms across 23 university cities. By creating a mobile app designed around the day-to-day role of the maintenance team, UNITE was able to increase the number of jobs completed by an average of 30 per cent a week. The app, designed and built by Mubaloo, gave supervisors the ability to manage their team which led to improvements with work allocation.
Apps are having as big a transformative effect on the way business is done as computers did in the 80s and the internet in the 90s
Each sector is different in terms of its key drivers for enterprise mobile apps. For example, due to the competitive nature of the financial services industry, bespoke mobile applications developed up until now have tended to focus around sales-related processes. Retail enterprise apps, however, have focused on efficiency gains through stock management and inventory due to their tight margins. Another example of a key driver is the move to replace legacy hardware.
This legacy mobile hardware, typically ruggedised Windows Mobile devices, can cost around £1,500 to purchase. By today’s standards the handsets are slow, suffer from intermittent connectivity and lack the end-user experience users are accustomed to.
RAC is one business currently transitioning their direct sales force team away from legacy mobile devices to iPads running a bespoke app. RAC chief marketing officer John Orriss says: “Utilising mobile technology we have streamlined our sales process and significantly improved the customer experience. Our sales team feel empowered and more professional in their interactions with potential members. We are now looking to recruit an additional 200 full and part-time direct sales agents across the UK, and equipping them with mobile devices will make them more effective than ever.”
In the financial services sector, the rapidly changing nature of financial information and need to access real-time data for sales meetings has led many firms to roll out mobile apps that can also integrate with salesforce tools. Schroders is an example of a firm that has created an app which surfaces real-time information to help its sales and marketing teams. The app enables the teams to present fund and marketing-related materials through a secure portal, reducing the volume of printed materials traditionally used.
Mobile enablement is one of the fastest growing phenomena of this century, with apps and websites playing integrated and influential roles in both our personal and business lives. The demand for mobility touches on every individual, industry and function, now playing a significant role within business transformation. With the rise in adoption, there is demand for vision and clarity of the role of mobility within a company’s business strategy. Principles are often user led, yet reliant on system infrastructure, so require collaboration between IT, marketing and also user-facing teams.
Thanks to cloud computing, mobility has moved away from being purely for field workers using legacy devices, or senior executives accessing e-mail, to a much wider range of roles. According to Yankee Group, 39 per cent of the total workforce in the US operates in mobile or remote locations for a significant portion of time. Their research showed that, for the first time, 54 per cent of the mobile workforce comprised of professional workers, indicating that working behaviours are changing as a result of mobile technology.
In mobility, almost everything has been tried at least once. By looking at examples from different industries, it is possible to take the best insights to find a successful route. Businesses need to think about how they can mobilise their internal systems and processes by looking at how their key stakeholders are already using mobile. Success depends upon the involvement of key stakeholders and implementing the right tools that allow legacy systems to communicate effectively and securely with mobile devices.
“Mobile first” is a phrase being used increasingly to describe how firms are approaching mobile. Apps are having as big a transformative effect on the way business is done as computers did in the 80s and the internet in the 90s. In many ways, they are the embodiment of both technological evolutions, just in your pocket rather than on your desk.
Mubaloo is Appsters App Developer of the Year 2012 and 2013
Web: www.mubaloo.com Twitter: @mubaloo Mark Mason: @markemason