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From complex to simple, from mega to micro, today we cannot imagine life without mobile apps. While there are examples of great success among consumer apps (dare I mention the much-referenced Angry Birds), for businesses trying to get more complex apps off the ground and tackle their app backlog, this can be far from reality. It’s important to remember that not all enterprise mobile apps need complex coding, integrations, and features. There are plenty of use cases where a mobile app can be spun up quickly and easily without any coding skills. We like to call them micro-apps. Sometimes the best things in life are the simple things. Enterprises should be careful not to underestimate app ideas from the business or field workers – ideas that may quickly address a specific customer need or eliminate steps in a process. With mobile skillsets at a premium, being able to use drag-and-drop and intuitive tools that don’t require coding skills may be just the thing to kick-start ‘mobile first’ initiatives, get some quick wins under the belt, and let mobile success go viral in the organization.
Replacing paper-based processes with simple apps can be a great starting point for mobile transformation. As smartphone and tablet adoption continues apace, archaic, error-prone, paper-based workflows can be quickly and easily revamped with slick, intuitive mobile form and survey apps. And, even better, the organization does not have to drain IT and developer resource in getting these up and running. Provided the team keeps its focus on simple processes that lend themselves to simple form-based mobile apps, and don’t over-indulge on a fabulous user interface, the speed and simplicity may be surprising – some swipes, clicks, drags and drops and the micro-app is ready for launch.
Besides paper-based processes, think of major service disruption or catastrophe management and how a mission-critical mobile app, if quickly created and deployed in the field, can massively improve reaction times and resolution response. Sometimes referred to as a Disposable Mobile App (DMA) these are another form of micro-apps, i.e., there’s a specific need that will benefit from the immediacy of mobile, the features of the device (e.g., geo location, camera, etc.), and the ability to create and deploy at speed using drag-and-drop features. For example, when extreme storm conditions caused extensive damage to the UK rail infrastructure in 2014, the operator got an app off the ground and deployed to a dispersed engineering workforce in less than 48 hours, allowing the capture of images that helped prioritize critical infrastructure repairs and accelerate the appropriate response. Not only can such DMA apps be quickly created by the business and deployed overnight but they are empowering – to field workers, lines of business, and back office staff.
The user-friendliness of being able to enter information through a touch interface beats old-school pen and paper and rekeying data hands down. But what makes mobile apps smarter is that the record can be enriched or validated using some of the device’s in-built capabilities such as voice memos, camera, GPS and barcode scanning. However, remember these examples are only good for certain simpler use cases and do not eliminate other business needs that require more complex apps that rely on developer skillsets. Not every need is met by a micro-app.
Simple apps can transform pretty much any process or scenario that relies on basic information capture, for example, and to name a few:
- an examiner assessing a learner on a driving test
- a retail assistant enrolling customers in a loyalty program
- a mystery shopper inspecting a store environment
- a construction project manager inspecting a building
- a real estate agent taking new instruction on a property sale
- a market researcher carrying out consumer surveys
In addition to these scenarios, many businesses turn to these simple drag-and-drop apps for rapid prototyping of a mobile idea. Rather than going through lengthy design and development, these ideas can be quickly implemented, tested with users, refined, and deployed as a full working app. Many more micro-app examples exist and have the potential to be the poster child apps that will drive further mobile innovation and adoption in the organization.
For additional information and a brief video demo of the power of micro-apps please download the following: