How To Start & Grow Your Business

Mobile Apps: Are you Solving the Right Problem?

Alex Bratton
Feb 11th, 2015
  • Estimated reading time: 4 min read
  • Hummy's

    1Align the app with your business goals. 2Analyze workflows to detect inefficiencies. 3Try apps that provide relevant solutions.
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close up of businessman hands working with table pc and smartphone Photo Credit: dolgachov

Mobile apps are becoming more widely used to help businesses run their operations and better serve customers, but companies need to take a good look at their business processes and workflows to identify the apps that will generate the most value.

As more companies embrace the idea of using mobile apps designed for enterprises, which allow business people to do part or all of their jobs from a smart phone or tablet, it is essential to identify which apps will bring the most value to the organization.

Many companies make hasty decisions to build a mobile app that ends up not solving pain points at all. That’s because they build an “obvious app” but not the right app.

The right app will solve a pain point in a business process where things take longer than they should, cause extra expense, and involve more people than really needed.

For example, Sonic Automotive, a car retailer that operates 105 dealerships across the United States, focused on their customer experience and reducing the typical three- to four-hour car buying process to 45 minutes. They did this by rolling out a suite of mobile apps that enable their sales team to handle the entire transaction without leaving the customer’s side.

Much of the time savings comes from moving most of the paperwork to a suite of iPad apps and empowering the salesperson to handle steps that previously required a sales or finance manager. Suites of mobile apps work together to make users more productive.

Each app represents a simple business process, so users can more efficiently focus on the workflow at hand rather than navigating a large, single, cumbersome app that does everything more slowly.

To identify which enterprise mobile apps to focus on, follow this process:

Start with a solid understanding of the goals of the business.
What is the overall objective? Without that, solving problems won’t drive the result the business is looking for. Cutting the amount of time in a manufacturing process may be an obvious target, but if the biggest problem is actually generating new sales, it’s the wrong problem to start with.

Next, identify the workflows in your business that support those goals and identify the tasks that make up each workflow. For example, the tasks for sales may include cold calling, face-to-face meetings, and writing proposals.

Break down each of these tasks into the actions that make up the workflow. A face-to-face meeting may require resources to prepare materials, time to drive to the meeting, and effort to follow up.

Identify everyone with a role in each action. Look for workers in supporting roles: people preparing reports, consulting on projects, performing administrative tasks, etc. Mobile apps often free up such workers from workflows owned by people in other roles.

For example, a traditional field service workflow might include a visit from the service rep, a price estimate from the office, and parts ordering from fulfillment. A mobile app could put all this in the hands of the rep, who could generate an estimate, get customer approval, and order a part while still with the customer.

Estimate the time, cost, and other resources that each task requires. Figure out how much time each person is involved in a task and the value of their time. Do the same for other resources and expenses that are devoted to specific actions. For example, what does it cost to create and print collateral?

Since transit can take up a significant amount of time, look at where actions take place and what travel is involved. In field service organizations, every service call and customer visit requires expenses for gas and vehicle costs as well as travel time.

Now that you know the costs involved in workflows, estimate how often these workflows are successful. What percentage of these workflows actually yields bottom-line success? In some cases, almost every workflow accomplishes its goal. In others, there may be a very low completion rate.

Add up the costs for each workflow and multiply the cost by how often the workflow takes place. Record your findings and you’ll quickly be able to identify the workflows that take up time and money.

This is the launching point for a discussion about which mobile apps can make the biggest difference for your organization by making information readily available in any location, removing unnecessary steps in a process, and reducing costs.

This article was written by Alex Bratton and appeared on Internet Retailer.

Alex Bratton is CEO and chief geek of Lextech, and the author of Billion Dollar Apps. He can be reached on Twitter @alexbratton.