THOUGHT LEADERSHIP PAPER

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1 THOUGHT LEADERSHIP PAPER How to achieve competitive advantage with an enterprise mobile app In today s competitive business climate the pressure is on to make efficiency savings and improvements in customer service. This combined with the everincreasing consumerisation of IT where employees come to expect flexibility, means that mobility is becoming a business fact of life. But is an enterprise app a viable option for your organisation? 1

2 Introduction Our world has become mobile and as such the need for business mobile apps is increasing. Employees want more flexibility, customers want a better service and the Board want improved efficiencies. All of this can be achieved through enterprise mobile apps but the decision to invest not only needs to be based on a business need, but also on the assurance that the app will achieve a return on investment. This white paper provides a step-by-step guide to ensure you embark on a new enterprise mobile app project for the right reasons. It will also help you plan the development to help you achieve the best return on investment possible. Step 1: Identify if a mobile enterprise app is a viable option for your organisation Below are the most common business problems we solve for our clients through the development of business apps. If you relate to any of them you have a business problem which could definitely be eased by a mobile solution. Mobile workers rely on paper-based forms. Mobile workers have to return to the office to input information captured in the field. When away from the office employees complain that it is very time consuming to gain access to key data. Job management for mobile workers is planned manually. Paper forms create inaccuracy and security concerns. Job completion and satisfaction is not currently recorded. Managers are unable to track the progress of their team. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does highlight the most common themes we experience at MSM Software. Once you identify a business need the next stage is to translate your mobility goals into reality. 2

3 Step 2: Build a business case Every project should be driven by its business case. It will define the justification and rationale, as well as the benefits expected. It will provide an understanding of the costs and risks, and perhaps more importantly, an appreciation for the return you are likely to get for your investment. Make sure you include the following components in your business case. a. b. Purpose In step one you identified your business need but make sure this is clearly explained. What is the aim, proposed change and purpose of the project? Include background information about the current situation, such as the project drivers and challenges, and what the likely benefit would be. Ensure the rationale is also put in the context of the overall strategy and goals of the company. Outcomes What are the immediate, medium and long-term benefits of the project? Make sure each of the benefits can be measured in quantifiable terms so the improvements can be assessed upon project completion. For example, if a benefit is that data can be captured and made available to other parties in real-time, you could list that benefit as: Errors will be reduced because data can be verified immediately and response times will improve because data can be made available for processing as soon as it is captured. The quicker processes will subsequently achieve productivity gains. c. Recommendations What are the potential solutions to the business problem and what is your overall recommendation? At this point, you will want to reach the conclusion that a mobile app is the best solution but for the sake of seeking approval, it is important to detail all the potential options, including pros and cons for each. d. Impact analysis What is the financial, operational, cultural and competitive impact on the organisation? You will need to evaluate the costs associated with your enterprise app, not just in the initial development but also the cost of marketing, man hours, updates, hosting etc. Risk is also a major consideration what is the risk of both completing and not completing this project? You need to prove that you have assessed all potential risks and have strategies in place should any of these occur. 3

4 Step 3: Select the right device and platform Is your app better suited to a smartphone or tablet? Would the Apple, Android or Windows operating system be most beneficial? Do you need to consider a combination of platforms? This decision is an important step because if you select the wrong platform it could seriously hinder your success in achieving return on investment. Ask yourself the following questions: a. b. c. d. Who will be using the app? If the application is for use by external parties, you will most likely need to consider a range of platforms and devices. However if the app is for internal use (even in a Bring Your Own Device environment) you could potentially specify the requirements. Where will the app be used? Will users be truly mobile or will they just be in a different building to your office? The answer to this question will decide if your app should be smartphone based (i.e. easier to carry) or tablet based. How complex is the data they will be entering/viewing? The larger screen offered by a tablet may be needed if there is a large volume of data to be shown/entered or if that data is complex (i.e. graphs and charts). Does the app need to integrate with any existing systems? For example, if you need to integrate with existing Microsoft programs you may want to select the Windows operating system to ensure an effective integration. e. How will the app be maintained? Do you have enough internal resource capable of maintaining the app and if so do they have specific skills for a particular platform? 4

5 Step 4: Decide if you need a mobile website or a mobile app This is an important aspect to consider early in the planning. A mobile website is accessed using the device s internet browser and effectively acts like any other website or webbased system. A native app is written for and installed on the device that uses it. To help you select the right option, below we have listed some of the key factors which may influence your decision. Use of in-built features (e.g. camera) Deployment Target market Availability Performance Technical skills Native application Full access to these features. Needs to be deployed on each device and possibly through a store such as Apple itunes, Google Play or an Enterprise App Store. A version must be created for each platform. User does not need to be online. Likely to be faster as runs locally. Developers require platformspecific skills and knowledge. Mobile website Little or no access to these features. Accessed like any other internet site. One version should suffice for all platforms. User needs an internet connection. Will depend on internet speed. A website developer should need a relatively small amount of time to adapt their skills. It s worth bearing in mind that if neither of these options fully meet your requirements there are hybrid options available which wrap a mobile web interface inside a native container. Such solutions are typically used by businesses which require a great deal of flexibility and scalability. 5

6 Step 5: Choose the right supplier If you do not have adequate resource in-house you will need to select a partner to work with to develop your enterprise app. Your chosen supplier should: Provide an accurate estimate for your solution and expected delivery timescales. This will allow you to calculate your return on investment and decide whether the project is financially viable. Deliver a quality solution on time and on budget. Support and enhance the application going forward. This will ensure you maintain a quality solution that grows with your business. Ask your potential supplier the following questions to help you establish if they will be able to achieve each of the above points What steps will you take to ensure you gather requirements before the project begins and how will you achieve this? What processes do you have in place to ensure accurate estimating? How will you gain buy-in and engage stakeholders throughout the project? What is your approach to mobile app project management, specifically how do you manage risks and issues in your methodology, and how and when are these communicated along with key milestones? Who will be allocated to this project, what are their skills and will they remain on the project? What account management do you have and is there an escalation process? What value can you add to this project? 6

7 Step 6: Manage the project effectively Any software development requires planning and management to deliver it successfully. Mobile business applications are no different in that respect. Appropriate control is needed throughout the analysis, design, development, testing and deployment stages of the project and further guidance on this can be found in our whitepaper, entitled How to successfully manage a bespoke software development project. However there are some specific considerations that can change how you plan for an enterprise application. Here are ten to think about A pilot project. If mobile working is new to your organisation, consider a pilot project or proof of concept first. This stage will ensure that your anticipated benefits will be realised and reveal any teething problems before the solution is rolled out en masse. Plan releases. Look to deliver benefits quickly but not all in one go. Like any application, users are likely to expect new features to be released via regular updates. Create a roadmap for your application to allow you to do this. Changing environments. Be aware that users, not the IT Department, install updates to their device. They may therefore update the operating system without your prior knowledge or consent or not install a new version of the application when you expect them to. You will therefore need to manage the possible impacts of an unpredictable operating environment. Internal impacts. Look for impacts within your organisation. Technically, how will the new application be integrated with your existing systems and infrastructure? Corporately, who will own the application? User interface. The user interface must be optimised for use on the target device(s) in terms of screen size, likely bandwidth and the way the user interacts with the screen. Error tracking. It is generally more difficult to obtain detailed diagnostic information for errors which occur in a mobile application than in a desktop application. You should consider how you can best support the application. Security. Phones and tablets are even easier to lose or be stolen than laptops. Thought should be given about how any sensitive data can be stored on them and how to authenticate the user accessing the application. Mobile policy. You may need to draw up or update a policy for use of mobile devices together with any disciplinary procedures for misuse. Adoption. Without complete user buy-in your app will not achieve competitive advantage and with every mobile app comes a range of potential stumbling blocks which inevitably complicate adoption. Consider involving a user work group from the start of the project and carefully plan the roll-out and training programme. 10. The future. Keep abreast of emerging technologies and standards and be prepared to be pro-active in evaluating and adopting them. 7

8 Conclusion Mobile devices bring new possibilities to business applications. When carried out correctly an enterprise mobile app can achieve better customer/employee engagement, real-time customer service, greater efficiency, improved supply chain operations and enhanced collaboration. However, if the project is ill-prepared and poorly managed it can result in an expensive app which fails to meet business needs or achieve return on investment. To find out more about how MSM Software can help you with your enterprise mobile app please or call CASE STUDY - Job management system made five times faster through app Outdated hardware prompts redevelopment Guideline Lift Services are the oldest independent lift company in the UK and provide total national lift services to government, blue chip and private companies within all sectors. They use a mobile application to assist their engineers which provides their job schedule and enables them to record information about the jobs they are working on in real-time, before submitting jobs back to the central server for invoicing. MSM originally wrote the app in 2007 using Microsoft.NET for PDAs, running Windows mobile, but the hardware had become dated so it was no longer possible to obtain replacement devices and the app was becoming increasingly difficult to support. MSM were asked to redevelop the application for Google Android devices, whilst retaining all current functionality. Android platform chosen for the upgrade After analysing the detailed requirements of Guideline we developed a native application using the official Android SDK and Java as the programming language. The project included upgrading the existing web services using the REST (Representational State Transfer) architectural rationale, which is widely recognised as the best principle to use for web applications. This ensured the back office database was effectively integrated with the new Android environment. App increases productivity and minimises roll-out costs The use of more efficient technology has made the new solution five times faster than the old system, significantly improving productivity. Guideline is also reaping the rewards of an interface which closely replicates the existing system because training costs have been kept to a minimum. Overall the new application meets Guideline s long term goals because the platform and technologies chosen guarantee the longevity of the app and allow future enhancements to be made quickly and simply. The new Android mobile system not only fully met our needs, but extended beyond our initial expectations by enabling simple deployment to engineers combined with super-fast processing speeds. MSM Software s approach during the project was seamless and efficient whilst once again delivering a high end product on time and within budget. Lawrence Willsey, Service Director, Guideline Lift Services Ltd 8

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