The future success of North American companies rests in large part on their ability to truly mobilize their employees.  We’re not talking just about outfitting employees with smartphones and tablets. It is the application software those devices enable that can make the difference between winners and losers in a high-stakes economy driven by an ever more demanding customer base.

What are mobile worker apps? They’re also known as mobile business-to-employee (B2E) software solutions. They allow employees real-time anywhere access to – and exchange of – information, collaboration and guidance on their mobile devices. These solutions can be as simple as corporate-approved navigation and mapping apps. They also include productivity solutions such as mobile collaboration and mobile conferencing. Working our way up the complexity scale, B2E apps can also be as sophisticated as mobilized field service management or field selling solutions that automate and optimize complex work processes.

Mobile app users can be field-based personnel, road warriors, remote workers, or anyone who works after hours and needs immediate access to company data, advice, or instruction.

If you’re a North American company without a mobile app strategy for your workers, then you’re already behind the curve.  Here’s how to catch up:

1 – Recognize the Positive Hard-Dollar Impacts

Companies justify their increasing investment in these software apps by pointing to a set of business impacts that combine financial gains with important soft-dollar benefits. In the 2018 Frost & Sullivan Mobile Business Applications Survey, top reasons for providing mobile apps to employees were ranked as follows:

  • More efficient business processes
  • More productive employees
  • More satisfied employees
  • More employee collaboration
  • Enhanced customer engagement

2 – Realize Your Competition Is Probably Already Deploying

The popularity of mobile worker apps is surging, with company needs increasing in both frequency and scope. Survey responses reveal that 85% of companies report already deploying these apps to at least some degree. And they’re not finished. A massive percentage of respondent companies plan to add one or more new mobile B2E apps within the next year. About half of these anticipate adding six or more apps.

Beyond the positive business impacts listed above, what big-picture trends are driving this growth?

  • Enhanced industry interest in incorporating new technologies (such as artificial intelligence) to heighten the value of these solutions.
  • An increased appreciation of the importance of integration – connecting these apps with valuable data in backend systems and with valuable incremental capabilities in other business applications, third-party solutions, etc.
  • A younger workforce that expects and demands always-available mobile assistance.
  • End-customers and clients that want immediate, 24/7 action and visibility from the front line employees they interact with.

3 – Make Your Mobile B2E App Strategy a Group Undertaking

No matter what phase of adoption a business is in, it is important to identify the key stakeholders and ensure they’re represented at the strategy table.

Currently, North American companies do a pretty poor job of including non-IT parties in the app evaluation and approval process.  The actual end-users are rarely involved, which means usability problems are more apt to surface late in the game – after purchase and deployment.

Including the end-users in the decision process can prevent difficulties and expense down the road. It just makes sense.

4 — Be Prepared to Identify and Quickly Address Challenges

As the mobile worker apps market amplifies and deepens, key challenges are going to appear at each phase of the adoption cycle. For example:

  • For businesses that have not yet embraced mobile B2E apps, data security vulnerabilities and possible worker resistance are typically top concerns.
  • For companies just beginning to introduce these apps in a strategic manner, selecting the right mobility partner and choosing whether to invest in a customized offering require real thought and strategizing.
  • And for more experienced users, a formal mobility management platform, a paced expansion strategy, and an aggressive technology road map are increasingly necessary and must be evaluated, debated, and determined.

5 – Use the Right Criteria When Selecting the App and the Provider

Today’s businesses realize that they can’t outfit their employees with a dated, partial set of digital tools and expect success. The Frost survey identified the top six criteria used by North American businesses to select mobile worker apps. The best apps are expected to:

  • Offer a high level of data security
  • Be easy for employees to use
  • Be affordably priced
  • Be easy to administer
  • Integrate easily with back-office systems
  • Require little technical expertise to deploy

These application selection factors have remained remarkably consistent during the past few years, emphasizing the importance of security, ease of use and administration, and affordability.

Lastly, businesses that are thinking of deploying B2E solutions all on their own should think again.  The majority of today’s companies prefer to work with an expert. For most, partnering options include the wireless carriers, major corporate software vendors, and systems integrators. When evaluating potential mobile app partners, today’s companies view costs, professional services capabilities, industry expertise, and integration experience as priorities.

In Summary

The responses to the 2018 Frost & Sullivan Mobile Business Applications survey reveal an already high penetration of mobile worker applications, strong expansion plans, a willingness to partner with carefully selected mobility experts, and adoption barriers that are falling to the wayside. Driving app growth are hard-dollar ROI impacts that include increased productivity and efficiency and happier employees and customers.

The complete 2018 survey results are available in the Frost & Sullivan study, “North American Mobile Enterprise Applications, 2018 – A Survey of Customer Preferences, Plans and Impacts.” K2B8-01. May 2018 at https://store.frost.com.

About Jeanine Sterling

Industry Director with Frost & Sullivan, covering the mobile enterprise applications sector in North America. She has worked in both the business and consumer technology markets for over 25 years as a solutions manager, analyst and consultant. Current areas of focus include the growing array of powerful mobile software applications for the North American worker, along with mobile asset tracking, mobile supply chain management, and enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution platforms.

Jeanine Sterling

Industry Director with Frost & Sullivan, covering the mobile enterprise applications sector in North America. She has worked in both the business and consumer technology markets for over 25 years as a solutions manager, analyst and consultant. Current areas of focus include the growing array of powerful mobile software applications for the North American worker, along with mobile asset tracking, mobile supply chain management, and enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution platforms.

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