Don’t Punish Employees with Poor Mobile Apps

Sep 282015
upset employee holding head in hands, papers, laptop and smart phone laying on the desk
We have become obsessed with developing mobile apps for customers and have neglected the needs of our employees. Consider this: if you give your hardworking colleagues access to immediate, accurate information in support of customers and processes, your customers win!

Let’s begin with a bit of information gathering. Here’s what we want to know. Have you evaluated the metrics of your internal mobile apps lately? C’mon… it’s a simple question, with just a few legitimate responses.

  1. No. We don’t have any internal mobile apps. Fair enough. Keep reading.
  2. Yes. But our metrics are limited because the adoption rate is low. Your candor is noted. Stay with us.
  3. Yes. Our metrics show strong increases in employee usage and efficiency. Great! What’s your next move?

Internal Apps Need Love Too!

Here’s the situation. The debate over the benefit of mobile applications is over. Done. Innovative firms seeking to one-up the competition, expand customers and grow revenue streams know that mobile applications are a solid bet for advancing these objectives. It’s tried and true, conjecture complete.

Still, a distinct disconnect remains. Though many companies are throwing dollars and resources at developing and purchasing mobile apps for customer communities, a lot less money and attention is being channeled into providing outstanding apps for internal users. It’s a reflection of the old English proverb about the shoemaker’s kids. You know the one, the shoemaker is busy stitching great shoes to peddle to his customers, and his children are virtually shoeless. He’ll get to them… and their dirty, calloused soles. Eventually. In the meantime, they won’t be running any races.

But your employees do need to run, and fast. If you’re serious about having them win. The good news is many firms are coming around to this realization. Unfortunately, the dominant approach seems to be a half-hearted, they can make do, kind of effort. Make do? You want them to win, remember?

The overarching disparity between carefully-crafted customer apps and the awkward make do apps that are being thrust upon internal communities is nothing short of startling. These applications are simply not meeting the needs of employees. Here’s the reality.

Routinely, internal apps:

  • Are low on features, often lacking critical elements
  • Can’t access critical information from back-end systems
  • Only expose a limited subset of the desktop version’s functionality
  • Commonly default to a clunky web browser implementation
  • Demonstrate consistent interface problems
  • Don’t emphasize user experience
  • Are rife with integration challenges
  • Don’t work well when there’s limited connectivity
  • Aren’t optimized for the mobile experience

The Value of Upping your Game on Internal Apps

Even some of the savviest companies who’ve launched beautiful, engaging mobile applications for their appropriately coddled customers are forcing their internal stakeholders to settle for far less.

Why?

Because by all accounts, customers come first. Well, duh. But the idea is a tad simplistic. So let’s unpack this predictably overplayed, perhaps misconstrued statement. Who is responsible for placing customers in the top spot? Exactly. The people who toil day and night on behalf of the organization, that’s who; sales folks, service personnel, product development and so on. When these hardworking colleagues are afforded access to immediate, accurate information in support of customers and processes, guess what? Customers win!

Contrarily, if you’re willing to short change your employees with less than stellar mobile apps, everyone loses.

Make Do…Won’t Do!

Observe the impact of the make do mentality:

  1. The app will not produce the outcome you envisioned. The time, money and energy spent to create and launch a subpar app is mostly a waste, because the desired results will not be realized. The loss can be significant depending upon the kind of effort participants exert. Even if the attempt resembles the half-hearted result, there’s still sacrifice. Consider this: What truly strategic initiative could this time, money, and effort have been more appropriately applied to? Make no mistake, in today’s 186,000 miles per second business world, the cost of lost opportunity is more real than ever.
  2. Your employees will not use it. Once upon a time, in another reality…employees settled for clunky, hard to navigate, green screen applications. They had to. Not only because they didn’t have any better, but they didn’t know any better. Today, due to the consumerization of IT, they do know better. Consequently, the apps your company provides employees must mirror the smooth, intuitive, feature rich apps they use in daily life. Or quite simply, they will not use them. They’ll find other ways or use what they’ve used before. And be advised, forcing the issue is an unproductive exercise. The bar has been raised.
  3. Your Customers can be negatively impacted. There are numerous scenarios to illustrate this, but let’s briefly examine one.

A high-powered sales exec is presenting to a client via the app on her tablet, and all heads are nodding in the right direction. Life is good. The client asks a pricing question, and fortunately (ha!), the app contains a pricing tool that pulls data from backend systems to configure costs on the fly. Smooth. So the confident rep clicks the button, enters a few key data points, and all wait patiently. Watching the spinner. Watching. Waiting. Watching. Then the app crashes. Restart. App crashes again. The once great energy in the room is now replaced with the thud of an otherwise persuasive presentation gone flat! The disappointment is palpable. Not to mention, the disenchanted customer, the lack of accurate pricing, the dismal ending to the meeting and the delay in closing the sale. What’s more, there will be a residual consequence of the salesperson looking oh-so-lame in front of her client. Ouch.

The Path to Winning

Now let’s circle back and ponder the essence of our initial (and very simple) question. Essentially, it asks: Where are you? What is your current circumstance?

The bigger, more complicated question will be: now that you’ve established exactly where you are, where do you go from here?

Bottom line, here are the smart answers.

  1. No Internal Mobile Apps: This means you’re starting from scratch, at least as it relates to internal audiences. What’s most important is to nix the notion of buying a software package that will solve all your problems – or, even worse, building a single monolithic employee portal app. These approaches lead to a dead end. These endeavors must be contemplated at higher levels. Question. If you’ve deployed mobile apps for external audiences, what was your process? Did you create a strategy that incorporated all of your external constituencies? If you neglected to focus on the internal side, it’s not too late. The trick is to engage experts to guide you through the process of integrating all aspects of your internal needs into the overall strategy. No strategy in place at all? Roll up your sleeves. Start with our mobile strategy guide.
  2. Low Adoption of Current Internal Apps: Poor adoption of internal mobile apps is more problematic than no apps at all. You’ve spent considerable time and money for little or naught, and you’ve likely lost some good will along the way. Now those that look to you to provide the shiny, effective tools they need to excel, might trust you a little less. Thankfully, there’s a way up and out. But don’t attempt to go it alone. Find someone to help that has encountered this situation a time or two and has created an exclusive, proven process to get things turned around. Make sure they can assess what went sideways, craft the best fixes and turn your app into something that will delight your stakeholders. After all, considering the road you inadvertently led them down, your only option now is to thrill them to pieces.
  3. Mobile Apps are Well-Adopted and Bringing Business Value: Excellent! This is a great place to be and you’ll want to keep the momentum going. It’s time to consider how best to propel innovation and extend benefits. When it comes to getting the most from mobile, now and down the road, there

needs to be a sustained comprehensive effort. This means no app or mobile initiative is an island. Think about how to incorporate all aspects of your enterprise mobile effort into a fully-realized practice. You’ll need to combine business needs, development platforms, user experience, integration, management and security of apps and devices, analytics, roadmaps, and more. Once your practice is scoped, defined and staffed; your company will be perfectly positioned to gain out-sized business benefits from mobile well into the future. And that’s a good thing, because mobile’s not going anywhere. Pun unintended.

Finally, it’s fair to say that virtually everything your organization does