Enterprise Applications in a Mobile-first World

August 10, 2012 Balakrishna Narasimhan

By Balakrishna Narasimhan (@bnara75)

There are more than 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions in the World today. According to the World Bank, that number will soon exceed the human population. By 2015, IT advisory firm IDC predicts that more people in the US will access the internet through mobile devices than through desktop or wired devices. There’s no question that we increasingly live in a mobile-first world.

For businesses, this means operating in a world where customers, partners and employees are all using mobile devices to interact with your company. For enterprise IT, this means putting a mobile-first filter on everything they do, from websites to portals, applications and more. CIOs are keenly aware of this and mobile technologies are now their 2nd priority (behind analytics and business intelligence).

Mobile vs. Mobility
So what does it mean to be “ready for mobile”? David Armano (@armano) of Edelman Digital recently wrote an insightful article on this topic in the Harvard Business Review. He points out that as we ready our businesses and applications for mobile, “it’s not about mobile as much as it is about understanding mobility”. This may seem like a pedantic distinction at first but it’s actually profound. Thinking about mobile as simply a new delivery channel reduces the problem to making one’s existing applications and content available on one or more mobile devices. Instead, being ready for mobile should mean thinking about what mobility means to customers, partners, and employees and designing applications that address these new needs.

Success in a mobile-first world requires recognizing that mobility creates new behaviors and needs. David describes some of these new behaviors including “lean back” activities like watching videos on a train, “lean forward” activities like shopping for a gift at work or “lean free” activities like checking in to a favorite restaurant while walking in. Enterprises who are thinking about mobilizing their applications can start by looking at what people use mobile devices for in their personal lives, since those are the behaviors and patterns that people will bring to work along with their shiny new mobile devices.

Content is King, at Home and at Work
On tablets for example, most of what consumers do revolves around consuming content. All the top 10 activities on tablets involve content consumption – not content creation, analysis or transactions. The lesson for enterprise IT is that people are likely to want to use their business tablets in much the same way, to find and consume content.

Over the past year, Appirio has helped hundreds of enterprises with mobility and we’ve learned a few things along the way. First, as with consumer mobile, content is king. Second, mobile devices make it possible to capture new types of customer information right at the point of interaction. Third, in order for people to use enterprise applications on mobile devices, the applications have to look as little like traditional applications as possible.

Today, Appirio is announcing three configurable mobile cloud applications that encapsulate these lessons and address the most common use cases we’ve seen so far:

  • Content Delivery: instantly delivers the most up-to-date marketing or sales content to improve one-to-one interactions.
  • Closed Loop Marketing: enables companies to measure where marketing content is being used in the field and the impact of that spend.
  • Mobile Survey: allows sales, marketing and executive teams to gather real-time feedback from customers. 

Mobile + Cloud = Best of Both Worlds
All three applications use Salesforce.com on the backend, which makes them very easy to manage, configure and scale. Each application extends a customer’s existing investments in Salesforce CRM while providing a user experience designed specifically for mobility.

  • The content delivery application extends Salesforce content management system to distribute content to mobile devices
  • The closed loop marketing application enhances CRM customer profiles with data on what each customer has seen
  • The mobile survey applications brings real-time customer feedback into CRM

These applications incorporate traditional CRM functions behind the scenes, but since the actions are contextual and natural, the user experience is very different. For example, with the closed loop marketing application, all it takes to track a visit and all content shown to a customer is tapping a “check-in” button when you walk into the customer’s office.

All three applications are part of our growing mobile asset library, which captures common needs across customers. The assets in our Cloud Asset Library range from configurable applications like the ones mentioned above to reusable components for specific pieces of functionality, such as check-ins or QR code scanning. With these assets, creating a new mobile application is often a matter of configuration and assembly rather than coding from scratch. Less time coding means more time to define a great mobile strategy and create a compelling user experience. You can learn more about our mobile offerings on our brand-new, responsive and retina-ready website.

What Are Your Mobility Plans?
Are content delivery, closed loop marketing, and mobile surveys good starting points for what your company is trying to do with mobility? What other use cases are you thinking about? Let us know in comments or @appirio on Twitter.

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