Most of the conference was focused on consumer mobile apps. That camp is starting to think about their users as an “audience” to be engaged. The discussion was all about improving usability, simplifying onboarding, improving retention, reducing churn, unleashing virality, and iterative improvement on all these metrics. For folks building a company around their consumer mobile app, this is a matter of survival. Even for enterprises developing apps for their customers, there was a sense of “if we don’t do this, our competitors will.”
Discussion about employee-facing mobile apps had a very different tone. There was a grudging acknowledgement that employees expected to “BYOD,” but the rest of the discussion was about the needs of IT. How will these apps be developed, deployed, and monitored?
One panel featured enterprise IT developers building apps for both employees and for customers, highlighting this contrast. The panel was building native apps for their customers, to optimize the user experience-- usability was deemed too critical to do otherwise. Apps for employees? For all but one speaker, these were built as web apps, primarily to reduce cost. Sure, there’s an impact on usability. But as one speaker said off-stage, “what’s going to happen, are they not going to work here?”
Of course, there were exceptions. Paul Lanzi described managing an internal portfolio of over 100 employee facing apps when he was at Genentech. Kevin Neville described how United Rentals used an employee-facing app to improve the utilization of their fleet and reduce fuel costs.
But overall, mobile apps to enable employees felt like a chore vs. an opportunity. Let’s go through some of the obvious reasons why an attitude change might be in order:
- Productivity: Usability isn’t just about aesthetics. Well designed, native mobile apps make it easier to make the most of the “micro-moments” that fill the day of your employees. Using those moments to be responsive to customers helps the company. Using those moments to check Facebook doesn’t.
- Compliance: If we make it hard for people to get their job done by giving them subpar mobile apps, they’ll switch to tools that better support the way they want to work. That puts corporate data into systems that IT hasn’t vetted for security and compliance.
- Transparency: When people work outside of our enterprise systems (or only use those systems when forced), we end up with lower quality data in those systems and less transparency into what’s really going on in our business.
Changing a company’s direction is one of the biggest challenges in business. Whether it is rolling out a new product, selling to a new type of customer, or moving to a more efficient business process, business history is littered with well-intentioned changes that never leave the powerpoint page to become reality.
And where do these change become real? Literally, in the hands of your employees. That’s where your intended business change will either succeed or fail.
So think of those mobile “micro-moments” as “moments of truth.” Will your employees advocate your new product, or rely on the old offering? Will they follow the new operating procedure, or the way they’ve always worked? Will your employee live out your new values, or fall back on old habits?
What if you could be right there with your employees to help them through these moments of truth, no matter where they were working?
That’s the real potential of employee-facing mobile apps. Productivity, compliance, and transparency are a great starting point, but we won’t be realizing the potential of mobile work until we use them to as a tool to enable business change.
What does that look like? Stay tuned for more...