People consider their mobile phone to be one of their key personal possessions, never far from their body. Psychologically, they are personal devices, in a way that is very different from desktop computers or other home electronics.
This is shown in the way that the current crop of mobile applications are designed:
- We are rarely asked to login to mobile applications, once our identity is initially authenticated.
- Our personal identity is a key element of many mobile applications.
- Applications are tailored to our personal needs, providing simple interfaces and a handful of relevant options.
- Location in the real world (my current location) is used in many applications.
- Applications are designed for a single user (“me”), tied to the device itself.
All of this has some big consequences for enterprise solutions.
An impersonal enterprise experience
On the whole, enterprise apps are impersonal. Intranets provide information for everyone, and users are expected to find for themselves what is relevant to their situation. Even when some personalisation or tailoring is done, it is very limited, often restricted to the homepage.
When using enterprise applications, users are often asked to login. These usernames and passwords may vary from system to system, and few applications have a “remember me” option. Once in the apps, users are again expected to work through long menus of all-purpose options.
Replicating this experience when delivering mobile enterprise applications is very problematic. Users, conditioned by consumer apps, will find impersonal enterprise apps to be clunky and frustrating. Worse, the productivity gains hoped for will not be realised, as users struggle through complex options on small handheld devices.
Designing personal enterprise apps
Mobile enterprise apps should be as personal as consumer apps. We know much more about our staff and their needs than application developers know about consumers. Staff have a long-term engagement with the business, rather than the fleeting interest of consumers.
Delivering personal applications simplifies the user experience, and delivers greater productivity benefits. It also means that the full capabilities of mobile devices are exploited, rather than just delivering “handheld desktop apps”.
To do this:
- Have staff login once, remembered for all future uses.
- If this isn’t possible, ensure that staff only login in once per session, with single sign-on provided for all apps and functionality.
- Make personal identity the foundation for every piece of mobile functionality, from the mobile intranet to specific enterprise mobile apps.
- Tailor information and functionality to ensure it is specific to the staff member. For example, the five relevant leave policies should be displayed, not a list of 100 documents. Similarly, menus should list only those HR actions that can be taken right now, not every possibility for the whole organisation.
- Proactively deliver information and notifications, using the functionality of the mobile device to do so in real-time, where possible.
- Exploit the full capabilities of mobile devices, such as targeting information based on the staff member’s current location in the real world.
(Of course, these approaches generate some security and information management challenges. In practice, these may be better handled at the device level, rather than burdening each app with a security straightjacket. As experience grows in delivering enterprise apps, practical approaches will become better understood.)
How will you deliver a personal experience for staff?