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What do you do when there's no app for that?

John Cox | Aug. 10, 2012
Companies and IT groups are scrambling to find or build well-designed mobile apps to realize the full promise of mobilized business processes.

"We have to build the thing ourselves," Potter says. "This is a big challenge for hospitals. [Healthcare software] vendors are trying to catch up and address the topic of mobility."

The first wave of rudimentary mobile apps is already proving too limited for companies.

"There are very specific user experience expectations for tablets," says Scott Snyder, president and chief strategy officer for Mobiquity, Wellesley, Mass., which specializes in a range of technology services including software development for enterprise mobile projects. "If you give me a static document or a Windows app that only lets me scroll, without really using the pointing, swiping, touch interface, then you're not taking advantage of what the device, and the user, can do."

One Mobiquity client is Boston Scientific, the Boston-based $8-billion-in-sales manufacturer of advanced medical devices and implants. Thousands of sales and marketing staff worldwide used to visit doctors carrying physical models of the devices, along with brochures, samples, and video tapes or CDs to show how they worked. It was cumbersome, hard to coordinate, and most of all, took up time, says Rich Adduci, the company's CIO.

With the first iPads, all this was replaced by what Adduci calls "super-charged brochureware" - iPad-based documents for presentation and viewing. "A brochure is just a flat document," he says. "You can't interact with it, integrate simulations, or drill down into layers of details. But in a true iPad app, there's a lot you can do to bring the brochure alive." Today, the company's sales reps can bring up a range of simulations, animations, videos, and interactive product information instantly on the iPad.

The next step was starting the process of recreating for the iPad a portfolio of laptop apps - both native and Web, covering tasks like registering products for customers, tracking serial numbers, field inventory management, as well as tools like expense reporting and sales performance data. Each was examined, and assigned a priority in the development schedule.

But when the first group of mobile apps for Boston Scientific was well into development, it became clear the UI designs were flawed. "We didn't do enough prototyping," Adduci says. "They looked nice, but as you actually used them, they were not really good at all. We didn't have enough experience in building user interactions."

Software developers tend to think logically, he says. "But mobile GUIs don't focus on logic and structure, but instead on the 'experience' so that the mobile user doesn't need a lot of training to be able to use the app effectively," Adduci explains. "We found we had to rethink how these [laptop apps] would work on the iPad, and invest a lot more in the UI [development]. Mobiquity was a great partner for us in that."

 

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