Five Benefits of an Enterprise App Portfolio

David Enarson | January 5, 2015 | Mobile Strategy

A key component of an Enterprise mobile strategy is an app portfolio—a collection of purpose-built apps for specific use-cases that target defined audiences to offer maximum value.

Apps should not be Swiss Army knives of functionality. Rather, each should contain a few key, related modules employees will use to accomplish specific goals.

Benefits of an Enterprise App Portfolio

1. Enables companies to build the highest value apps first, then follow with complimentary apps.
With an app portfolio, organizations can prioritize leading app candidates based on both value and readiness and then dedicate development resources to build the most impactful apps first, then follow-up with complimentary apps as part of a comprehensive app roadmap.

2. Increases the breadth of your organization’s mobile reach.
Mobile adds so much value throughout an enterprise that multiple apps are often needed to realize all the potential for your business.

3. Creates a clear path of access based on user needs.
Users have short attention spans and are constantly bombarded with options. They need a clear mental association to accomplish a task. Breaking out functionality into discrete apps helps drive a clear path to access.

4. Drives great user experience opportunities.
Different tasks are best accomplished by varying the user experiences. Having multiple apps allows for customizing the UI to best fit the need (e.g. the way an employee interacts with an audit app may vary drastically from the most efficient way to interact with an app that accomplishes CRM goals).

5. Creates the ability for low risk innovation.
Leading apps can be integrated deeply with critical business processes. By developing additional apps you can focus on innovation without risking a core-business interruption.

App Portfolio Examples

When developing a mobile strategy, ensure all mobile teams are aligned so the resulting apps are complimentary and work together to extend your Enterprise. An app is not a strategy. A collection of apps is not an app portfolio. But a collection of apps that share a common vision and compliment each other to achieve value for your business greater than the sum of their parts is truly strategic and will drive your business forward.

To illustrate these points, let’s take a look at consumer app portfolios for Target, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Amazon and identify insights that apply to the Enterprise. We’ll see how retail, business networking, and social networking demonstrate that the same general principles apply, regardless of industry.

Target

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Of the four companies, Target offers the most compelling portfolio: seven apps for consumers as well as two for employees. Target first launched the highest value app for its business, the Target app, with main modules for product discovery, shopping list, shopping cart/checkout, and my account. It then followed with additional apps including Cartwheel (coupons), Target Healthful (pharmacy) and Registry (wedding/baby registry). These apps expanded access to Target products and services to consumers and were complimentary to the main app. They also enabled Target to delve deeper into functionality and use-cases that couldn’t fit in one app.

These apps create a clear path of access; if I want to shop, I open the Target app, if I want coupons, I open Cartwheel. If I want to manage my prescriptions, I open Target Healthful. If I want to register for my wedding gifts, I open Target Registry, etc.
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In addition, Target drives great user experiences by linking directly to the Cartwheel app. Need to get to a coupon? Tap the Cartwheel button and the app launches. Target can improve user experience by directly linking the Registry and Healthful apps from their main app. Currently, tapping these tiles launches the App Store and a mobile optimized website (instead of directly opening the app). A better experience here would increase adoption and customer satisfaction.

Target innovates with additional apps in its portfolio: Target Ticket (movie viewing), Wish List (kid shopping) and In a Snap (product discovery). It doesn’t have to risk alienating users of its main app while it experiments with new ways to connect with consumers.

LinkedIn

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LinkedIn also built the LinkedIn app first, then extended its portfolio with apps that emphasized existing functionality from the main app: Pulse (industry news), Connected (professional network highlights), and LinkedIn Jobs (job search) as well as apps that focused on new use-cases for more targeted audiences: Recruiter (recruiting) and Sales Nav (prospecting).

LinkedIn has truly expanded the breadth of its mobile reach, and now enjoys multiple points of entry for its business social network that all feed interactions back to the network. The move provides users a clearer path of entry. For example, recruiters know they can open LinkedIn Recruiter to complete their recruiting tasks, and this targeted functionality doesn’t clutter the main LinkedIn app.

LinkedIn also does a great job of creating a unified look and feel for their apps. As pictured, all the app icons have the same blue background and similar icon style. You quickly learn to recognize a LinkedIn app.

Their app portfolio enables LinkedIn to offer additional user experience options for its core service. For example, in its Connected app, it takes key events for people in your network that show up in your Activity Feed and organizes them into easy-to-swipe tiles that let users congratulate someone for a promotion, wish someone Happy Birthday, etc. It wouldn’t make sense to introduce this new navigation into the Main LinkedIn app, but as a separate app it makes perfect sense. If I have some spare time and I want to see what’s up with my network, I can open Connected and swipe through to get a quick status update and contact my connections.

Pulse, a news feed, can be accessed from within the LinkedIn app, but also has its own app that features a different ‘news only’ user experience. Perhaps I just want to know the day’s news; LinkedIn here is competing with CNN, etc, but adding in a social component: when you Like a post it shows up in your LinkedIn Activity Feed, thus increasing the power of their network.

Facebook

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Shifting from business social networking to personal social networking, let’s take a look at Facebook’s app portfolio consisting of eight apps, plus one more if you’re Taylor Swift (or one of her friends).

Facebook’s several purpose-built apps focus on specific collections of use-cases and target audiences. For example, Messenger functionality was recently broken-out into a standalone app. Messaging is a need with enough specific use-cases to necessitate its own app. Facebook also made this move to create a clear path to access and improve the user experience of messaging to compete with other pure messaging apps. Rather than launching Facebook and navigating to the messaging module, I can just open Messenger and start messaging.

Another example of a great user experience is Paper (pictured)—a re-imagined Facebook user experience that combines the newsfeed with current news and organizes them into a swipeable-tile interface.

Facebook uses its strategy to enable low risk innovation; it has several experimental apps such as Slingshot (competitor to Snapchat), Stickered and Rooms, enabling it to test out new methods of interaction for social networking.

Lastly, an interesting app that makes perfect sense as a separate app is Mentioned. This app enables celebrities like Taylor Swift to connect with fans and other celebrities. This specific-enough set of features (intended for a narrower audience) necessitates its own app. Because if celebrities spend more time on Facebook connecting with fans, the rest of us will too, thus the app aligns with Facebook’s core driver: increasing use of its network.

Amazon

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A cautionary example is Amazon, which doesn’t appear to have a clear mobile strategy, but instead offers a disjointed assortment of 18 apps, likely created by different business units.

For example, besides Local, a daily deals app, Amazon also offers Merchants, a merchant app for daily deals, along with Register, also an app for merchants. These three apps were likely developed by one group at Amazon. Not be confused with the Merchants app, there’s also an AmazonSeller app (for those who sell on Amazon.com).  Further, there’s also Amazon’s main app as well as Kindle, Instant Video, and Amazon Music that don’t share similar branding or complimentary functionally with the other 14 Amazon apps. In addition, Amazon does not have a shared authentication method across its apps, requiring you to login to each app separately.

In closing, an app portfolio is a highly valuable aspect of a mobile strategy that enables a company to increase its speed to value, widen its breadth of mobility, create a clear path to access, enable great user experiences and experiment with low-risk innovation. Feel free to reach out to continue the conversation.

David Enarson

David Enarson is a Mobile Strategist at Propelics. He has experience leading mobile application initiatives in the Enterprise, specifically with sales force audiences. He has worked with well known brands in the Pharmaceutical, Consumer Packaged Goods and Services verticals. David combines his ability to chart out a big picture strategy with his technical aptitude and understanding of the complexities of the Enterprise to drive value for clients. He has a true passion for startups and mobility and was a past participant and coach at Startup Weekend Chicago. David’s interest in mobility began early on when he founded a company to develop and market applications for the Palm OS.

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