The Wireless Office: Mobile Apps Help Organizations Work More Efficiently, Effectively

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  March 17, 2014

Mobile communications is transforming business. What people previously did at desktop computers they now do on smartphones and cellular-enabled laptops. So organizations now are creating mobile apps to enable their employees to be more effective while on the move.

Starbucks, for example, partnered with business process outsourcing company Appian to provide its marketing staff with tools to manage inventory, pricing and promotions for its non-coffee products (like coffee mugs and CDs) at the beverage company’s retail locations. The IT staff was too busy with work related to Starbucks’ core coffee products, so they used Appian for the other products, explains Appian CTO Mike Beckley.

It worked out so well that Starbuck later tapped Appian to mobile-enable its store inspection application, which Appian was able to do within weeks. Now Starbucks’ store inspectors can download the app and use GPS to get the locations of the stores they need to visit. When they arrived at the stores they can take hundreds of pictures, and Appian

compresses and captures those pictures, and can also collect inspectors’ voice annotations.

So now inspectors can in real time record and store impressions of their visits while they are still there, explains Beckley, so they don’t have to wait until they get to the office and do data entry. That can save time and result in the input of more detailed and accurate information. What’s more, inspectors can leverage the app collaborate while on-site, offering ideas for improvement before they leave, he adds.

The new generation of mobile apps can enable true parity with the desktop, says Beckley, while first-generation mobile apps tended to be one trick ponies. And while most IT projects fail, Beckley adds, most mobile apps do not fail because if they’re properly designed they are so easy to use they meet their intended goal.

This is just one example of how the Appian platform can be and is being used. Appian, which has millions of licensed user seats, allows businesses to build applications to implement strategy in software without actually writing code. What results can help businesses do case management, handle customer service, address government reporting, track pharmaceutical trials, or just about anything else.

Appian’s platform includes a visual design environment to enable the design and improvement of mobile apps, and to make those capabilities available on all mobile devices, desktops, and web browsers. The platform also has administrative tools to define workflows, business collaboration features, interfaces, and real-time business intelligence and analytics.

Gartner (News - Alert) estimates that the mobile application development platform market was worth $484 million in license revenue in 2012. In addition to Appian, others in this space include IBM (News - Alert) and Pegasystems.

Big blue in early 2010 bought Lombari, a business process management software and services firm that helps organizations automate and integrate business processes in an effort to be more efficient and lower costs. Two years later IBM added Worklight to its arsenal. That, as IDG reported at the time, gave the company a range of cross-platform mobile application development technologies.

BPM and CRM company Pegasystems (News - Alert) Inc. in October of last year announced plans to buy Antenna Software, a leader in the Gartner 2013 Magic Quadrant for Mobile Applications Development Platforms.

“Traditional mobile technology can lead to separate channel-specific applications which hamper customer service and efficient operations,” said Alan Trefler (News - Alert), founder and CEO of Pegasystems. “Pega’s distinctive customer-centric approach to mobility enables business users and IT to create optimal customer experiences across channels and devices. We believe that mobile devices should seamlessly operate with processes and cases to drive work to done. Pega and Antenna coming together offers our collective clients state-of-the-art mobile development, responsive UIs, device management and cloud-based Backend-as-a-Service.” 

Steve Kraus, senior director of product marketing for CRM Solutions at Pegasystems, recently told INTERNET TELEPHONY that leading customer service organizations tell him they need to become more agile and more simply engage with their customers regardless of channel or device. 

“The leaders of customer-facing organizations want to capture their business goals, best practice procedures, and policies directly into a working application, one that engages their customers and employees in an intuitive manner,” Kraus said. “And as they get feedback from their employees, customers and the systems themselves they need to rapidly and continuously adapt. As regulations change and new products come to market they need to support those new requirements without missing a beat, something they cannot do if that requires a new customization or changes in multiple applications.”

Edited by Stefania Viscusi