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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.

Some iPad adopters use an internal social network (think: Facebook for companies) to give employees a forum for discussing mobile enterprise apps. But Lanzi has found that iPad users don't want to spend a lot of time with app reviews. They would rather rate an app, read a few comments, post a comment and then leave the conversation, which, again, is the way Apple's App Store does it.

Doing It Right

Gathering user feedback requires some planning. Lanzi makes sure employees receive iPads with apps already installed and ready to go. People love to explore apps on their new iPad and review them. It's a kind of employee behavior previously unseen in corporate computing.

Companies would do well to tap into this initial enthusiasm. "We found that some of the most valuable feedback about our apps comes from people who have had the iPad for less than 48 hours," Lanzi says.

Validation comes in other forms, too.

Genentech has a mobile app called Peeps, an employee directory. It would be an understatement to say the app is being used. More than 400,000 profile views per month occur in Peeps. When considering that the app is available to only 44,000 mobile devices (including 30,000 iOS devices), it's an amazing amount of engagement.

"It's not to say that people wouldn't be able to contact a colleague if they didn't have [the mobile app]," Lanzi says. "But it means that they're finding it really useful and as a way to speed collaboration."

Genentech's employee surveys show user satisfaction with mobile apps hovering above 90 percent.

Will HTML 5 Replace Native iOS Apps?

Lately, Lanzi has been making a major shift away from native iOS apps and toward HTML 5 Web apps. It's a big move given all the existing iOS development work, but times are changing.

For starters, a trend called bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, is making its rounds at companies across the country. BYOD policies let employees use personal devices for work. A recent survey of more than 335 IT professionals, sponsored by enterprise software vendor MokaFive, found that 88 percent of companies had some form of BYOD, whether sanctioned or not.

Genentech doesn't have a BYOD policyyet. The company is actively considering BYOD in its future. If this happens, then Lanzi will have to deal with a flood of devices beyond iPads and iPhones. This will be especially true in the tablet space with newcomers such as the newly released Google Nexus 7, the upcoming Microsoft Surface, and the rumored iPad Mini. HTML 5 Web apps, of course, can be accessible from any device with a Web browser.

It's also good timing that HTML 5 has matured nicely, having emerged from its heady "write once, debug everywhere" days. "From a feature perspective, HTML 5 Web apps are getting close to parity with iOS native apps," Lanzi says. "It makes a lot of sense to go down this road."


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