Ubiquitous access to smart mobile devices has led businesses to demand applications that empower workers to quickly respond and adapt to changing requirements on the fly. Mobile apps that collect, process and disseminate data have become key to increasing job productivity, flexibility and speed.
Typical app requirements include deep integration with existing enterprise systems, robust offline capability, and rapid iteration of app designs. For example, gas inspectors in the field capture multiple forms during scheduled and ad-hoc inspections; this form data should then be automatically pushed to enterprise compliance systems.
The benefits speak for themselves:
“Inspectors have obtained an average savings of 45 minutes for a basic inspection. For larger inspections or multiple inspections at one site, the savings are significantly more, up to days.”
– Project Manager, Australian State Regulator
Traditionally these needs have been met through lengthy software and integration projects, but these efforts depend on highly skilled personnel to deliver. Demand for app development services has increased five times faster than most IT departments’ capacity, creating a critical bottleneck.
More than ever, the capability of your IT team can directly limit employee productivity, holding back potential growth and competitiveness of an entire organization.
In the past, when faced with IT scarcity, resourceful employees turned to a variety of Windows-based tools (such as Microsoft Access), building their own apps to rapidly achieve the desired result. Today it’s not so simple – apps must run on various devices and seamlessly integrate with increasing numbers of cloud and on-premise systems. A diverse, new generation of software has emerged to meet this challenge, providing a broad set of options to savvy businesses.
Clear Goals Needed
Before you start sampling platforms, ask yourself these questions:
- What specifically do you want to achieve?
List out your pain points and rank by priority. An ideal platform choice should deliver your top priority item within days, while also providing sufficient flexibility to address other points progressively over time.
- Who will be our point person for this initiative?
Someone has to become proficient with the new system you choose. Try to match your point person with a platform that plays to their strengths and skills.
- How good is the support we’ll need?
Often its easy to get up and running with a platform, only to discover later that support, training and advice are essentially non-existent, or provided by folks with limited product knowledge. With app building platforms, great support will get you the best possible result.
What to look for
Here are a few “must-have” features for building enterprise-focused apps:
- Drag-and-Drop Builder: Non-programmers are usually visual people, so being able to build apps with a mouse instead of code is important. This functionality should provide a range of field and layout options to allow you to create data capture forms, menus, dashboards and workflow mapping without calling in software developers.
- Easy Data Flow: These days business data is stored in a variety of places, so you’ll want functionality to automatically push and pull data between your apps and services like Microsoft SharePoint, Google Drive, Dropbox etc. A solid REST API for future integration needs should also not be overlooked.
- Device Flexibility: Your employees and contractors will likely be using a multitude of different devices. Whatever you choose should run natively on at least iOS, Android and Windows for the best reach and performance of your apps
- Broad Capability: The market is awash with bespoke apps focused on one specific problem – e.g. an app for just timesheets. While these generally do a good job for their specific area of focus, the end user is stuck with a device full of disparate apps, all with different logins and no consistent user experience. Your workers will benefit if you can address a variety of business processes through a single platform and native application.
Finding the best fit for your business
As enterprise IT and business needs continue to intersect, modern devices and apps are essential differentiating factors in today’s competitive landscape. Previously the domain of scarce software developers, platforms now exist that enable anyone with computer skills to rapidly create worker-facing apps.
Achieving the right platform match for your specific requirements and personnel is key to unlocking new levels of productivity, automation and efficiency.