iPad Apps for Your Enterprise – 3 Common Pitfalls

Shahab Choudhry | December 22, 2011 | Mobile Strategy

This week we launched a special offer for the subscribers on our email list. We are providing a free 30-minute advisory session to companies that are seeking advice on iPad apps for the Enterprise, iPad adoption and related topics. We have had an overwhelming response to this offer. In conducting the advisory calls this week, the question that kept coming up had to do with common pitfalls that companies need to avoid in working on their portfolio of iPad apps. I decided to also make this the topic of my blog post this week.

The discussion that follows is meant for companies that have already recognized the value of ipad apps in the enterprise. These companies are trying to figure out the “how” and not the “why” associated with iPad adoption in the enterprise. For those who are not yet at this stage, the biggest pitfall is not recognizing the transformative potential of the iPad and the value it can deliver to their organizations.  They need to quickly pull together a strategy and approach to define their portfolio of iPad apps.

iPad Apps for the Enterprise – 3 Common Pitfalls

For organizations that are actively engaged in some stage of iPad adoption, here are three pitfalls to avoid.

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Your Portfolio of iPad apps needs to be made up of more than customer use apps

Just as customers have come to expect businesses to offer online web applications, mobile apps are fast becoming an expectation of customers. Businesses large and small are creating and launching these apps for their customers. In some cases these apps replicate what is already available online and in some cases go further by leveraging the capabilities of mobile devices (e.g GPS). The brand considerations for these apps are just as important as the functionality offered by these apps. Due to this focus on brand consistency, the design of these apps is heavily influenced by branding guidelines. Extending these from smartphones to the iPad can be accomplished easily.  The portfolio of iPad apps for the enterprise must include these apps, since these are considered “table stakes” these days, but this does little to move the ball forward in iPad adoption in the enterprise.  I talked about this in my recent article The Value Curve of to Tablet Banking, and we discussed in great detail in our recently published ebook: Realize the True Benefit of the iPad in the Enterprise.  The portfolio of iPad apps should include productivity apps, purpose built vertical apps, and most importantly, apps that facilitate 1-on-1 interaction with the customer.

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Don’t just “port” your existing applications to the iPad

It may seem like an easy way to get started on building iPad apps is to extend existing enterprise web apps onto the iPad.  However, in this case the user experience of the iPad app is seriously compromised.  The iPad is about great looking applications. The less purpose built the app is for the iPad, the less likely it is in achieving this goal.  Secondly, do not just extend your existing CRM and BI systems onto the iPad.  These platform providers, with the exception of a few (e.g.MicroStrategy’s Mobile), have done a poor job of offering iPad apps that have been designed with the mutli-touch, highly immersive user experience that the iPad can offer.  Instead, build interfaces to these data stores from your iPad app.   Lastly, DO NOT use desktop virtualization.  This is a sure way to set your enterprise iPad adoption effort back.  We have discussed this in our blog: iPad as a Virtual Desktop – 3 Reasons to Avoid.  This blog post has generated a lot of discussion in the blogosphere.

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Do not rely on traditional methods of idea generation to define the iPad app portfolio

The iPad app portfolio needs to focus on a user centric innovation process. The traditional approach that uses requirements for the SDLC process that can then be translated to architecture specs is not the way to go in this case.  We are still in early stages of iPad adoption.  There are a lot of new and innovative use cases that are being thought of every day.  Focus on techniques that help with this ideation process.  We talk about some of these techniques in the Enterprise Mobile Strategy section of our services.  Secondly, try to get away from designing “systems” when thinking of your iPad apps.  Think of scenarios.  Think of the scenarios in your organization.  Think about how people learn, interact and engage customers.  These scenarios can be a good starting point for the portfolio of iPad apps in your enterprise.

Keep the above in mind as you define your iPad app portfolio, but the best advice I can offer is to not wait to get it absolutely right. You are bound to make mistakes as you pursue your enterprise iPad initiatives. The “analysis-paralysis” that can set in as you look for the perfect approach can be more costly then the cost of starting but making a few mistakes along the way.

Shahab Choudhry

Shahab is a visionary thought leader and builder of successful companies that has been at the forefront of trying to make sense of the various technology shifts in the past two decades. He has advised several startups, early stage companies and Fortune 500 companies in making the most of these technology shifts. His focus has been on new products and platforms for the enterprise. His track record as a builder of companies includes IPOs, successful acquisitions as well as a failed startup. Shahab can be reached at shahab.choudhry@propelics.com or on twitter at @shahabchoudhry.

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