So long consumer apps: Why enterprise productivity apps are the next great prize

Uh oh. In its most recent predictions for mobility, Gartner says less than .01% of Consumer Mobile Apps will be considered a financial success.

Those terrible odds may come as a surprise to some given how quickly mobile apps are replacing traditional web applications as the way people transact business. It’s a stark reminder of how consumer apps are only one facet of this market, and one that is a crowded place aimed at users who want the best possible app experience—without paying a dime for it.

The prediction puts into focus one of the conundrums enterprises face. While providing great, native apps are table stakes for brand recognition and customer loyalty, they are not always revenue machines. Given the high cost of building and maintaining five-star apps, this isn’t an easy pill to swallow.

Little ‘c’, Big ‘E’

But there’s another reason mobile commands so much attention, and it has nothing to do with the consumer market. Companies and independent developers alike are awake to the dramatic increase in demand for employee-facing apps. In a recent Appcelerator/IDC joint survey, nearly 40% of developers reported building employee-facing apps. And this number is rising.

The first wave of mobile development was understandably focused on business-to-consumer. Those interactions are the most visible and every company needed to stake a claim in the new mobile frontier or risk customers fleeing to the closest competitor with an easier, more engaging experience.  

Now however, we are entering a second, much larger wave of mobile development. This time the emphasis will shift to capabilities for the employee.

Internal apps can give managers a fast, mobile way to approve expense reports on the go. They can give employees easy access to benefits and let them update personal information, sparing HR the time to handle requests manually. They can help sales reps close deals faster, and they can deliver training that gets new employees up to speed faster than before. Possibilities abound and there are a number of reasons why we believe the shift to employee-facing apps will only accelerate:

  • The sheer volume of potential apps - consider your own organization and all the systems and interactions that are required in order to perform your job. While an enterprise might need a handful of apps for customers, it could need dozens or hundreds of apps to support employees.

    Amplifying this is the fact that apps are not the same thing as applications. Applications are bloated monsters prized for their long pedigree of features, while apps are lightweight and purposeful valued for doing just a few things extremely well. Imagine trying to cram everything in your corporate portal into a single mobile app.
  • Employees’ eyes are opened to technology done right - employees, as consumers themselves, now carry the same sky-high expectations for experiences that are intuitive, pleasing to use and that truly make their lives easier. They will have less and less patience for the convoluted processes and poor user experiences they grudgingly tolerated from corporate systems of the past.
  • Anytime, anywhere productivity - organizations have tremendous incentive to break the shackles of PC-bound productivity by providing employees anytime, anywhere access. When business apps and information are always just a finger swipe away, manual steps and latency can be stripped away from the everyday actions and decisions that fuel a business.
  • Mobile transformation - beyond the productivity gains made possible via ubiquitous access, mobile also offers the possibility to completely reimagine processes to transform how a job is done.

    Take for example one customer of ours who created an augmented reality app to help their technicians in the field perform complex calibrations of solar and wind equipment.

    Engineers are able to see animation overlaid on top of the feed from their tablet’s camera to visualize the exact steps they need to complete without having to manually leaf through reams of manuals. If needed, they are even able to communicate and share with remote experts who are able to assist as if they‘re in the room, enabling them to expand the number of techs that can service these complicated technologies at a significantly lower cost.

    Companies like this one are realizing that by embracing all the possibilities of mobile they can rethink their business and change how they play the game. 

Taken together, all of this is why we’re seeing enterprises develop their own internal app stores for employees, and why we think the trend will continue. Sure, you’ll still have to invest in the creation of great apps for customers. But the potential of internal apps to streamline processes and make employees more productive is where the real ROI opportunity lies.

About the Author
Michael King is Director of Enterprise Strategy at Appcelerator, the leading mobile enterprise platform company. Follow him on Twitter at @MobileDataMike. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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12 Mar 2014, 9:40 p.m.

Great article and spot on, our app Meeting Mapper has had 22k downloads in one week.