Any company adopting an emerging, disruptive technology like mobility will run into bumps in the road. The issues to consider when adopting a disruptive technology such as mobility are numerous and constantly changing. I will review some of the key areas to consider when extending mobile apps into the enterprise at NetApp.
Business Value and User Experience
One of first areas we look at is whether a mobile app will deliver value to NetApp. We want to choose the best use cases to devote our resources to developing and supporting mobile apps. As part of the process, we ask a lot of relevant questions upfront. How does the app support NetApp’s goals? Who is the audience and what are they trying to achieve? How long is its lifecycle? How will you measure success? We want to make sure that the app is useful into the future.
Business leadership must also approve these projects before we begin. We want to make sure they are aware of the app and that it addresses a real business need. The investment of time upfront helps us fast forward the development process as it brings everyone on same page. We take the approach of “prototype first” (using mobile app prototyping tools) to showcase user interaction. Our Enterprise Mobility Council acts as a single point of contact to streamline the participation of product operations, customer service, sales, channels, legal, HR, Finance, and IT.
Another unexpected, but significant challenge is in perception. Business customers often believe that if a web application already exists and is accessible via a desktop or laptop, mobile app development can quickly follow. In fact, most apps have to be simplified for the mobile platform because we can’t offer all the same features as a full web application. If you do, the interface becomes too complicated and response times lag. Research has shown that the average response time on a smartphone is 386 milliseconds, which is significantly faster than for a desktop system. If the response takes more time, a user will move onto something else. Research also shows that the average time a user will spend to complete a form is much lower on a smart phone than on tablet or a desktop system.
One hidden, but significant, consideration in mobile app development is the current app’s design. We often encounter existing gaps in reusable web services, security, and performance in the underlying systems. These middleware gaps must be resolved before we proceed. It often takes more time to address the gaps than it does to develop the app itself. Another consideration is user experience. Most web services were developed with hundreds of capabilities; users had to be trained on how to use the app. Mobile apps must be self-explanatory (no training required) and address a critical need clearly and quickly. We also look at the behavioral and emotional user experience.
Pace of Change
Another big consideration in mobile development is keeping up with the ultra-rapid pace of technology change. Start-ups and acquisitions are constantly offering new capabilities. Development platform and tools are evolving; we have a continuing discussion on build vs. buy and using HTML5 as a development language instead of any other development platform. We want to use technologies that are stable, flexible, and that will be around for some time. With new technologies and vendors emerging almost every day, choosing the right technology requires a lot of research and testing.
Gaining senior management support is often an overlooked part of a mobile strategy. Without it, the mobility program can become fragmented and reactive. We are fortunate that NetApp senior management is committed to mobility as part of the IT transformation at NetApp. Their support has been vital as we expand the use of mobile apps. Widespread support for mobility in the enterprise will enable us to stay ahead of industry in productivity and efficiency.
The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to view learn more about the program? Visit www.NetAppIT.com.