First, don't think of mobile applications as replacements for existing apps that you have in a browser or on a desktop today. Focus on making sure they're purpose-built applications for the mobile device or tablet. There are a lot of first-generation enterprise applications that were essentially shrunk and squeezed onto these devices, and they don't give the best user experience.
Second, focus on the actual task employees need to accomplish on these devices, and that they are likely to accomplish on these devices. We refer to those as "mobile moments;" to get insight into those mobile moments, ask users the simple question, "What do you need to do when you're not at your desk, when you're not in the office, [but] when you're commuting, or when you're at home?" You can also watch employees. You can do ethnography to see what they're doing and what they're pulling out.
Assume that anything you provide on a mobile device, and any information collected there, is going to need to be immediately synchronized across other platforms like tablets, browsers or laptops. I may not do a lot of note taking on my smartphone because it's kind of a pain to use the small keyboard, but I expect immediate access to that information, and a lot of applications are in that sort of category. So, [focus on] purpose-built applications based on mobile moments and synchronized data across multiple platforms.
Lastly, make sure the data that you are providing or that you're collecting is timely. It can't wait until I get home. It can't wait until I get into the office, or until I'm seated at my desk. There is value in getting that information to and from that employee as quickly as possible.
Jeffrey Hammond is a vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research's application development and delivery group. He is a software development veteran with more than 20 years of experience in development, product management and strategy roles, and an expert in the areas of mobile development, modern application architecture and application lifecycle management. Contact him through his blog or on Twitter.
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