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What enterprise software developers can learn from consumer apps

Michael Nadeau | Feb. 2, 2017
With employees frustrated by complex, confusing enterprise apps, companies have been taking cues from consumer world and mobile-first development approach to eliminate paperwork and bolster ROI.

Interstate Batteries took this kind of approach when deploying its HR apps through Workday, and Nchege recalls that it was the most time-consuming part of the deployment process. "You want to get to the personal level where lines blur between consumer and enterprise software," Korngiebel says. "That's just good software."

Easier collaboration between business and IT

Another advantage of an app-based approach to development is better collaboration between the business units and the IT department. A strong focus on a single task can help clarify the requirements of the project and keep its scope from spinning off course. It can also help to cater to a single segment of business users to avoid negotiating requirements with other divisions in the organization.

As the app is being built, a platform like Appian can accelerate the development and testing process. "Business and IT can collaborate within the Appian environment to make changes and to move faster," Beckley says. "IT can implement more complicated integration, advanced analytics and more sustainable ways to empower users."

One concern about building smaller, more focused apps is that it could be more difficult to manage and secure them. That doesn't have to be the case, however.

"IT can still govern and control who has rights to build an app," Beckley says. Platforms like Appian provide authentication and governance capabilities, and apps typically access a single common set of data. They also provide tools to integrate with core ERP and database systems and sandboxes to test that integration safely.

Appian has seen both business and IT embrace the low-code app approach. "IT and business are on the same page," Beckley says. "Low code requires the least amount of professional services up front, and in many cases apps take only weeks and days to get up and running."

What's the ROI?

It's difficult to estimate the actual ROI of building simpler, consumer-like apps for the enterprise, but that might not be necessary to get approval for a project. Managers at both FSU and Interstate Batteries valued the idea of maximizing user adoption, and they could relate to the mobile app analogy. The hard ROI became clearer once implemented, as they could then measure actual productivity gains.

Workday provided a few anecdotal examples of hard ROI:

  • A business services customer experienced a 95 percent adoption rate of an employee self-service / manager self-service (ESS/MSS) app, and saved $25 to $33 per employee per year through employee empowerment and eliminating a significant number of support tickets;
  • A technology customer heavily focused on a mobile analytics app roll-out experienced a 90 percent increase in direct access;
  • An energy utilities customer saw a 90 percent reduction in average duration of human resources transactions by increasing employee accountability through self-service. It drove transaction turnaround from 20 days to two days, and eliminated 30,000 manual HR transactions per year, saving $37 per transaction;
  • A global healthcare customer achieved a 33 percent reduction in the number of calls to the HR service center due to increased employee and manager direct access and real-time contextual support for end users.


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