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BLOG: Lessons from a big iPad enterprise adopter

Tom Kaneshige | July 26, 2012
Paul Lanzi sits quietly in the corner of a large table at a fancy restaurant in San Francisco, with other so-called tablet experts. He's listening to a bunch of talking heads—bloggers, marketers and pundits—prattle on about iPads in the enterprise.

Most CIOs in the early throes of an iPad rollout don't expect to have much more than a dozen enterprise apps. But Lanzi advises them to prepare for a mushrooming effect. "If you are setting up an enterprise app store today, you've got to expect it to scale to this level or greater," he warns.

Genentech couldn't buy an off-the-shelf enterprise app store because none existed at the time, and so Lanzi had to build his own. Even today, he would still choose to develop his own enterprise app store because of Genentech's specific requirements related to global user expectations.

"We're using cloud technology today for our iPhone app installer files," Lanzi explains. "That's something that none of the commercial, off-the-shelf options do in a really elegant way."

However, Genentech might be more the exception than the rule. Today's off-the-shelf offerings are pretty compelling, Lanzi says, and would be sufficient for most enterprises.

Apple App Store Sets the Standard

One of the big hurdles in iPad enterprise adoption comes from Apple itself. Apple's consumer-facing App Store has set a high bar for app usability. Simply put, iPad-toting employees expect enterprise apps to be intuitive to use. Much like consumer apps, enterprise apps also compete for time on the iPad and have to deliver functionality that people really crave.

"It's a very valuable challenge to enterprises to deliver a mobile app that has the same usability as a consumer app," Lanzi says. "We end up spending almost as much time on user experience as we do on the actual coding and testing of the app."

Companies embracing iPads will no doubt have a few app failures. Genentech had an iOS app called Coming Together that didn't quite live up to its name. It was an internal RSS aggregator that never achieved user adoption, and so Lanzi retired the app.

Genentech has had a half-dozen failed apps; Lanzi's rule of thumb is to retire apps that fall below a few dozen users. That's not a bad track record considering all the enterprise apps Lanzi puts out.

One of his tricks is to gather user feedback just like Apple's App Store and use this knowledge to improve app development. Reviews are paramount to the App Store's success. Apple aficionados know that they can quickly star-rate an app and write up a comment. Employees also want to provide feedback for enterprise apps in the same way.

"There's a user expectation that the same App Store experience follow through to the enterprise app," Lanzi says.

Genetech's enterprise app store has a user feedback mechanism. The feedback is open, meaning users can see everyone's comments and ratings. Enterprise app feedback has played a critical role in keeping the number of app failures low, Lanzi says.

 

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