Next target for enterprise apps? Line of business field workers

It’s a relatively well-known fact that most businesses have not built a great deal of custom mobile applications for their businesses yet. Sure, there are a number of pilots out there, but organizations of many sizes are finding that it’s relatively challenging to get high-quality apps out of development and into widespread deployments.

Not surprisingly, the few apps that are being deployed typically get built for mainstream office workers — those folks in headquarters or other main offices that are the most vocal about wanting to use their own BYOD smartphones and tablets at work. On the one hand, this makes sense. After all, they tend to be a large, influential group and IT often feels the need to go out of their way to keep them happy. But, in doing so, internal IT development organizations are potentially missing out on the workers in their companies who could actually get the most benefit from custom-built mobile applications: field workers and others out on the front line.

Custom apps for LOB workforce

These types of workers — who are typically part of line of business (LOB) organizations — aren’t always as vocal to IT as their counterparts at HQ and, in some organizations, may represent a much smaller percentage of the overall worker population. However, it is exactly these type of workers for whom the best ROI story for custom applications can be built. Reducing the amount of time it takes to do remote paperwork, or leveraging in-house analytics data to help drive field-based decisions regarding equipment repairs are just two of many compelling applications that can translate to real-world dollars and cents benefits to organizations of many types and sizes.

Part of the problem is that, historically, many LOB divisions have gone off to purchase or create their own point solutions, independent of IT. The argument was that they had unique needs/requirements that internal app development teams couldn’t really understand or meet (or, at least, that’s what they thought). In many situations, that’s led to solutions that might work OK for that LOB, but don’t really integrate well into the tools and/or processes created by IT that are being used at HQ.

With the extended reach and greatly enhanced computing and connectivity that mobile devices now provide these workers, it’s time to rethink that approach and figure out ways for IT to work with these LOB mobile workers. Creating mobile apps that not only fit the unique needs of these folks, but also seamlessly connect to corporate data resources is clearly what needs to happen.

In the end, building mobile apps for mobile workers who really need them is likely to generate a better return on investment than making tools for office workers, who have relatively easy access to all the information they need and don’t really need customized mobile apps as much. It’s time to start thinking outside the office box.

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