Enterprise Software for Mobile Devices: Ready for Prime Time

On Tuesday afternoon Apple announced their earnings for their Q1 2012. To say that the numbers were staggering would be an understatement. Apple sold 15 million iPads and 37 million iPhones in the most recent quarter. It is now obvious that mobility and mobile devices are here to stay!

It is also safe to assume that many consumers own multiple mobile devices, including yours truly. With more and more companies adopting the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, it is only a matter of time when there will be a need for Enterprise Applications to do more than just high level Business Analytics, workflow approval or time & expenses on smart devices.

Not too long ago I used have a “work” cellphone and a “home” landline. I had a “work” laptop and a “home” desktop. There was a (somewhat) clear demarcation of the functions of each device. And my experience was not atypical. However, it is evident that this trend is changing, and very quickly. We expect one device to do most everything.

Tools like Instant messaging, chats, Facebook messenger, Email, or status updates on various social networks, are allowing people to be connected to each other in real time. However, when it comes to our work or our customers, such interactions have not yet become the norm. I think that very soon this will change. This reminds me of a personal experience early in my working career.

I was working as a Systems Administrator at a University about 20 years ago. I used to dread going to work on Monday morning as there would be mainly large group of students waiting outside my office. They came with the problems they had encountered with the systems during the weekend. Many of these were trivial issues, like clearing up a print queue in the system or resetting a password, which I could have solved easily had I known about them. Making my email address (or home phone) known was considered an invasion of privacy and was not expected (or common) at the time. However, I created a separate user-id for students to email problems to me during the weekend and off hours. I used to login with my 9600 baud connection two or three times during the weekend and take care of many of the issues.

I didn’t consider this extra 20-30 minutes of work during the weekend a burden because now the number of people looking for me on Monday morning was minimal. Since most of my “customers” were students, they appreciated this gesture, as most of them were scrambling to finish a paper or a project that was due shortly. Bottom line, everyone was happy!

Consider a scenario of a customer service representative, who, while waiting in a line for a movie, quickly checks on an app that shows an exception to a sales order to a very important customer on his/her mobile device. The CSR quickly checks on the exception and is able to take some preventive action. This is possible mainly because of technology – the mobile app, connectivity, accessibility, ease of use and the ability to take an action. Just like it is currently OK to check your stock portfolio or personal Facebook page during work hours, taking care of business will become an inherent part of our DNA.

To address such usage and adoption, companies will have to make their business processes and IT systems more proactive rather than reactive. This can be achieved by making the user interface very simple yet attractive and mainly presenting relevant information to the end. Presenting relevant information, for example in an open Sales Order, could mean showing exceptions rather than showing all the details for an order.

Business Analytics/Dashboards for C-level and other higher executives are the current focus for most mobility apps. Enterprise vendors like SAP/Oracle and their partner network should focus their solutions to mobile operational users also, which is their core user segment. Operational users are the backbone of any company and they need to be empowered appropriately so that the core business chugs along smoothly.