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Mobile App Developers Should Focus on “Transformative” apps
At the recent GigaOm-Appconomy conference the talks and panel discussions centered around app development and the challenges associated with it. There was a great set of panels that honed in on some of the key challenges faced by app developers as well as app marketing companies. Some notes and learning from that conference:
- Too many apps: There are obviously a huge number of apps available but that does nt mean that app economy is robust – yet. The research firm Localytics reports that on an average there are 48 apps installed on a typical iPhone and 26% of these apps are only used once. While usage is a separate issue, the first problem is that of discovery. How does a user discover new apps ? While apps are organized into categories it still requires the user to flip through and find apps that suit their needs. On the enterprise side the challenges are the same. Should an enterprise IT department play the role of a curator for these apps?
- Rise of Mobile IT departments: There are two trends that are increasingly impacting enterprise IT departments – one is that IT departments are increasingly allowing users to bring in their own devices. This is how phones like iPhones have gotten into enterprises bringing the issue of managing and supporting these devices to center stage. But managing mobile devices brings forth a new set of challenges different from managing devices that IT has purchased. What happens when the device changes? How do you ensure data security? How do you ensure corporate security policies are being followed? This is not just driving a new set of IT policies but a new mind set within IT departments that shifts away from traditional “command and control” to one that is more democratic and focused on user needs. With users taking over the role of managing their own device and app updates, It departments are free to advise and support ad focus on areas that are critical to the business.
- Which apps are likely to succeed: The vast app market has apps in every possible category. However, there needs to be some criteria by which enterprise mobile apps developers. This was well articulated by Raj Nathan, SVP at SAP who stated that there were two kinds of apps that developers should look at – one simply extends existing functionality onto mobile devices. This, he said, is not very compelling. The other kind are transformative in nature in that they extend and enhance the role of the person using the apps. The example given was that of a truck driver who receives his or her travel route on a mobile device. This would be an example of the former type of application. Now consider if the same app also allows the driver to record and send back information about a competitor’s pricing and discounts tied to a particular store on their route. That person’s role is now transformed and indeed elevated to being a competitive weapon that can be used to decide marketing actions in real-time. What Raj Nathan is saying is that mobile apps offer the opportunity to fundamentally alter the playing field. So in what areas can such transformative apps be created for the enterprise. There are four according to Vishy Gopalakrishnan, Director of Mobility Solutions at AT&T:a. IT change management
b. Knowledge management
c. Transaction management, and
d. Business analytics and reporting
The above list makes sense and there are apps in each of these areas but how many are really Transformative?
When it comes to developing mobile apps, It departments and developers must think differently about the purpose of the app taking into context its role in the larger business picture and by focusing on the transformative opportunity hidden within.