Mobile Micro Apps: Avoid The Pitfalls, Reap the Rewards

Technology has changed the way we work. Pervasive connectivity and near-ubiquitous mobile make it possible for people to get work done anywhere, at any time. While this reality presents unique challenges for managing both people and workloads, the presence and popularity of mobile applications also offers some interesting opportunities.

There are a number of reasons why mobile apps now dominate the interactions performed on mobile devices.[1] Some of the most common reasons expressed for mobile app popularity include:

  • Speed: Mobile apps provide immediate access to specific information without waiting for a computer to boot or a web page to load.
  • Functionality: Whether you need a business tool, a weather app, a way-finding tool with GPS, or your favorite game—there is an app designed to do exactly what you want to do, quickly and efficiently.
  • Simplicity: Mobile apps are easy to use. The best mobile apps are pared down to the essentials. Uncomplicated and intuitive, they make it easy to complete the activities they’re designed for.
  • Fun: It makes sense that gaming apps are fun and entertaining; it’s what they’re made for. What’s more interesting is the fact that many of the principles used in game design are being incorporated into functional apps, making even mundane tasks enjoyable.

Mobile is now endemic and apps are the preferred language of mobile. Clearly it makes sense for organizations to embrace mobile technology and make the most of mobile apps.

Micro Apps: Right sizing tasks for mobile context

What is a micro app, anyway? Micro apps are ‘downsized’ applications that deliver highly targeted functionality. You’ve seen and used these before, just think of the weather app on your smartphone. Rather than recreating the full gamut of information on website, it distills it down into the most important things and streamlines the functionality into the most common task-based flows. This way, users can get in, do what they want and then get back out of the app as quickly and frictionlessly as possible.

Avoid These Micro App Pitfalls

Mobile apps, and micro apps in particular, can help you tap into the unique characteristics of the mobile experience, mesh with the new realities of today’s work environment and enhance productivity in the process. As long as you avoid these three common pitfalls.

1) Shoehorning Your ERP Into an App: Typical enterprise software offers comprehensive functionality within a multi-layered system. Each individual task is buried “deep within thousands of small processes which are hard-coded, deep inside a complex system.”[2] One of the worst mistakes an organization can make is attempt to cram this kind of complexity into a mobile app.

 Rather than shoehorning broad functionality into a mobile device, zero in on the task people want to accomplish in a “mobile moment” and make it ridiculously easy for them to do it.

2) Relying on Traditional Interface Design: Complex software systems typically use complicated UIs that pack extensive functionality and multi-tiered menus into each screen. Catering to the power user, traditional software design attempts to build access to everything into every page.

This is not the way to “win friends and influence people” on mobile.

3) Assuming More is Better: When it comes to creating mobile apps, more is not better. Creating an app that does one or two key things extraordinarily well is far more effective than developing the swiss army knife of apps; a tool that purports to do many things, but all of them a little awkwardly on a mobile device.

Don’t just pay lip service to the speed and simplicity of mobile. Start with and stick to a mobile-first approach.

The Micro App Payoff

Picture this: standing in line at Starbucks, a manager briefly accesses an HR micro app on her mobile and approves her team’s timesheets for the week. The line moves forward. She glances down at her smartphone, reviews and approves two vacation requests before stepping up to the counter to place her order. Morning coffee in hand, she has already cleared her plate of administrative tasks— in less time than it takes to boot her office PC. And everything she did was automatically transferred into the company’s underlying HCM system. This is the power of the micro-app.

Micro apps simply access individual processes within the underlying enterprise system and turn them into easy-to-use mobile applications. Quick and uncomplicated, these micro apps remove complexity from common tasks, while maintaining the integrity of essential business information. Built with a specific, common task in mind, each micro app zeros in on that task, removing clutter and any non-essential information, allowing your people to accomplish common tasks in minutes, wherever they may be and on the devices they prefer to use.

The bottom line? Micro apps have the power to turn empty time into productive time so it pays to make them part of your mobile strategy.

Karl Wierzbicki of InFlight Corporation has 14 years’ of technology marketing experience, driving exceptional ROI through innovative solutions and user-centric technologies like InFlight Aura.  

References:

[1]  The Guardian, Apps more popular than the mobile web, data shows.  https://www.theguardian.com/technology/appsblog/2014/apr/02/apps-mo...

[2] Information Age, How micro-apps could simplify business processes and optimise productivity http://www.information-age.com/technology/applications-and-developm...

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