Enterprise mobile application development: A CIO strategy guide
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Forrester Research Inc. forecasts that companies will spend about $900 million on mobile process reinvention services in 2013, a number that will more than triple in 2014. But before you break the bank on a wholesale process re-engineering project, know that reinventing business processes for enhancing mobile engagement is more about optimizing specific steps in any process than it is about complex re-engineering.
So, where do you start?
Across all industries, the most important mobile applications to focus on are customer engagement and the process of interacting with customers on an ongoing basis; field enablement to allow operational staff who work outside of the office to digitize manual or paper-based processes; and employee productivity to empower employees to make decisions based on data at the exact moment they need to.
Because these categories can overlap, you first need to identify:
- Key touchpoints in the customer journey: Sales reps, customer service agents, and front-of-house staff are often the first contacts for customers and good targets for mobile.
For example, under Red Robin International Inc. CIO and Senior Vice President, business transformation, Chris Laping, the restaurant chain deployed 700 iPads running Firespotter Labs' NoshList mobile app to front-of-house greeters. The mobile app allows greeters to manage waitlists, send alerts to waiting diners and enroll customers in Red Robin's loyalty program.
- Potential channel conflicts that break the customer experience: Mobile e-commerce as a percentage of online commerce is in the low single digits today, but retailers like Gap strive to create consistent cross-channel customer experiences. Synchronizing numerous physical and digital touchpoints allows retailers to maintain continuous, engaged relationships with their customers before, during and after a transaction.
- Inefficient and expensive processes in the field: Driving greater efficiency in the field by simplifying, standardizing and automating processes is a key opportunity for mobile engagement.
Marriott International's Gaylord Hotels brand replaced its paper-intensive process for reporting and tracking cleaning and turnover of hotel rooms with a mobile app. The mobile app allows cleaning staff to easily report which rooms have been cleaned and which rooms still require turnover service. The result? Gaylord gained better visibility into room inventory and the ability to check customers in early, which contributed to a 20% improvement in customer satisfaction scores.
- Business application processes that enhance productivity: As the population of anytime, anywhere information workers grows, so does the need to support more devices and mobilize more business applications that employees use to do their jobs. Eli Lilly and Company had the goal of getting its sales force off personal computers by deploying more than 7,000 iPads globally. To accomplish that, it gave its SAP application and SharePoint content store new mobile front ends.
With a list of key processes in hand, you need a way to prioritize and focus on those processes that can benefit the most from mobile engagement. Ask yourself: Are any of the steps or tasks in this process analog? Does the process require any kind of human interaction? Can any steps be eliminated? If you answered yes to any of these, then there's a good chance the process is ripe for mobile process redesign. Examine each process against two dimensions: the value of context in the outcome of the process and the window of time for completing a given task or process.
A good mobile app will analyze your immediate context -- where you are, what you are doing and what you are likely to do next -- before displaying content or asking you to take action. The goal of any process transformation is efficiency: doing something faster, eliminating unnecessary or undesirable steps and codifying the way something is done to reduce exceptions. With mobile applications, the efficiency net is cast even wider to also account for time sensitivity in completing a task or process. Customers and employees reach for mobile when they are in a time crunch to complete a particular task.
To use a person's context to allow him to quickly accomplish a task will mean breaking down the back-end processes into discrete components -- what we call "atomized processes." Atomization is important because by decomposing business processes into discrete units, you can match the process to the user's journey through the real-world process, not just the online experience. The following business examples from Woburn, Mass.-based Trane Inc. and Internet grocer Peapod LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Ahold NV, illustrate process atomization in some common scenarios:
- Trane sells heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment in competitive residential markets through a dealer network. Trane distributors use a tablet app that explains their systems and submits orders right there in front of the customer, shortening what Trane calls the "ring-to-ching" metric. Trane distributors have a leg up in a very competitive market where the average consumer gets three bids for air conditioning equipment. This tablet-based process allows frontline salespeople to complete a transaction at the point of sale and in a single meeting instead of a multistep, back-and-forth exchange over the phone and in on-site meetings to process the paperwork. They can use analytic tools to understand sales patterns for different systems in a variety of situations, thus directing customers to the right solutions on the spot, shortening the sales cycle and reducing paperwork.
- Peapod Mobile, working with Ahold's Stop & Shop supermarket chain, has set up larger-than-life grocery aisles on train platforms where commuters can use the free Peapod mobile app on a smartphone or tablet to scan bar codes of the products they want to purchase. Today, this is a limited and fixed catalog of items, but it's not a stretch to suggest that it will become an LCD screen that knows customers' past purchasing history and presents the things they actually buy on the screen. Perhaps one day, refrigerators will send info to Peapod about customers' needs and publish it in a virtual grocery store as they stand around waiting for a train.
Most CIOs realize that mobile is a disruptive force that is here to stay. The question is not whether to embrace mobile computing. The pressing question is how to get the most value from mobile apps and experiences. Forward- thinking CIOs will use mobile engagement as a catalyst to drive business process transformation.
About the authors:
Simon Yates is a vice president and principal analyst, and Clay Richardson is a senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.
Simon Yates and Clay Richardson asks:
Is your company using mobile engagement to transform its business processes?
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