Research the key to using add-on tool effectively to communicate with staff and customers, says Reuben Bijl.
What should a business be thinking about when creating an app?
There are two distinct tiers of value for smartphones and tablets in enterprises. Almost everyone can see a productivity gain from using off-the-shelf and built-in apps on smartphones and tablets. Apps like Mail, Evernote and Keynote for iPad are great tools that can be easily used even where a company has no official mobile strategy or guidelines.
Bespoke apps become useful where structured and repeatable processes need to be made mobilised, simplified or both. For example, this could apply to sales teams out in the field, trade staff who want visibility over upcoming jobs, or mobile access to records like health data.
How does a business choose an app platform?
The iPad and larger-screen devices like the Surface lend themselves to interacting with customers. Larger screens promote sharing, which often means shared conversations and can be a great way to start conversations. A car salesperson could use an iPad to demonstrate lease terms, for instance. For job functions where the task you do on the device isn't shared with the customer and the application wouldn't benefit from a larger screen size, then a smartphone could be a good option. Job despatch can work really well on an iPhone, but reading and hunting through documentation could be better suited to an iPad.
What successful business apps have you have seen?
There is a great range of apps for businesses - for example, Xero's fantastic new one and the Air NZ mPass and ASB mobile business banking apps. The most successful apps we've seen are built by a business specifically to drive their business goals - like Frucor Beverages , which uses a custom app for its sales team.
What might a business spend on an app?
A basic app with a couple of screens and some minor integration with existing database infrastructure is in the tens of thousands of dollars, and a more advanced or custom solution is in the hundreds of thousands. There has to be a measured and tangible business benefit to creating an app and maintaining it over the app's life cycle. Often just relooking at a process or a way that something is being done in the context of modern devices can bring about huge benefits. When processes were first created, always-on internet connectivity and the ability to get a user's location probably weren't available.
Are New Zealand companies using local app developers or are some going overseas?
Some apps are being built by companies in-house, while other companies are outsourcing to large solution providers, and others are choosing to use mobile experts like our firm.
What is today's most exciting app technology?
The infrastructure that surrounds smartphones and tablets - 4G, HD Voice and fast always-on internet connectivity. These things are enabling innovation. The technology is also spreading quickly and the sheer volume of users creates exciting opportunities.
Reuben Bijl is managing director of Christchurch app developer Smudge.