Friday, January 25, 2013

Making mobile user experience ‘tablet-y’ for enterprise applications

We’ve been checking off the various dos & don’t for bringing enterprise applications to iPads and other mobile devices.  There are a lot of them.  So many that our CTO Stephen Vilke did an entire webcast about the topic (summarized in this white paper).
Last week I brought up mobile security.  The issue that goes hand-in-hand with that is user experience (UX).  In fact, mobile user experience is usually what suffers when IT operations and corporate compliance get their way.
Stephen, however, is not one to just say, “Oh, well, the users are just going to have to deal with it.”  In fact, avoiding that mistake is core to his CTO tip this time around:
DON’T underestimate the importance of building a rich user experience.
From Stephen’s perspective if security is king for tablets in the enterprise, then user experience is certainly next in line for the throne.  IT departments simply must deliver a strong user experience, says Stephen. If the (albeit brief) history of mobile has taught us anything, it’s that if people don’t like it, they won’t use it.
"How many times have you heard, 'our sales team, managers -- insert group here -- are not using a new system because it’s not easy to use'? Or 'the users hate using the application because it’s hard to do anything with it'? 
"The more time you spend at the beginning of a project making sure there is a rich user experience, the more user satisfaction will increase. This does not have to mean a full re-write for your legacy applications, but rather it is about researching how your audience interacts with applications on their current hardware (PC and laptop) and adding some iPadness to that application when you deliver it on a tablet.  Make it tablet-y!  No one wants a PC experience replicated exactly on a tablet. 
"In fact, at the core of this 'consumerization of IT' revolution inside the enterprise is user experience -- employees asking to use their own iPad at work because it’s easy to use, and easy to be productive with. The only reason employees use the IT systems at work is because their job depends on it. If workers weren’t forced to execute expense reports with scanners, scissors, and tape, and instead could execute it faster with an iPhone app, they would likely opt for the quick route and actually spend a little more time doing their job. Moreover, they might even enter information into a CRM system more frequently if they could do it from their iPad wherever they happen to be."
User experience drives user adoption. And, as Stephen has noted more than a couple times in his career, good news travels fast. The more people use something, the more they will share their experiences with others, and the faster the rate of adoption.
Moreover, building a strong user experience is going to drive productivity across your range of use cases. Technology should not get in the way of a user’s productivity. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions are notorious for letting the user down when it comes to the user experience. A salesperson, physician, investment advisor, or whatever the role, does not want the mobile version of their virtual app to slow them down. Conversely, creating native applications unique to the user’s job can increase their productivity as well as their effectiveness, but can also be time consuming and very, very expensive.  Says Stephen:
"Try to make it simple. If done right, UX can drastically decrease support costs. Leveraging a simple user experience, one that is intuitive and user-friendly means that there will be fewer knots to untangle down the line. The up-front costs distributing applications to tablets are one thing, sustaining their upkeep and performance is something else. 
"Companies with successful implementations spend roughly 25 percent of their implementation costs on delivering user adoption – for things like training, communications, and change management. Larger implementations can spend roughly 30-35 percent on user adoption. Spending time at the beginning of a project on the user experience can lower these costs."
Think about it.  Says Stephen: “no one trained you to use Google, Craigslist, or”  He’s not saying to just drop all of those mobile security concerns.  But remember this:  UX is worth more time and effort than IT has been used to devoting to it.  And in this more tablet-y world, that’s going to have to change.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

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